Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

The Cross Part 1

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.

In my next post I will talk about how the LDS Church takes the emphasis off of the cross and places it in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Darrell


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Comments

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Just about every Protestant denomination in the United States in the early 1800s refused to use the cross as a symbol for the simple fact that they associated it too much with Roman Catholicism. Baptists, for example refused to display the cross.

    The adoption of the cross as a holy symbol by American Protestants is actually a rather recent historical development. Mormonism, being geographically isolated never felt the same trends that pushed the cross back into popularity in the rest of America.

    And by the way, the pentagram – upright or inverted – is a holy Christian symbol. It represents the five wounds of Christ and also is meant to symbolize the Trinity. It also has mathematical significance that has been analogized to Christian symbols. Inverted pentagrams are, for instance, displayed on the Cathedral of Chartres, France (it is also found in the Congressional Medal of Honor, incidentally). Originally, the pentagram was the holy symbol adopted by Emperor Constantine.

    Just some fun facts for you.

  • Shastri JC Philip

    “I cannot understand why the LDS Church shys away from the cross yet readily displays pagan symbols upon their Temples”

    Anything except the truth will be accepted!!

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)
    India

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Seth,

    I love it when you come over… you always keep me on my toes!!

    “And by the way, the pentagram – upright or inverted – is a holy Christian symbol.”

    Actually, not originally. It’s earliest origins are in the Greek culture and it’s use was adopted into early Christianity. Since this time it has taken on heavy pagan usage and is no longer used as a Christian symbol.

    As for the 5 points representing the 5 wounds of Jesus, my only question would be why is that siginificant for LDS? As one learns in the Temple you guys actually believe in 7 wounds… 2 in the hands, 2 in the feet, the spear in His side and 2 more in the wrists. In addition, wouldn’t putting that on the Temple mean you are remembering the suffering and dying of the Savior which is the whole reason given for not displaying the cross? Seems contradictory.

    “Just about every Protestant denomination in the United States in the early 1800s refused to use the cross as a symbol for the simple fact that they associated it too much with Roman Catholicism.”

    Yes, there were some protestants who felt this way (although I would not say EVERY Protestant denomination was as dogmatic about it as you make it appear). However, the authority of scripture won out. The desire to appear separate from the Catholic Church overode the authority of scripture for a time and they were wrong, IMO, to do this. Fortunately, people came to their senses and turned back to the authority of scripture rather than worrying about the opinion of man. Not to sound to brash but who cares about what some american christians did? As mom used to say, “If they jump off a bridge does that make it okay for you to do it?”

    What does this have to do with my point about the LDS Church today? Why are they so willing wear CTR rings and put symbols which have no scriptural mention on the Temple yet so unwilling to display the cross? The cross is spoken of repeatedly in The Bible with awe and reverence. There is no mention of the handshake, the moon, the sunstone, etc.

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    I imagine the inverted pentagram was something copied that stuck. When Brigham Young was overseeing the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, he sent out artisans to go on “field trips” to Europe to study European architecture and artwork. They brought back what they observed. The pentagram may simply be one of the imports.

    As to whether the Mormons SHOULD lighten up on the cross as a symbol…

    Sure, I’ll agree with you. They probably should.

  • Mike Reed

    As stated by Seth, it is true that mainstream American Protestants rejected the material symbol of the cross in the 19th century (cf. Ryan K. Smith’s “Gothic Arches Latin Crosses”). It is not true, however, that early Mormons concurrently rejected the symbol. The LDS cross aversion rather was a late development, starting at the grass roots level around the turn of the 20th century, and was later institutionalized under the direction of Prophet David O. McKay. By this time, the Protestant mainstream had already started accepting the symbol. Prior to this time (as shown in my MA thesis), many Mormons were quite accepting of the cross as an expression of their faith. Ironically, two forces that helped Mormons to accept the symbol, despite the general protestant rejection of it, were early LDS involvement in occult arts. Both folk-magic and masonic circles accepted and promoted the symbol. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, both folk-magic and freemasonry had largely become things of the past. It is at this time (during a wave of anti-Catholic tension in Utah) that a rejection of the cross starts to show up in the Mormon mainstream. Search LDS histories, and you will have a difficult (if not impossible) time finding a single negative statement toward the cross prior to 1877.

