Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Meaning of the Cross for Latter-day Saints and the Symbol of Our Faith

This giant cross overlooks the beautiful city of Boise, Idaho. Although I am not familiar with the history and origin of this particular landmark and why it is allowed to stand overlooking the City of Trees, nor do my personal beliefs include displaying the crucifix, I kind of like it and what it, at least to me, represents. Firstly, the fact that the cross still stands in the midst of all the pro-against-all-things-that-remotely-resemble-anything-to-do-with-God-and-religion-but-we-do-it-in-the-name-of-tolerance activists is quite incredible. But secondly, to me the continued presence of the cross represents that people are tolerant and understanding enough to allow those to whom the cross does have some religious significance enjoy its presence and can appreciate it's historical significance as a landmark in the city of Boise. Way to go, Boise.

That being said, do some of you wonder why the Latter-day Saint churches and temples do not display the cross and why members of the Church are not encouraged to wear the crucifix as so many other Christian denominations?

In an article entitled, "The Symbol of Our Faith," (Ensign, April 2005, 3) President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) gave the following account of a conversation in which he explained the reason the Latter-day Saint people don't display the cross:

"Following the renovation of the Mesa Arizona Temple some years ago, clergy of other religions were invited to tour it on the first day of the open house period. Hundreds responded. In speaking to them, I said we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Among these was one from a Protestant minister.

"Said he: “I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”

"I responded: “I do not wish to give offense 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.”

"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 most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship."

In this article, President Hinckley goes on to describe the ways we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, show our faith and devotion to Jesus Christ and why such faith in the Savior is crucial to each person on the earth. He concludes:

"As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing His image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves. And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God."

As I ponder the command to take up the cross of Jesus Christ (see Mark 8:34), I think of the admonition of Paul to become examples of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity (see 1 Timothy 4:12). In doing so we take up the cross of Jesus Christ and show our love and gratitude to our Father in Heaven.


*For another great article on this topic, read Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, "The Meaning of the Cross for Latter-day Saints," Ensign, July 2011, 26.