LDS Easter Service Roll Call

Music-in-Worship-580

I’ve told the story before of how about 20 years ago in the same building I attend church in today (but in a ward that was later dissolved and no longer exists) I settled in for the Easter Sunday sacrament service only to be presented with a program devoted to the concept of tithing. D’oh! That was by far the worst LDS Easter service fail I have ever personally experienced. But even when planners happen to remember the day, there remains a spectrum as to how effective our services are in focusing appropriately on the Easter theme. So I would like to take a survey as to how your Easter services went today.

(Of course, LDS services are simply not going to be able to compete with other Christian services on this day. The constraints of the typical sacrament meeting format pretty much assure that. But there remains a spectrum of attention and focus on the risen Lord in our meetings this day, and the breadth of that spectrum is what I’m interested in exploring.)

So tell us about your Easter sacrament meeting today. What worked well, what less so. And do we have any wards this year that completely whiffed on Easter as the topic for the day? I’ll go first.

Thankfully, no one forgot that today is actually Easter, so that low bar was exceeded. The opening hymn was All Creatures of Our God and King and the closing hymn was How Great Thou Art (this last one was not one of the dozen specifically Easter hymns in the green hymnal, but close enough.)

The first talk was given by a young teenage Latina; I think it may have been her first talk ever. She was very nervous, but she did a great job. Her topic was Christ’s mortal life. My ears perked up when at one point she characterized Christ as a kind of superhero. Her concluding words were “Christ lived and he loved us.”

The second talk was given by an adult sister, and she also did a good job. Part way into it I realized this was one of those talks where the assignment was given in the form of a prior conference talk (in this case, Elder Packer’s “Witness” from the April 2014 conference). Thankfully, she handled it the way I personally believe such assignments should be handled, in that she mentioned the prior talk and gave a quote from his testimony, but otherwise brought her own thoughts and experiences to bear on the topic. She talked some about her experience growing up going to 12 years of Catholic school. We think of the risen Christ as magnificent, but he can be magnificent in our lives daily. She talked about when she was nine and her seven-year old brother died, and how that led to a loss of hope and a sense of emptiness for her as a child, but how over time she regained her faith and became assured that she would see him again. When she closed she mentioned that in a couple of weeks she was going to see Jesus Christ Superstar, and thought Wouldn’t it be great if we really thought of him that way? He can be a living superstar in our lives.[1]

A Primary choir then performed Gethsemane.

The bishop was the final speaker. Usually bishops only tap themselves to speak on special or important occasions, so I appreciated that he was acknowledging the importance of this Easter service. The talk itself was sort of a pastiche taken from Elder Holland, Kevin Worthen, Elder Gong, and then some personal experiences he and his wife had with a recalcitrant ’77 Mustang. (When he quoted Elder Holland as saying “come as you are” I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was the only one who heard it as an allusion to Nirvana…) He finished by quoting a portion of The Living Christ.

All in all, by our Mormon lay and low church standards, it was a good Easter service.

Tell us about yours.

 

[1] This was kind of a riff on the earlier superhero comment, and I found it charming, because I well remember all the Mormon push back against the musical when it first came out.

Comments

  1. My Sacrament meeting talks were about Gethsemane, and Christs last Passover week.

  2. Anon for this says:

    I’m skipping Easter services this year. I’m not up for facing a Mormon Easter this year.

  3. Our meeting centered around what it means to be Christian. The addresses were good I thought. One thing I miss from our services is a focus on Christ’s last hours and the tomb and resurrection. Narrating the cross can be most inspiring, but I’ve never heard it done in an LDS Easter Sunday meeting. That’s unfortunate I think. We had some fine Easter music from our choir.

  4. My stake decided Easter Sunday is the perfect day for stake conference. Yeah… We considered attending the local catholic mass, but we’ll probably gamble on my in-laws’ sacrament meeting instead.

  5. Olde Skool says:

    Easter win in my ward: three Sacrament meeting talks about Atonement, Hope, and Resurrection, plus two musical numbers. GD lesson (#14) spun to discuss how Jesus’s Atonement and Passion consecrate the worst in us. RS on hope of Resurrection.

  6. The microphone in the chapel was on the fritz. The talks could have been about hieing to Kolob for all I know…

  7. Sacrament in my in-laws ward was an adult musical program. There were two congregational hymns, at least two hymns from the choir along with the normal opening and closing hymns. Interspersed were short (2 minute) thoughts from people, and it ended with a 5 minute message from the bishop.

    It was pretty good as far as LDS Easter services go.

  8. I lead our choir and push for equal sacrament treatment of Christmas and Easter. We had a musical program of two primary numbers, three choir numbers, a congregational hymn and and interspersing of narration. We had one longer-form talk, and the speaker was given leeway to pick something that fit with the Easter theme and selected hope. An excellent sacrament service.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Trevor, I think scheduling SC on Easter Sunday counts as an Easter fail.

    Jenny, I think you’re winning so far, that sounds great.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Joined now by PedroH. I’m glad there are wards that pay attention and do it right.

  11. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    As the music chair in our ward, I was put in charge of putting together an Easter program full of music. We had two congregational numbers, three other musical numbers plus the Primary singing, interspersed with two brief testimonies/talks about Christ & closing with a bishopric member reading Easter passages from the New Testament with brief commentary. It was a wonderful meeting.

  12. Stake conference here, so no talks in the season. The hymns were nice and Easterish! Fortunately, we had a phenomenal home Easter celebration. The church’s #princeofpeace initiative combined with all the bloggers they had come in board has provided our family with a truly Christ-filled Easter season! We have been doing daily devotionals, journaling, reading along together in our personal study, and yesterday a special Christ centered meal. I always liked how this holiday isn’t so crammed full of “celebration” so we have plenty of time to focus and truly celebrate at home. I always feel our Easter is a far more spirit-filled season than our crazy December.

