We’re right in the middle of “Holy Week,” and I wish that my fellow Latter-day Saints paid more attention.

 

The focus of all human history

 

Oh, said a friend yesterday, is it Easter this Sunday?

 

I find it inconceivable that, three days out from Christmas, any American could be unaware when that holiday was coming.

 

The difference, I suspect, is that Christmas has been commercially hyped to the absolute max — “Christmas sale” signs begin appearing now just before Halloween, in some places — while Easter has remained relatively uncommercialized.  Christmas can’t be missed.  Easter, however, can and often is.

 

But our virtual neglect of Easter until essentially the day thereof doesn’t speak well for American Christians.  And I’m not talking here just about my fellow Latter-day Saints.  Many Protestants are in the same boat, and, very likely, a large but lesser proportion of Catholics and the Orthodox.

 

Here’s a column that I published two years ago on the days leading up to Easter and the traditional holidays, mostly ignored by Latter-day Saints and Protestants, that commemorate them.  Today, by the way, is Maundy Thursday.  Tomorrow is Good Friday.

 

And, please, I hope that nobody will tell me, come Sunday or Monday, about sacrament services in their wards that day that were devoted to, say, Scouting, or the welfare program, or home teaching.  Worthy things, all of them.  But this is Easter.

 

Come on.  We’re Christians.  The atonement and the resurrection of Jesus are at the very heart of our faith.  Let’s act like it.

 

 

 

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  • http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com Gerald Smith

    Dan,
    I totally agree. I think it sad that in the LDS hymnbook, we only have 4 Easter hymns, but a dozen Christmas ones. Worse, those 4 hymns may or may not be played in the month leading up to Easter, so we aren’t preparing the members’ hearts to receive such a major event in the right way. Finally, I fear it gets overshadowed by General Conference, which often falls on the same day or near it, and so becomes a forgotten or passing moment.
    I recall in my ward one Easter when they did not even have a talk on Easter, but on some minor gospel topic. It really was sad, and I’m glad I did not bring any non-member friends to Church with me that day, as I’m sure they would have been convinced that the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ were insignificant to LDS.

    • danpeterson

      I totally agree, and I’ve experienced all those things. It’s a major grievance of mine.

      I’m a real believer, and I love the Church, but this is a blemish.

  • Mark B.

    A letter went to all bishops and stake presidents a few weeks ago reminding us that 3/31 is Easter and recommending that appropriate observances be made in our meetings. I don’t know whether to be grateful that the Brethren are thinking of it, or sorry that they think we need the reminder.

  • justin

    Hey good day,
    Just to give ya a little background about myself, I am LDS and currently live in mesa. Something I was inpressed while on my mission in the philiipines was how many of the catholic members really act out this whole week and is a big deal there. In mesa, we do celebrate maybe a lot more than the usual American in that we have easter pageants two weeks prior to easter Sunday. Also, this whole month church wide has centered on the atonement and Christ’s life. This event was and is huge and all revolves around it. I think the most important thing here is that He lives and set a perfect example forus to follow. Thanks for your common beliefs and keep doing what you are doing in sharing that…the world need to hear it. Thanks…Justin.

  • http://plainandpreciousthing.blogspot.com/ Rozann

    I think LDS members are wary of Easter because of the way it is celebrated by Catholics and Protestants, we don’t want to seem to be like them with their pomp and rituals. And I think Bro. Smith makes a valid point that so often Easter falls on General Conference weekend. I’m personally glad that it hasn’t been commercialized out of recognition. In our family we keep it low key and concentrate on the blessings of the Atonement and Resurrection. We are fairly low key about Christmas too. I often wonder what the Savior wants us to do. How would he want us to celebrate? I also think about other events of the Restoration that could be celebrated. What will our holidays be during the Millenium?

    • danpeterson

      I don’t think it’s necessary to celebrate Holy Week the way some other Christians do, but I’m really disappointed that (taking their cues, I believe, from the surrounding mostly secularized culture) Latter-day Saints seem to think about Easter ONLY on Easter Sunday. And sometimes not very much even then.

  • Susan Steinhaus

    Dan, I confessed that I always did find this puzzling about the LDS. I was happy to read your post. It is not too late to join me in the Prayer of St. Ephram, complete with prostrations!

