by Sharon Lindbloom
15 March 2023
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new Easter video last week. Titled “Rise,” the 1-minute 43-second video is described in a church news release as portraying “some of the challenges of life and the hope and help that Jesus Christ brings to those who follow Him” (“New Easter Video from Church Offers Hope,” March 8, 2023).
I don’t really find this description to be accurate. While the video does “portray some of the challenges of life,” the “hope and help that Jesus Christ brings” seems to be missing. Let me back up a bit.
The LDS church’s Easter video opens with scenes of people experiencing deep sorrow and grief. While anguished tears dominate the screen, the female narrator begins, “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?”
The video gives no indication that the narrator has been quoting the Bible (1 Corinthians 15:55), but she now leaves scripture behind and continues in the same vein, “Addiction, where is your grip?… Despair, where is your grasp?… Self-doubt, your chains can’t hold me… The past, you have no power over me… Sin, you are swallowed up in Christ.” Each narrated phrase is accompanied by a visual depiction of struggling people receiving help: a grieving husband surrounded by family, a supportive group at an AA meeting, a kind gesture from a child, a post-it note left by a loving mom, a father embracing a grown son. Over each person in the video who is dealing with life challenges, an arch of the same design as the “tomb” in the LDS church’s logo is drawn around them.
Finally, the video presents a picture of a rock tomb with the stone rolled away. The same arch is drawn to outline the opening of the dark tomb, while the church’s brilliant white Christus statue appears to emerge. As the scene morphs into the full church logo, the narrator says, “Jesus rose from the dead. Because of Him, you can rise above anything.”
I was struck by what a strange message this is for Easter. Jesus gets an honorable mention at the end, but the focus is on people pulling themselves up, taking the steps necessary to overcome their life challenges. The person struggling with addiction gets involved in a support group. The person fighting loneliness takes the hard step of going out alone. The person struggling with self-esteem uses post-it notes to remind herself of her worth. The estranged son fears rejection but still dares to meet with his father.
With the visual of the church logo/tomb outline being drawn over every struggling person, the implied message is, “Jesus was able to overcome His challenges and emerge victorious from the tomb – you can, too. By doing the hard work and taking the necessary steps, you can overcome your own life challenges.”
According to LDS doctrine,
“[Christ’s] Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments.” (Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2015, 106)
The focus here regarding the hope of overcoming is personal obedience or, as it is so often stated in LDS materials, “making and keeping covenants.”
Therefore, in the context of Mormonism the statement, “Jesus rose from the dead. Because of Him, you can rise above anything,” points to self-reliance and self-help–persevering in doing the things one ought to do until you manage to overcome.
The LDS church claims this video offers hope; but, in fact, it strips the blessed hope right out of the joyful Easter message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Christian scholar Cornelis Venema explains,
“…the marvel of the Gospel is that God has lovingly [turned away] His wrath through the death of His own Son (Rom. 3:25; 5:9−10; 2 Cor. 5:21). Christ’s atoning work is also a work of reconciliation. By His death, Christ has removed every obstacle to the sinner’s peace with God…
“According to Paul, justification is a gracious act of God whereby He forgives the sins of believers and declares them righteous on the basis of…the righteousness of Christ [transferred to them] (Rom. 4:1–5; 5:15–17; 10:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). Though all have sinned, Christ was put to death for the sins of His people and raised for their justification (Rom. 4:25). Apart from any ‘works’ performed in obedience to the Law, God justifies those who receive Christ by faith (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16). This benefit of justification is a…blessing of salvation, which declares that there is ‘now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).”
This is why Christians shout “Hallelujah!” This is why they greet each other on Easter morning with the joyful declaration, “He is risen!” This is the great hope we have in Christ:
“[Our faith] will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 4:24-5:1)
The LDS Easter video, “Rise,” in keeping with Mormon doctrine, ignores the true and lasting hope God has given us in Christ our Savior, and instead presents Jesus as someone akin to an older brother whose personal triumphs can inspire and motivate us to persevere, overcome life’s challenges, and eventually “rise above anything.”
For Christians, Resurrection Sunday (i.e., Easter) is the most joyful and hope-filled celebration on the Christian calendar. While it’s true (and worthy of praise) that Jesus gives us comfort, strength, and hope in this mortal life, there’s so much more. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who trust in Him have been set free from sin, have been cleansed and forgiven, and now enjoy deep and everlasting peace with God. Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us (1 John 3:1)! In the face of such amazing love, those who belong to Jesus cannot help but joyously proclaim, “Christ is risen!”
He is risen indeed.
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