  • Mike Reed

    Seth: I imagine the inverted pentagram was something copied that stuck. When Brigham Young was overseeing the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, he sent out artisans to go on “field trips” to Europe to study European architecture and artwork. They brought back what they observed. The pentagram may simply be one of the imports.

    Me: Good guess, except that the inverted pentagram was used by LDS prior to Brigham Young’s presidency. The Nauvoo Temple windows had inverted pentagrams on them, for example. Joseph Smith undoubtedly adopted the symbol of the pentagram from occult circles that he was involved in (whether from freemasonry, folk-magic, or both). Does this therefore mean that the symbol was not Christian? I guess that depends on how you define “Christianity.” To be sure, occultists often attributed Christian meaning to the pentagram. Joseph Smith did too. Was the Pentagram pagan in origin? I don’t know if it matters, since it would be a fallacy to assert that the origin of something necessarily determines its current significance. The Pentagram was a prehistoric and pagan symbol, just as the cross was. That being said… it seems rather hypocritical for Christians to condemn the pentagram on these grounds, and yet embrace the cross. The same goes for Mormons who accept the pentagram, and reject the cross because of its pagan origin.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Mike,

    Thanks for coming over. I have read some of your posts on another blog… I am trying to recall which. I believe it was a blog hosted by a seminary president??

    “That being said… it seems rather hypocritical for Christians to condemn the pentagram on these grounds, and yet embrace the cross.”

    I agree with you. Just because something has pagan origins should not lead us to condemn it wholesale today. That would be applying a genetic fallacy. My problem with the LDS Church is their rejection today of the use of the cross. The cross is spoken of continually in scripture while none of the pagan symbols contained on the Temple are even mentioned. To be exact they are not even spoken of in LDS circles. I have asked many Mormons to explain the stars, sunstones, etc on the Temple and most of them look at me as if I am crazy… they aren’t even aware they are on there! It would make sense to at least explain the meaning of these symbols if they are important enough to be placed on “the house of God”.

    Darrell

  • Mike Reed

    Darryll: As for the 5 points representing the 5 wounds of Jesus, my only question would be why is that siginificant for LDS? As one learns in the Temple you guys actually believe in 7 wounds… 2 in the hands, 2 in the feet, the spear in His side and 2 more in the wrists. In addition, wouldn’t putting that on the Temple mean you are remembering the suffering and dying of the Savior which is the whole reason given for not displaying the cross? Seems contradictory.

    Me: If you want to be technical, Jesus had many more wounds, due to being whipped prior to his crucifixion. :) Anyhow… no matter how you choose to count them, the fact remains that the pentagram was used by Christians to represent the five wounds of Christ: hands, feet and side. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Wounds The association of the pentagram with the wounds further promoted by Christian occultists (in folk-magic and freemasonry). During the LDS endowment, Mormons assume the position of the pentagram (five points of fellowship) as they receive the symbolic imprints of Christ’s crucifixion.

    You make a good point, however, that this seems to be in contradiction with the current LDS rejection of the cross (saying that it represents the death of Jesus). But again… I previously explained, the LDS cross aversion was a *late* development in Mormon history. In the early days of the Church (when the endowment, SLC Temple, and Nauvoo Temple were first created), there was no contradiction. In fact… if you look closely at the pentagram windows on the Nauvoo temple, you will notice that they are even surrounded by cruciform stonework. The pentagram-crosses allude to the LDS endowment, and symbolize the wounds that Jesus received while being crucified.

    The association of the cross with the pentagram is not new in Christianity. The Catholic rosary generally has five beads on it. If you open it as a circle and connect the dots, you get a pentagram. Furthermore, if you look at the Lutheran rose-cross, you will notice the five petals (petagram) and cross in the middle. The Lutheran rose-cross coloring even matches the coloring on the reconstructed Nauvoo temple windows: red center, white points (petals), surrounded by blue.

