“It’s no accident that Mormon steeples, temples and necks are free of Christian crosses.
“LDS leaders long have said the cross, so ubiquitous among traditional Christians, symbolizes Jesus’ death, while Mormons worship the risen Christ.”
So begins a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune (Mormons and the cross).
This interesting article by Peggy Fletcher Stack takes a look at the newly completed master’s thesis, “The Development of the LDS Church’s Attitude Toward the Cross,” by Michael Reed. According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
“[The] Mormon aversion to the cross is a relatively recent development in LDS history, prompted in part by anti-Catholic sentiments.
“‘It first started at the grass-roots level around the turn of the 20th century,’ Michael Reed argues…
“‘It later became institutionalized during the 1950s under the direction of LDS Prophet David O. McKay.’”
Mormon scholar Bob Rees explains further,
“At one time there was an informal acceptance of [the cross] as an overt symbol, but in the 20th century its use has been discouraged by church leaders. Wanting to maintain its distinctive identity among Christian churches, the church essentially rejected outward manifestations of the cross, one of the most compelling symbols in all of Christendom…”
Apparently, crosses were at one time somewhat popular among Mormons, the symbol appearing on early LDS buildings, documents, and members (in the form of jewelry). But the LDS Church’s opposition to Catholicism won out in the middle of the 20th century.
Beginning in the 1920s when then-Apostle David O. McKay became frustrated over the lack of success in converting Catholics to Mormonism, and continuing into the 1930s when LDS leaders (including McKay) believed a Catholic Bishop in Utah was trying to convert Mormons, McKay’s vexation with Catholicism finally came to a head with his 1953 identification of the Catholic Church as one of the “two great anti-Christs in the world” (the second being Communism).
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, in 1957, by then the President of the LDS Church, David O. McKay
“established the LDS Church’s no-cross protocol, saying it was not proper for LDS girls to wear it on their jewelry, saying the cross is ‘purely Catholic.’”
Actually, the Cross of Christ is purely biblical, purely Christian.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
“May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Christian pastor John Piper explains,
“Only boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a single idea. A single goal. A single passion. Only boast in the cross. The word can be translated ‘exult in’ or ‘rejoice in.’ Only exult in the cross of Christ. Only rejoice in the cross of Christ. Paul says let this be your single passion, your single boast and joy and exultation. In this great moment called ONE DAY let the ONE THING that you love, the one thing that you cherish, the one thing that you rejoice in and exult over be the cross of Jesus Christ…
“…for redeemed sinners, every good thing — indeed every bad thing that God turns for good — was obtained for us by the cross of Christ. Apart from the death of Christ, sinners get nothing but judgment. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore everything that you enjoy in Christ — as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ — is owing to the death of Christ. And all your rejoicing in all things should therefore be a rejoicing in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ” (Boasting Only in the Cross).
Mormons don’t choose to use the Cross as a religious symbol. Instead they choose sunstones, CTR rings and representations of a heralding angel to symbolize their distinctive faith.
Nevertheless, be it a method of execution, be it jewelry worn by rap stars, be it misused as a flaming sign of racism, the Cross ever remains for Christians our symbol of hope and peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.