As I was getting ready for church yesterday, I went to put on a necklace. I looked at the cross that a non-LDS family member gave me a few years ago. She knows I'm a Christian and I'm sure she thought it would be a nice gesture (which it absolutely was!), but I opted for the heart necklace instead. I've worn my cross out in public many times and I personally have no problem with it. But I've yet to wear it to church.
This got me thinking about something I've never been quite sure about. How do we Mormons really feel about the cross? It's one of those things that we don't really discuss very often, but over the years I've heard everything from respect to disdain for the symbol of Christianity. Some reasons that I've heard for our shunning of the cross is that:
a) It's more of a Catholic or Protestant symbol and we are neither
b) The cross represents some terrible crimes that have been committed in the name of Christianity, such as the Crusades, and we don't want to be associated with that
c) The cross has become nothing but a fashion statement for most
d) We want to focus on the Resurrection and not so much the Crucifixion
Non-LDS Christians are often quick to notice the complete lack of crosses in LDS chapels and materials. When they ask me about it, I usually give them the speech citing reason d), about how we don't use the cross because we prefer to focus on Christ's resurrection and the fact that we believe that He lives, instead of focusing on his death. I don't feel like I'm lying when I give them the speech, but I have wondered about other possible reasons. I will summarize a story that I remember reading once, which illustrated how some Mormons feel about the cross. A non-LDS Christian woman entered the home of an LDS family. The non-LDS woman was wearing a cross, and somehow the subject came up. When asked why they did not use the cross, the LDS woman said that she could explain it this way: "If one of your loved ones was killed in a car accident, would you wear a car around your neck to remember them?"
I find that the lack of crosses in the LDS religion makes it hard for other Christians to identify with us. While I understand our need to differentiate ourselves from other Christians because of our unique doctrine of the Restored Gospel, I sometimes fear that our missing crosses make it more difficult for skeptical non-LDS Christians, many of whom are already highly suspicious of Mormons, to even call us Christians (much like how many can ask how Jehovah's Witnesses can call themselves Christians when they don't celebrate Christmas). And yet at the same time, Mormons are often lamenting over the fact that other Christians don't consider us to be Christians. It's easy to understand their skepticism, when we have seemingly rejected the most fundamental symbol of Christianity.
Personally, I accept the reasoning that we choose to focus on the fact that Christ lives. But at the same time, remembering and honouring the Crucifixion is a vital element in giving His life the significance that it deserves. If we focus only on the Resurrection, the Atonement seems to lose some of its meaning -- at least for me. I've visited many Catholic and Protestant churches and cathedrals throughout my travels and have always been impressed by all the paintings, statues and icons depicting Christ on the cross. I find them to be very moving, as they capture a special spirit that I haven't felt anywhere else. I love Mormon art of the Saviour, but I find traditional crucifixes to be something utterly unique. I remember being in Münich, Germany and visiting a small store which sold Catholic art, crucifixes and statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. I remember thinking how beautiful they were and that I would proudly display them in my own home, except for the fact that other Mormons would find it so strange.
So aside from when I'm at church, I will continue to wear my cross whenever I feel like it. Most probably won't even notice but if they do, they will either:
a) Assume that I'm just trying to be fashionable
b) Assume I'm just another deluded religious fanatic
c) Not give a crap
Ironically, I think the only ones who would notice would be fellow Mormons.
So what do you all think? Are we Mormons cross at the cross?
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