Preparing for Easter

The Garden Tomb, a favorite site for some Protestants and many Latter-day Saints, 
is a wonderful place to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord

  Click above for a video and artistic retrospective on Holy Week


Preparing for Easter

Using the Days of Holy Week to Enrich Your Celebration

"There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection." (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Dec. 2000, 2)

I am convinced that if it were not for commercial and cultural factors, Easter would be more important to us than Christmas. As President Hinckley noted in the quote above, Christmas is only significant because of the miracle of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and his glorious resurrection.

The term "Easter" only appears once in the King James Bible, at Acts 12:4, where it is better translated as "Passover." In fact, the scriptures nowhere enjoin us to celebrate the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus as holidays per se, although we are commanded to remember him through ordinances and in our own testimonies. In that sense the days on which we remember and celebrate Christmas and Easter are not as important as the events themselves. Indeed, for Christians every day should be Christmas. Likewise, we remember and honor the suffering and death of Jesus every week with the sacrament, and the fact that we celebrate the sabbath on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, means that for us every Sunday is Easter!

The Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion and burial.
With Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, much of the Christian world enters into a period of reflection and celebration known as "Holy Week." Each of the events chronicled in this last week casts light on Jesus’ true nature as the Son of God, and reviewing them deepens the faith of believers in his matchless love. While the LDS community does not formally observe Holy Week, the period from Palm Sunday to Easter morning present a wonderful opportunity for believers to use the scriptures to reflect upon the last days of our Lord’s earthly ministry.

In the bustle of day-to-day life, it is useful to employ holidays to refocus our attention and our thoughts and, most of all, celebrate together and with friends of other faiths the events we all value. For some years now, my family and I have benefited spiritually by using the gospel accounts of the Savior’s last week as the focus of our family and personal scripture study. It is a great way to truly celebrate Easter!

In 2011-2012, my family had the wonderful opportunity to live in Jerusalem as I taught at the BYU Jerusalem Center. This gave me the opportunity to visit again and again many of the sites that I had long read about and studied.

This blog is intended to provide interested individuals and families with some basic materials for scripture study and family celebrations, providing readings for each of the days of Holy Week and sharing pictures and video clips of some of the places that we saw and the celebrations that we shared in while we were in Jerusalem for Easter that year.  I am also including this year some more practical, nuts-and-bolts suggestions for what families can do to better celebrate Easter.

Please take the links below for posts in my LDS Seasonal Materials blog that treat each of the events and days of the Savior's final days:

Holy Week Lectionary: A collation of the New Testament gospel texts for each day from Palm Sunday to Easter morning.

Preliminary Materials

The Passion Week and the Resurrection

  • Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry; the Cleansing of the Temple
  • Monday:  The Marcan Cleansing of the Temple; Teachings in the Temple
  • Tuesday: More Teachings in the Temple; the Olivet Discourse
  • "Spy" Wednesday: The Anointing in Mark and Matthew; Judas agrees to betray Jesus
  • Holy or "Maundy" Thursday: The Last Supper; Farewell Discourses; Gethsemane; Before the Jewish Authorities
  • Good Friday: Jesus in the Hands of the Romans; the Crucifixion; the Burial
  • Saturday: Jesus in the Spirit World
  • Easter Sunday: The Resurrection

Those interested in a more in-depth treatment of the Savior's final days, complete with art work and many other resources, may be interested in my book, God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior's Life, published by Deseret Book.

New from the Tabernacle Choir this year! A CD with 5 special Easter tracks.

Other Resources for Easter

  • New: "The Passion (Final Week of Jesus’s Life)," a podcast interview of me and Julie Smith on Mormon Matters.
  • New: Whitney Permann, one of our friends from the singing group Mercy River, has prepared a wonderful resource for families with young children who want to celebrate Holy Week and want to prepare for Easter in a meaningful way: Mercy River's Holy Week: A Christ Centered Easter Tradition for Families 
  • "Preparing for Easter: Ideas for Celebrating." Brief article in LDS Living.
  • God So Loved the World: A Visual and Audio Message of Easter Peace from Deseret Book
  • Mormon Identities episode, "Reflections on Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Resurrection" (episode 048 - Reflections on Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Resurrection on iTunes): Eric Huntsman further helps us prepare for the Easter season by interviewing Andrew Skinner, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU. He has studied a lot about places like Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Garden Tomb. Listen as he expounds upon the sacredness of these holy places.
  • Mormon Identities episode, "Music for the Easter Season" (episode 049 - Music for the Easter Season of Mormon Identities on iTunes): Eric Huntsman hosts Craig Jessop and Andrew Unsworth to talk about Easter music. Get some great ideas and listen to a few examples of music about Christ and the Resurrection. They discuss music written by Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as more current songs performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This episode will help you focus your Easter season on the Savior.
  • Mormon Identities episode, "Preparing for Easter" (episode 047 - Preparing for Easter Season of Mormon Identities on iTunes): Guest host Camille Fronk Olson interviews Eric Huntsman for a special holiday episode about the importance of Easter. Eric tells us why Easter is such a meaningful time for him. He always gives great ideas of how individuals, families, and wards can keep Christ at the center of the Easter holiday.
  • A Visual Tour of Jerusalem During Holy Week!  See the posts in our blog, Huntsmans in the Holy Land, that chronicle our experiences celebrating Easter in 2012.  The first post, Holy Week in Jerusalem, introduces the series and has links to all the subsequent posts.