  13. My ward in Colorado had a genuine Easter program. The Bishop (who conducted today) called it our Easter service. We sung two traditional Easter songs from the hymnal, the choir sung two songs about the atonement and resurrection, and all three speakers spoke specifically about Easter. An Easter win for sure.

  14. andrewheiss says:

    I got to speak, so I injected some liturgical tradition and covered the Seven Last Words and Good Friday suffering in my talk: https://gist.github.com/andrewheiss/a38e74a8f2e1b94aa9a791157f238f1c

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Good for you, andrewheiss!

    OK, I think we’ve got a few take aways so far:

    1. Pay as much attention to crafting the Easter program as you do the Christmas program.

    2. The more music, the better.

    3. Don’t schedule Stake Conference for Easter Sunday.

  16. Jim Wallmann says:

    Although not a professional musician, I trained as an organist and am sensitive to celebrating the Easter season. Here’s the lineup at our ward in Texas. The organ prelude consisted of the American folk hymn “Were You There?,” followed by that Victorian chestnut, Sir John Stainer’s “God So Loved the World” (played as an organ solo, to be clear), and ending with a chorale prelude by Johann Gottfried Walther (J.S. Bach’s cousin) on “Herzlich tut mich verlangen,” the Passion hymn (LDS #197). The opening hymn was “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (#200). Invocation by a brother. After the administration of the sacrament, our better-than-average ward choir sang an arrangement of “I Stand All Amazed.” An adult sister spoke on the Last Supper with references to Old Testament events. The choir sang “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” (same text but not hymn #194) and an arrangement of “He Is Risen.” The closing speaker was an adult brother who spoke on the resurrection and shared his joy of one day being able to see again his mother and father, and a sister he never knew. The closing hymn was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (#136). Benediction by a sister. The organ postlude was “Easter Postlude on ‘Handel'” by James Correll — this is the hymn tune by G.F. Handel from Judas Maccabeus sung to the text “Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son.”

  17. Three talks on the atonement, generic in the sense that there was no real mention of Gethsemane or the crucifixion but just “I’m grateful for the atonement” and “Christ atoned for our sins” kinds of statements. Easter congregational hymns and two choir numbers about the crucifixion. Nothing but the most casual reference to the resurrection, outside of those congregational hymns. All in all it was an okay meeting for just about any other week in the year, but I had really hoped for more joy in the resurrection. Had to come home and write my own.

  18. Diana Windley says:

    About a month ago, my husband was asked to speak on April 16th and assigned a topic. When my husband told me, I replied “That’s Easter Sunday…shouldn’t THAT be the topic?”
    My husband texted the member of the bishopric, who was grateful for the reminder, and changed the topic to more of a resurrection and atonement theme.
    My point is, when given an assignment (talk, lesson, etc) and topic, I think it’s okay to suggest something else…especially on occasions such as Easter. I think we get so focused on sticking to a lesson or topic schedule that we miss out on what’s really important…bringing ourselves and others unto Christ.
    My 15-year old daughter said Easter wasn’t mentioned once this past week in seminary. To me, this is a huge opportunity wasted. Why wasn’t this entire past week dedicated to what the rest of the Christian world refers to as Holy Week? We live in Utah with professional seminary teachers…this is their full-time, paid jobs! I grew up in Texas with early morning seminary and our teacher went all out on Easter…we even held a traditional Passover dinner.
    We can and should do better as Mormons with Easter. I appreciate the social media campaigns the Church has produced in recent years around Easter…I think it’s a step in the right direction. But we still have a ways to go.

  19. Ours was great. For the first time that i remember it was mostly music. We started with the Primary singing “I wonder When He Comes Again.” and another song I didn’t recognize with four of them playing bells. Then a youth speaker who spoke on our theme “Using the Atonement in every Day Life.” Then Rutter’s Pie Jesu (from the Requiem and sung in Latin) with our magnificent soprano and choir (seated) singing the response. Then I spoke…I was surprised to find I was the only adult speaker planned…they had told me differently and it threw me a little, but not much. After that the choir sang a rousing “All Earth Rejoice”, followed by a male quartet who knocked “How Great Thou Art” (four parts including high tenor) out of the park. It was sweet.

  20. Kevin, our Ward forgot about Easter a few years ago also. I forget what the Sacrament Meeting theme was that Easter Day. All I remember is thinking through the whole meeting “We’re supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ, how can we forget Easter?”.

    Today, Easter was not forgotten as a topic but nothing special was done. Sacrament Meeting topic was the Atonement and the speakers did well to incorporate Easter into their talks. Our one speaker is the Ward Organist and she bagan with a 5 minute plea to our Ward to sing the hymns during Sacrament Meeting and that we need to sing with some enthusiasm and volume. She was right, if you sing with any volume in our large Ward you feel like you’re singing a solo. Otherwise our SS and Priesthood lessons were about the Law of Consecration and Testimonies. No mention of Easter. I asked my kids if they discussed Easter in their primary and SS lessons and both of them said “no”. A little disappointing… we could do so much better!

  21. Today, instead of talks on Easter, the theme was the plan of salvation. Now I recognize that the atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection are key to the plan, but other than a brief lip service to Easter and those things, our talks focused more on us — enduring, keeping commandments, etc. — and on marriage. I sung an Easter medley with the choir and we sang Easter hymns, but otherwise it could have been any Sunday. Heartbreaking as I so wanted a day about Jesus and His resurrection.

