Jun 23, 2008

Are We Cross At The Cross?

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 M√ľnich, 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?


Latter-Day Guy said...

An interesting analysis. I myself have never been bothered by crosses or crucifixes, but I have also never owned one for the same social reasons you mention. I think I may just go ahead and get one anyway; I've never felt like the image of the cross somehow lessened the reality of the resurrection. I mean, in practice, do other churches not do enough to recognize that Christ rose from the dead? Of course that's not true, that's just silly. I've never really found any of the reasons used to explain why mormons eschew that symbol particularly convincing. My bet is that it is simply a cultural marker, to delineate us v. them. However, the cultural value and weight of that difference, though embodies in something so small, is pretty profound.

Latter-Day Guy said...

sorry, not embodies; embodied

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Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog and I have to say I love it! Thank you for such great conversation and dialog.

I myself am not LDS but have been born and raised Apostolic. You can catagorize me as "seeking my denomination" point in my life LOL!

Anyway from my view point the cross is something I wondered about as well with the LDS community. You don't see it basically. I have a friend who married a mormon and though she and I are very friendly I feel odd asking her questions regarding her Mormon faith (she's from Utah we're in PA). I just never asked her as I thought she might find it odd but frankly I know very little about the LDS denomination.

You have helped me to get a better understanding. Thank you!

Do you mind if I add you to my blog roll on my blog? If you do I'll be happy to take it off.

God Bless!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for your comments, Christine! And welcome to my blog! :) I'm glad that you have enjoyed it so far and feel free to add it to your blog roll. I feel honoured. :)

PS: Feel free to post any of your questions regarding Mormonism, even the ones you feel hesitant to ask your friend.

Ben said...

Nice post.

Count me as a Mormon who loves the cross. I have a Dali picture of the cross in my home. I don't really care what other Mormons think. I think our cross aversion is SILLY.

I think our aversion to the cross is purely a cultural tradition/phenomenon.