Easter

I’m not big on religious holidays. I know some look at all the holy days of Catholicism or similar faiths with envy. I don’t. I’m definitely a minimalist when it comes to religious days. Yet since the first day I arrived in Utah it has struck me as odd how minor a day Easter is. Spring break never coordinates with Easter. Friday and Monday aren’t holidays. Very little religiously is done over Easter unless General Conference is on Easter.

Why?

Easter should be our biggest holiday. Far bigger than Christmas or especially Halloween. The events of Easter are the core of our religion. It remains a mystery to me how we really don’t treat it that way.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying the fun family elements of Easter should be expanded. I love easter egg hunts, chocolate rabbits, colored eggs and more. They’re really not Easter and can obscure what Easter is about. At Christmas I don’t mind it as much as we do have nativity scenes everywhere. Somehow Easter though just seems more minor. I don’t understand why socially we treat it that way.

If there’s one thing I wish Pres. Nelson would do would be to expand our Easter celebrations and center the year around Easter religiously. I think we can do that without necessarily borrowing heavily from Catholicism, where arguably Easter is central. I don’t think we need embrace remnants from medieval Christianity to make Easter an important part of our lives. We do have to do something more than we’re doing right now though.

26 comments for “Easter

  1. Wilfried
    April 19, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Thank you, Clark, for bringing us those wishes and the focus needed on Easter. Had the Church been restored in a Catholic environment, things would probably be different. But it was restored among protestant traditions that had rejected Catholic celebrations as apostate. Our church services still reflect the sober meetings to which the first converts were used to from their background. Any attempt to bring in something different during Easter sacrament meeting will be thwarted as “not allowed”. So, yes, we’ll need to let the joy of the Resurrection sing in our hearts.

    For the Catholic church, what makes Easter also so special, is that convert baptisms take place on Easter Sunday in the church. Now, that would be something to make the day special: spare all our converts for Easter and have a major baptismal service once a year. Each person coming out of the water represents the resurrection to a new life.

  2. jpv
    April 19, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Any attempt to bring in something different during Easter sacrament meeting will be thwarted as “not allowed”.

    Highly skeptical of this claim.

  3. Wilfried
    April 19, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for your comment, jpv. I apologize. I should have clarified “something different” in the sense of Christian rituals, such as walking the Stations of the Cross up to Resurrection, or the ceremonial opening of the door symbolizing the entrance to the tomb, or children dressed in white lighting candles while Matthew 28 is being read. I’m pretty sure those would not be allowed. But suggestions for what would be allowed would be most welcome, I think.

  4. Matthew73
    April 19, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    JPV, in some wards you could get away with having a couple of special musical numbers, but I’ve never heard of a ward dedicating an entire Easter sacrament meeting to a musical service the way we often do for Christmas. I’m sure that it happens from time to time, but unfortunately it has been the exception and not the rule, at least in my 50+ year exposure to the institutional church. You don’t have to search far to find multiple first-hand accounts of wards in which the speakers were assigned to speak on welfare or tithing or some other mundane topic on Easter Sunday.

    Clark, although I live on the Wasatch Front, I work primarily with people who are not LDS, but are Christian. We are close enough to discuss religion with each other in a non-threating way. On multiple occasions they’ve shared with me their disappointment/frustration/confusion at how Pioneer Day is celebrated much more openly and enthusiastically by the institutional church than Easter is. That is true and is a sad reflection on our culture.

    FWIW, the institutional church is I think changing in this regard, although slowly. For all of its flaws, the Come Follow Me manual at least recognizes this as Easter Week (Holy Week to the rest of Christianity) and our lessons this week are on the last week of Jesus’ life and his resurrection, rather than whatever assigned topic happened to be in the manual that week. That is a start.

    And the Tabernacle Choir is performing a lovely Easter Concert tonight and tomorrow night. It will be live-streamed on the Choir’s website Saturday evening and broadcast on BYUTV on Sunday evening. The choir has been performing Easter Concerts for a while now and has developed a recent tradition of performing Handel’s Messiah as an Easter Concert in even-numbered years.

  5. April 19, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I think we should adopt the Orthodox dating for Easter.

  6. LisaT
    April 19, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    I think a lot of other members are feeling this way, too. I’ve seen a definite trend toward LDS observing Lent, Holy Week, looking for semi-liturgical ways to observe and commemorate. Whether that turns into anything institutional is another question.

  7. thor
    April 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    FWIW – on Sunday my Gilbert, Arizona ward will be doing a Christ-centered musical program interspersed with testimonies of the Savior, similar to a ” traditional LDS Christmas program” type approach. I know this is probably not the heavy shift that is anticipated by the post, but at least we won’t have talks from the high council about trek or ministering…or tithing!

  8. M Buxton
    April 19, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    I see it as progress that the Come, Follow Me lesson is explicitly focused on Easter. A few years back, I was exasperated that the Elders Quorum lesson on Easter in my ward was on food storage!

  9. Clark Goble
    April 19, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    I confess I don’t like the “all music service” that some wards do for Christmas. But doing several musical numbers including primary would be nice. For that matter a ward dinner the way some do Christmas and Thanksgiving would be nice too.