  22. I spent Easter Sunday in France. No special musical numbers (so sad) and we sang “Hie to Kolob” for the closing hymn. The main talk was about relying on the Savior. I don’t speak French all that well but it didn’t seem like this week is any different from all the rest of the Sundays.

  23. The congregation sang 2 of the three Easter hymns in the book, and the choir sang the third, so I was satisfied. The talks were very general, didn’t go through Holy Week or the crucifixion or scriptural accounts really, but they were still about Jesus and not tithing so I’m calling that a win. I’m in the primary presidency and sharing time and singing time were very eastery, and my kids reported that their lessons in class were on Easter.

  24. Mortimer says:

    I’m heartened to see so many wards focusing on Easter. Ours did not. The first youth speaker, a young man, talked about personal prayer. He didn’t weave anything Easter-ish into it. The second youth speaker, a Mia Maid, spoke about seminary and scripture study. The adult sister who spoke focused on how God blesses her mothering. I couldn’t really tell if she was assigned “prayer” as a topic or “anything that you feel like”. Finally the Bishop, who had been conducting, spoke. He’s an academician. He testified of the small things in life, the “tender mercies” that amount to almost imperceptible miracles we feel only in our hearts and may not be recognized by others. He testified of warm fuzzy feelings, and of Christ’s example and life, his rabbinic teachings and divinity. He payed homage to what I call “the obedience list” -you know- the list of all the things we should be doing. He had to improvise to fill the time left over from the brief youth speakers and as 5, 10, 15 minutes past it became increasingly more painful to listen as he kept dodging the resurrection. He would go right up to the edge of the topic and try to jump in, but would end up chickening out and circling back to make another go at it. We saw him attempt it many times before quitting with a resigned “amen”. It was the most anti-climatic Easter I’ve ever experienced. In all fairness, you have to give him credit for wrestling with the topic and actually thinking about it instead of paying lip service to the event with flowery, but insincere words. He was trying. We aren’t in a country club for the righteous, but a hospital for the sick and we all experience doubt. He just happened to be in front of us while most of us have the luxury of remaining quiet. When you have a lay ministry and we all take turns stepping up to serve, you sometimes see these things. It is t the norm. At the same time, I feel inconsolably sad about it. Well, sad and let down, angry, bitterly unsettled.

    Usually music consoles, but we sang only one Easter hymn in closing and the Primary sang “I wonder when he comes again”.

    More than ever before I want to scream out…He is risen!!!

  25. My wife spoke first. After giving the bishopric a hard time for waiting until Tuesday night to ask her to speak, her talk on the atonement discussed insights we could learn from Yom Kippur to help us better celebrate Easter.

    The second talk on resurrection was probably good, but my spiritual ADD had kicked in and I admit to having a harder time paying attention. I know there was an analogy that involved Taco Bell and KFC.

    It was a decent Sacrament Meeting for Easter. We skipped Sunday School and Priesthood (cuz Easter), so I can’t tell you how the other meetings went.

  26. Jared vdH says:

    Our choir pianist is a composer and his wife is the choir director. The choir sang his original arrangements of “Gethsemane, Jesus Loves Me” and “In Christ Alone”. The talks were all about Easter. I was the closing speaker and was asked to focus specifically on the Resurrection. Overall I think it was a lovely Easter service and certainly one of the more memorable I can think of.

  27. FYI stakes don’t pick their dates for stake conferences, these are assigned by the office of the twelve apostles

  28. We had a great Easter program! Our Bishop was wise enough to ask the ward council our thoughts on the program after I’ve pestered him about the last two years about celebrating the whole Easter season (the last two years, we’ve had 3-4 weeks of Christ/Easter centered talks! This year that didn’t work out with conference and fast Sunday right beforehand), and we had a musical number from the choir, a quartet of He Sent His Son from the YW, and Gethsemane from the Primary. We had three short speakers- one a very shy young man about to go on a mission who shared his testimony of the Savior and resurrection, a sister who spoke specifically about Holy Week, and how the atonement impacts her life, and then a missionary who talked about hope in the resurrection.

  29. wreddornot says:

    All Easter where I lived, except for chocolate bunnies. Primary songs, a bass narrator narrating the Easter narrative with the choir and a double quartet singing accompanying Easter songs in between. “He Is Risen” in conclusion, two verses by the choir, one with the congregation and all of it with a stirring, exquisite violin accompaniment.

  30. EnglishTeacher says:

    All Easter, all three hours here in my ward on the central coast of California. Lamb is roasting in the oven and Facebook is overflowing with pictures of my friends’ kids in delicate pastels and egg baskets.

  31. Last Sunday was our Palm Sunday/Passion service. We read the 51st Psalm responsively–got some odd looks from some visitors who didn’t think we did that kind of thing in sacrament meetings, and spent the rest of the service reading from the Gospels, the account of the triumphal entry, the Last Supper and the passion, ending with Christ’s burial. The choir sang #197 and “Lord, Thee I Love With All my Heart,” we had an instrumental version of “Erbarme dich”–the soprano’s voice picked an unfortunate time to quit working–and the congregation closed with “O Thou Before the World Began.”

    Today, for Easter, we began with “He is Risen,” had readings from the Gospels about the resurrection, and Christ’s appearances to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the 11, to Thomas, and then to Paul on the road to Damascus and to the Nephites at the temple in Bountiful. The choir sang “That Easter Morn” and an anthem titled “Christ is Risen! Alleluia” which wrapped around the congregation singing a verse of “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today.” And a quartet sang “God So Loved the World.” After three short testimonies about the risen Christ, we closed with the congregation singing “I Know that my Redeemer Lives.”

    I thought both services were pretty good, if I do say so myself.

