Sunday, April 27, 2014

EASTER (part 2)

As I was saying:

I may have just gone on the Mother of all digressions! I started this Thought talking about not knowing the origins of significant dates of prominent holidays in the major religions of the world. This led me to an investigation of how we came to have the date we celebrate the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This in turn led to a report of my studies about the ways we celebrate Easter throughout the world.

Now back to where I intended to go in the first place. It may be that the reason we don’t have exact dates of some of these historical people is because ‘the when’ of their lives is not as important as ‘the what’ they accomplished. I will leave ‘the what’ of Mohammed’s life to another Thought and spend the rest of this Thought on where I believe the emphasis of the celebration of Easter should lie.


Death by Crucifixion – Resurrection – ATONEMENT

Death by Crucifixion – As far as I am concerned enough time has been spent on the cruel and inhumane way in which the Savior as well as many others suffered. Much has been written and enough film and digital representations have been made that it will suffice me to say, I find it difficult to understand how anyone could find justification in taking the life of anyone in this manner, let alone the Son of God.

Resurrection – Since I am a believer in the continuance of life after death and that it was Jesus the Christ who broke the bonds of death and opened the reality of the resurrection for all mankind, and since I no longer have any need to debate this issue with those who find this belief unfounded or unreal, I will just add my testimony, that death is not the end of anyone’s existence. We, like He, will rise again!

ATONEMENT – Just as I believe in the resurrection of all, I likewise believe in the Son of God having come to earth to atone for the sins and sufferings of the world.

Although it is not my usual practice, but because I feel my own words would fall woefully short on the subject, I will spend a major portion of this Thought quoting Bruce R. McConkie from his book The Mortal Messiah Pages 380-382.

What is the Gospel of Salvation?
Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 27:13-22)

How glorious is the gospel; how wondrous is the word; how blessed is the Lord!

The gospel is the plan of salvation—the eternal plan of the Eternal Father. It is the laws and the truths and powers by conformity to which the spirit children of the Father (Christ included) can advance and progress and become like him. It includes the creation and peopling of the earth, the testing processes of mortality, and death, the resurrection, and eternal judgment. It is founded and grounded upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ and is operative because he laid down his life for all men.

Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came in the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

It is the gospel of God; the plan originated with the Father; it is his gospel. It concerns Jesus Christ our Lord because he was chosen to come into this world as the Son of God, to work out the infinite and eternal atonement, and to put into full force all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s plan. The Son does the will of the Father; the Son did not devise a plan and suggest it to the Father; the Son obeyed and conformed and adopted. He espoused and championed the cause of his Father.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil — And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

Jesus came to die—to die upon the cross. He came to ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam; he came to bring immortality to all men and eternal life to all who believe and obey. Through his atoning sacrifice, begun in Gethsemane and completed on the cross, he has power to draw all men unto him, to bring them from the grave, to arraign them before his bar, to judge them according to their works. Annas engineered his death; Caiaphas issued the decree of the Sanhedrin that he was worthy of death; Pilate sent him to the cross; and the elders and chief priests rejoiced in his death. All these shall stand before his bar. He died for them and for all men; he died for the Jews and for the Gentiles; he is the Redeemer of the world.


As in so many things, my understanding of the Atonement is scant and I, like many, have questions as to the how and why of it; nevertheless, I have a firm conviction that Jesus the Christ is my Savior and Redeemer and that all things are possible through him.

As I said in this year’s Thoughts during the Christmas season I have no problem with those who extend the celebratory seasons of the birth of Christ. Likewise, I have no problem with those who wish to extend the celebration of the fulfillment of the Son of God’s purpose for coming to mortality. Therefore, if you want to have a day to remember the atonement, his death and resurrection it is fine with me. If you want to extend your remembrance to a week, forty days or a quarter of the year, I find it all to be good. As for me I will strive to keep his mission and the fulfillment thereof in remembrance all the days of my life.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


