Easter sometimes gets less attention than Christmas and yet Christians know that Christmas would not matter at all if the events of Easter hadn’t happened. For Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—Easter is a particularly sacred holiday, in the sense of the original meaning. The word holiday originally meant holy day.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a day that changed eternity for everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus’ mission, spent teaching, healing, and serving others, finished with its ultimate purpose—to redeem mankind from the inevitability of sin. Even though none of us could live a sinless life, God wanted us to return home to Him, as any loving parent would. Justice required perfection, but mercy allowed for a Savior, and so God accepted the voluntary offer given by his Son, Jesus Christ to atone for our sins.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus suffered untold pain and suffering as He took on our sins. The pain of this experience was so great He asked that it be removed if it were God’s will, but accepting that it could not be God’s will. For Mormons, the understanding that this occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane makes the atonement more personal, more intentional. He walked into that garden without any level of force, without even a companion, except for the angel that came to strengthen Him through it. He suffered for each individual sin, giving us a sense of responsibility for that suffering and thereby, a greater gratitude for the sacrifice. We are anxious to continually repent and to shape our lives to be more like His because He did so much for us that obedience to God’s carefully chosen commandments, and repentance when we fall short is very little to ask in return.
The process continued on the cross, where Jesus died for us, again voluntarily. Although men hung Him on the cross, they were able to do so only because He permitted it. Three days after His death, He was resurrected and that broke the bonds of death for all of us.
“Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.
“The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth. …
“My beloved brothers and sisters, in our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: ‘He is not here: for he is risen’” (Thomas S. Monson, He is Risen, Liahona, April 2012).
Now everyone, even those who reject Him, can live forever. His atoning sacrifice made it possible to live after death, to repent, and to be forgiven. If we choose to activate the full measure of the atonement through our faith in Him, we can live with God for eternity after we die. We demonstrate our faith by loving Him enough to keep His commandments. Faith without works is dead, the apostles told us, because saying we believe but then ignoring all Jesus taught and stood for is not faith—it is just words. Words need action to give them their power. Jesus said that if we love Him, we must keep His commandments.
Obedience alone cannot save. Obedience done out of love and faith can, because it is then part of the complete package of Christian faith.
Easter matters because eternity depends on it. Mormons consider the living Christ to be the focus of their religion. They honor the atonement and the death on the Christ, but understand that if His life had ended there, we would have no religion. It is His resurrection and the assurance that He lives even today that demonstrates without question His divinity and gives our mortal lives eternal meaning.