Mormons Have Sub-par Easter Services

by: Mormon Heretic

April 8, 2012

Even the Easter Bunny is bored at a Mormon Easter service

There were some interesting comments from the poll yesterday.  I won’t say that our poll is representative of Mormons in general, but I do agree with the results.  As of the time I wrote this, 75% of people who responded to our poll say that “Mormons have sub-par Easter services”.  Why is that?

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday.  SteveS noted that there were “0 references to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, no shout outs to Palm Sunday festivities celebrating Christ as Lord and Son of God. No hosannas shouted that day. Hardly any references at all to the upcoming Easter holy day.”

Actually, I checked, and the word Easter was never mentioned.

Jared noted a 1994 talk from Dallin Oaks that “In too many of our classes, in too many of our worship services, we are not teaching of Christ and testifying of Christ in the way we should.”

So, I thought it would be interesting to see what Oaks spoke about in Conference.  His talk was titled “Sacrifice”, and he does talk about the Atonement and sacrifice of Christ.  But the word “Easter” is completely absent, as is “Palm Sunday.”  Why?  What is it about our leadership that seems to ignore Palm Sunday completely?  And why was Easter (just one week away) never mentioned at General Conference?  (I checked for the word “Easter” in every talk, and it was NEVER mentioned–I checked the Women’s meeting the week before and it wasn’t mentioned there either.)

I wish Mormons celebrated, rather than simply observed, the Easter holiday.  It would be nice to have more of a celebration of Easter; I really like Easter gets the short shrift for celebrations, but I think that Christmas celebrations in our church are lacking as well.  Four years ago, I posted the question, Why don’t Mormons celebrate Easter? It is my #2 post this month! I always receive a spike in hits for that post around Easter.  If you do a Google search asking “do Mormons celebrate Easter”, my post comes up on the #8 position (In past years, it was as high as #2).

Is this one of those things we do to be a “peculiar people”?  Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Easter either.  Are we trying to be more like them?  No, because we love Easter Egg hunts, and candy.  Why do we emphasize the wrong aspects of Easter?

Many of us read the Christmas story before Christmas.  How many of you read the Easter story before Easter?

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45 Responses to Mormons Have Sub-par Easter Services

  1. Hawkgrrrl on April 8, 2012 at 5:21 AM

    Well, I can’t say it’s a long standing tradition, but since we have no church here this Easter, we did read the story of Easter from John at dinner last night. I think that’s going to become a new tradition!

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  2. wonderdog on April 8, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    I was asked to speak today on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But because of scheduled Primary singing, I was only given 10 minutes. I must say, IMHO it’s a great talk.

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  3. Non American on April 8, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    This was the thing that finally pushed me over the edge. I was noticing that we were focusing more on “prophets” and “principles” and silly discussions on questions of whether or not vegetarians were breaking the Word of Wisdom! I didn’t say anything because this was just Satan putting thoughts into my mind, right? I went to church last Easter Sunday (2011) and Christ wasn’t mentioned once in Sacrament Meeting. Not in any capacity. His name was only mentioned in the opening and closing prayers and in the blessing of the Sacrament.When we left church that day, I said to my husband “Did you notice that Christ wasn’t mentioned once and it’s Easter Sunday for heaven’s sake! I feel so bad for Him after all He has done for us!”I had been struggling with some of the peculiarly Mormon teachings anyway but kept attending church because I liked being there but after that Easter Sunday I had enough and have decided that I can worship Christ better or as well elsewhere.

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  4. Paul on April 8, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    We read the Easter story.

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  5. Anselma on April 8, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    I think it would be so great if we did an Easter service the way we sometimes do at Christmas: reading the story from the New Testament (and Book of Mormon), punctuated with musical numbers, preferably from Handel’s Messiah. In lieu of that, I’ll be stopping by my campus’ Catholic Mass before sacrament meeting to appease my High Church tendencies.

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  6. Jared on April 8, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    MH-I agree with your point. However, I also agree that we need to be careful finding fault. The Savior pointed out the folly of the mote-beam mentality(Matt 7:1-5).

    The relative size of a mote and beam is instructive to compare the amount of things we can find fault with and the things we can find exceptional with the church and its leaders.

    On this Easter Sunday I am profoundly thankful for the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. He left the ninety-and-nine and rescued me from the evils of this world and gave me a new heart. He is not only my Savior, He is my friend.

    I invite all who read my words to spend more of their time focusing their attention on those things in His restored church that are exceptional.

