Cross Roads

Last year, my wife and I began looking for a good pre-school for our four year old daughter. We looked into a number of different options, weighing the benefits of different programs. Ultimately, we decided to enroll her in a nearby private preschool that is operated by the local Grace Brethren Church, a Protestant denomination.

Pre-school has been a wonderful experience for her. She loves the classes, loves practicing her letters, reading and writing, making art, doing activities. She’s made good friends, and tells us stories about what she and her classmates do every day. She enjoys bringing cool things to school on Fridays for show and tell. Her classmates are nice, her teacher is great, and the school offers lots of fun programs — rodeo day and Halloween parties and gymnastics.

Once a week, the kids go to chapel. There, my daughter and the other students learn about Jesus, and sing songs, and listen to Bible stories. This has led to a few . . . changes.

First, frankly, she’s much more interested in Jesus than she was before. Our usual routine of Church meetings on Sunday, and intermittent scripture-study on weekdays, hadn’t really built a lot of enthusiasm for church topics in her. Now, though, she walks around the house singing songs about Jesus that she learned in preschool; she even teaches them to her brothers. Her favorite is a catchy little tune with the lyrics “Jesus is the Savior”:

“Jesus is the Savior / Jesus is God’s Son / Boys and girls sing joy to the world / He’s come for everyone.”

Second, prayer has become slightly different. She likes to give prayers that she learns in chapel. And so when it’s her turn to say family prayer, sometimes she’ll recite reverently, “Thank you Jesus, for the birds that sing. Thank you, Jesus, for everything.”

All of these changes seem fine. The school is respectful of the fact that the children have different beliefs, and the doctrine taught is basic Christianity — Jesus is the Savior — that is clearly compatible with church belief. (In fact, it’s light-years better than what our other kids learned in non-religious preschools: fighting and cuss words.) Her regular chapel attendance has even increased her interest in Primary and church in general. Her excitement about Jesus led her to give a great Primary talk a few weeks ago. She wrote the talk herself, and included many simple statements of faith; she ended it by singing “Jesus is the Savior.” None of these are changes that bother me.

The third main change came before Christmas, when we asked her what she wanted. Along with the usual list of toys, books, clothes, she had a particular request: She wanted a cross pendant. “Maybe it’s just because she sees her friends with them,” suggested my wife. Should we get our daughter a cross because of peer pressure, or style? We weren’t sure that was the best reason. But we also weren’t sure that was her reason, either. And so we asked, one day, “why do you want a cross?” And her reply was short and simple: “To remind me of Jesus.”

We bought her the necklace for Christmas.

A well-meaning Mormon relative gasped in shock at the idea, and asked in concerned tone, “do you know what that represents?” And we replied, “it represents what she wants it to represent, and for her, it represents Jesus.”

Sure, I’ve heard the anti-Cross rhetoric before in various Seminary and Sunday School lessons. I’ve been told that crosses are bad; that they celebrate Christ’s death rather than His life; that they are “inharmonious” with proper worship, and on and on. This time, I’m not buying it.

For my daughter, her necklace is simple — it’s a reminder of Jesus, a simple and personal reminder that she can wear daily. As a parent, I’m happy to have been blessed with a daughter who already actively seeks out reminders of Jesus. I see no good reason to stand in her way.

78 comments for “Cross Roads

  1. January 31, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Our oldest daughter attended a Presbyterian pre-school, back in Virginia. She had a fine experience, very similar to what you describe. Many, many people have put in a lot of years of work to make these pre-schools what they are; you’ve got to respect the way they’ve integrated faith and learning for 4 to 6-year-olds.

    As for the cross, I’m hopeful that, in time, the old, vaguely Puritan hostility to it in Mormon circles will eventually disappear. But then, I would hope that, closet Lutheran that I am and all.

  2. January 31, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Kaimi, As a convert with a Lutheran background, I have always resisted the “crosses are evil” rhetoric. But I suspect that its function for your daughter is more nuanced than simply being a “reminder of Jesus.” Crosses are a symbol of identification. Your daughter belongs to a group of children who share certain beliefs, and that cross designates her membership in that group.

    Is there a “good reason to stand in her way”? We never faced this situation, and I have never been good at back-seat parenting. But your decision doesn’t make me gasp.

  3. Ardis Parshall
    January 31, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Too many Mormons have shot beyond the mark, transforming explanations of the cultural/historical patterns that resulted in our non-use of the cross as a common symbol, into virulent anti-cross rhetoric. Too many generic Christians have shot beyond the mark, transforming somewhat doubtful explanations of the pagan origins of, say, common Christmas symbols, into virulent anti-star, anti-tree, anti-candy cane rhetoric.

    Symbols have to extend beyond the meaning that one person invests in them, or there is no communication. Your “well-meaning Mormon relative” speaks the language of this particular symbol with a bad accent and false cognates, while your daughter speaks it fluently within the group of her little friends.

  4. jimbob
    January 31, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    “In fact, it’s light-years better than what our other kids learned in non-religious preschools: fighting and cuss words.”

    Why does everyone have to put down the fighting and cuss words? Those were my favorite part of grade school.

  5. Gilgamesh
    January 31, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    The empty cross represents Christ’s victory over death and suffering. How that is bad, I do not know.

    The crucifix reminds us that Christ suffered for our sins and ultimately died for us. St, Francis loved the image and it acted as a reminder that any suffering for the Lord’s cause was understood by Christ himself. Again, how this is bad, I do not know.

  6. mpb
    January 31, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I tend to resist crosses just as much as I resist the Greg Olsen paintings that are currently so en vogue, for aesthethic and theological reasons alike. But to each his own–frankly, it would be nice to see more members giving this issue as much open-minded consideration as you have.

  7. rbc
    January 31, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    We had an identical experience with our then 5-year old whom we enrolled in a Baptist pre-school. She learned a lot of songs re: Jesus and much more emphasis on Bible stories than she received in primary every week. In fact, by the end of the year our daughter could repeat the 23rd Psalm w/o any problem and it sounded beautiful to listen to her repeat it every night. The same year we were going to SLC for a ski trip over Christmas and she got in her head somewhere that Jesus was born in SLC. For kicks, I did not try to correct her until I was sure she had notified her Baptist teacher that Jesus was born in a manger in SLC. I wish I could have been there when she dropped that bombshell.

    I agree re: our church’s hangups about the cross. I see it as a pointless and silly, in my opinion, way to try and distinguish ourselves from other Christian denominations. I’m not the least bit offended by a cross anywhere. Unfortunately, the prevailing attitude will be around for a long time if the “True To The Faith” booklet has any say in the matter, which, unfortunately, it does.

