Is It Time to “Resurrect” the Cross as a Symbol of Our Christianity?

“Sunday Easter Sermon”

The Cross is the universal symbol of Christianity

The Cross has been, and continues to be, the universal symbol of Christianity.

Yet, there are no crosses on LDS churches, and Latter-day Saints rarely wear crucifixes.

We Latter-day Saints are often “reactionary.”  We vigorously emphasize the differences between the restored gospel and traditional Christianity. And then we wonder why we are called “non-Christians.”  

For example, “In 1957, [President David O.] McKay established the LDS Church’s no-cross protocol, saying it was not proper for LDS girls to wear it on their jewelry, saying the cross is ‘purely Catholic…” Bruce R. McConkie “vehemently anti-Catholic, equated the cross with the Bible’s satanic ‘mark of the beast.’” (See: Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1st Edition, where he equated the Roman Catholic Church with the “Church of the Devil” ; “Mormons and the Cross,” Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 2009.)

Church leaders have explained that the Cross is a symbol of Christ’s death, but we worship the living Christ. So, instead of using the Cross, we use the non-Christian symbol of Angel Moroni on our temples and lapels. This causes confusion, leading people to believe we worship Moroni or Gabriel. This non-Christian symbol reinforces the view that we are not Christians.

Deemphasizing the Cross creates doctrinal confusion among LDS

Our lack of reverence for the Cross also creates doctrinal confusion.

BYU students were asked whether the atonement took place in Gethsemane or on the Cross. Over 80 % of the students surveyed believed that the atonement took place in Gethsemane, and only 12% believed it took place on the Cross.

Of course, this is a false choice. Both Gethsemane and Calvary are essential parts of the Savior’s Atonement.

By rejecting the Cross as a symbol of our religion we sadly downplay that Christ “died for our sins” on the Cross. (1 Ne 11:33; D&C 53:2; D&C 46:13)

By deemphasizing the Cross, we create doctrinal confusion. We sometimes teach that Christ atoned for our sins and overcame spiritual death in Gethsemane, and then He separately conquered physical death on the Cross

Gerald Lund referred to this as “doctrinal error.” “Nowhere in the scriptures do we find indications that the cross alone overcame physical death or that the Garden alone overcame spiritual death.” (Gerald Lund, Second Nephi: Doctrinal Structure, BYU RSC 1989, p. 94)

The Cross is at the center of our religion

The Cross is at the center of our religion. “Upon the cross of Calvary.”

“Although many Latter-day Saints focus primarily on Gethsemane when discussing the Savior’s Atonement, the scriptures and modern Church leaders more frequently mention Calvary.” (Considering the Cross: How Calvary Connects Us with Christ, John Hilton III, Deseret Book, 2021, p. 33)

While at least two powerful passages of scripture explicitly teach Christ suffered for our sins in Gethsemane, more than fifty verses specifically link Christ’s death on the cross with our salvation.” (Hilton p. 34)

Joseph Smith mentioned Gethsemane only once, using it as an example of Christ submitting his will to the will of his Father. On more than thirty occasions, Joseph Smith referenced Christ’s Crucifixion.” (Hilton, p. 34)

Ancient Celtic Cross

Joseph Smith declared: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven: and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (Elders’ Journal, July 1838)

Old Testament teaches that salvation comes through Christ’s death.

Old Testament is filled with passages that foreshadow Christ’s death. Abraham offered up his son in “similitude of God and his Only Begotten son.” (Jacob 4:5) Jonah was sacrificed by his shipmates, and he rose on the third day. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-15) The blood of the lambs saved the Hebrews during the Passover. The temple blood sacrifices were symbols of Christ’s death. Jesus himself declared: “Moses and all the prophets” had taught about Christ and his death (Lk 24:27)

Ancient Wood Cross

Importantly, Jesus himself referred to his death and crucifixion over thirty times.

Harold B. Lee pleaded: “It would be our hope and prayer that … in all our activities and all our teachings, that we, like the apostle Paul, resolve to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (“To Know Nothing Save Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,” Ensign, 1973; 1 Cor. 2:2)

We must also remember that the atoning sacrifice was not a single event; it was a process.

That process included Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the Cross, and his glorious resurrection in the Garden. Moreover, because the atonement is “infinite and eternal,” we cannot be fully comprehend it with our finite minds.

Finally, the symbol of the Cross reminds us to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.  “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Lk 9:23)

The scriptures teach that Christ died on the Cross for our Sins

  • “He was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Ne 11:33)
  • Christ was “crucified for the sins of the world.” (D&C 53:2)
  • “He surely must die that salvation may come.” (Hel. 14:15)
  • “He was crucified for the sins of the world.” (D&C 46:13)
  • “The Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh [and] the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.” (D&C 18:11)
  • “No redemption save it were through death and sufferings of Christ.” (Alma 21:9) 
  • “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross” (3 Ne 27:14)
  • “Redemption wrought through sacrifice of the Son upon cross.” (D&C 138:35)
  • “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross” (3 Ne 27:14)
  • “Christ loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.” (2 Ne 26:24)
  • Isaiah “was wounded for our transgressions (Is 53:5)
  • “He came into the world to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world.” (D&C 76:41)
  • “But the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins.” (Al 22:14)
  • “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5)

The ordinance of the sacrament symbolizes, and the sacrament hymns emphasize, the Crucifixion on the Cross

  • “Help me remember, I implore/ Thou gav’st thy life on Calvary/ That I might live forevermore/ And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.” (“With Humble Heart, Hymn 171)
  • “Let me not forget, O Savior,/ Thou didst bleed and die for me / When thy heart was stilled and broken/ On the cross at Calvary. (“In Humility Our Savior, Hymn 172)
  • “ For us the blood of Christ was shed;/ For us on Calvary’s cross he bled.” (While of These Emblems We Partake, Hymn 173)
  • “For Jesus died on Calvary!/ That all thru him might ransomed be.” (Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love, Hymn 176)
  • “Bruised, broken, torn for us/ On Calvary’s hill—/ Thy suff’ring borne for us/ Lives with us still.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” Hymn 181)
  • “ We’ll sing all hail to Jesus’ name,/ And praise and honor give/ To him who bled on Calvary’s hill/ And died that we might live.” (We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus’ Name”)
  • “He died a sacrifice for sin.” (“Behold the Great Redeemer Die,” Hymn 191)
  • “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,/ Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me./ I tremble to know that for me he was crucified, /That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.” (“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymn 193)
  • ‘There is a green hill far away,/ Without a city wall,/ Where the dear Lord was crucified,/ Who died to save us all.” (“There is a Green Hill Far Away,” Hymn 194)
  • “His precious blood he freely spilt;/ His life he freely gave,/ A sinless sacrifice for guilt,/ A dying world to save.” (“How Great the Wisdom and the Love,” Hymn 195)

There is a green hill far away, without a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.” “We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear, but we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.” “Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me! It is wonderful to me!”

Challenge: This Easter season, let us “resurrect” the Cross as a symbol of our Christianity.

(Recommended reading: Considering the Cross: How Calvary Connects Us with Christ, by John Hilton III, Deseret Book, 2021.) 

(www.londonedition.net)

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