  32. Talks on assigned topic of apostasy and restoration. The speakers worked in the atonement though.

  33. Our ward hit an Easter home run. The recently released stake president, who is moving to Israel in August, is a college professor and is well versed in the scriptures. He gave a Christ centered talk about His power flowing into us and how a broader understanding of the Atonement appears to be the power behind every thing the priesthood does from creation through to exultation. We had three hymns that were all Easter-centric as well as an all Young Women’s special number also on Easter. We finished with the assigned High Councilman, who happens also to be a fellow ward member, giving a Christ-centered talk on the blessing that result to us individually through the Atonement.

  34. We had a youth speaker and 3 adult speakers, all of whom gave talks focused on the Savior, including specific mention of Easter. Primary sang “Gethsemane” before the talks, and our very small choir sang an Easter song. Opening/closing were my favorite Easter Songs – He Is Risen and Christ the Lord is Risen Today. All in all it was a fine Easter program.

    I team teach primary 8 year olds. I got a text from my co-teacher last Wednesday. She was supposed to teach the lesson on D&C on First Missionaries, but wondered if she should teach an Easter lesson – definitely NOT on the annual teaching schedule. I had looked ahead and the lesson I was scheduled to teach next week was about Emma Smith (who was described as “an attractive woman”) selecting sacred hymns. I felt a bit naughty when I told her I thought she definitely should teach an Easter lesson, because I looked ahead and my lesson was a real snoozer, so I’d teach the priesthood one and we’d fit Emma and the hymns in somewhere else. She did a beautiful Easter lesson with the kids.

  35. I cannot agree with those replies that yearn for more emphasis on the cross. Before my conversion I came from a church where the cross was everything and the end all about Easter.
    I very much remember as a teenager sitting with my parents in that church watching a live play where the “bloodletting” went on and on – and on. I remember watching the actor protraying a Roman soldier holding a whip while I sarastically thought, “well why don’t you flog him one more time for good mearsure”.

    Since my LDS conversion I now sit and listen every Easter morning, including today, on talks on the atonement. About what Chirist did for us and why, with barely a mention of the horrors of the painful death by cross.

    I am very comfortable with the LDS version of Easter.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    AJ, thanks for the information, I was not aware of that. So now I’m moving the blame from the local SPs to the Q12. Assigning Stakes to hold conferences on Easter is elevating bureaucracy above worship in my view.

  37. An Easter service from beginning to end. We made time at the beginning for my son to name and bless his son Nelson, and for Nelson’s mother to express her feelings of love and testimony. The schedule was forced by Delta cancellations, but seemed appropriate to an Easter Sunday. The rest of the time was filled with music, from the hymnal and two pieces from the choir, bracketing two excellent talks about atonement and resurrection. (Shout out to Rachel Mumford, currently religious studies teacher and Middle School chaplain at the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC. If you get a chance to hear Rachel preach-teach-speak, grab it.)
    Perhaps most impressive, our GD teacher turned a lesson on the United Order to consecration (per the study guide) and from there to a deeply meaningful Easter Sunday message.

  38. In Arizona:
    – organ prelude “Were You There” followed by Cundick arr of “In Memory of the Crucified”
    – Opening song: That Easter Morn
    – after the Sacrament: Scriptures and Music for Easter — numbers from ward choir and congragation, interspersed with gospel readings
    o Our God is a God of Love
    o The Holy City
    o He is Risen (congregation)
    o Rejoice the Lord is King (Darwall tune, see #265 in our hymnal)
    o Our God is a God of Love
    – talk from bishop
    – Closing song: Christ the Lord is Risen Today
    – organ postlude: Longhurst arrangement of He Is Risen

  39. N. W. Clerk says:

    So when the Orthodox Easter and the Catholic Easter occur on different days, which one should President Nelson keep free of stake conferences? Ditto for President Monson and General Conference.

    In the ward I attended today, the primary kids sang “Gethsemane” and both speakers focused on the Savior. Except for the special primary number, this is not that much different from sacrament meetings on other Sundays in our stake, which are heavily Christ-centered.

  40. Just a quick comment about Primary lessons since I noticed someone saying the lesson that was next in the lineup wasn’t Easter related. There are two “special” lessons at the back of the manual (assuming you use the same one as me), one is Christmas and the other is an Easter one. I’ve counted the weeks, and assuming I took GC and SC correctly into account, there’s just enough weeks to do both those special lessons plus the regular ones. So I think the plan (that unfortunately doesn’t always get spread around) is that teachers should teach those lessons on those holidays.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m not a fan of conference on Easter either. I realize that results from a long-standing historical precedent that the Church would be loathe to change. Maybe when that happens, the talks of those sessions could actually be devoted to the Savior. (The Orthodox dating is a red herring.)

  42. Ours was pretty good, but could have been better had there not been a few glitches. The Primary was supposed to sing The Miracle by Shawna Edwards, but 7 of the 11 children in the branch were out of town, and only 1 of the 4 remaining could be counted on to get up in front of the congregation, so we opted to cancel. (I’m the primary chorister, so I take responsibility for that decision.) However, that meant no special music, as we have no choir and really no one capable of singing a solo except for me, and I was already playing the organ. With that said, I made it a point to make the organ music extra special for the day.

    Organ prelude was a setting of Beautiful Savior by Paul Manz and a setting of That Easter Morn by Andrus Madsen. Congregational hymns were He is Risen, In Memory of the Crucified, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, and I Know That My Redeemer Lives. I used free accompaniments and other creative techniques to make the hymn singing as festive as possible for the occasion. Postlude was a combination of two settings of Jesus Christ is Risen Today, one by Healey Willan and one by David Willcocks.