  8. January 31, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Gilgamesh’s comment highlights the difference between a crucifix and a cross as symbols, a difference that admittedly I knew nothing about until I started graduate school at Catholic University. My answer above, regarding a hoped-for decline of Mormon suspicion regarding such symbols, remains the same whether talking about a crucifix or a cross, but honesty dictates that I’d probably prefer the latter to the former, if only for aesthetic reasons.

  9. claire
    January 31, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    My daughter was given a silver cross pendant for her baptism from my best friend (do I need to point out she is not LDS?). It is dainty, pretty, and classy looking. She wears it occasionally and I appreciate it as a reminder of my friend and my daughter’s covenant. She was also given a set of blue enameled cross earrings and necklace this Christmas from my (Lutheran) aunt. Not quite as dainty, pretty or classy, but she wore them to church this week and no one commented (thank goodness!).

  10. Ben
    January 31, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Yeah, what Ardis said. I have no problem with the cross, though crucifixes still strike me as overly gory. I think I would have also bought it for my daughter under the same circumstances.

  11. Sideshow
    January 31, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    I think it’s gory when Jesus is still hanging on it, but otherwise it’s a fairly sterile symbol.

    If crosses are so antithetical to our worship, why do we have Onward Christian Soldiers in our hymnbook?

  12. Starfoxy
    January 31, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    I have a Catholic friend who once found her brother working very intently on something and asked what he was doing. He nonchalantly answered, “Putting Jesus back on the cross.” He was trying to fix his broken crucifix necklace.

    I wouldn’t be too worried about giving her a cross pendant to wear. Sure people will shake their heads or cluck their tongues, but they’d find a reason to do that anyways. Another track you could take for explaining it to people could be to use some of the symbolism outlined by Kevin Barney in that post about X-mas. A cross is just a sideways X.

  13. K.
    January 31, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I can’t tell from your post if you’d disagree or not, but I take those statements as explanations as to why LDS worshp doesn’t use the cross in any kind of institutional, ecclesiastical way. I don’t think it’s a warning that individual Saints (much less pre-schoolers!) are going astray if they view the cross as a private symbol of their love for Christ. The “symbol of our faith” wording, especially the chaplain example, make that pretty clear. You really think that commenters here are expressing “me too” Protestant herd mentality? Gee, I thought they were just touched by the childlike faith in this particular story, as I was.

    After all, it’s equally true that the Star of David isn’t the “symbol of our faith,” but seeing a Star of David pendant on a ward member wouldn’t make me feel squeamish or suspicious. I would just assume it had some private significance to the wearer that it doesn’t have to the church as a whole.

  14. Gilgamesh
    January 31, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I also have to note that my children attend Vacation Bible School at a friends church every year. (He is the pastor)

    This year our 9 year old finished camp and pulled me aside. He said “Dad, i don’t understand that camp, it’s always Jesus this and Jesus that, but they never talk about Heavenly Father. It kind of bugs me.” It was a nice open door to discuss the differences of our faiths, but also a reminded to me that I don’t talk about Jesus enough in my own life.

  15. Ronan
    January 31, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    The “official” reasons given for our cross aversion (that we prefer to dwell on the living Lord) are negated for me by our very cross-specific sacrament hymnody and the crucifixion symbols offered in the temple. Also, the empty cross is indeed a symbol of the living Christ.

    So, I’m afraid this is just one we made up to explain why we don’t have crosses (a fact that has a lot to do with our cultural and religious roots).

    Good on you mate.

  16. January 31, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    The problem with those linked responses, bbell, including the one involving a story told by President Hinckley cited in the New Era (and none of which, it must be noted, are presented as doctrinal), is that the beginning assumption they all hold in common–that the cross is a symbol of the dying Christ, whereas we celebrate the living Christ–is false. Or, at least, it is utterly subjective. If President Hinckley was raised to believe that the cross or crucifix is a fixation upon the dead Christ, well then of course he thinks the cross of crucifix obliges one to think of the dead Christ. If Kaimi’s daughter learns otherwise from Christians at her preschool, then she will believe…otherwise.

    If the argument for not using or wearing crosses or crucifixes was explicitly to show that we are NOT “just Christians like a Baptist or a Catholic,” that would be a different matter. But so far as I know–and someone correct me if I’m wrong–no church leader has ever stated that we avoid the cross for strictly denominational reasons. The reasons I’ve always read have to do with the symbol’s supposed inherent meaning. I don’t dispute that upholding collective meanings is important; I want to see our own Mormon symbols (the Angel Moroni, etc.) widely promoted. I don’t agitate for crosses on temples. But still, the church has also gone a long ways towards formally presenting Mormons to the world as Christians; as such, it is a little odd to assume that a 19th or early 20th-century Utah-centric understanding of the meaning of the cross ought to be continually applied in cases of personal choice in contrast to near-universal Christian understanding of such symbols which holds otherwise.

    All that being said, aesthetically I agree with Ben.

  17. January 31, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    How about one of those wedding bands that nuns wear to represent their relationship with Christ? Maybe Kaimi’s daughter would like one of those.

  18. DavidH
    January 31, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    The True to the Faith booklet does not “discourage,” much less “strongly discourage” the wearing of crosses, as it does tattoos or body piercing. The operative statement, in my view, is “The only members of the Church who wear the symbol of the cross are Latter-day Saint chaplains.”

    I suppose one could read this present tense descriptive sentence as a normative, imperative sentence–i.e., that the only Latter-day Saints who are permitted to wear crosses (and be regarded as “good” LDS) are chaplains. But if it is intended to “forbid” or even “discourage,” it is certainly done in a very subtle way. I think the sentence means that the only Latter-day Saints who wear crosses as a core and necessary part of their being Latter-day Saints are Latter-day Saint chaplains.

    That is, I would differentiate between things we wear that signify our LDS status and things worn that would be inconsistent with our LDS status. Senator Hatch, for example, wears a mezuzah, which is a Jewish symbol derived from the Old Testament. I do not see wearing a mezuzah as any more or less troubling than wearing a cross. That is, I do not see wearing a mezuzah, a cross, a fish, a Star of David, a crescent, a peace sign, or an NRA insignia as inconsistent with being LDS (well, maybe the NRA insignia). Although I think none of them are official or implicitly endorsed symbols of the Church–like the Angel Moroni (or a sunstone?).

  19. bbell
    January 31, 2007 at 2:32 pm


    You know that one of those quotes is from “True to the Faith” right?

    Also the current Prophet when questioned by a Protestant minister example is pretty compelling.

