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Sunday School Easter Services

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 08, 2009

A frequently-voiced Bloggernacle regret is that so many of our wards fail to note, much less celebrate, Easter Sunday – was it Kevin Barney who reported an Easter Sacrament service devoted to tithing?

This neglect is not by policy but due to a too-widespread lack of imagination on the part of those who plan ward meetings. It is a neglect that has existed, apparently, for 50 years or more. Witness this question submitted to the editorial board of the Instructor magazine in December 1962:

Q. When was the policy established of not having special programs, but rather continuing with normal Sunday School activities on Easter and Christmas?

A. There has never been a policy of not having special programs on these two occasions.

Indeed, the Instructor, which had input only into Sunday School services, encouraged special programs at Easter in both the Senior and Junior Sunday Schools. The programs were brief and simple, and somewhat repetitious – but isn’t that what you want in annual traditions, to some degree? At least they acknowledged the significance of the day, and retold in scripture, music, and short talks the miracle and promise of the Resurrection.

It didn’t hurt, either, that Sunday School superintendents were reminded to decorate the chapel and Junior Sunday School room with fresh flowers.

A sampling of suggested Easter services from the 1960s, and a hope that your ward will celebrate to some degree this Easter Sunday:

1961

“Easter Is a Joyous Time”

Every officer and teacher in the Sunday School should put forth a special effort on East Sunday to make the services and the lessons particularly effective. We should be especially mindful of those people who come but rarely, and reward them with a worthwhile experience. Greeting members and visitors as they enter the chapel and as they enter the classroom should be part of our responsibility as we represent Christ in teaching the Gospel.

Theme: Jesus said …, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die … – John 11:25-26

Devotional Prelude

Opening Hymn: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

Invocation

Welcome: Bishop

Sacramental Hymn: “We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus’ Name”

Sacrament Gem: “… Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” – I Corinthians 15:20

Sacrament

Scriptural Reading (to be given by an excellent reader): John 20:1-8  (this is the joyous account of the first Easter morning)

Hymn by the Congregation: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (a soloist may sing the first half of each verse, with the congregation joining in the second half)

Scriptural Reading (to be given by an excellent reader): John 20:9-31 (This account tells of the joy felt by the apostles on the first Easter evening and eight days later)

Hymn by the Congregation: “Glory to God on High”

Separation for Classes

Closing Hymn: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

Benediction

1962

“I Am the Resurrection”

Devotional Prelude

Opening Hymn: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

Invocation

Welcome: Bishop

Sacramental Hymn: “While of These Emblems We Partake”

Sacrament Gem: “…Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” (I Corinthians 15:20)

Sacrament

Scriptural Reading (to be given by a capable reader): Jesus said … I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die … (John 11:25, 26)

Hymn by the Congregation: “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”

Talk: “… I Am the Resurrection and the Life …” (To be given by an adult who can appeal to all age levels)

I. The First Easter (consider the following scriptures in sequence):

A. The resurrection (Mark 16:1; Matthew 28:2-4; Mark 16:2-4; Matthew 28:5-7; John 20:2-10)

B. Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)

C. Jesus’ appearance to the women (Matthew 28:8-10)

D. The soldiers bribed (Matthew 28:11-15)

E. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)

F. Jesus’ appearance to the apostles, Thomas being absent (Luke 24:33-48; John 20:21-25)

G. Jesus’ appearance to the apostles, Thomas being present (John 20:267-29)

II. The Significance of Easter

A. The love and mercy of God

B. Forgiveness of sins

C. Universal resurrection from the dead

D. Opportunity for continuous self-fulfillment

Hymn by the Congregation: “He is Risen”

Separation for Classes.

Closing Hymn: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”

Benediction

1963

Devotional Prelude

Opening Hymn: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

Invocation

Welcome: Member of bishopric or branch presidency

Sacramental Hymn: “God Loved us, So He Sent His Son”

Sacrament Gem: And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)

Sacrament

The Story of the First Easter – Scriptural reading of John 20:1-3 (to be given by a capable reader)

Hymn: “He Is Risen”

Talk: The Meaning of Easter (to be given by an adult who can communicate to all age levels)

1. Christ’s gift of the Atonement. Through His great love of mankind, the Saviour gave His life voluntarily so that all may live again, and may receive forgiveness of sin on condition of repentance. (See Mosiah 4:6-30, and Articles of Faith, Talmage, Chap. 4)

2. Christ’s gift of the Gospel pattern for living. Christ showed us the way to achieve individual salvation through following the principles of the Gospel. he exemplified these principles in His own life and mission. The gospel principles include faith, repentance, baptism, humility, forgiveness, service, trust, and love. We must love both God and our fellow men. When we partake of the sacrament, we renew our covenants to remember Him and to keep His commandments. (See the 1963 Convention Instructor discussions on our commitment to follow Jesus by learning and living the gospel)

Separation for Classes

Reassembly from Classes

Closing Hymn: “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”

Benediction

1964

“At Easter We Remember The Glorious Resurrection”

Devotional Prelude: Handel’s “Largo”

Opening Hymn: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” – Hymns – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 10

Invocation

It is suggested that a member of the superintendency make a preliminary statement somewhat as follows: “In view of the fact that on Easter Sunday we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the tomb, we shall dedicate our entire worship service this morning to recounting this glorious event. Beginning with our sacrament hymn, we shall ask our chorister to invite the congregation, before singing, to join in reading reverently the two verses of this beautiful hymn.”

