Latter-day Saint Life

Free Holy Week guide: Learn Hebrew words and ancient traditions to make Easter more meaningful

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In His Majesty and Power, by Simon Dewey. Available at Deseret Book and

Studying the last week of Jesus’s life can teach us so much about Him and enhance the meaning of Easter in our lives.

In his April 2023 general conference address, Elder Gary E. Stevenson challenged us to rethink the way we celebrate Easter by asking this question: “How do we model the teaching and celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Easter story, with the same balance, fulness, and rich religious tradition of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christmas story?”

An understanding of the scriptures, history, timeline, Hebrew, and even Jewish traditions is an excellent place to start. And please don’t be overwhelmed by this—studying the last week of the Savior’s life can be both sacred and fun. I’ve compiled the following countdown to help you make your Easter celebration more meaningful.

One note before we begin: similar to other Easter countdowns in the Christian world, each day is listed in relation to Passover (i.e. “6 days before Passover” and so on). So, as a quick refresher, what is Passover and why is it included in this countdown?

Passover or Feast of Unleavened Bread is a yearly celebration that the Lord commanded His people to participate in to remember the miracle of the final plague in Egypt, the destroyer passing over the homes that committed to putting lambs’ blood on their doorposts.

The blood of the lamb on the doorposts was a type or shadow of Jesus Christ. “The Passover in the Old Testament and Easter in the New Testament testify of the great gift God has given and of the sacrifice that was involved in its bestowal. Both of these great religious commemorations declare that death would ‘pass over’ us and could have no permanent power upon us and that the grave would have no victory (Elder Howard W. Hunter, “Christ, Our Passover,” Ensign, May 1985.)”

Throughout His life, Jesus would have celebrated Passover, but it would be His final Passover feast with His Apostles that would give full meaning to this ancient celebration.

As you prepare to celebrate Easter, you may want to ponder: What has passed over you because of your commitment to Christ? How has His atonement saved you personally? On Sunday when you partake of the sacrament, take some time to reflect on the Savior preparing the sacrament for the apostles and how this last sacrifice of the Lamb benefits you.

Now that we understand Passover, let’s jump into our countdown! In each section, the bold text indicates something you can do to remember or celebrate.

Saturday: Six days before Passover

On this day, Jesus dined with His good friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. While at dinner, Mary took a pound of spikenard oil, which was “very costly”, and the strong smell of the oil filled the house. She took the oil and anointed the feet and head of Jesus (John 12:3; Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7.)

Mary’s sacrifice and service was of such importance and significance that Jesus said it would be a memorial to her: “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her (Matthew 26:13).

What act of service has been a memorial to you? What act of service could you do this Easter in celebration of the Savior?

Sunday: Five Days before Passover

On this Sunday, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the Old Testament Prophet Zechariah by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowd cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; That bringeth the kingdom of our father David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (Mark 11:10).”

הושענה Hosannah in Hebrew means “save now” and is taken from Psalm 118. Those at the triumphal entry shouting Hosannah wanted for and hoped that Jesus could save them from Roman oppression. What they didn’t realize was He was literally their strength and that He is the saving strength of His people (Psalms 28:8). Imagine being there among the masses who shouted Hosannah!

What do you want to be saved from today?

Draw a palm leaf on a piece of paper and write inside of the leaf all of the ways that you need Jesus to save or help you. What oppresses you? What heavy burdens do you carry?

Monday: Four days before Passover

“Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12–13).

Jesus would have walked into utter chaos at the temple that day. It is reported that there may have been around one million people at the temple, but this number may be exaggerated to prove a point: Jesus saw complete and utter chaos and thievery (Jesus the Christ, chapter 12, note 4). The people had defiled His father’s house of prayer, and the Savior sought to set it right.

Houses of prayer have always been very important, whether in the form of a temple or within the walls of our own homes.

While I was serving a mission in Fresno, California, we were encouraged to do this in our apartments. At the end of each day, my companion and I would make a list of everyone who needed our prayers. Together we would kneel in our room and pray for every person by name and petition the Lord for help.

Who needs your prayers? What names would you put on a prayer list? Create a list this week and pray for people by name and petition the Lord for His help.  

Tuesday: Three Days before Passover

It is believed that on this day the Savior met with His disciples on the Mount of Olives and taught some of His final sermons. These sermons are known as the “Olivet Discourses” and include:

Of all the sermons he could have taught before His death, why these five?
Choose and study one (or all) of these sermons and find out why you think he chose to teach these and how they can benefit you today.

