You might have noticed that LDS chapels don’t have a cross on top of them, like some other Christian churches do. LDS people don’t tend to wear crosses as jewelry very often, nor do we tend to decorate with them. Because we are different from some in this regard, it is a subject that is worth spending some time and energy on.
It is important to understand that Christians in general, that is to say all of the churches and groups that profess a belief in Christ, don’t necessarily agree on the use of crosses in jewelry or decor. In various sources online, you can read about the history of the use of the cross, which is more colorful than one might imagine. The early Protestants viewed the cross as a symbol of pagan idolatry, for example, and did not use it. The early LDS church used crosses in monuments and in decor. The use of the cross has changed over the years, as the perspective of different denominations has changed.
The Bible doesn’t give a lot of direction as to the use of symbols of faith. We have the 2nd commandment, which instructs us not to create and worship idols. But not all symbols are idols; take for example the brazen serpent that the children of Israel were asked to create. In regards to the word of God, the important thing seems to be that we avoid worshiping created objects, and focus our oblations on God.
The “Mormons” of today, by and large, adopt a more culturally influenced approach when it comes to the use of crosses in jewelry and statuesque decor. While the early LDS church had no problem with crosses, the 20th century brought a few prominent church leaders that strongly opposed the use of the cross. Their viewpoints were adopted by the general congregation as directives, and the church ever since has discouraged the wearing of crosses. There is no scripture nor official doctrine to support that cultural perspective, but it is nevertheless the “standard” in the current generation.
It is interesting to note that the LDS church and its members don’t have any problems with paintings of the cross or Jesus on the cross. Such paintings are created by Mormon artists frequently, and can be found hanging in LDS homes, and LDS buildings. Mormons do not find the cross offensive. Though the cross itself was a device of torture and death in the time of the Romans, we recognize and understand that today it has become a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The cross of today is a reminder of what our Lord did for us. Along with His suffering on the cross, Mormons like to focus on His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Both of these events represent, to us, the pinnacle of the earth’s creation, the great atoning sacrifice.
I have heard it said by those that don’t wear a cross that they feel it represents only the death of Jesus. I have heard it said by those that do wear one that the empty cross represents the resurrection and the new life of Jesus. I have heard it said by those that do not wear a cross that it is an instrument of torture. I have heard it said by those that do wear a cross that it represents what Jesus was willing to suffer on our behalf.
Rather than judging the motives of others, or worrying about what anyone chooses to wear in living their faith, my prayer is that we can all begin to more fully recognize that we are trying to be worshipers of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to understand everything that I understand because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To my brothers and sisters who choose to wear a cross as a symbol of their faith, I extend my full and complete acceptance and all of my love. Your expression of faith are beautiful to me.
If you come to our chapels and worry that the cross is not displayed, I invite you to turn your attention to the paintings of Jesus Christ that you will find in almost all of our builds and in almost all of the homes of our members. I invite you to open our hymn books, and note the hundreds of songs about our Lord and Savior. And if you choose to wear a cross, know that you will be welcomed and loved.