Mormons tend to get up in arms when people say we aren’t Christian. After all, it’s in our real name: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yet, on Easter this year–the day that should be more important to us than any other day of the year–I experienced something in not one but two Sacrament Meetings that disturbed and frustrated me so much that it almost ruined my whole experience of Easter.
None of the speakers in either meeting spoke directly about the atonement, crucifixion, or resurrection.
They all delivered fine messages that would have been wonderful on any other Sabbath Day. But on Easter, they were sadly devoid of any real attention to what the Savior suffered, the burden He shouldered for us, or what an amazing thing it is that he conquered Death so that, for each of us, death is not the end but merely a stepping stone to the next phase of an eternal existence.
If I were attending those meetings as someone who is not a member of the church–and there was at least one such person in attendance that I knew personally–I would have thought to myself, these people don’t really understand what it means to be Christian.
And I had to ask myself, why do we as members of His church take for granted the most important aspects of the gospel. The atonement and resurrection are not just aspects of the gospel; they are the gospel. Without them, there is nothing else: no eternal families, no salvation, no potential for the Celestial kingdom. As Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” How can we, then, as people who profess to follow and worship Him, show such little gratitude for the terrible, incomprehensible price He paid so that we might enjoy the blessings of faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and all other blessings that flow from His great sacrifice?
Is it because we assume that we’ve talked about it so much that we need to find something else to talk about on Easter? If so, then we need to think again. Because the other thing I noticed about the messages in both Sacrament Meetings was that they were all focused on us–our trials, our suffering, our choices, our mortal experiences. I think we need to start focusing less on ourselves and more on the Savior. We could actually take a cue or two from the rest of the Christian world, who start their celebration of Easter in February, with Lent, who talk about Christ’s fasting, his miracles, his suffering in Gethsemane, his scourging and humiliation and long walk to Golgotha, the agony of his final hours, the mercy of his forgiveness of those who nailed him to the cross, his concern for his mother, his appearance as the Resurrected Lord, the glory of his final victory. Aside from a few brief closing remarks by the Bishop in one ward, we heard about none of those things yesterday. I am saddened and angered–forgive me, Father, for the contention in my heart over this–that there was no real devotion to the Savior’s sacrifice on the one day that everything should be about Him, not us.
So, just in case anyone is unsure of what I believe about Christ, let me take this opportunity to share my testimony–that He lives; that He suffered unfathomable agonies so that I would not have to suffer them through my own poor choices, sins, and personal weaknesses; that He suffered in Gethsemane and then again on the cross; that he voluntarily gave up His life to overcome Death for all of us; that he was buried in the garden tomb; that he rose again, a perfect holy being with the power to save us all; that I am completely dependent on His grace for my life and salvation; that all I can do of myself cannot save myself without the sanctifying power of His atonement; that He was, is, and ever shall be the Son of God and the Eternal Father of the souls of mankind whom He ransomed with His Blood; that He is the pure Lamb of God; and that through Him, and only Him, we have the opportunity to repent of our sins, receive healing from the wounds of mortality, be made clean so that we can live with Him and our Heavenly Father once again, and somehow, sometime in the eternities, become creators of worlds of our own.
I am grateful beyond my ability to express for His sacrifice and Resurrection, but I know that I am still not grateful enough, and that I do not comprehend enough what it took to save my soul from sin. Thank you, my Savior, for loving someone as lowly as I am enough to suffer and die for me.
Watch this beautiful video about our Savior’s atonement and resurrection: