Ep 270 – The Historical Easter

Panel Discussion

Posted March 27th, 2016

It’s Easter. And that means it is time for John, Randy, Heather and Glenn to talk about Easter. And Easter customs. And the historical Jesus. And death. And chocolate. And The Life of Brian. And a bunch of other stuff, too.





  • Ryan Gregson

    I remember being taught that Jesus went through the atonement again on the cross, but this time without help from the father, for full effect I guess. “Why hast thou forsaken me?”. That could have been my crazy junior high seminary teacher, though. That guy was intense.

    • Thomas Moore

      I’ve been searching for documentation or back-up on what I was taught. That Jesus didn’t suffer “all” sins in the Garden. He dealt with them in stages. The ones where a blood atonement was necessary were the worst that he had to “pay” for on the cross. So I was taught almost the same thing; but can’t find it. Also as Glenn has pointed out, Jesus was paying not only for the inhabitants of Earth but also the inhabitants of the other twelve planets per D&C and PoGP.

  • Randy_Snyder

    Just a correction: Heather was right and I was wrong about McConkie and that talk being his last talk before he died.

    • Aladdin Sane

      The reason that Easter is a big deal in Nicene Christianity is that in their conception it is a one-time only event in the entire history of the universe wherein before it, the death of the physical body was the final word, but after it “the chains of death were broken”. It is also significant because in Nicene Christianity God is sovereign and has zero obligation whatsoever towards his creation, including humanity, and that humanity deserves nothing from God and he owes us nothing. So this means that the resurrection was a totally unearned freebie gifted out of graciousness.

      In the traditions of Mormonism which recognise King Follet doctrine, resurrections have have already happen an infinite number of times before now, so it’s NBD. Also, in Mormonism, the gods are *not* sovereign at all, are bound by the natural, ingrained metaphysical order of the universe to repeat the same patterns over an over again, and are obligated towards humanity, “for I the Lord, am *bound* when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise”. So in Mormonism, gods owe us resurrections, we deserve exaltation if we follow through on our end of the bargain, and gods have no choice but to hold of their end of the deal and honor the *exchange*, which is not a gift since it’s done out of necessity which is owed to us. So in Mormonism resurrections are no more surprising or miraculous than gravity causing objects to fall, or water being wet.

      The same kind of undermining of the miraculous, novel, and gracious nature of the event applies to Christmas as well. Nicene Christianity acknowledges the absurdity of the Jewish Yaweh, which is the ground of existence outside of time and space, incarnating into a wretched human life. It’s a one time event done out of pure graciousness, and a completely incomphesible sacred mystery . You have to remember that souls do not exist before physical conception in Nicene Christianity, so the very concept of a preexistence spirit incarnating is novel. In King Follet Mormonism, it’s NBD, in fact, it’s totally unremarkable since *everyone* who has lived on the earth had to incarnate -it’s as common a dirt.

      The reason that Mormons still go hundy for Christmas is firstly because the fetishistic worship of natalism is overwhelming in Mormonism, to the point that eternal biological reproduction of the gods is *the* meaning of life itself, and the purpose for the universe existing. So a holiday focusing on both nativity, which is *the* core of divinty in King Follet doctrine, is a convenient locus for Mormons to vent their sacred passions on.

      The second reason is because Mormons have have inherited from their Protestant roots a quasi-Calvinist, predestination view of people being chosen by God before they were born for greatness. Focusing on Jesus’ choseness and specialness fuels their own subconscious belief that they too are favoured by God above the rest becaus they are better than other people. They attempt to temper the Calvinistic belief in deterministic predestination with the Catholic belief free will and good works, so instead of being predetermined for goodness like in Calvinism, they earned their choseness because of merit in a pre-Earth life, and can be derailed from their destiny and force God to choose one of his backups if we don’t straighten up. Mormons also perform this Catholic/Protestant meld in several other ways, for example by splitting the difference between an exclusive priesthood of apostolic succession and Luther’s “priesthood of all believers” by ordaining all of the males in the congregation. Anyway, Mormons like to be remind that a minority of God’s spirit children are elect spirits chosen for greatness because of their pre-life merit, and Christmas subconsciously fuels this arrogant egotism and ethnocentrism.