Sacramental Hymn: “In Humility Our Savior” – Hymns, No. 49

Sacrament Gem

Member of the Superintendency: “Easter is a day on which we especially commemorate the resurrection of our Saviour. This is one of the most distinguishing features of the Christian religion. It is a basic concept of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is the foundation of our faith. Today we shall have four of our classes participate in our special Easter Service by presenting choral readings of New Testament scriptures from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These beautiful citations portray the account of the resurrection of Jesus as seen by witnesses.”

Choral Reading, Matthew 28:5-9 (Members of Course 12)
Choral Reading, Mark 16:1-6 (Members of Course 10)
Choral Reading, Luke 24:33, 34, 36-40, 44-46, 48 (Members of Course 16)
Choral Reading, John 20:19-20, 24-29 (to be selected)

Note to Teachers: The teachers of these classes should either personally announce where these scriptures are to be found or have a member of the class do so. The scriptures should be rehearsed in class so that these beautiful citations may be clearly and reverently read with proper emphasis and understanding.

Summary by Superintendency: A member of the superintendency might well make a one-minute summary of this choral reading of New Testament scripture, somewhat as follows: “And so you have heard this beautiful scripture depicting the events that occurred after the Saviour’s death on the cross. For two thousand years this occurrence has challenged interest, faith, and dedication of millions of people. If we had had time this morning, we could also have included a wonderful body of scripture from the Book of Mormon depicting the Saviour’s visit to the people of the American continent. May the commemoration of this glorious fact of the Resurrection help us to build our testimonies and to strengthen our faith.”

Closing Hymn, “He Is Risen” – Hymns, No. 61

Separation for Classes

1965

“For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” – Moses 1:39

Devotional Prelude

Opening Hymn: “Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today” – Hymns – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, No. 10

Invocation

Welcome: Bishop or Counselor

Sacrament Hymn: “How Great the Wisdom and the Love – Hymns, No. 68

Sacrament Gem

Sacrament

First Scripture Reading – Moses 1:39 (select and prepare someone to read or quote)

Second Scripture Reading – John 11:25-26 (select and prepare someone to read or quote)

Adult Talk (2-4 minutes): Christ’s Work and glory” (emphasize Christ’s greatest gift – eternal life)

References: John 3:16; 10:10; Moses 1:39; Mosiah 4:6-30
Suggestions: A Way of Life; The Gospel Plan; Gospel Principles – love, unity, harmony

Hymn by Congregation: “He Is risen” – Hymns, No. 61

Separation for Classes

Closing Hymn: “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” – Hymns, No. 95

Benediction



25 Comments »

  1. Reading these outlines was fun, and reminded me that I miss the Sacrament Gems from the old pre-block Sunday School. It seems to me that a scriptural reading to precede the sacrament might enhance the experience for us even now.

    Comment by kevinf — April 8, 2009 @ 6:17 am

  2. I’m thinking that some of the difficulty in establishing a tradition of Easter celebration might have to do with the fact that in many years (though obviously not this year 2009) Easter and General Conference land together (or the Fast Sunday before General Conference lands on Easter).

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 8, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  3. PS. I also can’t help but chuckle at this instruction regarding who should give the Easter talk:

    “to be given by an adult who can communicate to all age levels”

    Good luck with that.

    Comment by Coffinberry — April 8, 2009 @ 6:44 am

  4. For readers who might not remember Sacrament Gems or understand why kevinf refers to them fondly, see the post Sacrament Gems.

    Coffinberry, those events would often interfere, wouldn’t they? Can’t do much about General Conference (other than have talks about the resurrection, as we often do when the dates collide) — but fast days could be rearranged, the way we do for General Conference and even stake conferences. But again, it takes forethought on the part of a ward or stake, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 8, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  5. I am one who has groaned long and loud about our tendency to forget Easter during our church services on Easter Sunday. Believe me. (Oh, and add lessons on Christmas Day about the Word of Wisdom during Sunday School to that list of pet peeves…)

    And so I was faced with the precise dilemma of what to do with my YM’s lesson this Sunday. The scheduled lesson topic is on Unity in the Family. What to do? I had planned to bring in nice refreshments in honor of Easter but thought I’d go ahead with this non-Easter lesson.

