Every year on T&S there appears around Easter time a certain amount of Holy-Week envy. I haven’t seen any yet this year, and so I thought I’d take my turn to express a little. Or better, maybe this would be a good opportunity to get a sense of what is going on in Mormon Easter services nowadays. What happened in your ward this year?
My daughter’s student ward in Seattle had a Saturday evening service (the usual night for the vigil among most Christians), and a sacrament meeting devoted fully to Easter. My Utah ward included two choir numbers, one of them about Easter, and the speakers discussed their favorite conference talk. Not my ideal, but it wasn’t bad, because the speakers were very genuine. Better than some years ago when the Easter day theme was food storage. I kid you not. And what about the lessons in Sunday School and Relief Society and Priesthood? Just whatever’s next in the manual?
I don’t know of any good reasons why Mormons can’t engage in Holy Week, or develop one of their own (okay besides the fact that we already have too many meetings; so scuttle them that week), or at least have a serious Easter program on Sunday. We participate wholeheartedly in Christmas, and that’s a much more contrived holiday than Easter. But Easter seems to be a second-rate holiday among Mormons. Not only might it have benefits spiritually to develop such a week (one reason assorted Mormons attend Holy Week services put on by other faiths), and promote a greater awareness of the importance of the events of this week, but it would have the added benefit of letting other Christians know that yes Mormon beliefs in the events of this week are very much like theirs. Which I think a good thing to convey. In fact I suspect that the reason Holy Week did not develop in Mormonism was simply a negative reason: it was seen as too Catholic, or Episcopalian, or something. And since most emerging religions tend at first to develop their identity in a negative way (this is what we are NOT rather than this is what we ARE), it wouldn’t be surprising if we sought our identity partly in abandoning some of the things other Christians did, in order to differentiate. But again, I don’t see any reason now (except too many other activities during the week) why we couldn’t join the fun and celebration. The services I’ve attended on Good Friday or the Easter Vigil are some of the most moving I’ve ever known.