Wednesday: Two Days before Passover

The scriptures do not indicate what the Savior did on this day, but the Savior knew that in two days He would be betrayed by a friend and crucified by His people, and this troubled Him (John 12:27).

Have you been betrayed by a friend? Maybe a family member? Can you recall a time when this happened to you? What feelings or emotions did you experience? Make a list of all those feels. The Savior is acutely aware of how you felt or may still be feeling.

Because of what he went through, “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11) He is the perfect person to turn to. Take time this week to consider that Jesus Christ knows you. He knows how you feel and what you are going through.

Isaiah taught us about Christ when he wrote: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” The meaning of the first half of Isaiah’s words is easier to understand, but what are the “walls” Isaiah refers to?

When Isaiah wrote this verse, the walls of Jerusalem were in shambles and broken down. This can be symbolic of our lives—when I feel broken, when I feel like everything around me is crumbling, my “walls” are continually before the Savior. He sees me, and He isn’t afraid to look. He is not ashamed of my broken or even destroyed wall. I am continually before Him. He has not removed himself. He loves me. That is the message of Easter. Any pain, affliction, or suffering I am going through—He gets it. He overcame it all and He is there.

▶ You may also like: What true followers of Jesus do: The sacred moment in Lehi’s dream found all over scripture

Thursday: One Day before Passover/ Passover

This was the day of preparation for the Passover meal, taking place that evening. After the Apostles dined with the Savior and washed their feet, Matthew wrote that “they had sung a hymn” (Matthew 26:30). What hymn might they have sung?

Historically, their ancient hymn book was the book of Psalms with Psalms 113–118 being the traditional Psalms sung at Passover. What song would you choose to sing with the Savior? If you were there, what would you sing?

Take time this week to reflect on the hymns as well as songs from the Children’s Songbook. Listen to them throughout the week in preparation for your Easter celebration. Create a playlist and share it with friends or family.

Learn the lyrics. If there are specific lyrics that mean a lot to you, write them on a piece of paper and memorize them this week.

Friday: Saturday after Passover

It was during this time that Jesus ministered to the spirits in the Spirit World,

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison,” (1 Peter 3:18–19).

He didn’t go to the wicked but rather He visited the righteous and “he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:30).

And as sure as you are reading this, the wicked spirits are being taught “faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:33–34, emphasis added).

Notice the word vicarious. This word is all about you. Many spirits are waiting for their work to be done—by you! This is temple work. This is the work of salvation for all of God’s children because as Joseph Smith taught: “The earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:18).

In the days leading up to Easter, consider how you can do temple work. Ideas include researching, indexing, submitting, going to the temple, and sending names you have found to the youth, family, or friends.

Sunday: Three days after Passover

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay (Matthew 28:6).

Who was there at the tomb? Who were the witnesses of “the most memorable Sunday in History”? (James E. Talmage, Jesus The Christ, 630).

Here are some questions to consider as you study about those who witnessed the Savior's resurrection: How many women were witnesses? How many men? (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20). How many men, women, and children on the American continent were witnesses (3 Nephi 11:14; 17:25)?

What about you? What is your witness of “the most memorable Sunday in history?”


Back in the day, when I was a mom with little kids, I knew I wanted Easter to be about Jesus, though I wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. But I did choose to immediately “out” the Easter Bunny. As soon as my kids were old enough to comprehend what I was saying I told them, “Your dad and I are the Easter Bunny. Easter is actually all about Jesus.”

For a while, that’s as close as I could come to making Easter about the Savior. Then one year I taped Christ-centered art to the mantle, hoping to put more emphasis on the Easter season in our home. Since then, I’ve continually tried to figure out how to make Easter all about Jesus, a journey I am still on.

And you know what? That’s a journey I am happy to be on for the rest of my life. Always pondering, always experimenting, and (hopefully) always drawing closer to Him.

▶ You may also like: ‘My Jesus’: 1 simple way to feel closer to Him (that’s hinted at all over the scriptures)

Learn more in "From Jericho to Jerusalem"

Enhance your Easter celebration with From Jericho to Jerusalem, an immersive guide designed to lend scriptural and historical insights to your personal reflections on the final week of the Savior’s life. This day-by-day account of Holy Week highlights the culminating experiences of Christ’s mortal ministry, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem to His remarkable victory over death. Featuring key scriptures, perceptive connections, and questions to ponder, this inspiring study guide will help you come to know Him better as you meditate on that sacred Easter week. Available at Deseret Book and

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