Good Friday, Easter, and Mormons

As Easter approaches every year, it seems that many people type “do mormons celebrate easter” into Google.  If you do that right now, you will see that my post from 2008 is the #1 result on Google: Why Don’t Mormons Celebrate Easter? Frankly it’s shocking to me that my post is ranked so high on Google.  As of today, it is my 4th most popular post I’ve ever written on my blog, and I am constantly amazed at the continued popularity of that post.  It also happens to be one of my shortest posts ever—just 2 paragraphs.  Even yesterday, Fern commented on this old post asking “Are these comments from Mormons for real?????”

The title to that post may give the wrong impression.  I will clarify that Mormons celebrate Easter with family, but we generally don’t hold special worship services.  We believe that Jesus died on the cross, rose on the 3rd day, and we believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus.  However, for some reason, our church seems to eschew large celebrations or special worship services in celebration of all holidays, including Easter and Christmas.  (In fact, I would go so far to say that Pioneer Day on July 24th has larger celebrations than either Easter or Christmas, at least in Utah.  Pioneer Day is not a big deal outside of Utah.)  The church seems to like to keep these Easter and Christmas celebrations low-key, and seems to prefer that families do their own thing for Easter and Christmas celebrations.

I wish LDS church leadership would encourage special worship services, or hold a special Easter fireside.  (They do hold a Christmas fireside the first Sunday in December, though it seems odd to me that they don’t do something closer to Christmas.  I guess they want to spend their time with family too.)  In other churches, you can attend a sunrise Easter celebration or Midnight Mass to celebrate these special holidays.  Such special services are completely absent for Mormons during these holidays.  In some congregations (aka wards), the bishop may decide to have a special theme for Sacrament (aka Communion) Meeting, but this is entirely up to the discretion of the bishop.  I have been in some wards with a special theme, but more wards than not seem to pay little attention to Easter or Christmas.  (I think part of the reason is that Mormons have a lay ministry.  The bishop may not have time to plan anything special because he is already busy with his full-time 40 hour job and part-time 10-20 hour bishop.)

Every 4 years, Mormons take a different book of scripture as the topic for Sunday school.  This year we are studying the New Testament.  Last year was the Old Testament.  We also spend a year on the Book of Mormon, and another year on the Doctrine and Covenants.  If you look at the Sunday School manual, the lesson for our ward scheduled for Easter Sunday is “Who is My Neighbor?” Since we’re studying the New Testament this year, it might be easier to tie Easter into the lesson.  If we’re studying the other 3 books of scripture, the teacher is obviously going to have to do some stretching of the lesson to make it tie in with Easter.  If we’re studying the Book of Mormon, we do so chronologically, so Christ’s resurrection doesn’t happen until late in the year.  Good luck to the teacher for tying Easter into the lesson when studying the D&C or Old Testament.

If you want to know something that Mormons don’t celebrate, that would be Good Friday.  We took a family vacation to visit my parents and my wife’s parents in St. George.  On Good Friday, I asked my wife, “Do you know what today is?”  She responded, “Earth Day.”  Well, that’s correct, but not the answer I was looking for.  (I wouldn’t have known that either if Bored In Vernal hadn’t asked me for a photo to commemorate Earth Day.)  I asked her what other day it was, and she did not know.

In my job, I am working on an international medical study.  We hold weekly meetings to discuss issues with the study.  Two weeks ago, one of the principal investigators (I’ll call him John) asked to cancel our meeting scheduled for Good Friday.  If he hadn’t mentioned it, I would not have been aware of Good Friday (and frankly I didn’t know when Easter was—I wish it had a set day like Christmas does or even Thanksgiving to make it easier to remember.  This bouncing around in March and April makes it practically impossible to remember.)

