Three books for Easter offer nonfiction and fiction

By Emily W. Jensen, Rosemarie Howard and Jarrod Hiatt

For Mormon Times

Published: Saturday, April 16 2011 4:30 a.m. MDT

“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD: The Final Days of the Savior’s Life ,” by Eric D. Huntsman, Deseret Book, 2011, 148 pages, $24.99

A cover portraying a crown of thorns is a simple but powerful image, and simple but powerful also describes the message of the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, celebrated each year at Easter time.

In “God So Loved the World: The Final Days of the Savior’s Life,” BYU ancient scripture professor Eric Huntsman sets out, in an organized, beautiful and scholarly fashion, to outline why and how Mormon families can celebrate the entire Easter week.

The book contains a plethora of works from both LDS and non-LDS scholars in the notes, and there are many different paintings of the Savior, including some not-so-usual Latter-day Saint fare and classical paintings — as well as photos and maps depicting biblical areas.

Readers will find detailed descriptions of each day of the Savior’s final week, ideas for scriptural readings, scholarly asides and Huntsman’s personal testimony.

One delightful element is Huntsman’s inclusion of suggested devotional hymns and classical works. The music provides a lovely backdrop for the academic explanations.

As Huntsman said, “Like many other believers of various Christian communities, we can choose to make Easter a more important part of our year by preparing for it beforehand with a period of reflection and study, using scriptures, music, art and testimony to bring us to a greater appreciation of all the events connected with Easter.”

And all of these features are found in Huntsman’s work.

“If we make this choice we may feel better the Spirit of these most events as we celebrate them not just annually in our church Easter programs but also weekly in the heartfelt singing of hymns and the reverent partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper," he said.

— Emily W. Jensen

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"THE TOMB BUILDER," by E. James Harrison, Bonneville Books, 151 pages, $11.99

“The Tomb Builder” is an intriguing tale, based on historical facts, and there are not many about Joseph of Arimethea. He is only mentioned briefly in the New Testament (Matthew 27:57; Luke 23:50-51 and John 19:38) as the man who begged the body of Christ from Pilate, and who used his own tomb to bury it.

Joseph has been secretly listening to and meeting with Jesus of Nazareth often late at night. He is a well-to-do, hardworking, God-fearing, self-made merchant who is respected in the highest circles of Jewish society.

“Joseph of Arimathea was a man at odds with himself, a man whose entire world was slowly but definitely being tipped on its edge. He had spent a lifetime pursuing only two things: God and wealth — in that order. Now both were being called into question by what this man from Nazareth was teaching.”

His wife, Devorah, a devout Jewish woman, is upset about the late-night meetings and fears his association with Jesus will destroy them. Her family relationship, as a cousin, to Caiaphas doesn’t make things easier for her.

Years before this story unfolds, Joseph felt a strong urge to have a tomb built. It is now complete, “a tomb fit for a king.” He wonders, “For whom has this tomb been constructed?” The answer comes in a challenging and heart-wrenching way that changes his life and costs him almost everything.

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