For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Easter is a big deal. After all, Christ’s atonement, death, and resurrection are central to the Church’s teachings. It is because of Christ that everyone will be resurrected, that we can be forgiven of our sins, make positive changes in our lives, have access to God’s blessings and grace, find strength to face life’s challenges, and have inner peace no matter what happens to us. It is all because of Him.
How do we Mormons traditionally celebrate such a significant holiday? Primarily, we attend our regular worship services, including sacrament meeting, on Sunday. Easter Sunday is very similar to every other Sunday with hymns, prayers, speakers, and the administration of the sacrament (when we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice and renew baptismal covenants as we partake of bread and water – symbolic of Christ’s body and atoning blood). On Easter Sunday, the hymns and speakers have an Easter focus, and I think many find the sacrament to be especially meaningful to them that day. Some families come to church in new Easter clothes, some families will have had an Easter egg hunt and received goodies from the “Easter Bunny,” some families will have a special Easter dinner – but those things are up to each family and are not official Church traditions.
Other than Easter Sunday services, though, Mormons do not have traditional ways of observing Holy Week as many other Christian churches do. Christ’s suffering and death means everything to us, but culturally we focus much more on Resurrection morning. Honestly, I kind of wish that as a Church we officially observed Good Friday because reflecting on Christ’s suffering and death provides such meaningful joy at His resurrection. (I think this opinion falls into the category of what interfaith proponent Krister Stendahl from Harvard Divinity School called “holy envy” – finding elements of other faiths to admire and emulate.)
And yet, Easter is a holiday that is at least as big of a deal to us as Christmas is. Gordon B. Hinckley, former President of the Church, surmised, “There would be no Christmas if there were no Easter.” Ultimately, we celebrate Christmas because Christ fulfilled His mission on Earth as the Savior and “drank the bitter cup” – suffered for our sins, died, and was resurrected for us. That is the reason to celebrate both holidays with great rejoicing!
In my opinion, sometimes Easter can be too simple, too candy-and-bunny-focused, and too understated – as “hollow as the chocolate bunnies we devour” (wrote Janet Hales, Mormon author of A Christ-Centered Easter) – if we let it. Easter can come and go as just another date on the calendar if we don’t give it much thought. In the end, Easter Sunday and Holy Week are really what we make of them.
LDS Church leaders have repeatedly emphasized establishing righteous family traditions, particularly those that strengthen our faith in Christ. Easter is a prime opportunity for Christ-centered traditions that draw us closer to Him and to our families.
Just as Christmas Day is the culmination of a month-long season, I have found it meaningful to try to also make a “season” for Easter in my family. I like to start a couple weeks before Easter so we really get in the
Christmas Easter spirit (same thing, right?). Some of our “Easter season” traditions mirror favorite Christmas traditions: singing and playing music about the Savior (Handel’s Messiah works for both Christmas and Easter), putting up decorations that remind us of the Savior, planning some family-focused time and activities, giving Christlike service to others, reading parts of the Four Gospels’ accounts of the Savior’s life, reflecting on the Savior and bearing testimonies of Him, offering prayers of gratitude and praise, watching movies about the Savior (such as these Bible Videos), making favorite foods to be enjoyed at a special dinner and/or breakfast, and acting out some parts of the scriptural accounts (such the Triumphal Entry). My family and I also like to follow the events of the Holy Week by reading the corresponding scriptures for each day and doing a related activity (such as visiting an LDS temple on the day Jesus cleansed the temple). Though continually evolving with each year, these Easter traditions have become meaningful to my family, in addition to our worship at Easter Sunday sacrament meeting.
As an interesting side note, this year Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday in April, which is during the spring General Conference of the Church. Semi-annually, General Conference weekend is broadcast worldwide from Salt Lake City and takes the place of church services. Modern-day prophets and apostles will share messages about Christ and His gospel. To me it seems like a great way to reflect on the Savior on Easter. I’d encourage you to watch it here April 4-5.
Question: What are some ways you make Easter a personally meaningful holiday for you and/or your family?
Challenge: If you haven’t already, begin thinking about how you will honor and reverence Christ during this Easter season. Brainstorm ways to make Easter an especially important time.