    Until somebody links to an official publication that has a pro-cross wearing message I rest my case that the LDS church discourages cross wearing by its members. Everything else cited in opposition is just opinion unbacked by any official church publications.

    As for Kaimi and a pre-schooler it really does not matter cause of the age of the child involved and I have no opinion about it.

    For the record I once baptized an ordained Anglican minister in his Clerical robe and he was wearing a cross around his neck. It was the only all white clothing we could find in Namibia that would fit him.

  20. January 31, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Is the “True to the Faith” booklet presented as an official doctrinal compendium? I thought it was a study companion, nothing more.

  21. Kevin Barney
    January 31, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I think you did the right thing, Kaimi.

    I am embarrassed by the way I recited anti-cross rhetoric to a high school friend who was wearing a cross, as I recount in incident 2 here:

    One year the bishop asked my wife, who is an artist, to prepare a special cover for the Christmas program. She drew a beautiful image taken from a 14th-century Spanish altarpiece. The image was decorated with crosses, and I overheard a counselor in the bishopric complaining loudly about it. But the bishop himself, bless his heart, had nothing but praise for it, so the counselor stopped complaining.

  22. January 31, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    The cross wasn’t empty due to resurrection. Jesus’ dead body was removed by soldiers and placed in a tomb.

  23. Rob Osborn
    January 31, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Cut off all the old moldy cheese that surrounds the cross and what you have is really nothing more than the universal symbol for “christianity”. Why our church has a problem in general about the cross is sort of a mystery. I guess it stems from the early days in the church to try to distinguish mormonism from the rest of christianity. All it has really done though is to give the unknowing doubts about our faith being a “christian” religion.

    In all truth, the Cross represents that Christ suffered and died for our sins. This is called the atonement. Do we believe in the atonement? You bet! Do we believe in the cross? You bet! Why is it then not a symbol of our faith? Beats me!

  24. Hans
    January 31, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    I’m not particularly pro-cross or anti-cross. My father’s family were all Lutherans; my wife’s family are all Lutherans. She converted to Mormonism at BYU. I served my mission in Norway which, at the time, was 96% Lutheran.

    For the anti-cross contingent, you might want to consider this statement from the late comic, Bill Hicks:

    “Do you think when Jesus comes back, the first thing he wants to see is a freaking cross? That’s like going up to Jackie Kennedy with a rifle pendant on.”

  25. Matt W.
    January 31, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Rob, but Mormons are having a hard time manufacturing Garden of Gethsemane Pendants…

    I think the LDS issue with the cross is two fold, the protestant understanding that praying to the cross is somehow worshipping an idol… and 2, Christ’s atonement was not on the cross solely in mormonism.

    Personally, I think crosses are fine, but it’s a mixed message in the church.

  26. Geoff B
    January 31, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Kaimi, I can’t imagine why anybody would have a problem with a four-year-old wearing a cross. When I was in Brazil, there were plenty of long-time members (adults) who wore crosses. We have a few of them here in Miami.

    I think a bishop could perhaps raise some issues with a member who was constantly kissing the cross or crossing himself before taking the sacrament, but that would be between the individual member and the bishop, and it would have nothing to do with anybody on this board.

    I think it’s interesting how some people on the bloggernacle try to create controversy where there is none — wow, you have a “well-meaning relative” who “gasped” at the idea. Somehow that sounds pretty overly dramatic to me. My guess is 99 percent of members could care less what a 4-year-old wears around her neck unless it symbolizes devil worship or says, “Baal is Number One!”

    As for bbell’s concerns, well, he’s entitled to his opinion. He’s correct that the Church doesn’t encourage wearing crosses, and Pres. Hinckley has spoken on the issue that we concentrate on the resurrected Lord, not the bloody, dying one. But bbell also points out that this issue is moot for 4-year-olds. No reason to make a controversy and create contention where none exists.

  27. jjohnsen
    January 31, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    “How about one of those wedding bands that nuns wear to represent their relationship with Christ? Maybe Kaimi’s daughter would like one of those.”
    Is Kaimi’s daughter a nun, or does she feel she is married to Christ like a nun? If not, what exactly does this have to do with the conversation?

  28. Madden
    January 31, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Maybe it would have been wise to take the opportunity to teach your daughter why we don’t adorn our persons and our places of worship with crosses. Further, you could explain to her why it’s important to pray to Heavenly Father rather than Jesus Christ. Finally, you may want to explain some of the differences between Evangelical Christian beliefs and LDS ones. Four-year-olds can understand more than I think they are creditied with in these comments.

    Note: We are different from Evangelical Christians, and it’s important our children understand the differences and the reasons for those differences.

  29. Lois
    January 31, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Even if Hinckley\’s comments (linked by bbell) are not technically “doctrinal,” shouldn’t they stand up as modern revelation and interpretation? And if that\’s the case, I must say it\’s tragic. There is no better symbol of Christ than the cross. Without it, we have nothing. True believers ought not to feel guilty that they are “celebrating” His death — it is, afterall, the ONLY way to God and salvation.

    To edge out the cross — and expand atonement beyond it — is to deny this true power of the gospel: With Jesus’ death, “it is finished.” Our attention MUST focus solely on His death lest we turn Him into a glorified martyr. The wages of sin is death, and a perfectly just God demands payment. We are not perfect, so we could not satisfy the requirement. Jesus WAS perfectly holy and thus fulfilled the requirement. If that’s not “good news,” I don’t know what is!

    I would exhort everyone to look to the cross daily (which is, most importantly, unoccupied) in reverence of what His death AND resurrection mean for humanity. And thank God we are saved by grace alone.

    As for me, “I will cherish the old rugged cross.”

  30. January 31, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    jjohnson, you asked what my point was about the wedding band. Brother Wenger structured his story around an escalating sequence of Protestant practices that his daughter was picking up from the preschool: new hymns, style of prayer and religious discourse, use of the cross as a symbol of faith. His question is: At what point is his child acquiring a different religious culture a problem? Since most of the responders were quick to declare crosses A-OK, as long as they’re not those icky Catholic ones, and publications and practices of the Church irrelevant, I wondered if the responders see any limits to religious crossover. If Brother Wenger’s daughter were taught by Episcopal nuns and wanted a ring like theirs, would the commenters be fine with that too? “She’s part of the Church, and the Church is the bride of Christ, so if she wants to represent that marriage with the symbol of a wedding ring, go ahead.” Ultimately, debates over the value of the cross as a Christian symbol are irrelevant if it doesn’t really matter that the child be a Latter-day Saint. For those for whom it matters, where is the line on assuming elements of the religious identity of other peoples?

