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A Mormon Look at Lent


Before the days of the Internet and sites like Facebook and Twitter, I will confess that I lived in a bubble. I didn't think so, then. I've always been sort of a news bug, but that's different than daily coming in contact with things that would never have crossed my plate previously.

For instance, Lent.

Over the past few days I've been seeing status updates, tweets, and even group emails -- referring to Lent. I remember being in grade school and hearing references by my Catholic friends, to Lent, but never really paid much attention.  Frankly,  I was clueless.

I was over at one of my daughters the other night for a visit. She reminded me that my ward Relief Society Birthday Celebration is this week. (She attended my ward last Sunday -- I'm in Primary) I invited her to come. She turned me down. She said that instead she was attending a "girl's night out" with a few women in her apartment complex -- to discuss Lent. These young moms are a very diverse bunch of women. They live in UCSD married student housing. My daughter, who is LDS, has decided to participate in Lent. I was intrigued.

So, I Googled "Lent for dummies" and this is what I came up with:

What Is Lent and How Is It Observed?

On the Christian calendar, Lent is the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter. When it was first observed in the fourth century, its focus was on self-examination and self-denial in preparation for Easter, and Christians used fasting (abstaining from eating food) in the early years as a visible demonstration of this process.

Over the centuries, Catholics have relaxed some of the strict fasting rules. Today, only Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during Lent are considered fasting days. On these days, Catholics over the age of 14 are to refrain from eating meat. (Historically, this practice was meant to help unify people who could afford meat with poor people who couldn’t.) In addition, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, those between the ages of 18 and 59 are to eat only one full meal and two smaller meals and aren’t to eat between meals.

Orthodox Christians are far more rigorous in their observance of fasting during Lent, believing that regular fasting is a crucially important discipline for one’s spiritual growth. Meat, dairy products, and eggs (which historically were considered more luxury foods than ordinary breads) aren’t allowed, with some additional restrictions on certain days. They can only eat fish (which was historically considered less of a luxury than red meat) on the feasts of the Annunciation and Palm Sunday.

In addition to refraining from eating, Lent is often a time when Christians give up something pleasurable (furthering the focus on self-denial), be it chocolate, meat or — shudder the thought! — coffee.

 Some Protestant denominations (such as Anglican and Episcopalian) observe Lent, but many Protestant churches attach less significance to the Lenten season than to the individual holy days leading up to Easter.

I realize that this is a brief description of Lent, but as a member of the LDS Church, there are definitely aspect to this practice that I can relate to.  For instance,  Mormons are not strangers to the ritual of fasting.   For those who may not be aware, Mormons fast on the first Sunday of every month; and when we have a personal desire to do so.  We believe that through fasting we can gain strength both physically and spiritually.  We consider fasting a righteous offering unto God, as we...

  • Donate (at minimum) the cost of the two meals that we have abstained from to help the poor and the needy.  
  • Deny our physical appetite and turn to God, thereby receiving spiritual strength to endure and overcome life's many challenges.  
  • Believe that through fasting we are able to, with greater confidence, approach God in humble prayer for that which we stand in need.  

    As you can see, even with minimal understanding of Lent, members of the LDS Church have much in common with our Catholic friends.   What I appreciate learning most -- is that all who love Jesus Christ, and recognize Him as our personal Savior, have a deep desire to express our love in similitude of His Great Sacrifice.

    As Easter approaches and we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ -- we rejoice together in the knowledge that HE LIVES!


    tDMg

    19 comments :

    1. Growing up in a tradition that spends a lot of time preparing for the biggest days of the year - Christmas and Easter - it was very strange to me when my husband told me that basically Easter was Easter and that's that. For me, you get ready for 6 weeks, then you celebrate Easter for 7 weeks after that.

      Maybe we overdo it. Do you think there maybe was an advantage to keeping it to the one day? Did that make the day more special for you, or did it maybe express the message of Easter more effectively?

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    2. Good questions, Carla.

      I actually like it this year that Easter is late in April. I'm already thinking about it, and I kind of like that.

      Too bad that much of the Christmas preparation has to do with buying gifts and thinking about fitting all the festivities into our calendar, versus simply focusing on that miraculous birth of our Savior and what that means personally.

      I think that's why I've always loved Easter best -- as a holiday. Much less fuss compared to the actual event.

      To answer your question -- yes I do think, in general, we over prepare physically for both of these memorials. Commercialism often can trump focusing on the true meanings.

