Unspoiled, No Ordinary Easter…

“My entire life, with few exceptions, I have weekly attended church services. Almost every Sabbath to my memory has been spent in prayerful contemplation with brothers and sisters learning with me discipleship in Jesus Christ. I am certainly not a C & E (Christmas & Easter) Saint, but recent history has challenged my record. Four days before Christmas I was struck by a reckless driver in front of my home and spent Christmas Day watching services with Monica from her iPad. My brain badly injured, I remember very little of that broadcast, mostly that I lamented not being there to sing for the congregation, ‘No Golden Carriage,’ as was previously planned. I sang last Easter, but not last Christmas. Although I am not yet recovered sufficiently that I could solo perform for Easter this year, my voice mingles with the Saints this commemoration of resurrection, the dawn of a new and holier season.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 30 March 2024

I have ever known Easter from my nativity to be a day of enjoyment, with warm family closeness, childhood wonder and play. Easter is a favorite holiday for more reasons than I can innumerate, however this Easter of 2024 has found me with a heavier heart than I am normally accustom. My Aunt Verlane, my mother’s only sibling, passed away last weekend, and left a void with which I have had trouble coping. Making things more challenging, my fatherly friend Phil has this week occupied a hospital bed fighting pneumonia. In my present condition I cannot plan to attend Aunt Verlane’s funeral, nor even hope to tend to the needs of my friend at his bedside. My troubled heart goes on feeling troubled, concerned for trials I am not feeling quite up to enduring. Oh, what a trying Easter this looks to making.

Dan and Phil during Spring 2023.

I am reminded of an Easter of four years ago, one I think we all can remember, one that did not have the same measure of wonder and play so many of us have known with Easters past. It was a unique season and time in our lives. Never had any of us experienced a time, let alone an Easter Sunday, like the one we spent in 2020. It was an Easter when all of tradition was interrupted. I was at the time serving as Bishop of a congregation of faithful followers of Jesus. Traditionally in any Christian denomination Christmas and Easter services are the most well attended of the year. Easter 2020 was different, different for everyone.

Families usually gather for various traditions of coloring eggs, hunts, feasts, or just to be together. Easter Sunday 2020 was different. For those who do not fill chapels and cathedrals, the parks and open spaces are usually fully occupied with happy people enjoying a beautiful spring day. Easter weekend in 2020 was different from any we had ever seen. The whole world experienced that season, that Easter weekend, differently from any time in our lives.

Vacant parking and vacant pews marked the day of Easter 2020.

One might say that COVID-19 spoiled all of our well laid plans for a memorable Easter. Planned picnics, egg coloring, and Easter egg hunts would have been so much fun. In our congregation we had a beautiful service organized, with inspirational words and uplifting music, that surely would have helped us to feel the Spirit and have increased testimonies, but alas there were no large gatherings for Saturday picnics nor Sunday services. Yes, the corona virus had its impact on the activities we and others all over the world planned for that special time. But was our Easter spoiled? Did COVID-19 keep us from having a positive and uplifting commemoration?

While it certainly was different from the Easters which we were accustomed, there were many lessons we learned, so many experiences we had, that drove us ever closer to the Savior who sacrificed so much that we might be redeemed, and arose from the grave that all will rise with Him.

From palm fronds to white handkerchiefs, the call to the Savior, “Hosanna,” is a call for today.

Holy Week 2020 was different from any I had known before. On Palm Sunday, instead of a traditional service, we celebrated with a live broadcast. In unison many stood in front of home television screens as a church and waved handkerchiefs for palm fronds, crying out, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! To God and the Lamb!” Focusing on the restoration of the gospel, I found my mind going to the cobbled streets of Jerusalem I have before trod, with palm fronds waving and a multitude of disciples shouting “Hosanna!” Indeed, that was a unique start to Easter week, like one I have never before experienced. We raised our voices in praise to Him as did the early disciples when He triumphantly entered Jerusalem. It was like being there.