  31. Madden
    January 31, 2007 at 5:38 pm


    “There is no better symbol of Christ than the cross. Without it, we have nothing.”

    I want to give you the opportunity of retracting this ridiculous statement.

    First, the cross didn’t do anything. It was Christ’s willing sacrifice, with the cross relegated to the vehicle for such sacrifice.

    Second, I think you’re bordering on idolatry, which is fine if you are looking to go apostate (sarcasm intended).

    Third, why do we need a symbol of Christ to remember him? Can’t I just remember Christ plain and simple?

  32. SimpleScott
    January 31, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    It seems to me that if you need a cross to remind you of the Savior, then by all means get one. I personally don\’t need one, and most LDS people I know don\’t either. In my opinion, the argument that wearing it shows that I am a loyal Christian is weak. I show that I am a loyal Christian by doing what Christ would do.

    Madden – thanks for your comments.

  33. jjohnsen
    January 31, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    It seems to me that if you need garments to remind you of your covenant, then by all means wear them. In my opinion, the argument that wearing them shows that I am a loyal Mormon is weak. I show that I am a loyal Mormon by doing what Christ would do.

  34. Matt W.
    January 31, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I know a lot of Nuns, and I don’t remember any of them having a wedding band. Is there any evidence for this story?

  35. Madden
    January 31, 2007 at 6:17 pm


    Are you comparing the cross to temple garments? If so, I’d have to point out your non sequitur to the group. It could be embarrassing for you.

  36. January 31, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Matt W., here’s a Baltimore Sun article from October 15, Episcopal nun begins new life:

    “Yesterday, Perkins, wearing an off-white cape on top of her brown-and-white habit, prostrated herself before the altar of the cathedral.

    “Ihloff then blessed a gold wedding band by sprinkling it with holy water and placed it on her ring finger as a symbol of her consecration and covenant with God.”

  37. Ardis Parshall
    January 31, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Madden (36): Find a dictionary, and check for definitions of words like “parody” and “irony” and “sarcasm.” jjohnson (34): Ha!

    There’s a tremendous difference in explaining why we don’t commonly use crosses as symbols (they are un-Mormon) — as Pres. Hinckley explained in the articles pointed to — and manufacturing a positive doctrine that crosses are so wicked and so anti-Mormon that *they*must*be*avoided*at*all*costs*. If you manufacture a doctrine that does not exist, no matter how satisfactory your chain of reasoning appears to you — you’re wrong. Period. You’re doing exactly what Mormons used to do to explain the priesthood ban.

  38. Matt W.
    January 31, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    LDS Chaplains in the Military all wear crosses. FWIW.

    John Mansfield- Thanks for the reference. I know a lot of Catholic nuns. Maybe it is an episopal thing.

  39. Madden
    January 31, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    I never suggested that crosses were “wicked” or that “they must be avoided at all costs.” I do think, however, that there’s a fundamental reason we avoid the cross in LDS worship, and I think that reason should be explained to children. We shouldn’t be afraid to recognize our differences from mainstream Christianity, to embrace those differences, and to appropriately instruct our children on the underlying reasons for those differences.

    This actually reminds me of the Christian converts in the New Testament who didn’t want to let go of the old traditions (remember Paul’s frustration) and early members of the Church who wanted to keep some traditions of their old faiths (the Shakers, for example).

    Personally, I have less of a problem with the cross then I do with teaching a child to pray to Christ.

  40. Lois
    January 31, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Point taken, Madden, but I don’t think I’ll retract just yet. Here’s why. “Symbol: An object used to represent something…the dove is a symbol of peace” (Webster). I might have stated it better by saying there is no better symbol of CHRISTIANITY than the cross. So I will concede there are a number of equally great symbols of Christ in the Bibile (lamb, for instance). But I think we can all agree that the work of the cross was His greatest — not to mention the single greatest act for humanity of all time.

    As for idolatry, perhaps you have a skewed image of what I mean by “looking to the cross daily.” I don’t have a large cross standing in my bedroom that I stare at every morning. And while I own a cross necklace, I don’t wear it every day, either. But I fail to see how the mere remembrace of this symbol could be construed as idolatry, especially when what it respresents is the ONLY reason we have the promise of heaven?

    And what of us being told to “take up your cross daily and follow Him”? Surely what the cross represents was a recurring theme in the New Testament. I’m not advocating anyone worship a cross or use it as an instant guilt-inflictor. It is what it is.

    None of us NEEDS a symbol to think of Christ. But allegories, parables and symbols are used continually in the Bible as ways to help us remember and simpify. We don’t NEED the cross as a symbol, but its meaning should be imprinted on our hearts, and no one should ever make another person feel guilty for displaying a tangible version of it.

    I believe there’s something to the theory that the LDS church refrained from using the cross to distinguish itself from evangalical Christians — but what if there’s more to that distinction? The sects certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on the “big picture” of salvation. And I think it’s quite possible that the death by itself is far more significant for Evangelicals when it comes to that salvation.

    I do agree with you about the cross itself doing nothing, of course. Afterall, it’s just two pieces of wood bound together. It is Christ’s sacrifice that gives it meaning — a meaning that should never be far from our minds.

  41. Mel D
    January 31, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Props to Kaimi. I have a collection of crosses and various translations of the Bible that are gifts from a Southern Baptist Aunt and Grandma who love me and love the Savior. I treasure these tokens, though I choose not to wear them (I live in Washington, you just don’t see that much here) or use them (I like my quad). If it was not for these faithful family members who taught me to believe in Christ, and the many people who staffed preschool, vacation bible school and Young Life Activities, I don’t know that I would’ve been as interested when my Mormon friends offered me the Gospel. I think sometimes we feel so threatened by Protestantism– or even Catholicism– that we devalue their contributions, either personally or historically or even theologically.

    Thanks for the pleasant reminder. I still sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”– and once sang it with friends in a public school classroom in high school. My Mormon friends were completely left out, and it was kind of sad for them but fun to be fellowshipping with other Christians (it was kind of sporatic). Makes up for the whole “I never went to primary” thing.

  42. Hans
    January 31, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    A non-member visiting this board might get the impression that Mormons must be vampires because they’re so afraid of crosses! :) However, we do go outside in the daytime!

  43. January 31, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    I wore a small ankh on a necklace for a couple of years, that I bought while in Egypt. The first time I wore it I happend to run into my bishop (at his place of business) who noticed it after a while and got a little flustered and then remarked, “Why are you wearing a cross?” When I explained to him that it wasn’t a cross and that it in fact was an Egyptian symbol he calmed down. His reaction kind of fueled a desire for me to continue wearing it. That same response happened numerous times and each time I got a kick out of how members found it so audacious to wear a cross, but weren’t bothered at all after they found out it was a (“pagan”) Egyptian symbol.

