Palm Sunday

Eric and Rachel Palm SundayEric Huntsman continues his series on Holy Week.

Growing up in heavily Catholic Pittsburgh, I always had Palm Sunday in the back of my mind somewhere, but it was not really brought to the forefront until a bishop on our family ward in Philadelphia tried to plan a Palm Sunday procession one year. He actually flew in, at his own expense, palm fronds, and the primary children were making banners that said, among other things, “Welcome Jesus.” Needless to say, when the stake presidency got wind of it, all the plans were cancelled. I did not think about it again until Elaine and I were in Hawai’i one spring that it really impacted me. Visiting the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in Honolulu on a Saturday, I was struck by the volunteers who were there weaving little crosses out of palm fronds. When I inquired, they explained that they were going to be used for the Palm Sunday service the next day.

When I was a rather young, but earnest, bishop here in Provo, the spirit of Easter started to weigh on me heavily. My second year I came up with my first rudimentary reading schedule for the last days of the Savior’s life and planned to print it in the sacrament meeting bulletin the week before. As chance had it, that was also the day that I blessed Rachel, my first child, in sacrament meeting (I had baptized her the day before but was rather insistent that she be blessed and confirmed “in church” the old style). It was Palm Sunday, and having just read all four Passion Week accounts as I put together my ward reading schedule, the Triumphal Entry was really on my mind. In fact, in Rachel’s blessing I think I mentioned something to the effect of “As she is blessed on this Palm Sunday, we bless her that she will have a special place in her heart for Christ the King, our Savior Triumphant, that she will know that he is her Savior and her God.” Yep, I have always been of a liturgical bent and been rather, er, melodramatic!

Anyway, Palm Sunday was in my heart to stay after that. The next year was one of those terrible scenarios where the liturgical calendar was left in the dust by the “necessities” of the calendar: Easter, heaven forbid, fell on a Fast Sunday, and our stake was insistent that Fast and Testimony meeting would not be preempted. I did what I could. We had three readers present scriptures before the sacrament: one was on the Last Supper, one on Gethsemane, and one on the Crucifixion. And after the sacrament the ward choir sang a lovely Easter anthem. When I opened the time up for testimonies, I started and virtually threatened the congregation to testify of nothing but Jesus and him crucified and risen! But the week before, on Palm Sunday, we had one heck on an Easter program.

Sorry, this post has morphed into a memoir, for which I apologize. For the *real* discussion of the Triumphal Entry and the Matthean and Lucan cleansing, please go to the Palm Sunday post on my seasonal blog. I promise there will be some useful stuff there: items for personal study, suggestions for family, exposition of the scriptural pericopes, music ideas, photos, and videos galore.

Happy Christ is King Day!


  1. We went down to the Basilica of Zapopan outside Guadalajara this morning for their Domingo de Ramos procession. Hearing everyone singing in Spanish that Christ is King, and listening to the account of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was what I needed this morning. And I loved all the different designs people had woven with from their palm fronds. I’m hoping there’s something about Palm Sunday at our LDS ward today.

  2. Wonderful stuff. And Amira, thank you for sharing that experience!

  3. Great post. You are a kindred soul. I shall enjoy Palm Sunday Evensong tonight on your behalf, Eric!

  4. I appreciate this. Most of my good memories of Palm Sunday are in places other than an LDS meeting. But not all. I’d quibble with one phrase–the “Needless to say” regarding plans cancelled by the stake presidency. It is not so obvious or certain. In my experience (and as borne out by the rest of the post) the nature and degree of control over the order of service differs widely, and best I can tell it varies by person (usually bishop and/or stake president) not by time or place. In one ward where I knew the inside story, there were a few complaints about being “too Protestant” (note that simply standing for a congregational hymn in the middle of Sacrament Meeting is enough to generate such comments from some quarters). The stake president came to visit, asked questions, observed that personally he’d like to attend our meetings, and concluded with a “carry on”.

  5. I’ll just echo what Ronan said: you’re a kindred soul, and I’m so glad that you’re helping to bring the spirit of Easter to BCC. It really should be the pinnacle of the year!

  6. Nothing about Palm Sunday in our ward today. In fact, it’s Stake Conference next week for Easter Sunday, with the topic for speakers being “Hastening the Work.” I find it disheartening. What are we so afraid of in “appearing like” other churches in Christendom?

  7. whizzbang says:

    oh man, our ward had none of that! Ironically, our ward had instead a High Councilor give a GC talk on agency….he basically read the thing!

  8. GSBartholomew says:

    I so appreciate this post!

  9. My husband is also from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s good people.

    The lack of acknowledgement of Holy Week is a source of sadness to me every year. And having General Conference and Fast Sunday meetings on Easter Sunday is just awful. I consider myself a C&E Protestant. I can’t make it to services this year, but most years they mean a lot to me.

  10. Why is it “needless to say” that when the Stake Presidency got wind of it the plans were canceled? I have no idea why that would be canceled. Sounds great to celebrate the life of Jesus and this event in his life. So I guess you do “need to say” :)

  11. Mark, my experience has been that there is tendency for many in our faith community to view the practices and traditions of other churches with some suspicion. Perhaps that is becoming less so now when someone like President Uchtdorf regularly speaks of celebrating Advent and the importance of focusing on the event from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. If I recall correctly, and it has been over 20 years since the incident I mentioned, the stake president found a line in the old manual about avoiding “pageantry” in meetings.

  12. I snuck away this morning for a sunrise Palm Sunday service at my local Catholic church. No procession, but a beautiful experience and I got a sliver of palm frond to keep at my bedside all week. I also got a face-full of holy water (no really, the priest even apologized), so I’m totally blessed now. My ward had Fast & Testimony today; sadly Palm Sunday and the advent of Easter was mostly unacknowledged.