Mormons and Crucifixes

In my office, I have six crucifixes on the wall.  It started years ago when I ran into an man in a very isolated locale in central Arizona that was making primitive crucifixes.  He said that they were in the style of Coptic iconography.  (Apparently he had been to Egypt.)  This was such a bizarre explanation, I purchased one.  Since then, I have purchased crosses in Albuquerque, NM, Toledo, Spain, and Uganda.

There has lately been a push in at least 2 recent sessions at Sunstone symposiums to reevaluate the Mormon stance on symbolic crosses (discouraged, if not forbidden).  In the July 2011 Ensign, a LDS General Authority gave the church’s official response.  According to Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer (Of the Seventy):

All of us have passed by churches that have a cross on their steeples or cupolas, and we’ve all seen people wearing a necklace with a cross, indicating they are Christian or a member of a certain Christian denomination.  Some of our new members may even continue to wear a cross, feeling that it connects them with their past or other religious traditions.

We may wonder why we Latter-day Saints don’t place a cross on our churches or wear a cross to show that we are Christians, thereby making it easier for others to identify in whom we believe.  Is the cross important to our faith?

The answer is an unequivocal yes!

But . . . .

The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes what happened on the cross, but this message and meaning is within each of us and requires no external symbol to manifest our faith.  Our cross is the giving up of worldly sins and following the Savior with a humble heart and an obedient spirit.

I’m not totally sure I understand this last statement.  The LDS Church is full of “external symbols.”  Think “CTR” rings and the “Christus” statue.  Mormon kitsch is everywhere.  I was recently in Spain, home of one the principal makers of the “Christus.”  At a Lladro store in Madrid, there was not only a “Christus,” but a ceramic model of a Mormon temple plus a figurine of 2 Mormon missionaries.

Lladro's Two Mormon Missionaries

The Ensign article provides a sidebar quote from the late President Gordon B. Hinckley to further explain the Mormon position:

I do not wish to give offsense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature.  But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ. . .

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This entry was posted in Art, catholicism, images of Christ, mormonism, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mormons and Crucifixes

  1. shematwater says:

    I don’t think that Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer was trying to ban the cross in any sense, but to say that it is not necessary for the members to carry one. I would say the same thing about the CTR ring or any other physical symbol. They are nice, and they do represent our religion, but one should not think that without them they are are not LDS, as it is the lives of the members that declare our religion, not the symbols we use.

  2. roger hansen says:

    I think you are understating the LDS Church’s objections to crufixes and crosses. And the leadership has certainly not expressed similar concerns about Mormon physical kitsch. For some reason, LDS instructions seem uniquely focused on the cross.

  3. Thank you for this, Tired Road Warrior. This was a wonderful insight into your faith tradition, and one which I did not expect to find. As a Christian, the cross and the crucifix are very important to me, and yet I am capable seeing that it is but an outward symbol of my inner faith and my understanding of that faith. Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement that “the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ” is very true. It is. As a Christian it is immeasurably important to profess the death of Christ; for without this action the resurrection has no power. This death also relates Jesus, the Incarnation of God, with the human condition of suffering and death. It is in this that I have my hope – that God in Christ suffered and died that all might rise to new life with him.

  4. Steve Warren says:

    It would be best not to repeat President Hinckley’s view that we do not use the cross because it reminds us of “the dying Christ.” It is a positive thing, not negative, to be reminded of the dying Christ. Without the dying Christ, there is neither salvation nor exaltation. Elder Holland had it right when he said, “It is the wounded Christ who is the captain of our soul—he who yet bears the scars of sacrifice, the lesions of love and humility and forgiveness.” I also like the counsel of Mormon to Moroni to keep “the death and sufferings” of Christ in his mind “forever” (Moroni 9:25). (The phrase “death and sufferings” of Christ is repeated at least five other times in the Book of Mormon.) It is positive, not negative, to partake of the bread and water of the sacrament, which remind us of Christ’s crucified body and blood.

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