    O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. (prostration)
    But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. (prostration)
    Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen. (prostration)

    As you are probably aware we are only in the third week of Lent, Pascha being May 5 this year. We have many extra services during Lent, and of course, extra prayers, alms-giving and charity. Did you see my FB post with the quote from Fr. John Chrysostom? I don’t think you’d find any Orthodox (unless they don’t go to church at all) who wouldn’t know that Pascha is May 5.

    • danpeterson

      Thanks, Susan. A very powerful prayer.

      I’ll look for the item on St. John Chrysostom.

      It’s very good to be in contact with you again.

  • kaph

    Maybe I’m crazy, but in a sense every Sunday is supposed to be Christmas + Easter wrapped in one.

    I love all the cultural aspects of Christmas (well traditional culture, not modern), but I think it reflects poorly on us that we are constantly saying, “at this time of year, let us remember to…”

    Disciples of Christ shouldn’t need a time of year to remember our covenant obligations.

    • danpeterson

      I agree. And, yes, every LDS Sunday should be, and is designed to be, an occasion for remembering Christ — and, most especially, his atonement on our behalf.

  • Lin j

    Hi Dan!

    Easter has become my favorite holiday….partly bc it IS an afterthought (but I wish it wasn’t so). Because there aren’t seriously engrained family traditions and expectations, and because it isn’t nearly as materialized as Christmas, I can make it want I want it to be without any interference from extended family (I know that sounds bad). About three years ago our family began celebrating Holy Week. It has been an incredible blessing. We started with a curriculum from discoverthescriptures.com. As our kids got older we started a few weeks earlier with a review of Jesus’ final year of his ministry. The kids have role played the events every day of the week. We do a ‘mormonized’ Passover. We’ve picked up other books that cover Holy Week as well as another for family activities. It has made Jesus’ life and mission become real for our kids. It has been so enriching, and our testimonies and appreciation for the Savior have grown so much. It’s nice to be able to do this in the first place, but its even more peaceful without the stresses that come with the modern celebration of Christmas.

    • danpeterson

      I’m really happy to hear all of this.

      And glad to hear you mention Passover, too.

      My wife and I have celebrated Mormonized/Christianized Passovers in our family and have led them for our own ward and for the singles ward over which I presided as a bishop, and we’ve found them wonderful opportunities to reflect upon the atonement of Christ as it’s prefigured in the Passover seder. I would love to have more LDS participate in such celebrations.

  • Good Will

    Mormons celebrate Easter every Sunday — each time we take the Sacrament. That’s probably why we don’t give the holiday much attention. Jesus is risen every day.

    • danpeterson

      Then you would see nothing wrong, really, with simply ignoring Easter altogether? Since every Sunday commemorates the resurrection?

  • log

    Wow, Bro. Is it not enough to remember the Savior always and walk in his paths, but now we must honor the traditions of men, too, or be condemned?

    • danpeterson

      I said nothing about following “the traditions of men.”

      But are you seriously going to argue that there would be something wrong in consciously trying to remember Jesus, and particularly his atonement and resurrection, more than we typically do?

      Do you really always remember Jesus? At every moment and hour of every day? If so, I honor you and admire you, because I can’t quite do that. I’m not righteous and spiritual enough, and I get distracted. Additional prompts to remember and reflect upon Jesus would be useful to such weak mortals as I am.

      • log

        I am going to argue censuring people, no matter how lightly, for not honoring the traditions of men, even if those traditions are in memorial of the Savior and his condescension and sacrifice, is wrong. After all, men don’t get credit for grudgingly observing things they have been goaded into (Moroni 7:6-10), and the Lord has not commanded these things.

        And, please correct me if I am mistaken, but are you not one of the few who has known what it means to be filled with fire from heaven, light, charity, and that joy which is indescribable and full of glory, receiving answers to your prayers as you pray them? If it is the case that you have once been in that state, then you ought to know you ought to always remain in that state of at-one-ment with the Lord (John 15:4), and, moreover, you know how to get there again (Moroni 7:48).

        For if you are at-one with the Lord, you do always remember him; and when you cease to remember him always, you are no longer at-one with the Lord.