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  7. Howard on April 8, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Christians worship Jesus Christ in total believing on his name. Mormons revere him largely without openly worshiping him in their services. They break the symbol down into it’s components and talk about those; his teachings, Gethsemane, he died for us, he showed us there is life after death and he left us with the comforter. Mormon services are stoic; Christian services are a celebration!

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  8. GBSmith on April 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    In years past when I wanted to observe Holy Week I went to a small Episcopal Church nearby for services. In the LDS church it’s sort of the luck of the draw depending on the leadership. Every year’s a little different in my branch so I’ve decided that it’s up to me to make it something important and not depend on anyone or anything else.

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  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    All I can say is that this year, like years before we had music and narrative in a special Easter program in my ward. I think of it as normative.

    I am now sitting in another sect’s services (I know, multiple meetings in one day), to be with our neighbors as their children are being baptized. Our Easter was better, overall.

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  10. Braeden on April 8, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    We just finished an amazing Easter service in our ward. It was celebratory, worshipful, and moving. First time I’ve been able to say that about a Mormon Easter.

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  11. Howard on April 8, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I attended a Catholic Easter Sunday mass this year with a friend. We had to park several blocks away, it was packed and people were standing in the back. A huge statue of Jesus on the cross is centered behind the podium which foretold the program which except for congregational business was totally focused on Christ. The music was inspiring even when they sang four verses probably due to the large size of the audience and breaking the song up into parts for the choir and for all. The Priest reached out to other Christians an Jews in a wonderful gesture of unity. It was a very nice service.

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  12. mh on April 8, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    in my ward, the 2 counselors in the bishopric both spoke on easter. neither are dynamic speakers, but I appreciated a focus on easter.

    jared, why do you think talk of easter was completely absent from general conference?

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  13. SteveS on April 8, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Went to church today (not my home ward): 1 out of 3 talks about Gethsemane (almost Easter!), the others on faith and enduring to the end. Ward choir sang “God so loved the world” (kinda eastery). Sunday school about the great prophet Zenos (!) and the allegory of the olive vineyard. Priesthood about service to others. This is pretty normative, I would say.

    At least one of the prayers mentioned thanks for Jesus’ resurrection.

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  14. Bob on April 8, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    #12: MH,
    The Mormon Church has never been a Christ centered church. Christ is ‘there’, but He is not the Center, only a player in Mormonism. IMO, Mormonism is about the final outcome of the individual. It’s about the/a Plan. Christ plays a role in that Plan, as does Adam, as does God, as does each person by having a meaningful life.
    Where are the Mormon books about Jesus? There was one by Talmage. Where does it stand today? I have about six full books on the life of JS.
    Yes, from the outside, I see more “Christ” coming into Mormon thinking. Still, the Temple is about the Plan, not Christ. missionaries go out to tell of the Plan and convert people to it, and how Christ and they are a part of that Plan.

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  15. jdh on April 8, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    “All I can say is that this year, like years before we had music and narrative in a special Easter program in my ward. I think of it as normative”

    Same here. We had a Good Friday service with a stake choir last week, as well.

    I suppose it would be nice to hear Easter references during conference, but I suppose they must avoid them to make the talks stand alone, rather in context to the time of year given. Not saying I think this is a great idea, or anything, but I’m not in charge, I guess.

    I’ve been to Easter and Christmas services at other churches, and while I’ve sometimes thought them beautiful, I don’t consider them “superior” to the spiritual experiences I’ve had in my own ward on holidays.

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  16. hawkgrrrl on April 8, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    It really does seem to vary with local leadership. I’ve had wards that did what I would call an Easter program, and I’ve had some that didn’t. It would have been nice for Gen Conf to have some references to Easter given the timing, but I guess we are in a BYO-Easter church.

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  17. Jared on April 8, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    #12 MH asked, “jared, why do you think talk of easter was completely absent from general conference?”

    Talk of Easter wasn’t completely absent.

    I searched the April 2012 General Conference for the word “easter” via lds.org and found the following:

    Thanks Be to God
    Russell M. Nelson April 2012 General Conference
    …gift of resurrection—for this sublime message of Easter—thanks be to God!

    The Race of Life
    Thomas S. Monson April 2012 General Conference
    In one week we will celebrate Easter. Our thoughts will turn to the Savior…

    The Doctrine of Christ
    D. Todd Christofferson April 2012 General Conference
    As our Easter celebration approaches, I express my own witness…

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  18. philomytha on April 8, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    What it comes down to is that Mormons don’t have religious holidays. We have cultural holidays.

