For many faiths, today is known as Ash Wednesday, or the beginning of the season of Lent—a 40-day period dedicated to fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter. Christians who celebrate Lent traditionally give up specific bad habits, fast, pray, and practice increased spiritual discipline.
Though Latter-day Saints don’t observe the traditions of Lent, we can always learn a thing or two from it as we search for things that are of good report and praiseworthy. After all, we can always use a reminder to be better and have a more meaningful Easter.
So this year, make a commitment to up your Easter game and try one of these Latter-day Saint twists on typical Lent traditions:
Commit to making a “negative” change
Lent is well-known as a time to sacrifice. For the next 40 days (plus Sundays, which aren’t counted as part of the 40-day Lent tradition), make a “negative” change by resolving to take something bad out of your life. You could try giving up a TV program, excessive social media use, bad music, junk food, or something else you struggle with.
The idea behind this tradition is captured beautifully in the words of Lamoni’s father:
“I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22:18).
Lent is a good opportunity to try and work on giving away (even just one) of our sins to draw closer to the Savior.
Commit to making a positive change
Lent is about more than just giving things up—it’s also about focusing on the Savior and our dependence on His Atonement. As you remove something negative from your life, try to fill that void with something positive. You can vow to pray more, read the scriptures daily, begin holding regular FHE, magnify your calling in a new way, or start another good habit you’ve always wanted to try.
Good habits are the basis of a good life. As President David O. McKay said, “We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions; we sow our actions, and we reap our habits; we sow our habits, and we reap our characters; we sow our characters, and we reap our destiny” (C. A. Hall, The Home Book of Quotations).
Take time to repent
We are able to repent because of Christ’s Atonement—the very thing we’re celebrating come Easter. Thus, using Christ’s Atonement to repent is another good lesson to learn from Lent, which is considered a time of reconciliation.
“Repenting is a quiet and quite private, daily seeking the Lord’s help to make needed changes,” Elder Neil L. Andersen outlined in a 2009 conference address. Use your celebration of Lent as a reminder to always be working on seeking the Lord daily.
And if you have any past transgressions that require talking to your Bishop or other authority, take time to address those as well.
Have a “sacrifice meal”
Similar to fasting, a “sacrifice meal” changes your normal eating habits—but in this case, you don’t give up eating entirely. Instead, for one meal, have something more humble than your usual fare, such as milk and rice. In a small way, this sacrifice reminds us of the Savior's sacrifice for us.
As with Latter-day Saint fasting, traditional Lent followers donate the money saved from eating a sacrifice meal to the poor and needy. Consider donating the money you saved to fast offerings along with your normal monthly donation.
Remember: “Caring for the poor and needy is a fundamental gospel doctrine and an essential element in the eternal plan of salvation” (Bishop Dean M. Davis, “The Law of the Fast: A Personal Responsibility to Care for the Poor and Needy,” October 2014.)
Let the color purple remind you of the Savior
Purple is the color of Lent because it was the color of the robe placed upon Christ before the crucifixion (Mark 15:17).
During Lent, incorporate the color purple into your life in some small way. Consider putting out a purple table runner, buying purple flowers, or hanging a purple picture in your home. Then, every time you see the item (or any other purple item you encounter during your day), think back on the Savior and His sacrifice on your behalf. Also remember the commitments you’ve made as part of your Lent celebration.
Learn something about Christ, His Atonement, and the true meaning of Easter every day
The point of observing Lent—however you decide to do it—is to find more meaning in the Easter season and draw closer to Christ. The best, and perhaps simplest, thing you can do is resolve to learn more about our Savior and His sacrifice. Here are a few resources that can help you do just that:
Discover how the personal experiences of people who were closest to the Savior during the final week of His life can change the way your family celebrates Easter. Learn the meaning behind the wheat baskets, the red egg, and other traditions that will help Easter become a "High Holy Day" in your heart and in your home.
Or, for a kid-friendly version of this book your whole family will can love,check out the children's edition of Celebrating a Christ-Centered Easter.