It is interesting to me that many of the celebrated days of the major religions have no fixed days of origin. Hinduism can be excused for not having fixed dates of origin since that religion evolved as the inhabitants of the Indus valley assimilated the rites of the earliest settlers about 1500 BC. Islam celebrates its founder daily in remembering Mohammed as Allah’s prophet in their continual prayers, but has no fixed day for the birth of the prophet, knowing that he was born somewhere around the year 570 AD. Likewise, the two most celebrated days of Christianity, Christmas and Easter, have no historical foundation for the days on which they are celebrated. (For information on why we celebrate Christmas on December 25 – see Thoughts for a Sabbath Day, December 22 and December 29, 2013)

There doesn't seem to be much evidence of Easter being celebrated much before the mid second century of the modern calendar. Those early Christians, knowing that Jesus’ last week was during the Jewish Passover celebration, celebrated Easter based on the calculations of the Jewish calendar. In many languages the words for Easter and Passover are almost identical. It is also of interest to note that some of the customs of the Jewish Passover are included in the practices of Christian religions.

Besides many other foundational principles of Christianity, the dates for the Easter season were establish during the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. At that time the date for Easter was established to be on the first Sunday after the full moon (paschal moon) following the March equinox. This formula is also used with some variables by those Christian churches that use the Gregorian and Julian calendars as well as the Jewish calendar. This year (2014) the astronomical, Gregorian and Julian all fix the date for Easter Sunday as April 20, but the Jewish calendar marks April 15 as the day to celebrate Passover. It should be mentioned that every year does not always have this much harmony with the dates.

During the centuries there have been attempts to standardize the date for Easter Sunday. In 1928 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an Easter Act establishing Easter Sunday as the first Sunday after the first Saturday in April. Although the act remains on the legal statutes of the United Kingdom the change has never been put into practice.

In 1997 the World Council of Churches set the year 2001 as the year the scientific Astronomical calendar would be used to set the date for the Sunday Easter would be celebrated. Much like the Parliament of the United Kingdom, this attempt to alter the moveable day for celebrating Easter has not changed the habits of the world of Christianity.

Since most of the celebrants of Easter do so on one or maybe two days a year, (there are countries which also have Easter Monday as a holiday) it might be well to introduce most Christians to the Easter Season which spans roughly a quarter of the year.

Lent – Begins on Ash Wednesday which is forty days before Easter not including the Sundays which fall during that period. A time set apart for rededication and sacrifice for those adherents of the traditions of the full Easter Season.

Holy Week – Week which precedes Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday – Sunday before Easter Sunday. In remembrance of the Savior’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem when He was recognized as King.

Spy Wednesday – Remembering the suffering in the Garden and the betrayal by Judas.

Good Friday – Remembrance of the crucifixion and death of Jesus the Christ.

Holy or Silent Saturday – Time awaiting the resurrection of Jesus.

Easter Sunday – Celebration of resurrection of Jesus the Christ the Savior of Mankind.

Eastertide – Fifty days following the Savior’s resurrection ending on the day of Pentecost when Stephen saw the savior standing at the right side of His Father.

Along with the traditions which have evolved because of the New Testament writings surrounding the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ there are many customs around the world which happen during the Easter Season which stem more from cultural roots than from the beginnings of Christianity.

Fertility rites – Probably the most common customs which celebrants of Easter practice which have nothing to do with the Savior stem from spring time fertility celebrations. These would include all of those which deal with eggs. Such as egg rolling, egg tipping or fighting (bumping the tip of your decorated egg against the tip of another – the un-cracked egg goes forward until one egg is the champion). Others just judge the uniqueness and beauty of the decorated eggs to determine a champion. Some cultures have egg decorated trees much like trees which are decorated to celebrate Christmas. A whole industry has come forth bringing the egg into the employment of chocolate along with chocolate bunnies and chicks.

Along with the eggs we have the Easter Bunny which has a double fertility symbolism and the chick which shows the fruits of fertility.

Old celebrations in the glen have been calmed a bit where in some places women are spanked or have perfumed water splashed on them as an indication of their desirability. Women also dump cold water on men to cool their passions. However, the orgy called ‘Spring Break’ or ‘Easter Break’ is looked forward to and practiced with passion today by young adults worldwide.

Renewal rites – Flowers become a big part of Easter’s celebration as a recognition that the long winter has past and spring has come about. For some reason the lily has become prominent among the flowers of Easter season. There are many cultures that pile scraps of wood in the center of town and set them on fire as a symbol that all things old are gone and from the ashes will come new life. Ironically, since this is a celebration of the Prince of Peace, fights break out as rivals try to steal scraps from their neighbor’s piles. Some cultures burn a doll representing Judas of Iscariot in these fires.