    Other churches have special services to commemorate Christian holidays, we only acknowledge them during the course of normal meetings on the closest Sunday (unless Christmas falls on a Sunday, then we cancel as many meetings as possible, because who wants to go to church on Christmas?).

    How many holidays are actually integral to the cycle of our worship over the course of a year?

    No, wait… there is one (two). General Conference.

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  19. MH on April 8, 2012 at 5:21 PM

    Jared, I stand corrected. Apparently my search feature failed me.

    But let’s look at that again. Nelson’s talk was on Gratitude, not Easter. Monson talked more about the Plan of Salvation than Easter, though he did reference the Resurrection. Christofferson’s talk was about true Doctrine, not Easter.

    So once again, nobody made Easter the primary focus of their talk. Why do you think that is? Is Easter not important enough to actually devote an entire sermon to the topic?

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  20. Mell on April 8, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    I remember an Easter service I attended with my grandmother at her Christian mega-church. At the time I was stunned with what a production was put on reenacting the coming of Christ from the tomb with the actor being raised high into the air on wires and a choir belting out praises. It was a stark contrast to the (dare I say) dull services I was used to. I can say one thing about my grandma’s Christian church: they were passionate about Easter and you could feel it too! Part of me wishes that I could feel that passion in Mormon services.

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  21. Mike S on April 8, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    We had a fast and testimony meeting, so it wasn’t an “Easter Sunday” at all. People did bear their testimony about Christ as normal, but that was about it. It was just another week – kind of ironic.

    Regarding the talks and General Conference – I agree we don’t seem to talk much about Christ. But one of the coolest things I read this week that is somewhat “tangentially” related to conference was an article in the Kansas City Star which used the word supernal to describe Thom Yorke’s voice in a Radiohead concert review. Having flown to Phoenix a few weeks ago just to see them in concert, I must agree and liked the use of the word outside a conference talk. It was an amazing concert, and I agree with what this concert reviewer said, after the supernal comment, “…the best live shows reveal the deepest power of music, which arouses in its listeners something spiritual or primal”. I, too, find spirituality all around me. Even at Radiohead concerts.

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  22. hawkgrrrl on April 8, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    Supernal is to Mormonism what preternatural is to vampire novels.

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  23. Ferv888 on April 8, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    You sir are full of something, being a member of the LDS faith I will leave to others to decide, but I was in church today, every hymn, every talk, every prayer talked of the risen Christ, find something that matters

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  24. KT on April 8, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    If Christ centered worship doesn’t matter, I’m not sure what exactly does…..
    Last year in my ward, there was zero talk of Easter, Christ, even the Atonement. It stunk! It was a bunch of prescriptive talks about how we should be living. I get enough of that throughout the year that I just really want this ONE Sunday to be different.
    We decided to give it one more shot this year, and it was better. There were talks on the Atonement. However, having grown up in a different religion, I can still say I was disappointed and found it lacking. It did not bring me joy as I have found other Easter Sundays in other churches.

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  25. Joe Steve Swick III on April 8, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Bob (#14) said: “Where are the Mormon books about Jesus? There was one by Talmage. Where does it stand today? I have about six full books on the life of JS.”

    Bob, your remarks surprise me. How about:

    Bruce R. McConkie, “Messiah” series (6 vols)
    Stephen R. Robinson, “Believing Christ”
    Stephen R. Robinson, “Following Christ”
    Jeffrey R. Holland, “Trusting Jesus”
    Jeffrey R. Holland, “Christ and the New Covenant”
    Truman Madsen, “Christ and the Inner Life”
    Holzapfel, “The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ,” 3 Vols.
    Robert L. Millet, “Coming to Know Christ”
    James L. Ferrell, “The Peacegiver”
    James L. Ferrell, “The Hidden Christ”
    D. Kelly Ogden, “Happy Like Jesus”
    W. Cleon Skousen, “Days of the Living Christ,” 2 vols.
    Emily Freeman, “21 Days Closer to Christ”
    Don Parry, “Symbols and Shadows: Unlocking a Deeper Understanding of the Atonement”
    Don Parry, “Understanding the Parables of Jesus”

    On and on it goes — from the trite to the timeless. I’m sure others can think of plenty of other titles about Jesus Christ.

    And while I understand its significance in the history and development of LDS dogma, Talmage’s “Victorian Life of Jesus” does little for me.

    And I do not disagree that LDS Easter services are lackluster at best. This is the one Christian holiday that Latter-day Saints could improve by taking a page or two from the protestant playbook. Cough.