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Interesting Mike. The Masonic connection seems likely enough for the pentagram. Thing is, a lot of the explanation of the Christian symbolism of the pentagram is stuff I’ve seen on Mason apologist websites. So the Christian symbology probably still holds.

    Anyway, I don’t see that modern LDS need adopt ritual display of the cross. However, I see no reason for anti-cross sentiment in the modern LDS Church either. Certainly stories of Mormon youths in Utah confronting some hapless Catholic girl with “how can you wear Christ’s torture device around your neck?” are unfortunate and should be corrected.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    Mike,

    Thanks for the info. I am former LDS (now Christian) and received my endowment in 1994. You mention the following…

    “During the LDS endowment, Mormons assume the position of the pentagram (five points of fellowship) as they receive the symbolic imprints of Christ’s crucifixion.”

    I don’t recall this. When is this done during the endowment? Are you talking about during the washing and anointing?

    Darrell

  • Mike Reed

    Derryll: Thanks for coming over. I have read some of your posts on another blog… I am trying to recall which. I believe it was a blog hosted by a seminary president??

    Me: It could be. I’ve been all over lately, trying to pass along my research. Thanks for the warm welcome.

    Darryll: The cross is spoken off continually in scripture while none of the pagan symbols contained on the Temple are even mentioned. To be exact they are not even spoken of in LDS circles. I have asked many Mormons to explain the stars, sunstones, etc on the Temple and most of them look at me as if I am crazy… they aren’t even aware they are on there! It would make sense to at least explain the meaning of these symbols if they are important enough to be placed on “the house of God”.

    Me: I’ve heard LDS explain the moon-stones, star-stones, and sun-stones, by claiming that they represent the three degrees of glory (which they interpret from 1st Corinthians 15:41. This, I believe, is a correct interpretation for the order of symbols on the SLC temple, but not the Nauvoo temple (since the stars are placed above the sun, instead of below). The order of symbols in the masonry of the Nauvoo temple, rather alludes to the Bride of Christ spoken of in Revelation 12; who would be clothed in the sun, have the moon at her feet, and be wearing a crown of stars. Wandel Mace, who was the foreman for the Nauvoo temple’s framework, has confirmed this. Incidentally, this symbolism (which indeed has biblical precedent) would have had particular appeal to Seekers, Primitivists, and occultists (particularly those influenced by Emmanuel Swedenborg).

  • Mike Reed

    I agree. Joseph Smith adopted the symbolism from Masonry, and chose meanings that appealed particularly to Christian ideas. As you may be aware, in Joseph Smith’s day, there was a movement (led by Masons like Salem Town) to reChristianize freemasonry. Instead of raising Hyram Abiff from the grave, for example, many Christians chose instead to interpret Hiram as Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith clearly took part in this movement as he developed the endowment. The symbolism of the nauvoo temple’s stonework, representing the bride of Christ, further illustrates Joseph Smith’s tendency.

  • Mike Reed

    No. I am talking about the position at the veil. Before the endowment was edited in 1990, there was an explicit detailed reference to the Five Points of Fellowship. These details are now gone, but the positioning still remains (although less intimate than had previously been).

    The following is a description of the Masonic ritual:

    “He [the candidate] is raised on what is called the five points of fellowship…. This is done by putting the inside of your right foot to the inside of the right foot of the person to whom you are going to give the word, the inside of your knee to his, laying your right breast against his, your left hands on the back of each other, and your mouths to each other’s right ear [in which position you are alone permitted to give the word], and whisper the word MAH-HA-BONE.” William Morgan, Light on Masonry, ed. David Bernard (1829), 69, http://books.google.com/books?id=QlIZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69

    The LDS endowment (prior to 1990) gave almost identical description/instruction.

    Here is a link where you can read the details: http://www.ldsendowment.org/veil.html

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    The “report at the veil” is not like that today. Nothing is done with the feet, knees or breasts. You simply place your left hands on one anothers shoulders and perform the various grips while sharing the names of each through the veil. It is amazing how they have radically changed the endowment as times have changed. No more mock slitting of the throat or overt ridiculing of ministers. IMO, further evidence it is manmade.