        • danpeterson

          Once, again, I said absolutely nothing to advocate “honoring the traditions of men.”

          I’m delighted that you’re able to remember the Savior always, at every moment of every day. I covenant each week to do so, but, for me at least, it remains an often unfulfilled aspiration. (The weekly covenant of the sacrament offers me a necessary chance — necessary for ME, anyway — to recommit to doing it.) I haven’t achieved perfection, but your example inspires me. Thank you.

          • log

            Dan, Easter (and Christmas) celebrations are traditions of men. When you advocate honoring them, you are indeed advocating honoring the traditions of men.

          • danpeterson

            Ah. So you’re one of those — emphatically not including the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — who disdain Christmas and Easter.

            I’m sorry. I had assumed that you were a Latter-day Saint. My mistake.

          • log

            That response is uncharacteristic of the charitable man I had thought I had been observing for these last two decades.

          • danpeterson

            In what way? You’ve repeatedly accused me of misguidedly advocating honoring of the religious traditions of men; faulted me for admittedly failing to remember the Savior at every moment, day and night, as you do; and implicitly denounced those (like the First Presidency and the Twelve) who respect Christmas and Easter.

            What have I said about you that’s even remotely comparable?

          • log

            I have argued that
            1. Censuring people for not honoring the traditions of men is wrong.
            2. Easter is a tradition of men. The Lord has not commanded its commemoration, therefore it is of men.
            3. Censuring people for not honoring Easter is censuring people for not honoring the traditions of men.
            4. You have censured them who do not honor Easter.
            5. You therefore censure them who do not honor the traditions of men.

            I have not faulted you for not remembering your Savior always, as you have covenanted to do. I pointed out that you know how to honor that covenant, because you have done so in the past, or so I assume, and you know how to do so now. Am I wrong?

            I have denounced nobody for honoring the traditions of men; neither you, nor the Brethren. I have said censuring those who do not honor the traditions of men, as opposed to the commandments of God, is wrong.

            In each respect, you have assigned motivations to me which I did not possess, and you have responded to your misperception of me rather than me.

          • danpeterson

            And, in your turn — but, as kids say, you started it — you’ve criticized me based on your misreading of what I’ve said.

            I grant that observing Easter isn’t a divine commandment. Nor is observing Christmas. But we do observe them. As individuals, typically, and, very definitely, as a church.

            My suggestion, then, is that we observe them well, mindful of what they represent. I don’t think it bad to put up a Christmas tree, let alone to observe Christmas or to observe Easter. And I don’t mind, in fact I quite enjoy, most of the extraneous but pleasant traditions that are associated with them. But I think that, if we do observe them, we should observe them for what they actually are — memorials of the incarnation, atonement, and resurrection of Christ. And that we ought to pay those things more attention than we typically do.

            If you don’t find it useful to think more about Christ’s advent or about his death and resurrection, or if your memorializing of the Savior is sufficient for you and perfectly adequate by your standards, fine. Ignore what I had to say. (I honestly can’t believe that you’re turning this into a matter for contention.) But there might be a few benighted souls out there, like me, who could do with richer reflection upon the life and mission of Jesus. And you should have compassion on such as we are.

          • log

            Dan,

            You have done much good for both me, personally, and the Church generally. I have, and had, no intention of contending with you. I have seen your diligence in defending the Kingdom of God. I would not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed, and I believe you to be one such.

          • danpeterson

            Thank you for your kind note.

            Let’s let this rest. I suspect that we’re talking past one another. I, at least, regard this season as a special and glorious opportunity to reflect upon the atonement and resurrection of the Savior. I would prefer not to mar it with contention.

  • Keith

    “The atonement and the resurrection of Jesus are at the very heart of our faith. Let’s act like it.”

    This strikes me as unnecessarily judgmental. While I’m not observant, I think it’s obvious (as Good Will pointed out) that weekly observance of a ritual remembering the atonement is “acting like it”.

    As it is, this whole post comes off a bit holier-than-thou. Where did Jesus say “Remember to make a big deal out of a yearly commemoration of my death?”

    • danpeterson

      Thank you for your non-judgmental condemnation of my holier-than-thou judgmentalism!


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