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  26. Joe Steve Swick III on April 8, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    jdh (#15) said: “I suppose it would be nice to hear Easter references during conference, but I suppose they must avoid them to make the talks stand alone, rather in context to the time of year given.”

    This isn’t a matter of season, jdh. Rather, it is the fundamental calling and responsibility of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ to bear their personal testimony of their knowledge of the Risen and Ever-Living Lord.

    Such messages are not about Easter — they are timeless and always relevant. The life of Jesus is the center of Christianity, and the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of the Lord is the center point of that life.

    The atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus are the fundamental justification for the existence of the Christian Church — Primitive, Apostate, and Restored!

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  27. Rigel Hawthorne on April 8, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    Our ward music director must have had a brain fart as not one of the Easter songs was selected for today’s program. This is really the one Sunday of the year where we can sing “Christ the Lord is Risen today” and “He is Risen”. We had no special numbers. We don’t have a ward choir. I think if you are going to make an Easter Celebration, there has to be a musical element.

    We did sing “I Believe in Christ” as an intermediate hymn, which I guess could count. It’s actually LONG enough that you could count it as TWO Easter songs…hehe.

    In spite of that, we did have two awesome talks on the atonement, both Easter oriented. Just missing the musical flair.

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  28. Bob on April 8, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    @25: Joe,
    You can’t compare any of this books with Talmage(IMO). Most are about living a Christ like life__”The Plan”.
    Also, check on Amazon. One Of Holland’s hardbacks goes for $.01. One of MeConkie’s $$.92. No takers.

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  29. SteveS on April 8, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    This evening I went to an Easter devotional service at the St. George Tabernacle, where the Southern Utah Heritage Choir gave a concert and temple president Bruce Hafen and his wife spoke, going over the events of Holy Week in succession, culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection. The service was long–1.5 hours–and the tabernacle was packed to capacity (there was another performance right afterward). This was the kind of church service we should all have on Easter, imo.

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  30. Jared on April 8, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    #19 MH

    I agree with you, I am puzzled why so little about the Savior at Easter time.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on April 8, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    SteveS – this would be great! Most of the wards I’ve been in have asked the speakers to speak about the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection; in fact, in one ward, my husband and I were asked to do this two consecutive Easters! Pretty much the same talk given twice, mostly referencing Jesus the Christ. But I’ve been puzzled that some wards really don’t seem to even remember that Easter is the central message of Christianity.

    And as to the secular celebration of it, it’s kind of a dumb holiday. A rabbit delivering eggs doesn’t even make sense!

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  32. Michael G on April 9, 2012 at 3:18 AM

    For what it’s worth the first presidency did send out a letter in mid-February reminding local leadership to plan a Christ centered Easter sacrament meeting and suggested that the remaining classes could also be used to continue the Easter message. So I think the church is making attempts to make Easter services more meaningful.

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  33. Non American on April 9, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    I find it interesting that the First Presidency would find it neccessary to send out reminders to hold a Christ centred meeting. Surely the Bishops and Stake Presidents who have been “called of God” shouldn’t need to be reminded to speak of the Saviour and all he has done? Sorry if I sound snarky but I’ve had enough of coming home from church thirsting for religion.

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  34. Jeff Spector on April 9, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    I had a lot of my musician friends hired out yesterday to play in the big Easter productions that some of the Churches around here put on. Does that somehow mean that their worship of the Savior on this past Sunday is anymore meaningful than ours.

    Of course, not.

    In addition, the two Churches across the Street from us had overflowed parking along the road since they had a bunch that attended Sunday that normally do not attend. While we have our usual 200, plus a few visitors.

    We had a couple of special numbers that were specifically tied to the Savior. The two talks were on the Atonement and how appreciating the great atonement helps us to follow Christ’s example of charity and service to others.

    I might add the talks were also very good, if I do say so myself as I gave the closing address.

    It was a very spiritual, worshipful, Christ-centered meeting.

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  35. N. on April 9, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Must suck to be you guys.

    We had several good talks on Christ and the Atonement, and a great Resurrection-themed choir number.

    That being said, we as a people do an understated Easter. I don’t think we feel beholden to do Pascal feasts like other denominations do. A command to celebrate Easter wasn’t included in the D&C, and frankly, we’re conservative about adopting other faiths’ traditions. The Saints didn’t even openly and celebrate (the pagan) Christmas until J. Smith said it would be OK because it was the thought that counted.