Mormons don’t acknowledge Good Friday at all.  For those Mormons reading this who don’t know, Good Friday is the traditional day that Jesus was raised and died on the cross.  It is always the Friday before Easter. I believe Good Friday is a big deal in the Catholic Church.  I am not sure how well Protestants follow the holiday (and I would love to hear some Protestants comment on this—my guess is that it varies by denomination.  I would also like to hear how Catholics celebrate Good Friday.)  My boss is Presbyterian, and she didn’t seem to be aware of Good Friday or seem to have plans for it.  She came to work Friday (just like I did).

So Mormons technically celebrate Easter, but we don’t really celebrate at church.  We do it at home.  We hold Easter Egg hunts and consume lots of Easter candy.  Some families talk about the resurrection, but some don’t make a big deal about it.  I have tried to remind my children that Easter is celebrated in commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, so they know that.  But I think they were more excited about the Easter Egg Hunt held at Worthen Park in St. George than remembering the resurrection.

While milling about the park following the Easter Egg Hunt, a person handed me a card advertising a non-denominational Sunrise Service at 8 AM in Tuacahn.  (I think sunrise is about 6:47 in St. George.)  They have a 2nd service at 11 AM with nursery and “child ministry” so that adults can enjoy the services without interruption from kids.  I asked my in-laws if they wanted go.  My mother-in-law kind of wrinkled her nose and said that she didn’t want to be up in time for the 8 AM meeting, and the 11 AM meeting conflicted with her ward.  My wife looked at me like I was crazy for suggesting such a thing.  (My parents and brother-in-law said they really aren’t interested in other church services.)  I went to the 8 AM service this morning, but it was rained out.  My parents ward had a nice choir and talk on Easter.

So why do you think Mormons don’t acknowledge Good Friday?  Why are there no special worship services in celebration of Easter or Christmas?


20 comments on “Good Friday, Easter, and Mormons

  1. Lots of diversity in Mormonism. We celebrated good friday (including going to the fish fry at the local catholic church), had a music/programmed (and excellent) sacrament meeting all about easter, and then had more easter celebration at home. Might have been nice to have a ward fish fry, but then I’d probably have to help clean up.

  2. Personally, I believe it’s similar to the reason that there are no crosses on the buildings – the focus is on what the atonement and the Savior’s sacrifice mean now. It seems like many of the other Christian churches focus more on the suffering of the Savior than on what that suffering accomplished. We had a couple of talks on gospel topics (repentance and cleansing one’s self from sin seemed to be the main subject matter) and a couple of choir numbers and in the third hour I gave a talk on the Savior’s sacrifice and how we can show greater love for the Savior – but yes, it was very low key.

  3. It was Easter weekend? None of my family members cared to call me. Bunch of jerks. =)

  4. I’ve never really understood this disdain for the cross. It is the international symbol for Christianity. What’s wrong with remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and using that to motivate us to lead better lives in order to deserve that sacrifice? I personally like that a lot better than the guilt and fear tactics we LDS use as motivation.

  5. Christ is Risen ! Indeed He is Risen !

    Khristos Voskrese ! Khristos Anesti ! Chistus a resusite !

    This is the only true meaning of Easter (Pascha) now and for nearly 2,000 years.

    With Joy in the Resurrected Christ, a fellow Christian.

  6. Thank you, Daria, for the traditional Eastern Orthodox paschal greeting. Christ is risen indeed! In the spirit of Spencer W. Kimball’s charge that we must do our own waiting on the Lord, I have pursued my own Lenten journey every year for many years, culminating at the foot of the cross, and then blossoming with joy at the Easter feast. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but anything less for me would be sadly lacking. The wonderful Easter pageant at the Mesa temple every year tells me that thousands of Latter-day Saints feel likewise.

  7. Why such a desire for pagan customs? The first Christians never celebrated “easter” the name taken from a pagan goddess. Neither did they celebrate “good friday”. They did however eat the passover in remembrance of the delivery of the Israelites from Egypt and death and in memory of the sacrifice of the Savior. The cross was an abomination and a symbol of torture. It was never used as a symbol for Christianity in the early days of the Church. As Latter day Saints we are free to engage in family traditions or even to visit other churches during Easter or Xmas or whenever but that does not mean we have to follow the traditions of men in our Church services.

