159–163: An Easter Primer

Easter morning 2004-JudithOne of Mormon Matters podcast’s most popular episodes explored Christmas through a close examination of scriptural narratives and traditions related to the Nativity as they unfolded through the centuries of Christian history. One of the reasons for this episode’s popularity was the information it provided for Latter-day Saints about many aspects of Christmas celebrated and explored in wider Christianity that never fully became part of Mormon traditions.

We’re at it again, this time focusing on Easter. With a forty-day Lenten season that flows to a conclusion in Holy Week and its beautiful rituals, for many Christians, Easter (even more than Christmas) marks the spiritual high point of the year. At no other time do sacred time and space collapse quite so easily, with events and liturgies and encouragements that lead people in sustained reflection about not only their gratitude for Christ and their beliefs and hopes about salvation, but even more generally, the renewal of aspirations, plans, and energies. And while Mormons join with the rest of the Christian world in basic beliefs about Christ’s resurrection and central role in salvation, and they, too, celebrate Easter, they don’t do it in quite as sustained a manner as many other Christian traditions who carry into their worship centuries-long traditions and fully developed music and liturgies and portals into the mysteries of the resurrection miracle.

In this five-part series, the same amazing panel who shared about Christmas—Jared Anderson, Zina Petersen, and Kristine Haglund—join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon on a journey through scripture, history, worship, and celebration related to Easter. Designed to be informative about elements with which Mormons in general are not all that familiar, it also explores different presentations of Christ’s final acts on earth in the various Gospels and scriptural tradition, the range of views about what “resurrection” means, how Christian and Pagan traditions interacted to create the mix of elements we find in Easter season, and how these elements combined to create some of the world’s greatest music, poetry, and pageantry. But it also explores personal realms. How do each of the panelists integrate a love for Easter themes, claims, symbols, and rituals with their own empirically oriented and critical brains? What is happening in their hearts and minds as they celebrate Easter?

The podcast totals nearly five hours. It’s a huge bite, and it can certainly be taken slowly.

A brief guide to the parts:

Parts 1 and 2 (episodes 159 and 160) focus primarily upon the scriptural record, with its earliest layers, differences between texts, interaction with Jewish elements, the “empty tomb” traditions as separate from “resurrection appearances.” They explore various Christological theories and their different approaches to the idea of resurrection. Listen also for some really great poetry and fresh angles that would make great sermon materials.

Parts 3 and 4 (episodes 161 and 162) take us from the early church to the middle ages and on through the centuries, helping us understand the development of various traditions and interactions with solar and lunar cycles and their feasts and celebrations. These also contain great information about and peeks into the beauties of Lent, Holy Week, rituals such as meditations on the “stations of the cross,” and much more. History and aesthetics! What could be better?

Part 5 (episode 162) features the panelists and host sharing their own Easter experiences and reflections on myth and ritual, rational thought and the mysteries of spirituality.

We very much hope you’ll enjoy these episodes! Please use the comments section below to share your own reflections on Easter and all that this season means to you.


Check back for links to various resources.



5 comments for “159–163: An Easter Primer

  1. Michael
    March 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    All right! This was the topic I hoped you guys would cover.

  2. Bill
    March 14, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Over the past several years I have been beset with intense Catholic Envy, especially around this time of year. We don’t really celebrate Easter in the church and it felt wrong. A large part of the christian world has the entire Lenten season and we have 30 minutes on Easter Sunday. As primary song leader, I decided that this year we are going to celebrate Palm Sunday. (I had considered setting up the stations of the cross in the primary room but decided that might be going a bit too far…!!) I have ordered palm fronds from the florist and next Sunday we are going to tell stories and sing songs about Jesus, throw our coats on the floor, wave palm fronds and celebrate the season! I have made it a personal project to bring Palm Sunday to our chapel. I wish weren’t alone in this (Quixotic?) endeavor….

  3. Loz
    March 19, 2013 at 4:11 am

    I believe in the actual resurrection of Christ, I love to hear about Lazarus, Jesus said to Mary I am the resurrection and the life, then he raised him from the dead.
    I would rather see more celebrations at Easter than all the effort that is put into pioneer treks! Go for it Bill and start some Easter traditions and pageantry in the church!

  4. March 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Jared, Kritine, Zina, and Dan. Thank you for sharing the history, the traditions of other Christian faiths. Thank your for the vulnerability and intimacy shared.

    I am on my way home from a week-long visit to Utah. Last night I decided to attend Catholic Easter Mass. I woke up early to make it to a 7:30 service. I am glad I did. The chant-like music, the pageantry, the culmination of the mass with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, left me with holy envy. i think perhaps the unfamiliarity of the familiar made me appreciate how Easter is celebrated by our Catholic brothers and sisters.

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