    Oftentimes, on one hand, certain commenters complain that we’re spending too much time trying to be like other Christians, and on the other hand, they complain that we don’t do enough just like other Christians. That sort of shows me the basis of the complaints right there.

    Maybe we should just go all Primitive church again and do some Ēostre (fertility and dawn goddess) worship. *That’s* the real meaning of Easter and the source of the eggs and rabbits. Appropriating pagan holidays is what the primitive church did best.

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  36. @UtahMormonDemoGuy on April 9, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I attended 2 LDS sacrament meetings yesterday. In the first, readings from the Easter story in Luke were interspersed with musical numbers. A final speaker addressed history and we all stood to sing a rousing version of “He is Risen!” In the second, one of the youth speakers spoke on Christ’s sacrifice, and two older women spoke. One, whose teenaged child had died a few years ago, discussed the resurrection. The other, who had recently divorced after a long marriage, spoke about the atonement. The ward choir sang a song about the Savior. Both meetings were great, and it was the best Easter I have experienced in many years.

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  37. MH on April 9, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    That sort of shows me the basis of the complaints right there.

    N, what do you mean here? Joseph Smith taught that if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we should seek after these things. Are you saying we shouldn’t seek after Christ-centered Easter celebrations? Should we instead seek after Easter eggs? Is there something wrong with seeking after a Christ-centered Easter? Is there something wrong with wondering why the GA’s are practically silent about Easter just one week away?

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  38. DT on April 9, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    It’d be ungrateful of me if I didn’t speak up on behalf of my ward’s sacrament meeting yesterday. 3 beautiful talks covering the Atonement, Golgotha, and the Resurrection of the Savior, plus a moving arrangement of “I Stand All Amazed” by the ward choir. The most spiritually satisfying Easter I’ve had in years.

    That said, I sympathize with the frustrations expressed by others. I simply don’t get our hot/cold approach to invoking the name of Christ in our services. When I was in YM, our bishop hammered into us that no talk or lesson or testimony was complete unless we somehow tied it into Christ and the Atonement, and I have tried to incorporate that approach into my various callings ever since. I’m just one very anonymous member of the church, but I’d like to think that I’m doing my part to counter some of ‘sub-par’ invokations of Christ by keeping the focus where I believe it should be.

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  39. el oso on April 9, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    There were several excellent choir numbers interspersed with selected reading of scripture. This was followed by a concluding talk on the atonement. Both classes had themes from Easter or the atonement primary in the discussion of the scheduled lesson.
    Overall, church was good and everyone knew it was Easter and Jesus was risen.

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  40. Mark N. on April 9, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    My feeling is that we talk of the Atonement so often in Church that almost any Sunday can substitute for an Easter service. Add to that the idea that the Book of Mormon is so utterly Christ-centric, how does one go about making Easter Sunday stand out in any way as being a more “special” meeting than on any other Sunday during the year?

    Our ward did three “special” musical numbers in our Sacrament Meeting, along with the one talk about the Atonement. We only managed to squeeze in “He Is Risen” during the Priesthood Meeting opening services because the accompanist (c’est moi!) picked it.

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  41. E on April 9, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    I guess I am the only one who is just fine with celebrating Easter by going to Sacrament Meeting and taking the Sacrament. Please, people, is it really necessary to throw stones at whomever is planning your Sacrament meetings for their perceived failure in the Easter extravaganza department? I don’t think having a simple service, much like our usual service, means that we are not “good Christians”. Although I would be surprised if Sacrament Meeting songs and talks were not Easter themed, I can’t see the need for self-righteous condemnation.

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  42. E on April 9, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    As for General Conference, each April conference occurs within a couple weeks of Easter. Do we want to change every General Conference into an Easter-themed celebration? Why?

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  43. Jane on April 10, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Last year, our Stake Conference fell on Easter. I think Easter was only mentioned once, no Easter hymns were sung (not even by the choir), and none of the talks were directly centered on the Savior. I was very disappointed.

    By comparison, this year we had a nice service, the choir and Primary both sang Easter songs and all talks, including the youth, were about Christ’s ministry- specifically about the last week of Christ’s ministry.

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  44. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    E,

    You are not the only one. I agree with you. Easter should be every week for us.

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  45. mh on April 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    e,

    yes, general conference should talk about easter because it is the most important event in christianity. if we are ignoring the celebration of the most important event, can we really call ourselves christian? without easter, christ would be just a prophet, not the leader of a new religion. to ignore easter is to ignore the importance of christ.

    if general conference is about other things, then move it to another month where easter doesn’t get in the way.

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