    This post has changed my mind. It’s going to be all-Easter, all the time Sunday! And refreshments to boot!

    Thanks, Ardis. Needless to say, I loved this post.

    Comment by Hunter — April 8, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  6. Just assigned speakers last night for this Sunday on the Atonement and the Resurrection. Now I’m wondering if we could fit in a scripture reading or two…

    Comment by Jacob F — April 8, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  7. The reason for posting this today rather than this weekend was the hope that somebody might still have time to squeeze touches of Easter into this Sunday’s services. Hurray!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 8, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  8. When Easter comes during General Conference, my neighbors always look at me like a strange person. I get ready and go to Church every Sunday morning, but then on Easter (General Conference) I watch TV, ware old clothes and forget to shave.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — April 8, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  9. Ardis: I am so glad you posted this. It and the comments really express some of my feelings about how we recognize Christmas and Easter in LDS services. Since it’s my month to conduct sacrament meeting/put the speaker program together I told my speakers to have Easter themes. I took the liberty of giving the last talk this coming Sunday so that I could talk about Easter. I liked the suggestions in the Instructor. I think I’ll just use some of the ideas and have my talk nearly finished.

    In the last area of my mission an investigator (a lay Lutheran pastor) asked if we had special services/midnight services to celebrate Christmas & Easter. I was a bit embarrassed to tell him we really don’t. A week later, after I was released and touring with my parents over the Christmas holiday, we went to Basel CH, and the Basel ward put on a midnight service Christmas Eve that was wonderful! I wish all units of the Church could/would do the same.

    About fast Sunday: We just had ours the last weekend of March. No conflict with Easter there.

    Comment by Steve C. — April 8, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  10. Rumor is that every other year, the Northcutts Cove Chapel in Grundy County, Tennessee, holds a sunrise Easter service. It was built in 1909 and is reputed to be the oldest LDS Chapel in the US South. I haven’t been able to find out if this is the year or if it is next year. And I can’t justify the 2 hour drive on Easter at 3 AM to my wife on the chance that it might happen.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 8, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  11. This issue interests me as a new member. Easter has always been the big to-do in churches I’ve attended. When I asked an LDS friend about the apparent lack of hoopla, she replied, “Oh, it IS a big deal. We just don’t have a big production.” So I’ll be interested to see how one makes a big deal out of something without a production.

    Comment by ellen — April 8, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  12. ellen, perhaps your friend was implying that Easter is a huge part of our doctrine, and, throughout the whole year. That we make a big deal of it in our hearts and minds. But culturally, we shy away from what might be perceived as ostentation or excessive display.

    Or not. (?)

    Comment by Hunter — April 8, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  13. You know part of it may just be because we have an all volunteer clergy. We have been moving toward services that are less time consuming with the idea that we and our leadership, can spend more time with our loved ones. The big production is meaningles if our leaders feel they have to neglect our families to do so.

    The result is that our largest productions have been outside the scope of Sunday School And Sacrament meeting. Messiah sing alongs, easter cantatas, Cumorah pagents, and the like are around, but they are not on the regular meeting schedule. Those that want them may participate. Those who feel they can’t spare the time away from family may opt out.

    So we have firesides, and maybe sunrise services, but only if people not in our overworked leadership want them to happen enough to arrange them on their own.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 8, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  14. Hunter, your paraphrase is exactly what my friend was saying, and as I hope any Christian would say. My impression, though, is that this Sunday will be pretty much like any other Sunday. Comments in this thread and elsewhere about reminding people to adopt an Easter theme surprised me.

    Excessive displays, by definition, would not be efficacious, and besides: ugh. But I can see what happens, and if I think our ward would be amenable to some of the Easter experiences others have enjoyed, I could put down my Peeps and help plan it.

    Comment by ellen — April 8, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  15. Um, do you need an excuse to put down your Peeps? :)

    I’ve spent the last six hours trying to find Easter cover art on our magazines to do a post this Sunday. We have an appalling lack of such cover art, I’ve found, despite searching through a hundred years of magazines of all kinds. A few spring pictures, but March is apt to have some picture related to Relief Society, April has something to do with Conference, and May is as likely to feature the restoration of the priesthood as the Resurrection.

    Today’s search has been a shocker to me.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 8, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  16. ellen, I think part of the purpose of the post focused on those non-Sacrament Meeting meetings (i.e., Sunday School, auxiliaries, youth, etc.).

    But fair enough: it is surprising that anyone should have to be cajoled/convinced/reminded to adopt an Easter theme during any part of the services this Sunday. I agree. Guilty as charged.