    I’m not necessarily meaning something unique in Sacrament, although I’d note that even low church baptists in small towns in the south would do elaborate road show like enactments of the easter events. I’m not saying do that in our Sacrament meetings – especially when Pres. Nelson clearly wants us to pull back our extracurricular ward activities for home activities. I think we all know of cases where ward activities get a little out of hand. Still there’s surely a nice middle ground.

    Also many cities have Christmas festivities. While the municipalities are obviously limited in doing much beyond secular easter egg oriented stuff, there’s plenty of room for members to set up activities on their own much like they do at Christmas. This needn’t only be done at the ward level.

    Buxton it’s not just the Come Follow Me Lessons but the Church has a lot of videos related to Easter – some linked to in this week’s lesson. I definitely think it’s a welcome change. It’s quite nice if you follow the Come Follow Me primary lesson manual for family scripture study. You end up spending the full week on Easter. So one morning before school we watched the two linked videos. An other one we discussed Gethsemene. Today we read the passage in Luke on the crucifixion. As we’ve discussed before here I think the new lessons are fantastic for kids and families. Most of the complaints I’ve heard are more on the adult side of things. But even there since they are adults they should be studying this on their own.

  10. Gramps
    April 19, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    YES! We need to do a lot more to celebrate and commemorate Easter in our Sacrament Meetings! We certainly need more Easter hymns in our hymnal; enough that we can be singing Easter hymns for several weeks leading up to Easter! I have expressed this thought forcefully in the survey on the church website for ideas for the new hymnal. And, I have submitted several Easter-themed hymns.

  11. HanSolo
    April 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Re: Thor’s comment – same in our Stake in the PNW. A bit of a “missionary” Sunday/Easter, where members are encouraged to invite friends, family, etc to a 1 hour Sacrament Mtg. that includes music and a few short talks, and then join a 20-30 minute ‘mingle’ afterwards with simple snack foods. So Presbyterian of us. :).

  12. ji
    April 19, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Just a few years ago, I visited an old ward on Easter Sunday. The sacrament meeting talks were about education as part of self-reliance. No lie. And all too common.

  13. Clark Goble
    April 19, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    JI, it’s an unfortunate cycle since most leaders aren’t used to treating Easter differently (unless they’re from outside the Mormon Corridor). That means people get used to it. It will take some explicit pronouncements to really break the cycle. However in the meantime hopefully Bishops and Stake Presidents can on their own try and improve things.

  14. ji
    April 19, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Clark,

    Yes, if we have stake presidents and bishops who know what Easter is.

  15. Lc
    April 20, 2019 at 5:05 am

    I believe when we have members not loving their religion more fully during the week, lacking in faith in the restored gospel, we see more holy envy attempts to infuse “something” religious from other faiths.

    If you disagree, explain to me why you think we have a people more faithful and religious than Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Marion Romney, Gordon Hinckley.

    They did not see the need to do overtime on religious festival, but were wholely committed to consecrating their lives and persuading and testifying for others to do the same.

    I’m not opposed to the joyful, often frivilous, occasionally meaningful celebrations. If we’re going to have a party, is a good excuse to dedicate it to something significant.

    But let’s also remember the temple is to build that reminder you suggest we get from these holidays year round. That’s our celebration. We build those and consecrate them and ourselves for the higher purposes that can’t be experienced from a candle celebration; no matter how uplifting.

    Year round Christmas and Easter is what a Latter-day Saint’s life should reflect spiritually.

    Holidays are holy days. Consecration is literally becoming holy. Every day should be a holier day than the previous for a Latter-day Saint.

  16. ji
    April 20, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Lc,

    Still, I’m not a big fan of a focus on self-reliance sermons at a sacrament meeting on Easter Sunday. And I’m not one who doesn’t love my religion fully during the week or who lacks faith in the restored gospel.

  17. Merina Smith
    April 20, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Last Sunday our ward had a Holy Week Fireside. There were 7 speakers, one for each day of the last week of Jesus’ life, interspersed with musical numbers. Then we all headed to the multi-purpose room for a Seder, presented by a Jewish friend. It was a great way to start Holy Week. I’ve been thinking about it all week. Tomorrow we’re starting off as the denomination in charge of a 104-year-old Easter Sunrise service on Mt. Helix, a local landmark. That includes a choir drawn from two stakes and speakers, and we hope a big crowd of members and non. Sacrament meeting will be joyous music and a speaker. I remember the Easters of my childhood, which I joke would feature talks about food storage. There’s a ways to go, but I think we are coming to appreciate the great importance of Easter.

