This is a letter from the mission president to the missionaries.
Easter in the Philippines…..
March 25, 2013
As you know, Sister Carlos maintains a mission blog for your family and friends to be able to get a different perspective of your mission. For the last 3 years, she has also posted insights about the unique things we find in the Philippines. Accompanied by pictures, she tells the story of these interesting items. She titles this: “Only in the Philippines.” Today, I am borrowing from her original thought, regarding a unique thing about the Philippines.
Only in the Philippines, do you see people carrying the cross for miles under the heat of the sun during Easter Week. Only in the Philippines do you see men actually get nailed in the cross as a symbol of their repentance. Still, others flog themselves with sticks and rods to get rid of sin. Yes, Easter in the Philippines is most unique and so much different than what we see in other parts of the world.
In Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord made clear the need for repentance: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I; which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit….”
The Easter celebration in the Philippines focuses on the crucifixion. Yes, Christ suffered much there. Unimaginable suffering. But the suffering He endured on the cross was just a portion of what He endured in the garden of Gethsemane. He did it all, so that you and I do not have to. No, we do not need to be flogged. We do not need to be crucified on the cross. We do not need to be paraded across town to demonstrate our repentance. All we need is to accept His Atonement by coming unto Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
In Gethsemane, all humanity "hung on the hinge of Christ's character" (Elder Neal Maxwell). Gethsemane was a working olive garden. The first virgin press of the olives results in pure, extra virgin oil. So pure is this oil that we use it to heal the sick. That night in Gethsemane, like the purest oil, the purest Son emerged to take upon Himself all grief, all pain and all sickness and sin from Adam to the end of the world.
Like any precious gift, faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement must be accepted by those who are ready to receive it. The healing power of the Atonement begins by yielding our hearts to Christ. We must offer Him "our whole souls" (Omni 1:26). Elder Maxwell taught, "There are no conditions in unconditional surrender."
Some of us continue to withhold from Christ portions of our inner selves, be it our will, our love or our trust. Like Ananias and Sapphira of old (Acts 5:1-5), when we hold back a portion, we not only lose the Spirit but we deny ourselves the eternal blessings the Atonement offers. The Savior set the standard for those blessings: "...what manner of men ought ye to be, verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27).
King Benjamin also showed us how to access the full blessings of the Atonement. He taught that we must "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man and becometh...as a child..." (Mosiah 3:19). The Savior spoke in absolute terms: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). Little children are full of love and without guile. Charity, then, is the hallmark of the Atonement. Disciples of Christ put off selfishness and put on the selfless character of charity.
In the Philippines, they call this week “Holy Week.” Today is Holy Monday. Friday is Black Friday. If one were to visit any of the Catholic church this week, they will find all statues of Christ, Mary, Joseph, etc., are covered in black or purple, as a symbol of mourning. On Easter Sunday, these statues are again unveiled. Again, “only in the Philippines” do you observe this very outward and public expression of faith and repentance. This is in direct contrast to the admonition to “pray in secret” and to engage in a very personal and private spiritual transformation from the natural man to a true disciple of Christ.
This week, as you teach about Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, let us help the people focus on the inside and not the outside. Let us teach them about sincere “Coming Unto Him.” Let us teach them about true conversion and the real power of submitting themselves to the Savior. Let us teach them to labor mightily for this change. Let us teach them to focus not so much on the crucifixion, but on the majesty and power and mercy and love of the Savior and His Atonement.
As we teach faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, may we ourselves become fully converted to Jesus. The surrender of our will to Jesus is the only surrender which is also a victory. As we do so, we will enjoy the richest blessings of the Atonement, even to the "measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). We will know true joy with the life that is and "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17) in the life to come.
Ever grateful for the love of the Savior and the cleansing power of His Atonement,
President Rudy A. Carlos