Mormons and the Cross

I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. (1 Nephi 11:33)

My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. (3 Nephi 27:14)

It was made known among the dead, both small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful, that redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross. (D&C 138:35)

The Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross. (Moses 7:55)

In Mormon scripture the cross symbolizes Jesus' sacrifice as the redemption for all, just as it does for other Christians.

I'm not a reformer. Cultures grow according to unseen rules over time, developing their own traits and practices. Mormon practice has developed in such a way that we do not use the cross much as a symbol of Christ's suffering. That is not because we think his suffering is unimportant nor because we need not spend time thinking about it. Our weekly sacrament of the Lord's Supper offers us a way to do so, as do other symbols and practices. I am fine with that. I am not arguing that the LDS Church should change its practices regarding the cross.

Nevertheless, I wear a small Canterbury cross as a tie tack and I have several crosses and a crucifix in my office. How do I feel comfortable doing so within a culture that avoids such things? For a long time I did not. When I converted to Mormonism, it was not difficult for me to accept the practice of not using crosses. Perhaps, however, my pre-Mormon background makes it easier for me to use the cross as a symbol now, forty-nine years later.

In any case, I began to use the cross again several years ago. I learned of a Roman Catholic colleague at Brigham Young University (where we both work) who was being given some difficulty by a student who objected to her having a crucifix in her office. Over the years I happened to have purchased several crosses and a crucifix that I kept at home as both art objects and expressions of my faith. I hung them in my university office to support her.

Since then I have added to them, and several beautiful reproductions of Russian icons, received as gifts, are waiting to be framed and join them. Since hanging them, these have taken on added meaning, and that meaning has led me to wearing my tie tack cross.

Of course they remind me that Jesus died for the sins of the world on the cross, that he was specifically sent by the Father to be lifted up on the cross, and that our redemption from sin comes through the sacrifice that occurs on the cross, all things that the Bible and other Mormon scriptures teach. But the cross reminds me not only of Jesus' crucifixion, but my own: my old self is crucified with Jesus (Rom. 6:6). The cross is a reminder of that crucifixion of self and the new life we find in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The cross reminds me not only of what Jesus has done for me, but of what I must do: I must take up the cross to follow him (Lk. 9:23; D&C 112:14). Like him I must be willing to empty myself even of that spiritual, physical, emotional, and monetary substance which (I think) makes me what I am so that I can imitate his blessing of all humanity. That means taking on the form of a slave—not in abject servitude, but in service to others in which I don't take heed of myself. The cross reminds me of Jesus' humility and obedience and, so, serves to remind me of the need to be humble before all and obedient to the Father (Phil. 2:7-8).

5/11/2011 4:00:00 AM