  44. TMD
    January 31, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Having been Catholic, attended a Catholic school and been taught by nuns through 7th grade, and having once been an altar boy, I can say that John Mansfield is correct on the point about the nuns–and the practise is associated with most Roman orders, as well as Episcopal ones.

    But more generally, I think he’s got a good point about the question of identity, practice, and faith. If this is indeed merely a kindergarten experience, fine. But I know of some tremendously loving and dedicated members (between them bishop, stake clerk, stake primary president, etc.) who sent their children to an Episcopal high school–and I don’t think either of the kids have seen the inside of a chapel since they graduated high school. I’m not blaming anyone, and certainly they got a good education, and certainly this won’t be true about everyone, but I think the combination of experiences tended to put make the church an other, and an inferior one at that. You have the principal social peer group, a dedicated and thoughtful group of spokesmen for another religion (such schools don’t pay all that well often, so there’s going to be some other incentive at work quite often), and in all likelihood a more hedonistic view of life (I would recount my good Episcopal seminarian friend’s favorite episcopal summer camp song, but I don’t think it would abide with the rules). In contrast, a ward and its leadership may seem amateurish, even threadbear–and the peers very often a lot less like the children and their experiences. At religious colleges, I have seen similar effects on a number of others.

    Yet, often religious schools–perhaps none more than the Jesuits–can offer a tremendous education. So, it seems that there are real issues, issues of preparation and maintenance of testimony and self-identity at work here. And there’s a matter of teaching the children how to know and understand when to participate, and when to separate themselves from the rest by not participating (this later often being the most important).

    Indeed, while “joining in” may have a warm, ecumenical flavor, periodic acts of separation may be far more important because they force the child (or young adult) to ponder the nature of their faith and doctrine, and the courage associated with taking that step away from the community can have a powerful influence on testimony and testimony-building. Moreover, by provoking others’ notice, it can very effectively reify their status as peculiar within the community.

  45. SimpleScott
    January 31, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    jjohnsen (34) РTouch̩.

    For the record, my 4-year old daughter is in a “mainstream” Christian preschool, and she expresses many of the same ideas Kaimi’s daughter does. It’s fun to see her learn about and have an interest in religion outside of church and home. We tend to react to things in a similar fashion to what Madden describes in comment 29. We’ve been dealing with praying to Jesus vs. praying to Heavenly Father lately. It’s fun to see her think about it.

    When we were getting new carpet recently, we found a crucifix in the heating duct. I don’t think a cross would have bothered me, but I didn’t like the crucifix. It brought back memories of some of the really eerie ceremonies I saw while serving a mission in Portugal.

  46. DavidH
    January 31, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    “The only members of the Church who wear the symbol of the cross are Latter-day Saint chaplains, who wear it on their military uniforms to show that they are Christian chaplains.” True to the Faith.

    That is, official policy is that LDS chaplains wear a cross “to show . . . they are Christian chaplains.” They do not wear the cross to show that they are just chaplains, but that they are Christian chaplains–with implicit emphasis on “Christian”.

    I wonder what the reaction of the Church membership would be if God inspired the Brethren as follows: “Many Christians wonder if Latter-day Saints are Christian. In the U.S. military, we have largely avoided the problem by having our chaplains wear the cross–that way service people know they are Christian. Based on the success of this “pilot program,” we have decided to encourage all our members to wear the cross (instead of or in addition to the CTR ring), and we will add crosses to our buildings and to the covers of our standard works. We realize that in prior years we have chosen not to use the cross as an LDS symbol, because we were concerned that the symbol overemphasized His death (and might even seem morbid to some). But we have come to believe that this concern is more than outweighed by our need to communicate even more clearly and forcefully that Latter-day Saints are Christian.”

    Would an Official Declaration 3 be required before such a change would be accepted? Would “anti-cross” splinter groups form? Is the principle against official use of the cross an eternal one, so that, outside of the military, it is inconceivable that the policy would change? (Perhaps Dialogue can publish an article to determine whether this is “doctrine” or “practice”.)

    SmallAxe, thanks for the post about the Egyptian symbol that looked like a cross. I was beginning to be concerned that I would not be able to buy a Chevrolet, because its symbol sort of looks like a cross.

  47. bbell
    January 31, 2007 at 7:14 pm


    I would suggest that the decision that LDS Chaplains were crosses was something that was decided in the Pentagon with little or no input from SLC. The military tends to be that way.

    There is probably a story there that somebody could uncover.

  48. Mel D
    January 31, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    #45– I got a great education at a Lutheran (ELCA) college. We had an active institute, and none of that group fell away while I was there– but it was comprised mostly of transfer students from community colleges. The kids that went there all four years tended to go with the purpose of becoming inactive. I think it had very little to do with the Lutheran presence on campus.

  49. jjohnsen
    January 31, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    #38 summed it up really well for me. I have no reason to wear a cross, but the feeling I get from some people about it is real anger and hate, which I don’t understand. The people that wear a cross aren’t doing it for any reason other than to remember Christ. What could be wrong with that?

  50. Matt Evans
    January 31, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    “The people that wear a cross aren’t doing it for any reason other than to remember Christ.”

    jjohnsen, surely you know there are two Madonnas?

  51. TMD
    January 31, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    #49: Perhaps it would have been different if it were Missouri Synod…or worse, Wisconsin Synod! Ha ha, sorry, jokes about Lutheran denominations. (Had a room-mate in college who went to Lutheran seminary)

    Personally, I went to an episcopalian college, jointly owned by 28 dioceses, without an institute (heck, without anyone else college-aged in my ward), and in fact was finally baptized during my junior year (I was exposed to the church before then because I come from a part-member family). And my college, sewanee, is among the most amazing places on earth, in beauty, sense of community, academic rigor, and alcohol consumption. So I’m not saying its not possible, certainly. But I have known a number of people for whom the pattern I identified above held true.

    And I think a key point is that it is a very different thing to be among a minority–as you clearly were, having had an institute–as opposed to being “the one” (which has been my experience until I came to graduate school at a large state university) or having only siblings as comrades in the church (my siblings have not yet joined me in the church). In such a situation, there is less clarity about when to join in and when to recuse, there is no precedent, there is no support from peers ‘like you.’ And most of the authority figures, and most of the really dedicated people who you like and respect, are not of the church. If not well prepared, it can be a recipe for dissonance. And, in such a situation, if not well prepared, the structure suggests that forming a testimony, or keeping a weak one, will be less than likely.

