Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry


Why Mormons don’t use the cross

posted by Dave Banack

Good question. For some answers, read Peggy Fletcher Stack’s Salt Lake Tribune article “Mormons and the cross.” The article suggests the LDS practice of avoiding use of the cross is a cultural practice that developed in the 20th century rather than a doctrinal position rooted in any scriptural passage or modern (LDS) revelation.



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Clean Cut

posted May 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm


Thanks, Dave, for highlighting this article. I wouldn’t have read it had you not done so. It actually addresses some questions/thoughts I had when writing a recent post, “Glorying ‘in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’”, on my own blog just before Easter. If you’re interested, here’s the link:
http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/04/glorying-in-cross-of-our-lord-jesus.html



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JLFuller

posted May 2, 2009 at 5:52 pm


I just asked that my name be removed as a member from an LDS apologetics site today after several run-ins with mods over some issues that I never knew existed before. Naturally I think I was right but that isn’t the point. Many of the other posters (reportedly LDS) were talking some seriously off base stuff as though it was legitimate LDS thinking. I suppose most were not members but actually had an agenda. OK, I am a big boy and understand the ways of the world. Some people are just dishonest. However the disturbing thing is the people who run the site seemed perfectly willing to go along with it. My conservative mainstream LDS thinking was hammered time and again while the popular worldly notions of the day were the new hot topics. The point is, are the young people of the church turning left?



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JLFuller

posted May 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm


I should add to my post above that the cross, and several hard core Catholic theological ideas were among the topics treated with a great deal of “LDS” favor. I have to think some of the respondents were legitimately Mormon although I can’t think they were good Mormons. But still, the question remains – how far to the left religiously are young LDS kids going?



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Dave

posted May 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm


JLF, I suspect a good survey would show something of a doctrinal or cultural generation gap (there’s a term from the past) between younger and older Mormons. But in my experience, very few young Mormons take a serious interest in doctrine or theology, at least to the degree that they are familiar with Catholic theology. Sounds like an unusual group you have been conversing with at the forum you once frequented.



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Dave

posted May 3, 2009 at 9:20 am


JLF, you might find interesting a series of posts I did a couple of years ago on the book Mormon Orthodoxy: A Crisis Theology. The posts are here, here, and here, all at my old site.



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Andy Hardwick Houston TX

posted May 4, 2009 at 7:57 am


As a Catholic, I learned from the Catholic Encyclopedia that the cross was not used by early Christians because it was regarded as an instrument of execution. This same book told me that early places of worship had no candles, incense or images of deity. The reason I joined the LDS Church was because it was most like the primitive Church I read about in a book written by Catholics. Everything I subsequently read about the ancient Church confirmed what the Catholic Encyclopedia said. Shall we go backward and now adopt all those things we disdained when the Church was restored? Why stop with crosses? Let’s get back to the worship of Astera/Mary (Queen of Heaven). I think Ms Fletcher Stack needs to re-read The Great Apostasy.



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Your Name

posted May 4, 2009 at 3:15 pm


“Let’s get back to the worship of Astera/Mary”
Will that slowly become the new doctrinal position? Maybe not from General Authorities Mormonism but perhaps a future grass-roots Mormonism, especially as increasing pluralism would provide such invitation. But first, you need to get rid of the KJV Bible.



