A Hmong Funeral

by Fernando Ramos -

I’m something of a lay clergyman in a small San Diegan branch of Hmong Mormons. The Hmong are an oppressed minority in Laos. Because of the violence in their homeland, some fled to the United States, where many encountered Mormonism.

Recently, there was a death in our branch. We’ll all miss sister Tong Yang. The funeral was an interesting display of Hmong culture, together with some Mormon elements. Like Mormons, the Hmong also have ceremonial burial clothing. In the Hmong tradition, each daughter of the deceased woman places clothing on her mother’s body. If a woman has many daughters, she is buried with several layers of clothing. Because sister Yang had been through the Mormon temple, her ceremonial temple clothing was included as one of the layers. It was a beautiful merging of cultures. In her eulogy, sister Yang was described as a woman who “taught her children to treasure their pioneer heritage.” I think the phrase “pioneer heritage” probably referred to her Laotian roots, but the phrase is clearly Mormon in origin. And in a way, I think its Mormon connotations are appropriate. Sister Yang’s son is in our branch presidency. She may not have been a literal descendent of the 19th-century Mormon pioneers, but she had made their legacy her own, and she did pass that pioneer heritage on to some of her children. She was our adopted sister.

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