  52. Eve
    January 31, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Over Christmas vacation, while we were walking by the Mervyn’s jewelry counter, my sister Kiskilili asked me if I would ever wear a cross. It made me stop and think. On the one hand, I’m somewhat attracted to the cross as a reminder of Christ. On the other, just having finished reading James Carroll’s _Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews–A History, I’m feeling a whole new appreciation of some of the cross’s disturbing historical significance.

    But the really important thing about this post is that it’s made me want to meet not just Kaimi and Mardell, but their daughter as well.

  53. Ola Senor
    January 31, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    “But I think we can all agree that the work of the cross was His greatest — not to mention the single greatest act for humanity of all time.”

    While Christ’s death on the cross was important, I think that his suffering in the garden of gethsemane is potentially more important. Also I believe the resurrection is more important than the death.

    jj johnson
    “The people that wear a cross aren’t doing it for any reason other than to remember Christ. What could be wrong with that?”

    I disagree with your characterization. Many, possibly most, people who wear crosses wear it to remember Christ. Certainly not all. and I won’t concede that most wear a cross for no other reason. Plenty of reasons come to mind, affiliation with a religious group, family history, to promote oneself as religious in the eyes of another etc.

    To me, it is the symbolic nature, and what it proclaims to others. Unlike the garment, which should be worn underneath one’s clothes and NOT visible, a visible cross proclaims loudly, I AM A CHRISTIAN. While this is great, I would rather proclaim, I am a follower of christ and a member of his church established in the latter days. I don’t think we want to lose this message, or be lumped with the rest of christianity.

  54. Mel D
    January 31, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    (sorry for the threadjack) #49- I whole heartedly agree. At my school, the ELCA’s presence was fairly weak. Thanks for the Lutheran jokes, I’ve missed those. And the free lefsa being passed out by old Norwegian ladies.

  55. dsilversmith
    February 1, 2007 at 12:49 am

    As the grandfather of the young girl in question I DO NOT have any problems with her having a cross. In fact as a silversmith I think I will go to my shop and make her another one. If the cross helps her feel good and remember Jesus then good for her. Symbles do that, they help you remember why your doing Or not doing somethings. Maybe when I made her I will put CTR on it.

  56. February 1, 2007 at 1:00 am

    What is it with the Evangelical’s invading the bloggernacle lately? Really… Lois? Aaraon Shavaloff? It’s really kinda interesting. In perhaps a “Guys, your rhetoric is futile in these parts” sort of way.

  57. Mardell
    February 1, 2007 at 2:21 am

    To the grandfather,
    Your grandaughter would love that.

    To weigh in on the arguement I think that symbols are what you make of them. If the cross is what reminds her of Christ then great.

  58. Adam Greenwood
    February 1, 2007 at 5:16 am

    I’m probably the last person who should take this side of the argument, but the reasons Mormons shouldn’t wear crosses are simple. Its not what *our* people do.

  59. Norbert
    February 1, 2007 at 6:20 am

    Many members I know in Europe who are converts from other faiths have a desire to wear the cross and display it in their home because they don’t see the gospel as dramatically different from their former faith, but more of an extension or expansion of that faith. I wouldn’t say it’s common, but the fact that the woman who leads the music in our ward wears a cross has never gotten a comment.

    In addition, when GBH came to Finland for the temple dedication, he held up the Finnish flag sideways and said, ‘Remember you are a Christian nation,’ or something to that effect. The point is that there does not seem to be a real doctrinal antipathy to the cross as a symbol.

    We live within view of a whopping big cross atop the Lutheran church tower, and we attend social events at the Lutheran church, as do all of the neighbors. Having elements of one’s spiritual development happen outside of the LDS context is not unusual as you get further from SLC. My boys and I sing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, cuz the Bible tells me so’ as I learned it at the neighbor’s Bible camp as a kid. It was a part of my spiritual development, and I want to pass it on to my kids.

  60. meems
    February 1, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Wow. I don’t know what to say about this except that I’m impressed with your open mindedness and sensibilities, Kaimi and Mardell. I’ve always had the ingrained Mormon aversion to crosses while growing up (except for those really cool Celtic ones from Cornwall and a nifty rare Coptic one from Ethiopia that “didn’t count”), but lately I’ve been having second thoughts on the whole matter, including a parochial education.

    I recently had an interview to teach at an outstanding school with a Christian (Lutheran) background. The day opened with prayer, and “spirituality” was one of their expected schoolwide learning focuses, but other than that they are a “normal” school, just one where Christian values are at the forefront. I really froze up in the interview, thinking, is this heresy to send my kids to such a school? What will happen to them? But as I thought about it more and more, I realized that this would be exactly the kind of place i really wanted them to be. It felt weird to feel that way, like I was not being true to my Mormanness, but I have to say, I think your child is probably receiving a wonderful educational and spiritual experience. I wish Primary did focus a little more on traditional teachings of Jesus, and while I probably wouldn’t have gotten a cross for my own daughter, (still those personal hang-ups…), I have to say I am very impressed that you did.

    I think that’s really cool and amazing that your little girl wants to be reminded of Jesus and wants to think about him. I wish my own little girl felt that way. (She’s 7 and rebellious). Anyway, I loved this story. And I love the idea of a cross with CTR engraved on it too! :-)

  61. Peter
    February 1, 2007 at 8:32 am

    #12:”A cross is just a sideways X.”

    And a swastika, likewise a religous symbol, is just a sideways X with feet and hands, yet I catch a lot of heat every Sunday for wearing my Iron Cross lapel pin. Dang narrow minded Mormons!

  62. Peter
    February 1, 2007 at 8:38 am

    #24: “Why our church has a problem in general about the cross is sort of a mystery”

    Actually, it’s history.

  63. February 1, 2007 at 9:09 am

    “And a swastika, likewise a religous symbol, is just a sideways X with feet and hands, yet I catch a lot of heat every Sunday for wearing my Iron Cross lapel pin.”

    Well. I’d say that’s by far the most insulting comparison to show up on this thread yet, Peter. Excellent work.

  64. Not Ophelia
    February 1, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Sure, I’ve heard the anti-Cross rhetoric before in various Seminary and Sunday School lessons. I’ve been told that crosses are bad; that they celebrate Christ’s death rather than His life; that they are “inharmonious” with proper worship, and on and on. This time, I’m not buying it.

    For me it’s not that the cross is ‘bad’ or ‘inharmonious with proper worship’ — that is just post facto justifications for something we do — rather like some of the racial stuff we used to hear, and some of the gender stuff we still do. The problem with crosses is this — it is a symbol of another religion, very different ours; a symbol of something we are not part of.