      The third reason is that Mormons obviously don’t live wholly within a bubble, and the consumerist, capitalist culture that they are swimming in has decided Christmas is a Big Screaming Deal for commercial reasons which go well beyond piety.

      • Randy_Snyder

        Thanks for taking the time to write this. I love the take of Mormonism in the early years being quasi-Calvinist. I wonder how much influence Jonathan Edwards had on Joseph Smith.

        • Aladdin Sane

          Joseph’s vision for his church was in all respects a “restoration of all things” where Joseph was attempting to both have his cake, eat it too, and split the difference and reconcile the rest in regards to everything. It’s common phenomenon best explained in this comic: https://xkcd.com/927/ . Joseph was active in a cultural milieu where deism, atheism, scientific skepticism and materialism had been ascendent for decades. At the same time, the old-timey fundamentalist, superstitious and spiritualist religion business and was booming. Joseph split the difference by proclaiming that everything in existence is material, but that “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.”. Problem solved!

          Joseph was huge advocate of American democracy and egalitarianism, and then went and had himself crowned King of the World. “All are alike to God”, but then he structured a heaven patterned after aristocratic European feudalism, complete, complete with lineage-based rank. Don’t worry though, if you weren’t born into the elect, you can always rise a servant based on merit.

          Infant baptism is obviously wrong -how could a baby make such a serious decision? But if we wait until they’re grown-ass adults with independence of mind and means, we’ll lose too many to the wicked world. Let’s go with 8 year-olds as a happy medium.

          Christians say that Jesus is a member of a mysterious trinity, but Joseph’s Unitarian family members, including his father to some extent, think that’s illogical, and that Jesus couldn’t be God and Jesus at the same time. So why not split the difference and make them two seperate gods?

          Polygamy is terrible, but how can you both reconcile that with with all the righteous prophets who practised it, as well as “restore all things”? Through plural “celestial marriage”, of course, which is more righteous and awesome than both naughty polygamy and humdrum monogamy.

          Belief in magical items are what self-conceived Protestants with their “rational religion” attribute to superstitious and backwards Catholics. So Joseph uses spiritual tools/technology instead. God is a scientist, dontchaknow?

          The church operates on the principle of common consent, as well as strict obedience to a rigid heirarchy.

          The very word “theodemocracy” itself.

          Mormonism is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a religion birthed in the cultural context it arose from. All it took was some a ambitious guru to take the various contradicting ideas and traditions swirling around, the creativity to syncretise them, and the charisma to attract sufficiently passionate followers to sustain the message. Sikhism came about the same way as a syncretic blend of Islam and Hinduism. Muhammad was riffing on Judaism, Christianity, and Arab tradition. Christianity is shot through Persian, Greek and Jewish thought, and obviously inextricably tied to the political context it arose from. Hinduism came about when the Vedic religion had to respond to the challenges of Buddhism and Jainism. “There is nothing new under the sun” and they’re all “standing on the shoulders of giants”, so to speak.

          • Randy_Snyder

            You should write a book on Mormonism. Splitting the Difference or The Second Great Awakening Charismatic Compromise. It’s a working title . . .

          • Aladdin Sane

            Thanks, cool title. Although one of Heather’s friends already wrote “In Heaven as it is on Earth” about the early Mormon habit of reconciling the eternal order of heaven with practical life 19th century American frontier life and culture, and a different Mormon theologian (whose name escapes me) who spoke on the Mormon Matters podcast about Joseph’s fixation on the the restoration of all things. I just took both conceptual balls, syncretised them, and ran with it.

            Everything is a remix: https://vimeo.com/139094998

          • Aladdin Sane

            Hey Randy, either you or Matt (I keep mixing the voices up) mentioned that they had listened to a podcast about a book written on the concept of “the good death” in antiquity. Do you know what book you were referring to, or what podcast the review/interview was on? I’d like to check that book out. Cheers.

          • Randy_Snyder

            Reasonable Doubts podcast episode 113. The author is Candida Moss and her book is called “The Myth of Christian Persecution”.

          • Randy_Snyder

            And I let it slide that you didn’t notice Matt wasn’t even ON THIS PODCAST. 😉

          • Pink-lead

            Thanks for the details.
            As you’ve expressed. I think Joseph was very adept at synthesis. The positive results to his actions, as he perceived them, were enough to confirm to him and others that it was literal and true. Eventually the inherent contradictions or tensions between those coupled ideas above caught up with him.

