The Easters of my childhood could not be more different than those of my children. As a "Preacher's Kid," those Sundays in early spring of the '60's and '70's recall new patent leather shoes, pastel dresses, hats, and little white gloves. Easter lilies adorned the house, with the largest one placed on my grandmother's handmade doily on the grand piano in the front room. My father had written a special sermon which we would all discuss at the table that evening when we ate our traditional ham dinner. I sat sedately on the pew with my knees together, and head bowed. It was a special, awe-filled, reverent day, and I felt great joy well up in my heart as we sang the Protestant Easter hymns. "Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today" was twice as fast and toe-tapping as any Mormon ward has ever performed it, and then, my personal favorite:
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Fast forward to the 1980's and '90's. BiV tries valiantly to recall the Easters of her youth as she sews 7 matching Easter dresses every year, and volunteers to write Easter cantatas for Sacrament meetings. But most years Easter falls on General Conference days, and we lie around the house in PJ's, munching on chocolate bunnies and putting jellybeans on Conference Bingo cards while watching the talking heads. Frustration mounted through these years. I wondered how we could come from such a wonderful musical tradition with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and be satisfied with Ward Choirs who thought an acceptable Easter production was singing "He is Risen" with the men singing the first verse, the women singing the second, and all joining together on the third. Talks and lessons went on in the usual schedule, sometimes with nary a mention of the resurrection. Mormons don't do JOY on Easter, I realized.
That's when I started worshipping with my local Baptist congregation on Easter. No, I didn't miss Church (or any of the Conference sessions). But I'd search for a sunrise service, or one that didn't conflict with any of our meeting times, and I'd slip over for an hour every Easter. DH was against it, so I didn't bring any of the children. It was just me, feeling the great spirit of Resurrection morning in an anonymous way with a group of people I didn't know.
One Easter I found myself in a rather large Christian church with lovely stained-glass and a 200-voice choir. The program was a live musical rendition of the Easter story. I was sitting in an aisle seat midway back when suddenly the doors behind me swung wide open and a bearded actor in a homespun robe entered the building, sitting on a real donkey! He passed, close enough to touch, and I felt an amazing emotional reaction. At that moment, I realized in a visceral way that Jesus was a historical, real, vital person who had actually lived and walked around on this earth. People had seen him, and touched him, and listened to his message. I felt a conviction that he had risen from the dead, as the scriptures relate. I thought it not impossible that he had physically appeared to a farm boy in New York in answer to a sincere prayer. It was the strongest testimony of the reality of the Savior and of the restoration of the gospel that I had yet experienced.
Perhaps it might seem odd that I could receive such a strong witness of the Restored Gospel in such a place. Or maybe it is perplexing that here on my questioning, often critical blog I would include my assurance of a personal Savior. But to all my readers, seeking or not, believing or not, I offer you my Easter story, however you will receive it. It is why I struggle to find answers to the conundrums of Mormonism. It is why I stay when others tell me to go find another church. It is why I roll my eyes at some of the policies and practices and then I go and do what I am told. It is why I put up with the abuses of patriarchy and the sore spots where other struggling sinners scrape against my weaknesses.
There's a place within me that loves Jesus. I join with you to shout Him welcome this Easter morning.