    It’s very trendy these days to spout the ‘Mormons are Christians too’ line. I guess it comes from the emphasis the church has given to PR in the last 10 or 15 years. But while we are Christians, we are only such in the most superficial definition of the term [Christian = follower of Christ]. The term ‘Christian’ and the symbol of the cross has two thousand years of history and meanings and baggage that we neither accept nor applies to us: creeds and schisms, Roman emperors and European Crusaders, apostasy and [Greek] ‘philosophies of men mingled with scripture,’ paid clergy and infant baptisms, the three-in-one God and either 1) a line of succession we don’t accept [Catholic, Orthodox] or 2) a denial that such a thing is even necessary [Protestant.]

    Finally, it’s true that your daughter doesn’t know or care about the history and deeper doctrine. She’s too young. But here are a couple of thoughts on that as well: First, I remember a BYU professor I had who had lived for a time in Japan with his family. He said when they’d had the option of sending his daughter to either Catholic or Buddhist preschool, they”d chosen Buddhist because the difference we so stark she would have no chance of confusing the two. Second: if another of your daughter’s friends had given her a pagan/wiccan star or a miniature Ganesh or, for that matter a Star of David [which one might argue would be a more appropriate symbol for the modern house of Israel we claim to be] would that have troubled you? Is it just jewelry or is there something deeper re: group identity and separateness of doctrine that needs to be addressed?

  65. Lois
    February 1, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    The posters who have commented about garments and CTR rings as symbols are absolutely right — there is plenty of religious symbolism in the LDS church. The distinction is this: Garments and rings remind people of what THEY have done and should do; the cross is a reminder of what CHRIST did. His one act is the be-all, end-all of our salvation. If there ever was a perfect reminder of who are in Christ (that is, nothing apart from him), the cross trumps clothing and rings any day.

  66. cantinflas
    February 1, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I also don’t buy the rhetoric that the cross symbolizes the dying Savior, while we worship the resurrected Savior. I once heard a quote that I think Joseph F Smith(?) thought our compilation of hymns used the Savior’s name too often, bordering on blasphemy. I think the cross is a good and honest symbol, but that too many religions use it to distract from the things they should be worshipping to the point that it becomes profane. I don’t think the cross should be so prolific that someone asks why we don’t use it. That is a sign that their religion doesn’t really treat it as sacred, they just pretend to.

  67. February 1, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I’ll feed the LoisTroll…

    “The distinction is this: Garments and rings remind people of what THEY have done and should do; the cross is a reminder of what CHRIST did.”

    Actually the distinction is this: Garments and rings remind people of what they have done and should do because of what Christ did for them. It’s very rooted in Christ’s sacrifice, as are all things, ultimately.

  68. Lois
    February 1, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    And so doing, A. Nonny Mouse, you’ve articulated the greatest distinction between Mormonism and Protestantism perfectly.

  69. February 1, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    “And so doing, A. Nonny Mouse, you’ve articulated the greatest distinction between Mormonism and Protestantism perfectly.”

    Right. You think God simply requires you to feel good, while we think He actually wants us to be good. ;)

    Mouse Out.

  70. Lois
    February 1, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Certainly did not intend to ruffle anyone’s feathers as an “invader” or “troll” (a la A. Nonny Mouse), but I assure you I’m respectfully abiding by the rules laid out in this site’s comment policy. I happened on Kaimi’s post by chance and found it particularly thoughtful and well-written, so I decided it was worth commenting on. I don’t believe I said anything inflammatory or insulting, but please forgive me if I caused offense — no offense intended.

    I cannot in good conscience, however, leave your last remark uncorrected: God alone is truly good, and salvation through Him requires only our faith. And if THAT’S offensive, then I should have put away my Bible long before I started commenting :)

  71. beeshnkj
    February 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    This thread has been so interesting. I loved the last few comments, but was a little saddened by the tone of one or two.

    In reality, the gap is quite small between those who think good works count for something and those who think “faith” alone suffices.

    Some Christians believe God, out of fairness, will “save” everyone.

    Some Christians believe God will, by “grace,” “save” those with faith in Jesus.

    Some Christians believe God will, by “grace,” “save” those whose faith in Jesus motivates them to do certain things, especially serving “the least of these, [His] brethren.”

    In my experience the difference between those in latter two categories is so small because: (1) having faith in Jesus is “doing” something (a lot, actually); and (2) so many with faith in Jesus do so much that is good.

    I say that if wearing a cross pendant “reminds” Kaimi’s daughter to have faith in Jesus, which is the first principle of the Gospel, for now get her a matching bracelet! And, as she matures, teach her to know, believe, and believe in Christ and his Gospel.

  72. LizardGumbo
    February 3, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Having been LDS going to a Southern Baptist school *in Jackson County, Missouri* from the 4th grade until graduation, I have an aversion to wearing a symbol of a faith I do not respect in any way. My experience (one LDS child alone to defend her faith to adults for years on end, when she didn\’t even know what most of it meant) left me bitter with mainstream protestantism and grateful for the \”peculiarity\” of our doctrine. The phrase \”Having Jesus in one\’s heart\” is packed to bursting with connotations and implications in protestantism that most LDS really don\’t understand.

    The Church does not condone the use of a cross as a symbol, which is in itself a symbol. I go crossless with reckless abandon.

    I will not presume to offer advice on how to rear his daughter or guide her in the gospel; however, I will say that the willingness to \”cross over,\” as someone else put it, makes me shudder a bit.

