Our Christian faith, as Paul attests, rests on the certainty that Christ has risen. The true gospel message centers on Christ’s completed work on the cross and the victory assured to us by his resurrection. Grace bestowed. Faith alone. These are the words that resonate during Holy Week.
This will not be the Easter message that Mormons will hear this week.
The celebration of Easter is downplayed in the Mormon Church and there is no attention given to Good Friday. Instead, like most teachings of the LDS Church, attention is given to the works of human beings rather than the works of Jesus Christ. In a recent message reflecting on Easter, President Thomas Monson, the current living prophet of the LDS Church, stated, “So that we might have every chance of success, He provided a Savior, who would suffer and die for us.”**
Mormonism teaches that life begins in a person’s pre-existence as a spirit child begotten by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The purpose of life on earth is to obtain mortal bodies so that people may experience a time of testing to prove themselves and qualify for what God has prepared for us in the heavenly realm. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus Christ came to this earth to mark the way to perfection. He is Heavenly Father’s literal son who was born into mortal flesh. Through his life and the Atonement, he passed the test and has become a god. Now, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “beckon us to follow [him] and to become perfect, as They are perfect.”*
The emphasis on Christ’s suffering on our behalf is placed on Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane rather than the cross. The pain and agony experienced in the Garden caused his pores to bleed and drained him of strength. The cross simply became the instrument of finalizing his physical death. For this reason, you will not see a cross at a Mormon church, nor do Mormons wear crosses as jewelry around their necks. As one Mormon told me, “If your brother were executed by a hangman’s noose, would you want to wear that as a reminder of his death?” Mormons maintain that as a result of Christ’s atonement, all people are “saved” from physical death and will be resurrected. Christ’s resurrection is simply an example of what will happen to us as a result of his Atonement. This act is the Mormon definition of Christ redeeming our soul. A Mormon will say, “He lives and we will too.” This phrase is the central point of a Mormon’s Easter celebration. Right here is an example of the true nature of Mormon doctrine. Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Mormons say the same thing. But what they mean by it and how they get to this point is totally different from what the Bible says about the redemptive work of Christ.
A Mormon’s Easter celebration will typically focus on the joy family members will receive by being reunited after death. It’s now up to us to obey God’s instructions to get to the right kingdom of glory. Throughout our mortal life, Heavenly Father has given us means to receive guidance for our “safe return” back to him in the celestial kingdom. “By obedience…, we can qualify for that ‘house’ spoken of by Jesus when He declared: ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.” (ref. John 14:2-3) Mormons teach that Jesus’ atonement made it possible for all people to be resurrected. Our obedience will dictate how far our soul can eternally progress and qualify for heavenly rewards. Ultimately, the desire of Mormons is to have their entire family be together for eternity.
In one Easter message entitled, “He is Risen!”, President Monson shared a story of a fifteen year old boy who recently died from an illness. The boy’s father sent a message to Monson that included a photograph of his dying son on a hospital bed. His older brother was standing next to the bed holding his mission call. The caption beneath the photograph read, “Called to serve their missions together – on both sides of the veil.” It also included a letter from his sister who was serving an LDS mission in Argentina. She wrote, “I know that Jesus Christ lives, and because He lives, all of us, including our beloved brother, will live again too. .. We can take comfort in the sure knowledge we have that we have been sealed together as an eternal family. … If we do our very best to obey and do better in this life, we will see him again.”**
That is the Mormon understanding of Easter. Christ has done his part and by his perfect life and death, we have been given the opportunity to fulfill our eternal potential and become like him in every way. Monson concludes his Easter message by declaring, “I testify to you that He lives and that He awaits our triumphant return.”*
Now it’s up to us to be obedient till the end of our mortal life.
What a different gospel then the one presented in the Bible!
Because Jesus declared, “It is finished!”, and then rose triumphant on Eastern morning, we have full comfort, peace, and assurance. We know that our inheritance in heaven is secured, not by our works but by his great work on our behalf. Our rooms in the presence of God are finished, because our sins have been fully paid for by the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
“He is risen!” And so will we, because Jesus has done it all.
*”The Race of Life” by President Thomas S. Monson (April, 2012, General Conference)
**”He is Risen!” by President Thomas S. Monson (May, 2010, Liahona magazine)