    One of the talks was, I believe, supposed to be very Easter-focused, and while it was a great talk on the person’s personal conversion story, it only touched on the actual Easter story. The other talk only ended up being a testimony because of a miscommunication and the person not realizing they were actually supposed to speak today. Had he actually been able to prepare a complete talk, I have no doubt it would have been very powerful. So the branch president’s counselor ended up filling in for the second talk, and did talk mostly about the Atonement and Resurrection.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    Question: Does the Q12 schedule stake conferences on the Sunday preceding Christmas? I’ve never, ever seen one on that date, so I presume not. So presumably they have it within their power to not schedule conferences for Easter Sunday, either.

  44. Elaine Tobias says:

    ETobias says: My husband & I visited another ward; all songs were about the Easter message. . The opening hymn was the beautiful “That Easter Morn” & I appreciate the Sacrament wherein we quietly commune with our Lord; the children sang a beautiful song & they did a wonderful job. The talks were on the Resurrection Sunday messages and encouraging with a desire to put more effort into being a better person as Jesus taught, lived & died for us as only He could. The choir did great ; the men are to be commended as there were more than I’ve seen in any other ward choir. We both left feeling spiritually uplifted & fed. If I had been in my home church I would have taught the special lesson in Primary (from the back of the Primary manual) for this special time of year when we celebrate the last days of Christ and his resurrection.

  45. Samuel Stewart Jr says:

    I’ve been looking for an oppy to comment on our Sacrament meeting today. The structure was perfect, appropriate congregational hymns, primarily choir music w an excellent soloist and a single speaker–who for some inexplicable reason decided to jam 40 minutes of theoretically appropriate content into 25 minutes of what was intended to be a 10-15 minute address. Our meeting ran over by 15 minutes….even w a shortened final hymn. I am the kind of person who attempts to give speakers a great deal of latitude and I tried and tried and tried again to get on board….but the delivery was just so rushed that it was all but impossible to understand what was being said. Could have been a GREAT meeting. Hard for me to imagine that a speaker could be so insensitive to context. Probably the worst Sacrament meeting of my life let alone Easter Service. While other meetings (one a family history class) didn’t address Easter, at least they were spiritually uplifting.

  46. I was pleased today that I had not entirely given up on LDS Easter services. The hymns were appropriate to the day, the musical numbers were heartfelt and appropriate even if not musically polished. I was disappointed with the chapel completely bare of Easter lilies or other floral reminders of new life in the spring season, but the talks were appropriately focused on Christ, atonement, resurrection, and messages from the Church’s Prince of Peace media effort of this year’s Easter season. I particularly appreciated hearing from the articulate 17-year-old who hadn’t been to church for a while who spoke of the events of Christ’s death and resurrection, read from the scriptures, and bore his testimony of those events and their meaning.

    Unfortunately, the previously most memorable LDS Easter services for me had been decades ago when a substantial and accomplished ward choir presented a full Easter cantata each year, and more recently the time our then bishop forgot entirely about Easter and planned a Sacrament meeting that had nothing to do with it. Today can now be added to the list of memorable LDS Easter services.

    Kevin, Years ago when a distant cousin was head of the general Church music committee, I voiced to him my frustration with general conference pre-empting any local attempt to focus our people on Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection or to celebrate Easter as a worshiping community. The response I got was to the effect that there is no better way to celebrate Easter than to have general conference. I refrained from pointing out that that would be true only if the Saturday sessions focused on the events of Holy Week and the Sunday sessions focused on Easter and its meaning. Sometimes an Easter general conference does include something appropriate to the day; sometimes it has not. Despite assignments from SLC for stake conference on Easter, it might be possible for a stake president to see that at least something appropriate to the day was included.

    Thom, I think it may be a question of balance. You seem to have had, in the past, an overdose of the cross and suffering approach that properly belongs on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and not on Easter. It seems that most of those raised LDS have had a significant underdose of that; in some ways it seems to dampens their joy in Easter and the resurrection. Since our Church wholly ignores Palm Sunday (some unusual exceptions, including one noted in another comment), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the traditional Christian Saturday Easter Vigil, it is appropriate to include those events in our Easter services into which we condense the Christian calendar.

  47. Hemshadley says:

    Sacrament meeting: Ward biz, baby blessing, new members, etc. 1st talk on how the atonement brings peace. Great talk, but no specific mention Gethsemane or the resurrection. 2nd talk was sort of rambling, but speaker brought it home with an eventual mention of Christ. We sang two Easter hymns, and the choir sang an arrangement of “Nearer My God to Thee” and a new one for me that I think was called “The First and the Last”.
    It went downhill from there. SS was the lesson on the law of consecration. Inexplicably, the bishop changed the third hour from the Christ-focused lesson in the GBH manual to a combined meeting on the presentation of the churches new self-reliance program. I left early to put a casserole in the oven.
    Easter makes me want to “rejoice greatly”. I want passion, energy, and a heavy focus on the events surrounding Christ’s atonement, death, and resurrection. Easter is so full of joy, so why can’t we act that way? I want to dive deep into the pain, and emerge in glorious reality of the resurrection, the beauty that will “wipe tears from all our faces”. But maybe we are too tired or overwhelmed to care. So we stick the standard stuff and hope for the best.

  48. Stake conference here too (it often falls on Easter). My daughter’s singles ward in Palo Alto had a lesson on marriage. I just feel like we have a ways to go when most of us wouldn’t feel confident inviting an investigator to attend church on Easter Sunday.

  49. We had two speakers talk about the atonement and following Christ, but were not as directed at Easter as they could have been, The talks were well prepared and presented, but were more tangentially Easter than Easter specific. The congregational hymns were “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “He is Risen,” and our choir sang an Easter song that was very uptempo and in a minor key, not something from the hymnal, but was well received. So a B+ based on musical choices. Sunday school was on consecration, and yet the High Priest lesson was very much a specific Easter message, which was nice.