  73. Velikye Kniaz
    February 4, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I find it truly saddening to read of many members unconscious drift towards making the Restored Church into a socially acceptable Protestant denomination. Not too long ago it was that our three hours of Sunday meetings were too long and so very boring. The gist was to shorten them to two hours so that they didn’t interfere as much with the busy lives of the modern Saints. Now all of this furor about the displaying or wearing a cross. I choose not to wear a cross because I am a Latter-day Saint. To me the cross does not symbolize the Atonement, it symbolizes post-Apostolic ‘Christianity’. The cross as a religious symbol has been substantially devalued by actions of many of those who wear it. It doesn’t seem to be a potent enough reminder to them that if they truly love the Saviour then they must keep His commandents. I wonder how many of those in the mobs that raped Mormon women during the Missouri persecutions wore crosses and considered themselves good Christians? Or how many men who stormed the Carthage Jail and murdered the Prophet and Patriarch wore crosses? Some of them were, by their own confession, ‘ministers of the Gospel’. As an infant I was baptized a Roman Catholic by sprinkling, attended parochial schools and voluntarily chose to leave both parochial school and Catholicism after I cited a New Testament passage that negated the Catholic concept on the importance of the Virgin Mary and the Saints in the salvation of mankind. I was summarily taken to Mother Superior by my outraged nun/teacher who explained to her that my mind was being ‘poisoned by my black Protestant mother’ (a German Lutheran). After that, I became a Protestant (New England Yankee) Congregationalist until after studying the Restored Gospel I asked for baptism into the Church. That was 40 plus years ago and although my life as a Latter-day Saint hasn’t been easy, I will happily die a believing Latter-day Saint. If I desired a symbol of my Faith it would be the Angel Moroni, which to me symbolizes Our Father in Heaven’s continued Love and Concern for His Children in these Last Days. “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of Heaven having the Everlasting Gospel to preach to them that dwell upon the earth…”. Without the Atonement of Christ we would be utterly lost. Without the Restoration of the Priesthood and it’s Authority, the Church, and the Ordinances of Heaven within the Temples the efficacy of the Atonement would remain beyond our reach. I don’t need a cross to remind me of the Saviour, His Priceless Atonement,
    or My Father in Heaven’s Love. Little children taught in traditions
    other than their own are far more likely to embrace that same tradition as adults. If I had a real testimony that this is the Restored Church of Jesus Christ I would love my children enough to make certain that the Fullness of the Gospel was firmly instilled in their hearts and minds pure and undiluted. Nonetheless, we all have our free agency, but in the exercise of same we should carefully weigh the implications of our decisions and actions. May our Father in Heaven help us all to do so in accordance with His Will.

  74. Anon
    February 4, 2007 at 3:43 am

    Velikye Kniaz,

    You are clearly right. The reason Bro. Wenger lets his daughter wear a cross is because he doesn’t love her. Either that, or he has no testimony. Thank you for making it clear.

    Also, thanks for pointing out that we should never associate ourselves with symbols that have been used in a wrongful way by someone else in the past. Thank goodness the Angel Moroni has never been used in a bad way. Or the Bible. Or the Book of Mormon. Or the American flag.

  75. Velikye Kniaz
    February 4, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Obviously, Anon, I have touched a nerve with you. I apoligise to you that my loyalty to my Saviour’s Restored Church has so profoundly offended you. Perhaps it would sit with you more comfortably if I had simply asked, “Where has the Lord commanded that we memorialize His Atonement by wearing a cross?” President Hinckley concluded a brief article on this issue by saying simply that our lives should be a living symbol of our Faith. I agree. I have no Moroni on a chain around my neck, on my wall, or on the roof peak of my home. My point was that if I were to choose a symbol, it would be one of the Restoration. Lastly, it may shock and surprise you to know that I do have a Russian Orthodox cross on my library wall. It is just above an ikon of the murdered Russian Imperial family. I respect it and I respect other’s rights in choosing their preferred symbols. However, I do not recant my other points, which, from all I have read and experienced, are both germane and valid.

  76. J.R. Knight
    February 17, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Our personal sentiments aside, the history of the cross goes back farther than most of us might think. The cross is more than a symbol of the Lord’s atonement, and I think it’s important that we appreciate the ancient meanings attached to it.

    To the Egyptians it was a hieroglyph which carried the meaning of ‘save’ and ‘protect’ (see Alan Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar, p. 577, 3rd ed.). As such it was likely the symbol used to mark the doorways of the Israelites against the angel of death. This is not the similar ankh (interestingly ‘life’ or ‘to live’) but an actual cross.

    The shape itself is proto-Hebrew for the last letter, tav, and was written like our lower case ‘t’. As such, it carries the symbolism of a scale or balance, representing the reconciliation of justice and mercy—the atonement.

    Alfred Edersheim states that the high priest, inside the temple, poured oil on the weekly shewbread loaves in the shape of a cross. He also says that the cross was the sign the high priest made at the altar with the wave offerings.

    The word ‘tav’ is Hebrew for ‘mark’ which appears in Ezekiel 9:4, and was rendered by the Douay as ‘Thau’. In the New Jerusalem Bible it appears as ‘cross’. The word also appears in the Book of Mormon, Jacob 4:14, where Jacob says the Jews looked ‘beyond the mark.’ They looked beyond the cross and refused to accept what it represented—protection, salvation and atonement.

    In the wilderness, Israel camped around the tabernacle—not in a circle, but with three tribes each on the north, south, east and west. Taking the population from Numbers 1, and the camp arrangement from the Safer Yetzirah, we find Ephraim/Manasseh/Benjamin = 108,000-west; Judah/Issachar/Zebulon = 186,000-east; Dan/Asher/Naphtali = 167,000-north; and Ruben/Simeon/Gad = 151,000-south. The appearance to someone, such as Balaam & Balak, looking down from a mountain to the valley below would be the shape of a cross.

    The cross is more correctly a Jewish symbol while the star of David might actually be a Christian symbol, representing the earthly and heavenly temple joined. The LDS meetinghouse on temple square has a star of David above its door.

    The woodwork inside the Kirtland Temple includes a repeating ‘tau’ pattern. You can see an illustration of it in Matthew Brown’s book, Symbols in Stone, p.65. ‘Tau’ is the Greek letter equivalent of ‘tav’ and is the same as our capital ‘T’.

    I think an understanding of the history and significance of the cross, along with the symbolism of the fish and the Lord’s more than 100 different names in the scriptures, helps us better appreciate His life and mission.

  77. L.W. Cannon
    February 20, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    The wearing of a cross seems a bit silly to me. The cross was the instrument of our Savior’s death. Had he been beheaded instead of crucified on the cross, would Christians mount giant guillotines atop their church buildings and wear pretty little silver or gold ones around their necks? If Jesus Christ had been stoned to death as was Stephen (Acts 7:59), would members of Christian churches display huge boulders in their churches? If our Lord had been simply beaten to death by the angry mob, would a clenched fist be the symbol of Christianity? I don’t think so.

    My sweet, kind, wonderful mother died when her car was hit by a drunk driver when I was 18 years old. I choose to remember my mom not by wearing a little silver bottle of beer around my neck, or by kneeling in prayer before a representation of the horrible mangled wreck that was once her car. No, I choose to honor her memory her by trying to remember the things she taught me and to be the kind of person she would want me to be.

    I am grateful for the clear, concise, and logical statement by President Hinckley that our lives, rather than an object, must be the symbol of our religion. If members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Gordon B. Hinckley is truly a prophet of God, we’ll accept this teaching and follow it whether it is official church doctrine or not, and whether we agree with it or not.

    And one more thing–as members of the Church, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, and what they may.” It should not bother us if others choose to display, wear, worship, pray to, or eat the cross!

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