The Cross and the LDS Church

By: Darrell Boan; ©2009
The LDS Church’s aversion to the use of the cross and the emphasis placed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In LDS chapels you will typically find paintings commissioned of Mormon artists and in their Temples you will find different symbols, from sunstones to inverted stars.  However, one of the items you will never find displayed is a cross.  On the LDS Church website they provide the following explanation for the absence of the cross.

“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.”

While I respect this explanation, I find it in stark contrast to what The Bible has to say about the cross.  As Christians we rejoice in the cross of our Savior.  For upon it He paid the price for our sins, provided a path to God and made all things new.  Through it He became the mediator of a New Covenant.  The cross represents new life and is the tool by which Christ closed the gap between God and man.  Without His sacrifice upon the cross mankind would be doomed.  The New Testament speaks repeatedly about the wonder and redemptive power of the cross.  Here are few passages which speak of the cross.

1 Cor 1:18  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Galations 6:14 “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Ephesians 2:16  “…and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

Colossians 1:20  “…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Colossians 2:14  “…having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

Colossians 2:15  “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Given the way The Bible speaks of the cross, one can see why Christians display it as a symbol of our faith.  We turn to it with awe and reverence realizing the magnificent sacrifice of our Lord, God and Savior.  I continually marvel at the love of Christ displayed upon the cross as expressed in Romans 5:8.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I cannot understand why the LDS Church shys away from the cross yet readily displays pagan symbols upon their Temples… the sun, moon, beehive, hand grip, and inverted stars.  Most of these symbols were carried over into Mormonism from the masons and have occultic significance.  Many amateur Mormon apologists make the argument some of these symbols were adopted into occultic worship after they were placed on the temple.  That is a debatable point but has nothing to do with my argument.  I am simply asking why it is alright to place a symbol which is not even mentioned in scripture upon the temple but it is not okay to place the cross?  The cross is spoken of repeatedly in scripture with awe and reverence yet the pagan symbols are strangely absent from scripture.  There seems to be some disconnect here and their explanation is rather lacking.

Further to my point, some of the past LDS leaders have spoken rather disparagingly about the use of the cross as a symbol of Christianity.  Past LDS prophet Joseph Fielding Smith had this to say.

“We may be definitely sure that if our Lord had been killed with a dagger or with a sword, it would have been very strange indeed if religious people of this day would have graced such a weapon by wearing it and adoring it because it was by such a means that our Lord was put to death.”  Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 4, pp. 17-18.

The problem with Mr. Smith’s criticism…  the cross is spoken of repeatedly by the apostles of Jesus Christ with awe and reverence.  It is the means by which God Himself chose to redeem mankind.  Personally, I am fine with using it as a symbol of my faith and will choose to stay away from the sunstone, moon and inverted star.

The LDS Church takes the emphasis off of the cross and places it in the Garden of Gethsemane. Previously I spoke about the LDS Church’s aversion to the use of the cross.  Their explanation for this decision is, in my opinion, rather lacking.  I have often wondered if their view of the atonement has any effect upon their decision.  One of the primary differences between LDS and Christian theology surrounds exactly where Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins.  As Christians, we believe the cross played a central role in the atonement.  We approach it with wonder and reverence for it was the instrument by which God chose to redeem mankind.  However, in LDS theology the atonement has been partially removed from the cross and placed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Some LDS leaders have even gone so far as to assert the Garden of Gethsemane was the principal place of suffering in the atonement.  Here are some quotes by LDS leaders.

“We speak of the passion of Jesus Christ. A great many people have an idea that when he was on the cross, and nails were driven into his hands and feet, that was his great suffering. His great suffering was before he ever was placed upon the cross. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the blood oozed from the pores of his body.”  – President Joseph Fielding Smith

“It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him.”  – The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 14)

“His [deep] suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He took upon Himself all the sins of all other mortals…” – James E. Foust, Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

“…that he suffer the pains of all men, which he did, principally, in Gethsemane, the scene of his great agony.” – Marion G. Romney, The Resurrection of Jesus, Ensign May 1982, 6

Could the LDS aversion to the cross be tied to their view of the atonement?  Why the focus so much on the Garden of Gethsemane?  Nowhere in The Bible does it say the atonement took place principally in Gethsemane.  In fact, when The Bible talks about the atonement it almost always speaks directly of the cross.  In my opinion, the overt focus on the Garden is not only unbiblical it also diverts one’s attention away from the most important part of Christ’s gift to mankind… His work on the cross.  May we always approach it with awe, reverence and wonder!

All praise be to our Savior, God and King Jesus Christ!!


Tough Questions Answered

Leave a Comment