Huge Disconnect: LDS and Easter

Posted: April 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
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We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming (Part II of Awakening from Our Cocoon, a discussion on Isaiah 58) for this interesting article straight from Deseret News.  A rather sad indictment, if you ask me (emphasis is mine):

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By Carrie A. Moore

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 3, 2010 9:57 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — For 5-year-old Ezra Hyde, it works just fine that Jesus delivers the candy eggs instead of the Easter Bunny.

When he told his parents last Sunday after attending his LDS Primary class that Easter was about Jesus, they were pleased, thinking he’d grasped an important spiritual concept.

Then Ezra blended that understanding with what he has always remembered about the day and came up with the declaration that a new visitor would provide the annual largess of chocolate and jelly beans.

The mixed focus is not unusual for many Latter-day Saint families in their Easter celebration, according to a survey on the importance of Easter done by Keith Wilson, an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “do celebrate, but it’s a minor celebration,” Wilson said. He surveyed approximately 500 people in six different LDS wards as well as scores of BYU students to determine the importance of the holiday to active church members.

“It’s almost completely usurped by general conference,” the annual gathering of top LDS leaders and members on the first weekend in April, he said. The two-day event includes sermons and music broadcast to millions of members worldwide, and it happens to fall on Easter weekend this year, as it does about 23 percent of the time.

“I tell my students not to take that as a slam,” Wilson said. “That’s what the restoration (of Christ’s gospel) is, with living prophets speaking to us. But in LDS remembrance, (the conference) totally overshadows Easter.

Wilson said he thinks Latter-day Saints could overcome both the general conference timing and the holiday’s moves around the calendar with wider acknowledgement of the historic events that lead to Easter Sunday’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection, suggesting it might help to remind members on Palm Sunday of the events that happen during holy week. “My students did a little poll this year — 350 to 400 of them — and only 2 to 3 percent of their wards even mentioned Palm Sunday. It’s like we’re afraid that’s another Christian fabrication of mainstream Christianity and we don’t want to buy into it.”

His survey respondents ranked their families’ celebration of Easter a distant third behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, with only “slightly more planning than the Fourth of July,” he said.

“The Thanksgiving celebration is much more intense for LDS families and Christmas is off the charts. It’s kind of an awkward juxtaposition when people like (former LDS Church President) Gordon B. Hinckley declare in clarion tones that Easter celebrates the most important event in all of human history, but there’s this disconnect with the LDS observance of it.”

“Look what we do to prepare for Christmas: caroling, ward parties, advent calendars that help you count down to the holiday,” Wilson said. “For most Latter-day Saints, we have nothing like that for Easter, yet it rightfully should be the celebration of all celebrations.”

While there is no formal church-wide celebration of Easter Sunday in the LDS Church, pockets of Christ-centered activities are scheduled by some local stakes and regions.

For example, Latter-day Saints in Mesa, Ariz., produce an annual pageant focusing on the resurrection of Christ during the Easter season. This past Sunday night, two LDS stakes in East Millcreek held an Easter devotional featuring an original cantata “Lamb of God,” by Kay and Melvin Ward, along with a sermon by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, an emeritus LDS general authority.

Most LDS congregations do focus their Easter Sunday sermons and music in sacrament meeting around the topics of Christ’s atonement and resurrection. But lesson manuals for other Sunday worship have no specific focus on Easter, Wilson said.

The BYU religion department has sponsored a public Easter conference on the Saturday before Easter for the past few years, featuring faculty members who speak on Christ-centered topics. It was at that conference in 2006 that Wilson presented his paper, examining the history of Easter worship and sharing the survey that ranked how LDS families view their own celebration in relation to other holidays.

He reported that of the Latter-day Saints surveyed, “fewer than half read the Easter story at home or knew when Easter was this calendar year. Only one in six discussed or reviewed the events of the Passion week. Only one in 19 discussed the Triumphal Entry. These participants sent a consistent message from their candid answers: The celebration of Easter among the Latter-day Saints receives little attention beyond a regular Sunday worship service.

Though not aligned with historic Christianity, the LDS Church celebrates Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, without whom no human being could be resurrected or forgiven of sin.

“There is such an incongruity when you think about the nature of what we celebrate and the manner in which we acknowledge it,” Wilson said.

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  3. b says:

    just a couple of words:
    1. i have felt, or recognized, for the first time, the lack of desire to watch general conference.
    2. saturday, for what i saw, mentioned very little of jesus christ, even from our prophet. his address was mostly add lib and was void of the holy ghost. his address more appeased to the bloggers, mentioning every gospel subject, albeit briefly, but lacking any spirit.
    3. some apostles had great addresses, where i really felt the spirit, but others, from what i saw, namely pres monson (again) and cook, lacked the spirit, but presented lots of good concepts or ideas. i really struggle with the concept, here are apostles and a prophet, who are seeking more of the honors of men, being “ad-lib”, and presenting lots of history or principles, yet lack the feeling from the spirit….

    so…how can that be?

    that is my question, brigham young taught, in journal discourses 1, that if a man teaches all spiritual concepts, but lacks the Spirit, then understanding or enlightenment will essentially not exist. is that the case here? then how could that be?

  4. Nobody says:

    The devil is in the details. 🙂

    Sunday afternoon actually offered some very good talks on Christ, with a definite focus on Him. Though there is some inane drivel (like the protections from immunizations) from some, there were some good moments.

    For me, the benefit is in the contrast.

    D&C 29:39: ” 39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—”

    Instead of seeing all good, we should be able to see the good, not-so-good and the bad. That is the purpose of the contrast and, methinks, the gospel. We’re presented with options (a) or (b). Oftentimes (b) really becomes (b/a), where (b) is it’s own option, but masquerades as (a) whenever possible. When it does so effectively – and it’s very effective – more and more people can identify with it.

    General conference isn’t bad, nor is the timing of general conference. We’ve simply allowed it to displace Easter, as the author notes. That decision to displace didn’t happen yesterday, or last year, but over a long period of time (decades and decades). Our goal should be to reorient ourselves, reposition ourselves and redirect ourselves in the right direction.

    If we’re standing in downtown, looking for the stars to direct us (like the ancients used to do), we’ll never get anywhere because the light and noise of the city will distract and disorient us. Only when we remove ourselves to where the noise and light no longer mask the stars will we be able to be guided by them. Not that the downtown is bad, but that it mistakingly brings attention upon itself. Removing ourselves from downtown also enables us to see it for what it truly is. It can be good, and provide its own beauty when shining at night, but far away from the lights of downtown you can see the milky way in all its majesty and everything else takes it’s place.

    One of our issues is that the downtown is more accessible than the milky way. We’re so removed that it’s hard to picture it for what it is, other than a remote system of stars and galaxies. The downtown is merely a short drive away via the closest express way to where you live. Therefore it gets most of the attention…if that at all makes sense. 🙂

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