  50. No Easter talks. SS on the Law of Consecration got retconned into something resembling libertarianism. I noped out before the third hour.

  51. I was impressed with our Easter Program this year. I’m in a YSA ward, so you just never know what you might get. I was part of the choir. We sang six songs, which were interspersed by text from the Bible and Book of Mormon, and ended with one of the counselors speaking about the Atonement and the importance of Easter. It turned out really well.

  52. I went to two sacrament services today (no classes though) and both were full of Easter music, beautiful solos and resurrection themed talks. It was a joyous day to be reunited with my family and to have my brother come with us to church for the first time in a very long time. It was the best Easter I have had in the past few years. Thank you for making the effort to put daily posts on BCC to help us as readers prepare for this special day. He Lives!

  53. “SS on the Law of Consecration got retconned into something resembling libertarianism.”

    Ha! Mine included questions from the teacher about how large the national debt and deficit were, with a throwaway line about how those numbers demonstrate that the Law of Consecration is inspired. No further explanation.

    I missed my Easter sacrament meeting (the Orthodox Agape Vespers service to which a friend had invited me ran longer than I anticipated), but apparently all the speakers had been assigned to speak on Articles of Faith… and then all, independently of each other, said they’d speak primarily about Easter instead.

  54. Cynthia Lemesany says:

    My ward had an excellent Easter service. The youth speaker talked about Holy Week, which Mormons have a tendency to ignore, and a very personal specific of how Christ had helped her in a difficult time. The adult speakers essentially spoke about Easter and how Christ makes them want to become better. We sang 2 Easter hymns and the 2 musical Easter numbers were beautiful.

  55. “So when the Orthodox Easter and the Catholic Easter occur on different days, which one should President Nelson keep free of stake conferences?”

    I can’t tell if this comment is 1. Trying to be clever, 2. Trying to suggest the folly of scheduling stake conferences to not coincide with Easter, or 3. Genuinely asking when Mormons should celebrate Easter.

    Because it hadn’t occurred to me that there was any question about whether Mormons observe Easter, to the extent they do, on the same day as the rest of the western church.

  56. Three hours of Easter in Chicago. On the decorating front, there was none, in large part because we meet in a rented public school (though they just repainted the lockers in lovely Easter-y pastels!), but we had three speakers who directly and explicitly spoke about Easter, a musical number that was Easter, and the hymns were our Easter ones.

    My wife went through a number of the scriptures in Handel’s Messiah in our Primary class, and we talked about atonement, resurrection, and Jesus’ love for us. And Priesthood was a lesson on Jesus and Easter. So all in all, a win—it may not have been high church liturgy, but nobody forgot it was Easter, or focused on anything else (which is how it should be).

  57. For the record, Easter is not just about being broadly Christ-centered, and it’s not about the Last Supper, the Cross, or Jesus’s suffering and death. On Easter, the Christian church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus.

    At my Presbyterian church, we memorialized the Last Supper at a subdued and contemplative communion service on Maundy Thursday, we memorialized Jesus’s betrayal, suffering and death on the cross at a Good Friday service that was in many ways pretty raw and harrowing, and then our Easter morning service was a joyful and glorious celebration that He is Risen indeed!

    I mean, the cross and Jesus’s suffering are appropriate topics 365 days a year, but they’re not what Easter is specifically about.

  58. If there’s anything this thread suggests most strongly, it’s that you can’t please everybody.

  59. We have had Christ-centered, scripture and music-oriented Easter programs in my ward for the last 20 years. I have no idea what Church it is some of you folks attend!

  60. Our Sacrament meeting program had two lovely choir numbers, a children’s number as well as a lovely solo. There was one talk the rest of the music was interspersed with priests, no laurels, (bummer!) reading scriptures and GA quotes. It was a rejuvenating meeting. I felt like I could find a home here in this new ward. My old ward would have had tithing talks.
    But, after a routine Sunday School, RS broke my heart. Our teacher passed out paper and pencils so we could write out our answers to questions listed in Chapter 8 of Hinkley Teachings which included: “Do you actually believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the literal offspring of the Father?” and “Do you actually believe that he yet lives…and will come again?” Followed by “If you [actually believe these things] you are part of a shrinking body of literalists who more and more are being smiled at by philosophers, who more aren more are being ridiculed by certain educators…” It goes on and on.
    I can’t call myself a literalist, no matter what I do now, that is a distant memory. And while I’ve lost pieces of Jesus, I have a whole new and fresh understanding of him that I treasure. The lesson continued to expound on three ways to remedy disbelief in the necessary, literal qualities of Jesus. Following this quote: “The cause of Christ does not need your doubts; it needs your strength and time and talents;…” I found myself compelled to gently confess my non-literal tendencies, I was worried and hopeful that there was someone else in the room like me and shared that, ‘I do have faith and hope and that I believe that even though I have doubts, I feel that God wants me and needs me there.’ This did not go well. Many well-meaning women found a need to testify to me and re-explain how I could gain a testimony like theirs. My good intentions must have felt threatening. Ugh! Today was a painful Sunday.

  61. east of the mississippi says:

    First youth speaker talked about not watching R rated movies, please can we lay off that as a sacrament meeting subject, particularly on Easter. Second youth speaker on obedience, fine but how about on another day.

    Primary kids sang, the way primary kids sing everywhere and a small choir group sang lovely. Concluding speaker was one of our units better speakers and spoke mostly of Christ, along with the plan of salvation, not much on the atonement though.

    There were Lilies on the pulpit, overall I’d give it C+/B-.