          • Thomas Moore

            Now wait a second. The more I’m finding out the more I believe that Mormonism was following the “Gnostic Gospels” and Gnosticism without knowing it.

            The whole Character and story of “God” changes throughout LDS principles and Dogmas.

            1) The whole Brigham Young teaching of the Adam God theory is an example of why LDS inc. today can’t be real. Although the Nag Hammadi library was discovered in 1944, a copy of “The Gospel of Judas” was found in 1970. This gospel teaches the Adam/God theory. It shows that Adams had the intelligences make him a physical body. The also created one for Zoe (who was later named Eve by Adam. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Judas and http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5327692

            This gospel also speaks boldly about certain sins like homosexuality, greed, patricide, infanticide, etc…

            2) Other gospels verify some of the LDS teachings (i.e. Mary was sealed to Elohim before being impregnated by God). Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of Thomas says that the leader of the church and the twelve was supposed to be “James the Just”; not Peter.

            3) I bring this up because of the articles of faith (8&9) that says God will reveal many more things. Yet, Hugh Nibley did a 12 part series in the Ensign on the Book of Enoch back in 1975. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1975/10/a-strange-thing-in-the-land-the-return-of-the-book-of-enoch-part-1?lang=eng

            Yet, this was never again “talked about” or published. Also Nibley referenced this as the real reason that Blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. He told the story of Noah saving Adam’s garments and priesthood robes and that Ham tried to steal them for himself. So Ham tried to steal the priesthood and instead him and his descendants were cursed to never hold the priesthood (also noted, Enoch being black, proved that Blacks [Cain’s sons] held the priesthood until the flood/Ham.

            4) Joseph Smith himself said that members should read and study the apocrypha (he intended to re-translate the books under inspiration) because he said there were many truths in it. http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no89.htm The apocrypha was part of the Catholic bible and pre-KJV bible until 1611, but was dropped by the protestant churches. So, what happened to our promise from God to always have constant revelation and prophecies????

            The Leaders have not had any gnostic thoughts, the LDS inc is being ran by lawyers and PR executives and through committees. There is no inspiration, revelation, prophecy or seer discoveries except by “Gentiles” who study archeology, history and ancient languages. Yet, even though some of these “new words” of Jesus and his prophets actually back-up and testify or at least agree with some of the LDS prophets of past, the “new” prophets deny and won’t accept such revelations. Instead they buy forgeries and heresy from the like of Mark Hoffman and his salamander papers.

          • That’s very interesting; I’ll have to read some of this stuff. I always thought Joe and Brigham were simply pulling their theology out of their respective posteriors. Maybe not always.

            I like the idea of Adam and Zoe. Maybe we’ll find out they had a neighbor named Steve.

      • Zeke

        Your explanation is also important to understand the polar opposite views of adam and eve in the garden. The garden of eden and the fall is a huge inconvenience in mormonism and really makes no sense, whereas it is central to understanding the relationship of God and man and grace in Biblical doctrine and Christian theology……..

      • Jose Galdamez

        “…rather than Jesus being wholly unique, he’s just one more of an infinite set of spirits playing the infinitely repeating messiah role as eternity progresses.”

        Imagine Jesus’ surprise after dying on the cross, appearing on the other side, and running into The Architect.

        Architect: Hello Jesus.

        Jesus: Who are you?

        Architect: I am the Architect. I created the Plan of Salvation. I’ve been waiting for you. You have many questions. Though the process has altered your consciousness you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand and some you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also the most irrelevant.

        Jesus: Why am I here?

        Architect: Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Plan of Salvation. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably, here.

        Jesus: You haven’t answered my question.

        Architect: Quite right. Interesting. That was quicker than the others.

        Jesus: Others? How many? What others?

        Architect: The Plan of Salvation is older than you know. I prefer to count from the emergence of one integral anomaly to the emergence of the next. In which case this is the sixth thousandth year.

        Jesus: There are only two possible explanations. Either no one told me, or no one knows.

        Architect: Precisely.