Food and Other rites – There are some interesting food practices which have to do with the reason for the Easter Season and some which seem to have more in common with the Passover. Hot cross buns are definitely a result of the rites of Ash Wednesday, but the bone shank of lamb or ham along with salads of cucumbers and lettuce come much closer to the Seder Suppers of the Passover. Other interesting traditions have to do with bearing a basket of foods to be blessed by the local priest to insure the bounteousness of the coming crops. It doesn't take much imagination to see where the modern Easter baskets originated. I don't think any self-respecting priest would bless the sugar laden baskets children find on Easter morning. It is fun, however, to realize where that basket thing got its start.

(To be continued)

Sunday, April 13, 2014


It seemed to be his bench and his alone. The old man with the grizzled face, mostly covered by his uneven beard, was on his bench facing the Rio Verde every time we walked by on our way to buy passage across the river on a hollowed out log boat. Funny what things one remembers from times of long ago, but it was a veinte (twenty centavos) to ride one way across the river and another veinte to return.

At first our conversations with him were not much more than como esta, buenos dias and buenas tardes, but as the days passed we started to expand our conversations so that we finally found out much more about our dear wizened friend.

‘No, he did not sleep on the bench.’

‘Yes, he did have a hut where he lived with a son and his family.’

‘He loved to come and watch the riders on horseback come down from the mountain with their little bags of produce to trade at the market and then watch them retreat back up the mountain as dusk drew near.’

‘Yes, he did once live in the mountain and traveled weekly to the banks of the Rio Verde with his own small bags of produce, hoping he would earn enough to replace the two veintes it cost him to cross the river and a little more for his family’s needs.’

‘He loved the view looking up at the mountain which was his home for so many years, but longed for the views he enjoyed, in days gone by, looking down at the valley as the twists of the trail brought its beauty into view for enjoyable glimpses. There were times then when he would take a short break from his ride to or from the valley just to enjoy the wonder and magnificence of the beautiful valley.’

Flashing forward some 55 years later when our grandson CJ visited that same valley. The views he experienced were very different from my old friend who sat on his bench in the plaza and even different than the views I had seen when I was but a lad.

Dusty trails seen long ago by my old friend were replaced in my youth by a paved two lane highway running through town and recently a larger, busier city with few dirt roads were seen by CJ.

My dear friend had lived in a bamboo walled hut with dirt floors. I lived in stable home with cement floors and cold water. CJ enjoyed many more modern conveniences that were never imagined by my bench sitting friend when he was but a lad.

My ancient friend had soakingly forded the river, while I was barely splashed as I rode in a dugout boat. If CJ had a need to cross the river he could easily do it walking or riding over the modern bridge which now spanned the Rio Verde.

There are so many events and philosophies in life which alter our point of view depending upon differences of time, locations, religions, nationalities, education, social status etc.

As I read the reactions to the political decisions or indecisions which leaders are or are not making, it is obvious that one’s point of view is framed according to the aforementioned differences.

Likewise, beliefs we have about war, immigration, taxes, health care and many other policies which are being made, will affect multiple generations are shaped by the factors of our individual environments.

Even such things as the legality of choices will be altered according to the influences which have and do uniquely influence.

Generally, judgments about the levels of fanaticism of another’s religious practices don't seem to be hereditary, but often come from influences of people who preach the practices of tolerance and love.

Strangely, a person’s economic level is looked at as a result of luck, inheritance, laziness, greed or a multitude of other factors depending on the current circumstances one finds themselves in in society.

Without belaboring the subject, we would be very hard pressed to find a point of view we have which is not a result of where we were born and the points of view which were expressed as we moved toward our present and temporary time and place.

As my wonderful friend from long ago told me, if we are willing to open our eyes and look around we will find beauty whether we are looking up to view the mountain or whether we are looking down to view the beauty of the valley.

The next time we are about to loudly put down the point of view of another, it might be better if we pause to examine and evaluate where they are and what brought each of us to this point. And then maybe, just maybe, we might have a bit more understanding and compassion for who they are and what they think at this point on their eternal journey.