  62. Josidave, sorry about the RS meeting. In proof that the Church is the same but not the same everywhere, we also worked with that lesson 8 from the Hinkley manual in the High Priest group I attended. The discussion did start out in a very literalist direction. But I had the temerity to suggest that, without dissing the literalist approach, it is not the case that anything less or different is failure, and in particular metaphor and myth can be extraordinarily powerful. If that’s what you’ve got, celebrate it.
    Apparently unlike your Relief Society, I got approving nods, follow-on comments that picked up the theme, and a thanks from the teacher after the class, for bringing up something that he was looking for an opening to do himself.

  63. Orchard 5th Ward, Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake

    Choir Prelude–Beautiful Savior
    Opening Song: He is Risen
    Choir Number: O Savior Thou Who Wearest A Crown
    Talk–The Atonement of Christ
    Choir Number–That Easter Morn
    Talk–The Resurrection

  64. Stake Conference on East Sunday for us, sometimes I wonder what ppl are thinking. If the Sacrament has one day it should be administered no matter what its East Sunday.

  65. I’m so glad that we are discussing this. In my ward it was like there were two different meetings happening. The music was all Easter. A young primary girl sang “Gethsemane”. Then the ward choir sang Easter themed hymns. The intermediate hymn was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”. The people who were asked to pray all spoke of their gratitude for the atonement and the resurrection. All that was great.

    But the speakers all gave assigned talks on missionary work. Yes, missionary work. No mention of the Saviour at all. It felt like any other Sunday. (Personally I would have been embarrassed to bring an investigator to church on Easter Sunday and for them to only hear talks on missionary work.)

    Gospel Doctrine class was about the gathering of Israel. Once again no mention of the resurrection. We talked about the increase in the number of temples worldwide and how great that was for missionary work. I thought, is it me? Am I the only one who thinks that something is missing?

    Someone asked me if I was going to Relief Society. I think they were just making conversation. But by this point I was feeling sad and I confess, a little snarky. I said, “That depends. Will someone say the word “Jesus” or “He lives.”? She said, “But we know THAT.” I said we still need to say it, especially on Easter Sunday. Relief Society was about prayer.

    I went home and watched a TV special on the last week of the earthly ministry of the Saviour. It felt good. It just really hurt my heart that we didn’t focus more on the resurrection at church and that I had to get my spiritual nourishment from the mass media.

  66. All the Primary Manuals for age 4-7 have a designated Easter lesson. For age 8-11, Primary manual 5 (Church history, for 2017) and 7 (New Testament) do not have a designated Easter lesson but 4 (Book of Mormon) and 6 (Old Testament) do. The Sharing Time schedule does not acknowledge Easter.
    Looks like the youth curriculum does not acknowledge Easter. The adult curriculum does not.
    The situation is the same for Christmas lessons. In my ward teachers generally remember to steer a lesson toward Christmas, whereas for Easter they don’t. In fact, we often don’t have any classes if the Sunday before Christmas falls on Christmas Eve or Christmas.

  67. We had Easter lilies in the chapel because I brought them. I think I’m the only one who cares.
    We had lots of Easter music. Two speakers said they were going to talk about Easter; they talked about the Atonement but not much about Holy Week events.

  68. One of our two speakers was a high councilman who said he had been assigned to speak about Easter from the stake pres. Yes!

  69. Stake Conference on East Sunday for us, sometimes I wonder what ppl are thinking. If the Sacrament has one day it should be administered no matter what its East Sunday.

    You mean Maundy Thursday.

  70. Our Easter service was great this year since the speakers focused on Christ. The youth speaker talked about what would Jesus do, and the adult speakers talked about the life of Christ and what He has done for us. The two musical numbers were very nice. The high councilman invited everyone to watch and share the video on lds.org called “The Prince of Peace.” I wish we could do more to remember Holy Week; the campaign the church did tried to help with that, but I’m not sure people took advantage of it.

  71. OneEastee talk went over why you don’t see crosses in LDS culture… from the GBH manual for today’s lesson. I can’t stand that particular story from President Hinckley.

  72. We sang some Easter hymns, the primary kids sang an Easter song, and we had a couple of talks–one by a member of the bishopric–that focused on the atonement, but weren’t really Easter-centric. Another member of the bishopric was asked to speak for a couple of minutes to fill up the rest of the time. He ended up talking about keys and motherhood and defending gender differences in the church. Blah.

  73. It was pretty underwhelming, but I may have woke up on the wrong side of the bed, so maybe it was just me. The speakers were dull. I also realized that we only have THREE Easter Hymns in our hymn book, and one of them sucks. What’s up with that?

    I spent much of the meeting reading Kristine’s post series from 2007, “Hymns and Poems for Holy Week.” I couldn’t listen to the hymns, of course, but the poems were lovely.

    Then I spent the whole damn day cooking or cleaning the kitchen, it seems. I went to bed at midnight, exhausted. Day of rest, my ample butt.

  74. Abu Casey, I think you would find that GBH’s version of why there are no crosses in LDS churches (in fact there are some) is simply an after-the-fact rationale, and not historically accurate. Since I prefer not to even deal with the question and our HP Group could be counted on not to get to that part of the lesson, I didn’t bother to go back after the sources for the historical analysis, but if you do, I think you’ll find it has much more to do with inherited Protestant historical (not current) aversion to the cross as a Catholic symbol than is does with any LDS decision making about what symbols are appropriately used. After all, we’re still singing Onward, Christian Soldiers emphasizing the cross as a symbol of Christianity, not as a mere representation of the instrument of torture and death.

  75. Aussie Mormon says:

    Our sacrament was pretty good (though we had discussed it in Ward Council prior to make sure it would be an Easter sacrament).
    We had a youth recount the Easter story (which based on his explanation was summarised from the “Jesus the Christ” book). He was followed by a recently baptised YSA who finished her talk by bearing her testimony in chinese. Our final speaker was our Bishop.
    Musicwise we sung 3 of the 4 Easter hymns in the hymn book, with our sacrament hymn being one from the sacrament section. We didn’t have any special musical items though.