    Comment by Hunter — April 8, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  17. I love the idea of a sunrise Easter service. If I ever get back into a bishopric or stake presidency, I’ll see if I can convince people to consider it – after I quit crying and my wife stops laughing.

    Comment by Ray — April 8, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  18. We could hardly be expected to have an Easter celebration every Sunday. But we should. (And, if we did, we could perhaps explain to others better why we don’t make a bigger deal of one Sunday in the year over any others.)

    The difficulty, of course, is that celebrating that often becomes stale, like the parades at Disneyland. The employees all smile and act excited, but anyone over 3 years old knows that they’re just putting on an act.

    So, what to do? Make this Sunday a big deal. Lots of beautiful flowers. Even more beautiful music. Readings from the gospels about that glorious first Easter morning. And all the people in their Easter finery. Hats or easter bonnets required on all women and girls. Pretty new dresses in pastels for all the girls, with ribbons and bows and things. You can wear your frumpy old every Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes 51 weeks of the year. Men must have flowers in their lapels. And a tie that wasn’t used in last Pioneer Day’s three-legged race.

    And we should have a service on Friday of that week. As the Psalmist wrote, Joy cometh in the morning–and you just can’t spend Easter talking about Gethsemane and Calvary. Bach wrote the music already (the St. Matthew Passion), and the evangelist’s parts can be spoken–no law says you have to have a tenor like Peter Schreier sing them. Pare it down a little–you don’t have to do the whole three hours–but you better leave in Komm, susses Kreuz and Mache dich mein Herze rein or Bach’s ghost will come haunt you. (Or should, anyway.) But you’d better get the musicians practicing–it’s too late for this year, and there are only 52 weeks left til next year.

    And if your ward isn’t doing anything this Friday, I’d be happy to see you at noon at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 54th and Park Avenue, for their Good Friday services. Bring some money to make a contribution (completely voluntary, but unless you’re a complete piker you’ll want to give something after you experience this), and for hot cross buns from the bakery down the street afterwards.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 8, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  19. I was in a ward once where they had a sunrise Easter service. They met at the chapel for the service, then afterward we went to a member of the bishopric’s house for a ward breakfast. Then back to the church for sacrament meeting. I was working on the weekends watching a 98 year-old man overnight. I was so wiped out by the time we got to the sunrise service I could barely stay awake. I remember that the breakfast was great, though.

    I do wish we’d do more to recognize Easter. I really don’t think it would take much extra effort to put together a program like those in the Instructor. We did it back then, why not do it now?

    Comment by Steve C. — April 8, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

  20. Interesting. I’ve evidently had a much different experience than most of you. The wards I’ve been in have always done lovely Easter and Christmas programs. Additionally, I grew up in a place with a large, active Mormon population that put on the largest annual Easter pageant in the world and Christmas productions on an immense scale, including music both classical and popular. (I guess that’s what Bruce C was talking about.)

    Comment by Researcher — April 8, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  21. I was on my mission in 1980 when the sesquicentennial general conference fell on Easter Sunday. The branch where I served held a sunrise sacrament meeting before the general conference broadcast.

    I’ve occasionally heard people comment about how often general conference falls on Easter, but it really isn’t that often: only eight times in the last 50 years, most recently in 1999. It appears that Easter will coincide with conference next year, however.

    Comment by Left Field — April 9, 2009 @ 6:15 am

  22. I’m humming “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” as I read this, hoping and praying we sing it on Sunday. It should be mandated for Easter Sunday, as far as I’m concerned. I’d love to hear MoTab sing it at Conference on an Easter Sunday…

    Comment by queuno — April 10, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  23. As a convert to the Church, I have missed having the traditional “Easter Services” that I enjoyed as a younger person. I have observed family, visitors, and investigators disappointed on Easter Sunday that not a single mention of the Savior’s atonement, passion and resurrection was heard in our programs. No wonder others do not think that we are Christians!

    Comment by Sister B. — April 10, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  24. Well, while I’ve been to Sunday schools and sacrament meetings on Easter Sunday where the talks weren’t Easter related, I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a meeting on Easter that we didn’t sing Easter hymns and partake of the sacrament. Let’s not go overboard!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  25. It’s 2014 now. We sang an Easter hymn “He Is Risen” in sacrament meeting, but that’s all — a normal sacrament meeting — well, at the very end, the bishop’s counselor conducting did say an unscripted but kind word about how today was Easter. My teenage son had an Easter lesson in both Sunday School and Priesthood, and my wife’s Relief Society meeting was readings from the scriptures about the resurrection, but I had nothing in my Sunday School or Priesthood meeting. My wife told me after sacrament meeting that she was a little disappointed, and I was too. Oh, well.

    Sacrament meeting talks on love one another and obey the commandments. Honest and sincere? Yes. A celebration or remembrance of the resurrection? No.

    Comment by ji — April 20, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

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