  8. In Australia, Good friday and Easter monday are National holidays. So it is hard to miss when Easter is. Whatever ward or branch i have been in has always had a special service on Easter sunday. I went to an easter serivce at the local Anglican church once just to see what it was like. I didn’t find it inspiring. it was all really negiative. the minister only briefly talked about ressurection but spent about an hour talking about the crucifiction and how horrible the congration was for sinning and causing Jesus to suffer. They also had a life size cross behind the altar. The whole experience terrified me.

    If thats how other cruches celibrate Easter , then i am happy for LDS not to focus on the crucifiction.

  9. Andy, I’m not sure what you mean by “Early Church”, but Easter was well established at the time of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. That’s pretty early. Also, Easter has nothing to do with any pagan celebration. Its roots are Hebrew and coincide with the Passover.

    The cross was also well established at the time Clement who often referred to the Lord’s sign as the cross.

    Now let’s talk about following the traditions of men. LDS do nothing if not follow the traditions of men. Does white shirt, no facial hair and 1 set of earrings ring a bell for you? Do you think your heavenly father all of a sudden cares about such things when he never did before?

    You want a pagan holiday? Try Christmas.

  10. I did a bit of research about Easter and its supposedly pagan roots and was surprised to find it has a much stronger historical links to Christians than to any pagan religion. It surprised me.

    I agree that LDS traditions of personal appearance are given far too much importance in Mormon culture. My family and I challenge those traditions out of necessity. I trust in the Lord, not my appearance. If the Spirit is with us, what else could matter? Same goes for Easter observance – as long as I have the Spirit in me, and I am acting for the purpose of serving the Lord, then that intention and Spirit will keep me in good standing with God, regardless of what the historicity of a holiday is.

  11. MH, like you I’m interested in celebrating Easter with other Christians, and have no problems with it. I also wish LDS would have more ways to celebrate Easter in a holy way. As things stand, I find the lip-service to Easter on the Easter Sunday to be rather superficial – either we beleive in the tradition, or we don’t. I don’t like what seems to me like half-way measures (I’d rather all or nothing). I think Lent sounds like a wonderful idea… after all that fasting and praying, for so many days, it makes sense to have a big Easter feast afterwards!

  12. I often bring up the fact that the LDS church did not restore the true Sabbath (sundown Friday thru sundown Saturday). The most common response I get is that the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday made that “the Lord’s day” which replaces the Sabbath. If that’s the case, why do we say, “keep the Sabbath day holy”? We should be saying, “go ahead and break the Sabbath, but keep the Lord’s day holy.”

    For a church that puts so much emphasis on the resurrection vs the crucifixion (cross phobia) and replaces the true Sabbath with “the Lord’s day” you would think Easter would have a much bigger place in worship.

    I don’t know. Just doesn’t wash with me.

  13. I have enjoyed the comments and wish I could comment more. I submitted this post sunday about 2 pm from my parents house in st. george. while driving home, our car was struck broadside and my wife broke her collar bone, so I have been tending to her and the kids. as you can imagine, it has cut into my blog time considerably. we are doing fine, but this is why I have been relatively silent the past few days. it will be nice to return to normal. I am sure I will not be blogging normally for a few weeks.

  14. You are right about Christmas. Jeremiah talked about cutting a tree and adorning it with silver. Of course our Christmas trees come from the pagan Germans. Don’t get me started on Yule logs, mistletoe and all the other nonsense. Still in all, if people want to practice this, that is fine. I just see no place for it in the Church. As far as the cross goes, the first Christians were all Jews, the elevation of a Roman instrument of torure would have been totally repugnant to them.

