Good Friday, Easter, and MormonsBy: Mormon Heretic
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. On Saturday, 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 yesterday 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?