  18. Walter van Beek
    April 20, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Indeed, our Church does not elaborate on celebrations of Eastern or Christmas. Or, for that matter, of Pentecost. Beyond the sacrament service – which effectively is a weekly, sober Eastern – and the temple rituals – which have no inbuilt calendar – little extra ritualization is done, nor for that matter tolerated. Of course Wilfried is right, it stems from a deeply protestant root of the church, which distrusts celebrations, and from a masonic inspiration which situates rites of passage inside a special and closed building. Plus, I think, a reticence to look too much like the other churches: we have ‘our own’.
    So here I side with those that would see more significant happenings on these significant days. When leading a branch, ward or stake, I have always insisted on paying as much attention to these special sundays as the church allowed. Once we had our stake conference on Eastern: after a talk that elaborated on the passion story, I had the sacrament served at the conference, as a part of the ‘passion’. People did appreciate it. Now, that is hardly a liturgical innovation, but anything that is slightly different helps to bring the special moment into perspective. Ritual, Jonathan Z. Smith said, is a way of paying attention. And the crucial story of Eastern merits all our attention.

    Walter van Beek

  19. Faith
    April 21, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    I was traveling today. I read this article before church. And told my wife there is a push for better services on Easter. Went to church in the Minneapolis area. Church for Easter was similar to Christmas. Only one talk and from a female. It was all musical numbers from choir, soloist, and congregation.
    For s mormon service, was better than prior years. There is some hope at least from this ward in Minnesota.

  20. Lc
    April 21, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Ji,
    I’m very confident that self reliance is a great topic for Easter. It is directly linked to Christ’s atonement. Being self reliant allow us to bless others.

    God is the ultimate example of being self reliant. His whole existence is to bless the lives of others with what he has. His Son is the example of that.

    What does his son in turn do? Invite us to follow him and help others. We can’t do that effectively if we don’t have our houses in order, do to speak. The ultimate purpose of the atonement is to do what? And to what end? So we can sit around and talk about how great God is?

    No, that’s not the kind of worship God wants from his children. What kind of worship he wants is for us to do the things he did — Emulation

    A huge component of that is being self reliant. Before anyone starts debating with a scarecrow, self reliance doesn’t mean you do everything on your own, never need help, etc. But surely we can all expand our thoughts a little and see a sold reason as a godly principle that’s actually linked back to the Atonement and the kind of being our Father proposes we become.

    If your inspired Bishop asked someone to talk on self reliance on Easter or any other Sunday, there should always be some thought to, how does this connect back to Christ and is atonement? Every subject from modesty to fast offerings to self reliance connects back to Christ. I bring that back in every talk I’m asked to give.

    So if someone missed that point, have patience with them and think you yourself in the pew how you’d link this talk to Christ’s atonement, rather than lament that we’re not getting Easter for Newbies.

    Although I agree, in many ways the church is moving into areas (or they are moving to us) where we’re going back to square one and need to focus on the basics of Christ’s life and ministry.

  21. ji
    April 21, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I think I’m debating with a scarecrow.

    Best wishes.

  22. April 21, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    I think part of it comes from the fact that the Law of Moses outlined some specific holidays, and then Christ came, fullfilled the Law, but didn’t leave us with new holidays. There’s no mention of holidays in the New Testament, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants; like there is in the Old Testament.
    Also, the way that General Conference will mess with Easter some years, messes with attempts to create Easter traditions.

  23. JR
    April 21, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    No debate from here, but I had a good friend/bishop who scheduled how-to-do-missionary-work talks on Easter — not because he was inspired to do so, but because he had forgotten entirely about Easter. (His explanation.) Some were amused; some were not. I was one of the latter. I don’t like inviting nonmembers to church to hear about how to sell the church to them.

  24. April 22, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Just a report from our (very newly formed) ward. Three short talks, all on Easter and Holy Week (since the Come Follow Me for this week actually talks about Holy Week) and one musical number (“There is a Green Hill Far Away”).

    And we even ended five minutes early. Once nice thing about this hour sacrament meeting is (with one exception three weeks ago), so far in my ward thus year, sacrament meeting talks are clear, concise, and on point.

  25. Clark Goble
    April 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    We had two atonement oriented talks and several easter oriented musical numbers.

  26. April 24, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    We attended Bach’s St. Mathew’s Passion in a Lutheran church a week before Easter. What a moving piece of high art this is. My wife and I were both dabbing our eyes during this performance. Art can be moving–why do we reject it for our services? Even a low church can stand a little high liturgy.

    Now not every congregation can put on a Passion like the St. Matt Passion. [Although Bach put something special on every Sunday!]. I have served as a bishop or branch pres 3 times now. I very much value Easter and believe it merits special treatment. So just about every Easter where I was the PIC (Pastor in Charge) we held a special service, very much in line with what Bach would do. We just didnt have quite the resources for his level. But we had hymn books and we had the scriptures. We did essentially a passion play, just not singing every part. I would have 3-4 readers/narrators who would from the stand read a pertinent scripture of two, and then the congregation would sing a hymn fitting that part of the passion play, more or less. That way back and forth the whole time. I was never taken to task or shot down over this (although I have been taken to task on other but similar issues!).

    We can indeed do better. My ward was back to two talks this past sunday. But they dont get direction to do any different. We honor the Sabbath –we make it different than other days. And some Sabbaths we need to honor more than others–most especially Easter. No, we cannot have self reliant talks on Easter Sunday! Sorry! I pray for the day when we will do better!

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