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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.

Set in Jerusalem during the last weeks of the Savior’s life, this book, by E. James Harrison, recreates the world of the wealthy members of the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council. Harrison takes us into their personal lives and council chambers and helps us imagine what their meetings might have been like as they plotted to kill Jesus.

In an author’s note at the beginning of the book, Harrison makes it clear that the book is another legend based on many other legends. “Although laced together with facts and details recorded in the Old and New Testaments as well as ancient historical records, (the book) springs from the imagination ...  of the author.”

The story is a well-written, easy-to-read, thoughtful examination of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and would be a great book to read and discuss as a family, especially at Easter time.

— Rosemarie Howard

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"MY REDEEMER LIVES!" edited by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Kent P. Jackson, Deseret Book, 151 pages, $14.99

Building and maintaining a testimony of the Savior can be a challenging thing for many people to do. The authors and editors of "My Redeemer Lives!," published by Deseret Book, hope the essays presented in the book will strengthen the conviction of its readers and add, if even only a little, to their overall testimonies of Jesus Christ.

"My Redeemer Lives!" is a collection of essays centered on the Savior and presented as speeches at two recent Easter Conferences at Brigham Young University. Each of the six addresses in the book provides  tremendous insight into the Savior’s life and presents thought-provoking subject matter.

Editors Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Kent P. Jackson have compiled the essays of Elder John H. Groberg, an emeritus general authority; Elder Gerald N. Lund, a former member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy; Daniel L. Belnap; Robert L. Millet; Sandra Rogers; and Charles Swift for "My Redeemer Lives!"

Each author chooses a different, yet relevant, topic. Elder Groberg addresses how the Atonement can help us overcome adversity and inspire us to do better in our lives.

Elder Lund’s essay speaks of what the Atonement meant to the Savior, while Belnap relays how Christ gave us the power to become sons and daughters of God.

Millet defines what we worship; Rogers elaborates on freedom through Christ, and Swift relates stories from his ministry and provides perspective on the conditions surrounding certain miracles.

"My Redeemer Lives!" is an enjoyable book, and anyone looking to hear positive messages about the Savior will enjoy it.

— Jarrod M. Hiatt

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