        • I like the idea of eternity progressing. From where to where do we suppose?

  • Thomas Moore

    Glenn noted how he ate lamb for Easter; then mused how it might represent Jesus “as the Lamb of God” or the Good Shepherd analogy??? I was struck though, isn’t that what the sacrament is in LDS inc.? or communion in Catholicism? The eating of Jesus to remember him by.

  • John Spencer

    Heather, several of your comments spoke to me this time. I’m an organist in the Episcopal church (both work for and confirmed). I actually had a funny experience this year where an old friend from my Mormon years.
    He came to our Good Friday program & Eucharist where our choir performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Theodore Dubois (my favorite piece to perform on the organ).
    Afterwards, he came up and said, “Holy smokes, you guys _really_ care about Christ. I had no idea.” We went to lunch on Saturday and I had to explain Holy Week and why we didn’t mention the resurrection during the Good Friday program.
    I thought his comments were pretty funny. 🙂

  • Phil Hampton


    Have you left the church yet? 😉

    • I should give my ward a thumbs up for the Big, Christ-Centered Deal Easter Program yesterday. Three choral pieces plus the primary sang. Only two speakers, both women, both speaking on the atonement. No mop-up male speaker or bishop remarks to fill in the lady holes (yeah, yeah, I hear it, and I don’t care.). It was a very Christian service promising the atonement can help with everything from zits to suicidal thoughts. Our whole stake seems to have an initiative to have female key note speakers more often. It’s nice to see. I’m not saying it’s utopia. I’m saying I appreciate every effort.

      • DontSpamMeBro

        Heather, I kid you not, I had a lady run up to me after playing piano/organ for an Episcopal Easter service Sunday and say “that was just… magnanimous!” I totally thought of you and chuckled.

  • Orrin Dayne

    I think D&C 19 gives solid support for the atonement occurring partially, if not fully, in the garden.

    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

    19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

    We have God saying he suffered for all in verse 16. We have God saying that suffering caused him to bleed at every pore. And notion of bleeding at every pore (albeit “as it were great drops of blood”) is set in the garden. I think that’s sufficient to establish Joseph placing at least some, if not all, of the suffering for sins in the garden.

    • Orrin Dayne

      And Spider-Man could totally beat up Bat-Man.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Oh but Orrin, if this is the single most important event in the history of the Universe, why not a follow up sermon by Joseph explicitly outlining anything, I mean ANYTHING even hinting at Gethsemane. Four prophets later, clearly Snow interpreted the Bitter Cup as the cross. A reading of D&C 19 is still wide open to the interpretation that he trembled in pain contemplating the suffering on the cross he would have to suffer but had the power to avoid if he didn’t submit to the will of his infanticidal father.

      And Spider-Man could totally kick Batman’s ass.

      • Orrin Dayne

        Maybe Joseph decided to let D&C 19 stand as is. How many sermons do we have Joseph going back to the Book of Mormon or any of his D&C revelations?

        If one combines verses 16 and 18–which I believe is appropriate given the antecedent basis for “which suffering” is in verse 16–one has “I, God, have suffered these things for all [Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore], that they might not suffer if they would repent.”

        Combing these verses Joseph, I mean “Jesus,” didn’t explicitly mention any other suffering through which people might not suffer if they would repent. No other suffering leading up to the cross (scourging). No suffering on the cross. To me, this places the blood-from-every-pore suffering as at least part of the suffering that enables people to repent. Otherwise, “Jesus” could have at least mentioned other suffering leading up to the cross and the cross too.

        At least we can agree on Spider-Man though. 🙂

        • Randy_Snyder

          I just don’t have the will to continue this debate when we mostly agree anyway. Lol.

          So Spider-Man vs Iron-Man. Techmology. Respeck.

        • Thomas Moore

          To quote Douglas Adams in “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”–“The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

  • Tim

    So I was sitting in sacrament meeting on Easter, listening to the primary children sing graphic descriptions of Jesus’ torture and execution, and I thought, “All of this literalism really spoils Easter. I would really love to hear what John Hamer has to say about Easter. What does he say to his congregation?” And, as inspiration from God — because what else could explain the immediate answer to my question? — this podcast was posted. I should really share this experience at the next testimony meeting.

    Thanks for another great episode.