The other day my kids and I got into a discussion about why most Christian churches have crosses on them and why ours, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not. I thought I’d take the time today to share my thoughts on the matter with those of you who may not be of our faith, and to remind those of us of our faith of the meaning behind it.
First, let me just quote people who know better than I do- this is taken directly from one of our church magazines, The New Era:
"President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the reason [for no crosses] in a talk delivered in general conference. He told about talking to a Protestant minister following a temple open house. The minister had asked why there were no crosses anywhere if we say we believe in Jesus Christ. President Hinckley answered, ‘I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren 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.’
'He then asked, "If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?"
'I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship’ (“The Symbol of Christ,” New Era, Apr. 1990, p. 4).” (full article)
I think that President Hinckley (a former president of the LDS Church who passed away in 2008) said it beautifully. My husband once told me that when he asked his father this same question- about why we do not have crosses on our churches- his father asked him, “If someone you loved was shot and killed would you want to go around wearing a necklace with a gun on it?” Probably not.
His point was that the cross is a symbol only of the Savior’s death, a single day out of His ministry, not the 33 years of perfect life He gave beforehand. Like President Hinckley said, we prefer to memorialize the life of Christ and His teachings through the way we live, to always remember Him by seeking Him out on a daily basis.
But let me go back for a minute- if I were on the other side of this discussion I would probably want to point out that the most significant thing Jesus Christ gave to us was the Atonement, a gift that was incomplete without His death, and that His death was a pivotal moment. And I agree with that, absolutely. So let me assure you, I do not think the cross is insignificant by any means. And I completely understand why many choose to uphold it as a symbol of their Christian faith.
When I was a teenager a friend gave me a beautiful cross on a necklace as a gift. I felt conflicted about this- I loved my friend and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I wasn’t sure about wearing the cross, just because it’s something that’s not really done in the Mormon community. So for several weeks- maybe months- I kept the cross in its box in my jewelry chest.
One day I had a beautiful realization. I realized that the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” was very true in this case. I realized that my friend- a very strong Christian- would not have given this cross to just anyone. She gave it to me because she recognized me as a fellow follower of Christ. She recognized it through my words and deeds, and in her eyes, this would be a fitting gift for me.
After that little epiphany, I wore my cross, and whenever I was asked about it by my LDS friends I would explain to them why I wore it and why it was special to me.
Since then, I have received other cross-themed gifts. In the spirit of friendship and love, I refrain from giving anyone a lecture about Mormons and crosses; instead, I accept it with joy in my heart, knowing that a friend has recognized me as a believer, and feeling grateful that we share a love for our Savior.
For more information about crosses and the LDS (Mormon) faith, visit lds.org.
How do you feel about the absence of crosses on Mormon churches?