What is Easter?

Christus of Jesus Christ
Christus of Jesus Christ. Photo by Rachel Woods

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But where did Easter come from? In this article you'll learn more about the history of the word Easter, how Easter is the time to remember Christ's eternal gift, and how Easter gives us hope. Also see, How Mormons Celebrate Easter.

Where Easter Comes From:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified at the time of the passover. Three days later He rose from the dead and was resurrected which we celebrate on Easter.

From the Bible Dictionary we learn where the word Easter comes from:

"The word Easter is from Eastre, a Norse goddess whose pagan festival was observed at the spring equinox. The association of this pagan goddess with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was only by adaptation and synthesis. There is no real connection.... It thus became a springtime anniversary, and has come to be called Easter in the Christian world" (Bible Dictionary: Easter).


Easter and Jesus Christ:

When Christ was crucified upon the cross He gave up His life through the separation of His body and spirit. His body was laid to rest in a tomb while His spirit, which was still alive, was in the spirit world. While there, Christ taught His gospel to those in spirit prison1.

Three days later Jesus Christ was resurrected- His spirit returned to His body. Christ's crucifixion, death, and resurrection are all major parts of the Atonement and are what we should remember and celebrate at Easter.

The day Jesus was resurrected was the first Easter.

Many Saw the Resurrected Lord:

The resurrected Christ appeared to many people including several women, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, His apostles, and five hundred other men. After His resurrection Jesus also appeared to the people on the American Continent.

His visit and ministry among this people are recorded in The Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi chapters 11-28).

Then, in 1820, Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith. Their appearance is called the First Vision, and Joseph was called to be God's first prophet in these latter-days.

In 1832 Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw a vision of Jesus Christ. They said:


"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father" (D&C 76:22–23.)

A few years later at Easter time, on April 3, 1836, Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland, Ohio Temple and accepted the temple as His house (see D&C 110:1-10).


Since the time of Joseph Smith there have continued to be living prophets and apostles who witness of the reality of the resurrected Jesus Christ. (See The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles)

When Christ was resurrected His body became immortal, never to die again. He still lives and is with our Eternal Father in Heaven.

Celebrating Christ's Gift at Easter:

Easter, in the Christian world, represents the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate every year in the Spring. (From the Christianity Guide see, Why the Easter Date Changes.) Because of the Atonement death is not the end. We may not be resurrected after three days, like Jesus was, but someday we will all be resurrected and have a perfect body.

Salvation from physical death is one of the things Christ's Atonement does for us and is a gift that all of us, born on the Earth, will receive. Remembering Easter and Christ's Atonement is to remember Christ's gift of immortality that was freely given to us all.

Easter Gives Us Hope:

Easter is a special holiday to celebrate because remembering Christ's atonement and resurrection brings hope and faith. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

"This is Easter morning. This is the Lord’s day, when we celebrate the greatest victory of all time, the victory over death....

"There is nothing more universal than death, and nothing brighter with hope and faith than the assurance of immortality. The abject sorrow that comes with death, the bereavement that follows the passing of a loved one are mitigated only by the certainty of the Resurrection of the Son of God that first Easter morning.

"What meaning would life have without the reality of immortality? Otherwise life would become only a dismal journey of 'getting and spending,' only to end in utter and hopeless oblivion" (Gordon B Hinckley, "This Glorious Easter Morn," Ensign, May 1996, 65).

I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He suffered and died for each of us. I know He was resurrected and lives. Easter is a beautiful holiday when we can remember Jesus Christ and worship Him as the Son of God and as our Savior and Redeemer.

1See 1 Peter 3:18-20, D&C 76:73, and D&C 138:18