      Devoted Christians on a daily basis should be affected by the birth, life, atonement, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through continual practice of repentance of our sins and practicing forgiveness.

      So, no -- one day is never enough to remember Him.

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    3. Very interesting! I am a life-long United Methodist, and have always observed Lent. I have many Baptist friends who do not, and know very little about it. I love learning more about the traditions of other denominations!

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    4. Here is a good talk to listen to titled "Should Mormons Celebrate Holy Week?"

      As a Mormon I yearn for more fanfare for Easter.

      https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/?page_id=479&product_id=1147&category=3&category=3

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    5. @Rachel

      Thank you for the link. I did take the time to listen, and although I did not appreciate the critical undertone of the speaker, toward the Church, I do appreciate his message.

      As a former seminary teacher, and lover of the Doctrine and Covenants, there is much members could better understand about our LDS Church History and its significance to much of what is commemorated surrounding Easter. These things have strengthened my personal testimony of the restored gospel.

      @Christi

      I too, enjoy learning and better understanding how other faiths worship our Savior.

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    6. Thank you for sharing. It is always good to learn about our similarities.

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    7. I was wondering the EXACT same thing about Lent {and for the exact same reasons LOL!} Thank you for such a well-written and researched post, Kathryn! Perfection!

      Last year our Patriarch, who adds his lovely tenor voice to our Ward choir, challenged us the week after Christmas to use our musical talents in order to bring a celebratory spirit to the Easter Sunday sacrament meeting. Forget that lightweight stuff like Consider the Lilies {LOL} - we immediately got to work on the Hallelujah Chorus from Händel's Messiah and practiced it every week until that glorious Sunday morning. As we sang our glorious tribute, I was taught many things by the Holy Spirit that day and it completely redefined what Easter now means to me as a Latter-day Saint, especially the precious gift of the atonement.

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      1. Thanks for your kind words. Ah, I love the Hallelujah Chorus -- a favorite of mine. I can't think of a more appropriate song to sing on Easter Sunday! What a beautiful offering.

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    8. As an Orthodox Christian, just peeking in may I say I love your Post? Lent is my second favorite season, right after the forty days of Easter (or Pascha, as we say). I love it because it is a concentrated focus of our whole purpose - becoming the Person God created us to be. It takes so much practice, practice, practice. Really honing in on the time and saying, "Wow, I've got so much ground to cover. I'd better hurry up." Because the time is limited and the goal is glorious. Certainly, most certainly, God loves when we try, when we focus on Him. What we can never accomplish by strain or effort, He gives so abundantly. May you enjoy your Lent AND may God enjoy your Lent!

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      1. Thank you Kealani, I'm so glad you decided to take a peek and that you approve! And you are SO right about how it takes ongoing practice to become who God desires us to be. I too, am thankful for these types of memorials that encourage us to focus intently on God, becoming more like Him, and rejoicing in His goodness for all of His Children. Have a wonderful Lent season!

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    9. http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/04/fasting-with-power?lang=eng&query=fasting

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    10. I consider attending LDS General Conference as part of my Easter celebration. Then for the next six months I focus on studying the messages and altering my life accordingly - sacrificing my ways in order to make the changes He would like to see in me. Then in October I consider that General Conference to be part of my Thanksgiving and Christmas. Further, I consider the proper preparation for taking the sacrament each Sabbath as a weekly effort at making the little changes that are needed to oome unto Him with "full purpose of heart."

      Sacrifice is a beautiful thing. It is funny how it seems so hard to do in the deciding and in the beginning, and later it is so joyous to the soul that you can hardly say you sacrificed at all.

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      1. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I was just thinking this morning, that we are once again nearing General Conference. What a wonderful time of year to consider our standing before the Lord and renew our commitments and covenants. I love the every six month renewal that Conference brings us!

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    11. Can someone tell me if Mormons actually believe that Satan is Jesus brother? Was Jesus Christ once a sinner in another world, or has he always been God? How can a Mormon really know if Jesus is my elder brother or my personal savior? what must I do to live with him someday?

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      Replies
      1. Those are some excellent questions. However, each one would require a separate blog post to address -- at the very least. ; )

        If I may, I'd like to direct you to Mormon.org where you can actually chat live with a member of the LDS Church, as well as search each of these topics, on the site, and read the thoughts of various Mormons.

        But if you'd prefer you can always add me as a friend on Facebook and we can chat, at length, over there. http://facebook.com/kathryn.skaggs

        Take care!

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