As I studied the gospel every morning and every night that week I felt a new context and increased connection to my Savior and His solitary steps taken so long ago for our salvation. I pondered our differing circumstances during Covid. Some of us were with family, and some alone, but did we not all feel somewhat, or maybe even drastically, more solitary than ever before? I did, and so many felt the same. His path was a lonely and solitary one, one that He walked alone. We could all appreciate a little bit more what it was like for Him.

Solitary steps on the path to Golgotha.

On that Holy Week Thursday, after my family ate dinner, a “last supper” if you will, I prayed to begin a fast. A prophet invited the whole world to fast for all mankind in that hour of Covid distress and trial. “Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world. Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us” (President Russell M. Nelson).

Unite we did. Just as the Savior began His final fast on Thursday night some two thousand years passed, we did also that week. I had never fasted on Good Friday before. I must admit that I found it more difficult and stretching than most of my fasts in previous days. I felt greater physical discomfort and temptation not to continue than is normal for me, nevertheless I continued.

“In Remembrance of Me” by Walter Rane

Of course I did not suffer as He, but these words of King Benjamin ring ever more true to me now. “And lo, He shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be His anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of His people” (Mosiah 3:7). Although it is not the same, it never could be, even if we were to suffer unto death, but can we not appreciate more our Redeemer who fasted even unto the end of His life on that Good Friday? Easter season 2020 was different from any other.

The Savior in Gethsemane.

When the fast was complete and I moved back into eating and drinking, amid that sweet relief of quenched hunger and thirst my mind lingered more on Him than in previous fasts. He by invitation was more fully with us than perhaps in previous Easters.

On Saturday, four years ago that Holy Week, I filled a baptismal font for a dear sister Melissa, who had long awaited the blessed gift of making covenants with the Lord. We limited attendance to not violate state mandate. I stepped into the water with her and lowered her into baptism’s purifying water to receive forgiveness of sin, to take upon her His name, and to be born into new life. I felt with her the renewal that was brought to us by His atonement, for which He lay in the tomb on some Saturday long ago? I did. She did. I lifted her from that symbolic grave of water by His authority and blessing given. It was no ordinary Saturday before Easter.

Sister Melissa enjoys the redeeming blessings of baptism on that Saturday before Easter 2020.

Tomorrow came. Easter finally arrived, as did that day so long ago that all mankind awaited for millennia, when He arose. As surely as the sun arises in the East, so He arose in resurrection, but although the sun will set again, He will die nevermore but live always, as will we, because of His supernal gift.

That Sunday four years ago was like no Easter before. But so was that Sunday 2000 years ago, as it is Easter Sunday 2024. We share messages of the all reaching infinitely atoning hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, whether in person, by broadcast or written word, the Word is His.

Kellie’s Easter 2020.

This year, like 2020, and from that empty tomb outside Jerusalem’s walls, we know He is risen. Like that day so long ago when the stone was rolled away and Mary saw her Master alive before her, Easter today is no different, a different Sabbath yes, but how we experience it will be entirely by what we seek, or more accurately, how we invite Him into our day, His day. I am sure that she who sought Him at the tomb felt her day, her weekend, to be spoiled, until her eyes were opened and she saw Him. Seek Him and your day will never be spoiled. I know, even concerned for my cousins’ loss of their dear mother, and my worry for my friend Phil fighting to recover even amidst the blessing I had to visit his bedside today and joyfully minister to his needs, that the Savior’s power will overcome all.

“Christ at the Tomb” by Dale Kilbourn

May we seek Him like no other time before. May we invite Him with increased faith. May we love Him as He has loved us, and stand as witnesses for Him now and in all the days that will follow. There is no ordinary Easter, no ordinary Sabbath, but all our days may be extraordinary, unspoiled, as we invite Him into our minds and hearts, in crisis and in peace, always. He Lives! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Danny Malcolm Easter 1966.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.