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As I was looking at some references for this question dealing with the usage of the inverted pentagram in the LDS Church and particularly on the Temple in Salt Lack City, I came across an article that indicated that in the LDS Church (and its Temples) the symbol of the Cross is completely absent.

The Cross has been a prominent symbol in Christianity for much of its history. So, my question is this:

For what reason is the usage of the Cross as a symbol excluded by the LDS church?

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I think it's better to understand the history of the Cross and ask why is it a symbol of Christianity. Was Christ crucified on a cross or a pole? Does it really symbolize Constantine's sword? Is the cross revered as an icon? etc Then the question becomes, why WOULD the LDS Church use the cross as a symbol? –  user1054 Sep 7 '12 at 15:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

This question was answered directly by Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the most recent president of the church before the current one. In an article in 2005, he wrote:

“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.”

An when asked what then is the symbol of the LDS, he said:

the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.

I know this site prefers explanations over quotations, but there really isn't much more that can be added to that.

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From the True to the Faith entry for "Cross":

The cross is used in many Christian churches as a symbol of the Savior’s death and Resurrection and as a sincere expression of faith. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.

Essentially, Mormonism attempts to emphasize the life and ressurrection of Jesus Christ. It is believed that the cross doesn't adequately portray this perspective and gives too much weight on death, which was conquered by Him.

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Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Mormon disdain for the symbol was more of a late development in Church history, emerging at the grassroots around the turn of the 20th century, and was institutionalized in the 1950s under the direction of President David O. McKay, on grounds that it was a Catholic symbol. Prior to this time, many Latter-day Saints (including Church authorities), embraced and promoted the symbol of the cross.

My book, Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo (John Whitmer Books, 2012) traces the development of LDS attitudes toward the symbol, and shows that the aversion to the cross in Mormon culture actually began as a means to disassociate the Church from Catholicism. The book includes many 19th-century photos of the cross being worn as jewelry, stitched it into quilts, framed and hung on walls, incorporated into funeral floral arrangements, etc. Perhaps most interesting of all, I explore in detail the LDS Church's 1916 Ensign Peak cross monument proposal—-a proposal to the Salt Lake City Council that stirred great controversy within and outside the Church.

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That's some very interesting history, though I have to wonder about the thesis--that the church disassociated itself from the symbol of the cross as a way to disassociate itself from Catholicism--for two reasons. First, the cross is by no means a symbol of Catholicism. The crucifix (a cross with an image of Jesus being crucified upon it) certainly is, but the plain cross is just as prominent among Protestant imagery as Catholic imagery, perhaps even more so. And second, why would the church wish to "disassociate" itself from Catholicism, which it was never associated with in the first place? –  Mason Wheeler Mar 13 '13 at 2:30
Welcome to Christianity.SE. Thanks for taking the time to provide your knowledge on the subject. I've gone ahead and linked your book. Since this post actually answers the question and that is just a place for further reading, I don't think we have an issue with a little promotion on the side. Hope to see you around, we have a lot of lds questions around here! –  Caleb Mar 13 '13 at 11:51

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