    Beth: The Primary5 manual acknowledges the fact that there’s no Easter or Christmas lesson, but says that you can do Easter and Christmas specific ones if you like.
    Given that there are 47 lessons in the manual, and allowing for two general conferences, it does leave three weeks spare for “themed” lessons such as Easter and Christmas.

  76. We attended my parents’ ward for Easter, and I found myself both delighted and wistful – delighted because this tiny rural ward did a wonderful Easter program, and wistful that none of the three much larger wards I’ve been in for the last 10 years have come even close.

    The congregation sang “He is Risen,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” there was a duet of “O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown” and a piano solo of “That Easter Morn” (so we got all four Easter hymns covered – Yay!). I long for more Easter songs in our hymnal, but it was wonderful to hear all four that we do have.

    In addition the choir sang three numbers, the Primary sang, a family sang, and the whole lovely thing was interspersed with narration from many members of the ward about the events of the Savior’s Last Week. The choir was small, the Primary even tinier, and the music wasn’t concert-grade (heck, I got commandeered at the last moment by my mother to be the organist, accompany the duet, and sing alto in the choir because the ward is THAT small), but it was deeply heartfelt.

    Being there yesterday helped me a lot. These last few years I’ve become more and more frustrated with how we celebrate Easter, and it was a balm to sit in that meeting.

  77. hwbrookes says:

    We had stake conference, too. The rub was that we’d JUST had another stake Conference in March, too (a visiting GA).

  78. Sue Raynes says:

    1st time in 40 odd years, we bypassed LDS and went to Community of Christ, and enjoyed putting live flowers on a cross, to celebrate the resuurection and the Living Christ. The lesson was all about the Savior. Back to LDS next week.

  79. Since I prefer not to even deal with the question and our HP Group could be counted on not to get to that part of the lesson, I didn’t bother to go back after the sources for the historical analysis, but if you do, I think you’ll find it has much more to do with inherited Protestant historical (not current) aversion to the cross as a Catholic symbol than is does with any LDS decision making about what symbols are appropriately used.

    JR, I will admit that I am skeptical about this. It seems like most sources I can find for this factoid are unsourced Mormon claims. I’m willing to be proven wrong, though.

    I know the cruicifix (i.e., a cross with Jesus on it) is eschewed by Protestants (because we worship the risen Christ), but the regular cross?

  80. Kullervo, The reference was to 19th century Protestant cross aversion. As noted, there is no current Protestant cross aversion. Here’s one report of a historian acknowledging that Protestant cross aversion, but taking the position that it was not the source of the currently wide-spread, but incomplete, LDS cross aversion. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705378769/Sunstone-speaker-attempts-to-explain-LDS-aversion-to-cross.html Incidentally, I’ve seen a number of crucifixes in American Protestant churches. The crucifix is not entirely eschewed by Protestants.

  81. No talks, just musical numbers. I really appreciated it. We could have used more of our deep bench strength musically instead of having the same dozen people in different configurations do most of it but I liked the overall direction.

  82. We also had Stake Conference, but it was a rich and rewarding service. The choir was excellent and speakers had meaningful talks about the Savior. I think an Easter service in my home ward would have been “meh,” so I was grateful for SC today. Heard lots of grumbling about it from people I know, but mostly those who didn’t actually attend. My sister reminded me, however, that a two-hour meeting on Easter with kids isn’t so great. I don’t have children and sometimes forget about the challenges of these kinds of meetings for parents with young children, so maybe that was part of the problem for many folks. I know a number of people who intensely dislike SC and always skip it, but I often find it to be rewarding. Maybe it depends on the stake?

  83. JR, I understand that you’re talking about the 19th-century. But the link you gave is exactly what I am talking about when I refer to “unsourced Mormon claims.” It’s someone with a bachelor’s in history making a claim at Sunstone, and the article doesn’t provide his sources.

  84. We killed it. Multiple musical numbers and easter talks. My 4 year old sang a short solo.

  85. Kullervo, You can find quotations from Protestant sources on the former Protestant cross aversion, with citations, here: http://rationalfaiths.com/banishing-the-cross/

  86. “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” as an opening hymn. Then a musical number from the primary called “Hosanna,” during which the younger children sang the part of Easter bells and the older children sang the words, which was pretty impressive. Then a youth speaker, followed by a good talk on the resurrection. Then the choir sang “He is Risen,” led by an exuberant soprano who can neither read music nor find the note but hey, she had a beatific smile on her face the entire time. Another thoughtful talk, this one on the atonement. You could tell a lot of thought and work had gone into it, so on the whole, a good meeting.

  87. JR: Well then, there you go. Fair enough!

  88. Just a comment about Easter lilies:. I have two kids who are extremely allergic to pollen, and lilies are the worst. They already take it in turn to go for walks after the sacrament, but if there are lilies present they can’t even be in the chapel. I am sorry, it isn’t fun for them either. I am grateful for flowers, but lilies are so hard!

  89. Lilly lover says:

    Star, Many florists remove the anthers from lillies to avoid pollen staining the petals. Lillies purchased at big box stores or in bulk are usually not handles this way. If it would help and if you can arrange it, maybe you or a friend could remove any anthers from lilies in the chapel before your kids arrive. Good luck.

  90. Programs on Easter or Christmas not focused on the importance of Christ or biblical history in the mormon church are why Christians make the claim mormon’s are not christians. One would think with the leaders push to be missionaries, the local bishops would better plan services on the major celebrations.

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