    I am not sure what you mena by “Easter” being established in the time of Polycarp. The early Christians celebrated Nisan 14 not Easter. They were Hebrew Christians and kept the custom they were commanded to in Exodus but with new meaning. At least in other languages “Easter” retains its connection to Passover. In Spanish it is called Pascua which is the same word as Passover in Spanish.

    As far as your comment on the sabbath goes, the first Christians attended the synogugue on Saturday, the temple on other dyas but gathered in people’s homes on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) This was their own kind of meeting since they were considered a sect of Judaism. After the council of Jerusalem when the Mosaic law was supended for Gentile converts, the Jewish community started to expell the sect of the Nazarine from their places of worship. With the destruction of the temple and the fall of jerusalem, the break between Judaism and Christianity was permanent. The early Christians would no longer have a reason to attend the synagogue on Saturday and the Sunday worship became institutionalized.

    As far as white shirts and one earring go, in my ward the priests bless the sacrament in shirts other than white. Our priesthood holders wear a variety of shirts and no one bats an eyelash.

    I personally ahbor the cross and crucifix for the same reason the early Christians did. I wore one for many years until my eyes were opened as a teenager. I prefer to focus on the risen Christ. I no not feel any less Christian because my Church does not adopt this symbol.

    I think in the end Christ will ask us what we did with the knowledge and gifts we were given. Were we kind to others? Were we hypocrites? Did we put others and God first in our lives or were we only concerned about others? Temple garments and other things are there to remind us to be better people. No matter what we wear or what position we have, if we are not Christlike, it means nothing. That is how I see it

  15. There is confusion about Easter being observed at the time of Polycarp. The reason is because there was no holiday or feast that went by the name of Easter. If we can agree that Easter is the celebration of the resurrection, then we can establish a common ground.

    There is a well known “controversy” between Polycarp and Anicetus on when to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Polycarp argued for the celebration to be on Nisan 14 (the pagan Spring festival), where Anicetus argued it should be on a specific Sunday each year. Polycarp claimed that the Apostle John celebrated the resurrection on Nisan 14. This is where I get my claim that Easter (celebration of the resurrection of Jesus) was well established by the time of Polycarp. I understand that it was not called Easter, but the celebration of the resurrection was done during the Apostolic age. Don’t know how you get any earlier than that.

    Regarding the cross, the LDS church has for some reason, caused this abhorrence of the cross. I think that is a shame. Billions of people around the globe use it as a symbol of faith. If you believe that Christ died on the cross to redeem mankind, why is there a problem with wanting to remember that supreme sacrifice? I just don’t see the problem.

    Regarding the Sabbath, you are correct that the council of Jerusalem concluded that Gentiles did not have to abide by the Mosaic law as long as they abided by the 7 laws of Noah. That practice was actually in place long before the council or even the birth of Jesus. This “new” declaration was mainly to prevent Gentiles from having to be circumcised upon conversion. One thing you have to remember though is that the 10 commandments were not part of the Mosaic law and they make it clear that the Sabbath should not be broken, so the council of Jerusalem logic breaks down.

    The fact is, LDS worship on the Lord’s day like most Christians do. This practice was part of the great Apostasy that was not restored. Remember, it was Constantine that institutionalized this practice in the 4th century. Christians were still keeping the Sabbath day holy even if they chose to worship on Sunday, else why the need for Constantine to make the declaration. LDS break the Sabbath and keep the “Lord’s Day” holy…and use band-aid excuses to explain why.

  16. MH, sorry to hear about your wife…and your vehicle for that matter. I can’t imagine how painful a broken collarbone is. I imagine every move made is filled with pain. That is really too bad. Here is wishing a speedy and full recovery.

  17. Thanks Bishop Rick. She is finally starting to feel a little better, but is still weating a sling.


  19. Was your Caps Lock key stuck?

    Don’t all Christian church pick and choose from a smorgasbord? (sprinkling, immersion, virgin birth, tithing, communion, etc)

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