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Manuel

posted May 6, 2009 at 12:50 am


I was also reading the article on the SLTribune. I thought it was really good. I was surprised at some people (Mormons) who were offended and thought the article was another attack on the Church… (????).
I know in circles of “academics and intellectuals” (especially here in the bloggernacle), such attitudes are usually minimized and brushed off as “oh, that is not how people feel, that was just another internet troll.” Although I agree a lot of times, other times I think we are in denial of true concerns that some people are not afraid to voice and that many others share but simply keep to themselves. Such is my feeling about the comments left on the SLTribune of this article. Ignorance, fear, apprehension and intolerance seem to reign supreme over many (MANY) members of the Church when it comes to certain topics.
I was born a Catholic and I thank God everyday for it, because I don’t have to deal with that strange familial/patriarchal commitment to blindly believe much of the nonsense that has been taught in this Church and which is more often than not taboo for members to even dare to question any of it (lest the more “faithful” Mormons start pointing fingers and screaming Apostate!!!! Apostate!!!).
Throughout the church’s evolution, many things have come to be embedded in the belief system, which are cultural and to say the least, uninspired. Having a Catholic background and knowing the horrors that religion in general can yield, I am able to see Mormon culture faults more objectively (at least so I claim).
As I became a member of the church, I was obviously taught the extremely tired, overused and abused explanation that the cross is “a symbol of death.” And the tedious and cowardly manipulative analogy… if you had your son killed by a gun, would you remember him by carrying an engraving of a gun?… blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
Symbols can mean many things, but ultimately they mean whatever the bearer of the symbol wants it to mean. This is why, this lousy explanation is outrageous to me, since Mormons have had to deal with endless misinterpretations of their own symbolism by other religions; why then do we intend to twist the meaning of the symbol of the cross throughout all Christianity? Ludicrous.
The article exposes a theory of the root for the aversion to the cross; in this case, it appears to simply have been an imposed view over the members of the church by boundary conscious (and perhaps resentful) Mormon leaders, as it is shown by this line of the article: Two years after becoming president in 1953, [David O.] McKay pointed to a Catholic church in California and commented: “There are two great anti-Christs in the world: Communism and that church.”
I also like that it exposes the strange (dangerous) influence that a religious leader (regardless of religion) can have on the followers, to the point that members can feel aversion toward something that other religions cherish. Yes, in my opinion, Mormons who feel aversion for another religion’s sacred symbols equals ignorant Mormons.
So let’s re-educate ourselves. The symbol of the cross to Catholics and other Christians is used as a remembrance of the sacrifice that Jesus endured to pay for our sins. To give it other darker meanings to brainwash either other members or ourselves is not praiseworthy. While it is important to define boundaries between our beliefs and the beliefs of others, it is also important that we do not misinterpret their symbols and that we don’t teach our children and our fellowmen to feel “aversion” or any other kind of alienating feelings towards simple and sacred practices, traditions or symbols of other religions. That just reflects an embarrassing level of ignorance that we should really do away with among the members of the Church in this new century. It is time to let go of the prejudices and the false traditions of our fathers!
Let’s not forget that for many centuries and even in the temple during Jesus’ times, they actually killed animals as a sacrifice over a bloody altar to signify the great sacrifice of the Son of God. Compare that to a cross! Let’s respect and not feel aversion toward how others wish to remember this event of utmost importance for all mankind.



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Dave

posted May 6, 2009 at 3:07 am


Thanks for the comment, Manuel. I’m not sure I follow which church you left or joined, so I’m not quite sure what position you are defending. It sounds like it is that different groups (or churches) can place differing meanings on the same symbol. So Catholics or other denominations can put one meaning on it; Mormons can put another. If that’s your position, I don’t think you can criticize Mormons for holding a different view of the cross or ascribing a different meaning to it. The article, of course, simply explored how it was that the Mormon view about the cross developed.
It’s certainly not the original or first meaning of a symbol that controls, which in the case of the cross would be whatever meaning pre-Christian Romans ascribed to it.



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Manuel

posted May 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Sorry if I wasn’t clear about my religious background. I was born a Catholic and later became a Mormon. I am currently and active and temple worthy member of the LDS church.
But, c’mon Dave, my long reply (perhaps too long) is specific enough to avoid the totally erroneous summary “So Catholics or other denominations can put one meaning on it; Mormons can put another.” This is exactly the criticism. Mormons have had to deal with the misinterpretation of their symbolism, THEREFORE, it seems appropriate that we AVOID doing the same thing… golden rule anyone?
If they (Catholics) insist THEIR symbols mean something, why should we (Mormons) insist they mean something else? Thus my complain about Mormons claiming the cross symbolizes “death.”
I disagree that I can’t criticize. In fact, I think it is our job to look introspectively and criticize ourselves, since that is the only way progress is triggered. Especially when I am talking about specific actions and trends that contradict what we ascribe to.
Avoiding self criticism is the first step to never grow, to never progress (one definition of damnation). If we never accept or recognize what we do wrong, how can we then ever change it for the better?
If I hadn’t been able to criticize my beliefs introspectively, I would have not been able to join the LDS church. My problem is that we tend to think everyone else has to do this self recognition and that we are somehow excempt because we have Prophets and therefore we are always right. We dislike being criticized by others, but we critizice whomever we feel like. We feel frustrated when others give erroneous dark meanings to our symbols and practices, yet we propagate dark and erroneous meanings about others’ symbols and practices. Get the point?



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Your Name

posted May 12, 2009 at 12:33 am


“Unto ye, thine… unto me, mine.” Some interesting things going on with we Catholics regarding the display of crosses in our churches. The Crucifix– that is, the cross with the body of Christ nailed to it– is appearing again in new church buildings, or even being brought back into existing building to replace the New Age-y, palatable representations of “the risen Christ.” We regard the cross, and most especially the Crucifix, as a powerful tool that reminds us of the horrible sacrifice that the man-God went through for our sake–to show us that life is valuable and doesn’t end at our mortal death. We pray in front of a Crucifix– not TO it, but rather THROUGH it– while reminding ourselves of this sacrifice. Even as children, the sight of a Crucifix is not repulsive.



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Your Name

posted May 10, 2011 at 3:53 am


The significance of the Crucifix is that it serves as a reminder of Jesus Christ’s humanity and that he did truly suffer for our sins (he truly felt the wounds and the pain because he is fully human as well as being fully divine, not half and half). It also serves as a reminder to us to live for him and the will of God. When we see the Crucifix we see what our sins did, we see the Mercy of God, and His Love for us. The Crucifix also reminds us to take up our cross and follow him.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)



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