(Pictures from Easter, 2002.
The boys helped to make our traditional lamb cake.)
Easter is the holiday that keeps you guessing. You're not even sure which month it will be in. In 2008, Easter came on March 23rd.
I was serving as Relief Society President and normally it was my responsibility to only give the lessons on the first Sunday of each month, but since we didn't have a teacher lined up, I pulled together an Easter Presentation. I remember getting onto LDS.org and doing a search. Several conference talks popped up and I felt pulled to click on one that was not even remotely the first. It was by Bruce R. McConkie. At first I didn't recognize it for what it was. As I got to the end, tears spilt over as I read his last testimony of Christ. You've heard it quoted before. I don't remember hearing his voice in 1985 when he spoke at General Conference, but I remember my mom, who died from cancer three months later, reading it to me with tears streaming. His testimony was hers; she told me that and she expressed her deep love for the Savior.
In Relief Society that day, I told my sisters about that tender moment my mom shared with me. I said that the suffering from cancer had given my mom amazing spiritual strength. I also said that although I hoped to have a relationship as close to the Savior as she had developed, I acknowledged that I wasn't there. I had yet to experience the refining fire.
I had four 'Readers' sitting up front and the words were intermingled with all the sisters singing Easter hymns. When our twenty minutes were up, I could see that the power of the word and music had touched the sisters. I felt joy that my efforts to increase their testimonies came to fruition.
The following Sunday I was not at church with my sisters. I was home with my family and close relatives. My twelve year old son, Josh, had passed away unexpectedly. With the Bishop's permission we had Sacrament meeting in our living room. Instead of Relief Society sisters reading the parts to that Easter Program, there were our brothers and nephew. Everyone sang. Little Jonathon changed out the scripture pictures that went with the talk. I sat at the piano, glad to have something to focus on.
It was powerful.
If we had simply met as an extended family and partaken of the sacrament, that would have sufficed. But I think Heavenly Father knew that the day after Josh's funeral, we needed more. We needed to hear specifically about the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the healing power of music included. It was a tender mercy to have a 'sacrament meeting' program already prepared.
I realized that the effort I put forth to serve the sisters and the Lord had really been a preparation to bless my own life and that of my family's.
EASTER PROGRAM for RS 2008 with 4 narrators and musical numbers
(Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Ensign, May 1985, 9)
1Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to retire for pondering and prayer.
2We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
3We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
4We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
1We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
2We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
3We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.
4As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies—this suffering beyond compare—continued for some three or four hours.
1After this—his body then wrenched and drained of strength—he confronted Judas and the other incarnate devils, some from the very Sanhedrin itself; and he was led away with a rope around his neck, as a common criminal, to be judged by the arch-criminals who as Jews sat in Aaron’s seat and who as Romans wielded Caesar’s power.
2They took him to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate. He was accused, cursed, and smitten. Their foul saliva ran down his face as vicious blows further weakened his pain-engulfed body.
3With reeds of wrath they rained blows upon his back. Blood ran down his face as a crown of thorns pierced his trembling brow.
4But above it all he was scourged, scourged with forty stripes save one, scourged with a multi-thonged whip into whose leather strands sharp bones and cutting metals were woven.
1Many died from scourging alone, but he rose from the sufferings of the scourge that he might die an ignominious death upon the cruel cross of Calvary.
2Then he carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and pain and mounting agony of it all.
3Finally, on a hill called Calvary—again, it was outside Jerusalem’s walls—while helpless disciples looked on and felt the agonies of near death in their own bodies, the Roman soldiers laid him upon the cross.
4With great mallets they drove spikes of iron through his feet and hands and wrists. Truly he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.
1Then the cross was raised that all might see and gape and curse and deride. This they did, with evil venom, for three hours from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
2Then the heavens grew black. Darkness covered the land for the space of three hours, as it did among the Nephites. There was a mighty storm, as though the very God of Nature was in agony.
3And truly he was, for while he was hanging on the cross for another three hours, from noon to 3:00 p.m., all the infinite agonies and merciless pains of Gethsemane recurred.
4And, finally, when the atoning agonies had taken their toll—when the victory had been won, when the Son of God had fulfilled the will of his Father in all things—then he said, “It is finished”, and he voluntarily gave up the ghost.
**Sing 1st and 4th verse of “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown” (page 197) to the music of “O God Thee Eternal Father” (page 175).
1As the peace and comfort of a merciful death freed him from the pains and sorrows of mortality, he entered the paradise of God.
2When he had made his soul an offering for sin, he was prepared to see his seed, according to the messianic word.
3These, consisting of all the holy prophets and faithful Saints from ages past; these, comprising all who had taken upon them his name, and who, being spiritually begotten by him, had become his sons and his daughters, even as it is with us; all these were assembled in the spirit world, there to see his face and hear his voice.
4After some thirty-eight or forty hours—three days as the Jews measured time—our Blessed Lord came to the tomb, where his partially embalmed body had been placed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea.
1Then, in a way incomprehensible to us, he took up that body which had not yet seen corruption and arose in that glorious immortality which made him like his resurrected Father.
2He then received all power in heaven and on earth, obtained eternal exaltation, appeared unto Mary Magdalene and many others, and ascended into heaven, there to sit down on the right hand of God the Father Almighty and to reign forever in eternal glory.
3His rising from death on the third day crowned the Atonement. Again, in some way incomprehensible to us, the effects of his resurrection pass upon all men so that all shall rise from the grave.
**Sing verses 1 and 3 of “He is Risen” (page 199) to the music of “Once in Royal David’s City” (page 205).
4May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.
1As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.
2In Eden we will see all things created in a paradisaical state—without death, without procreation, without probationary experiences.
3We will come to know that such a creation, now unknown to man, was the only way to provide for the Fall.
4We will then see Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, step down from their state of immortal and paradisaical glory to become the first mortal flesh on earth.
1Mortality, including as it does procreation and death, will enter the world. And because of transgression a probationary estate of trial and testing will begin.
2Then in Gethsemane we will see the Son of God ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death that came to us because of the Fall.
3And finally, before an empty tomb, we will come to know that Christ our Lord has burst the bands of death and stands forever triumphant over the grave.
**Sing all 3 verses of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (page 200) to the music of “Angels We Have Heard on High” (page 203) skipping the Alleluia’s and sing the “Gloria’s” at the end of the verses.
4And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
1I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
2But I shall not know any better then, than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.
3God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
**Sing all 4 verses of “I know That My Redeemer Lives” (page 136) to the music of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” (page 29).