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Of course it’s man-made Darrell.

    All religion is man-made – whether it’s true or not.

  • Mike Reed

    Darrell: The “report at the veil” is not like that today. Nothing is done with the feet, knees or breasts.

    Me: Right. This part of the endowment is less intimate than it used to be.

    Darrell: You simply place your left hands on one anothers shoulders and perform the various grips while sharing the names of each through the veil. It is amazing how they have radically changed the endowment as times have changed. No more mock slitting of the throat or overt ridiculing of ministers.

    Me: Yeah. A few of these changes, I am sure we’d agree, are probably for the better. ;)

    Darrell: IMO, further evidence it is manmade.

    Me: Maybe. Be careful with that theory, though, because it could be turned against Judeo-Christianity (no longer practicing circumcision, dietary codes, animal sacrifice, communal feasts, Mikvah regulations for baptism, etc). :) Rather than cast blame or ridicule other faiths… I spend more time simply trying to understand why things happen. But that’s just me.

    Anyhow… I better get going for now. Thank you kindly for letting me participate on your blog. It has been fun. Have a great day, Darrell and Seth, and I will see you both around cyberspace. Best regards. –Mike

  • Mike Reed

    I wrote: Rather than cast blame or ridicule other faiths… I spend more time simply trying to understand why things happen.

    Me: This language was too strong. I should have instead said “expose or denounce.” Sorry about that.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    You are welcome here anytime.

    “Be careful with that theory, though, because it could be turned against Judeo-Christianity (no longer practicing circumcision, dietary codes, animal sacrifice, communal feasts, Mikvah regulations for baptism, etc). Rather than cast blame or ridicule other faiths… I spend more time simply trying to understand why things happen. But that’s just me.”

    I understand where you are coming from. I too attempt not to ridcule. I do however see a need to expose false teachings for what they are. Of course, this is simply in an effort to bring others to Christ. As for the changes from the Law of Moses to the New Covenant – as The Bible tells us, those were initiated by God not man. However, the changes in the Temple, as Seth freely admited, are man made.

    God Bless!

    Darrell

  • gloria

    This does happen in Utah. My sister and her family moved to utah in the early 1990’s. They are not LDS and their son attended the local public school in Sandy. While attending this school, he was attacked on the play ground and his cross ripped off of his neck and he was told ‘this is mormon country’ and told not to wear it. My sister, new to the area was so upset and promptly called me knowing that at that time I was LDS. I felt so awful! Embarrassed to. They promptly enrolled their son in a parochial school. Unfortunatley this is not the only incident of this nature I have heard of in Utah.
    Sad.

    Gloria

  • gloria

    What a great post! Thanks Darell for sharing with us. I too wrote about the LDS aversion to the use of the cross as a symbol. It’s a shame, as the cross is such a beautiful reminder to us of what our precious Lord did for us! When I was LDS, my non LDS family always asked and wondered why the LDS do not use the cross on their buildings or even photos or drawings and yet they have statues and bronze busts of their leaders and art prints of temples, etc.
    It makes no sense to me, but it is a good indicator that perhaps the LDS do not view the cross with the reverence and love we as beleivers do.
    God bless,
    gloria

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    I don’t really see why the “man made” remark even matters Darrell.

    “Inspired by God, fashioned by humans” works just fine for me in religion, thanks.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    So God changed His mind and decided it was time to stop ridiculing Ministers? Good to hear. :-)

    Darrell

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    No, men changed their minds Darrell about a framework they had received from God.

    You’re being deliberately obtuse here.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/ Darrell

    I am just making a point. You see it as man changing their minds on how to express something God has given them. I see your point but think it falls severely short of explaining the reality of all the changes the church has made to the temple, doctrine, BOM, etc over the years. If the Church is led by a prophet who speaks directly with God, why could they not get it right the first time? Why all the changes? To me, it speaks to the fact that it is really a man made organization with no more guidance from God than the Republican or Democratic parties.

    Darrell

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