Mormon Theology — Background of the Cross

Much of what follows is excerpted from various books on Mormon theology.  These are not my thoughts.  I simply thought them interesting and worth sharing here.

The “Latin” or “Passion” cross, now the primary symbol of Christianity, was not shown in Christian art until six centuries after Christ. But long before the Christian era it was a pagan religious symbol throughout Europe and western Asia. Early Christians even repudiated the cross because it was pagan. A church father of the 3rd century, Minucius Felix, indignantly denied that Christians worshipped the cross: “You it is, ye Pagans, who are the most likely people to adore wooden crosses . . . for what else are your ensigns, flags, and standards, but crosses gilt and beautiful. Your victorious trophies not only represent a simple cross, but a cross with a man on it.”

From a very ancient times, an effigy of a man hanging on a cross was set up in fields to protect the crops. The modern scarecrow is a survival of the sacrificial magic, representing the sacred king whose blood was supposed to fertilize the earth. He was never abandoned, even though every farmer knew that no scarecrow ever really scared a crow.

The cross was also a male symbol of the phallic Tree of Life; therefore it often appeared in conjunction with the female-genital circle or oval, to signify the sacred marriage. Male cross and female orb composed the Egyptian “amulet Nefer,” or amulet of blessedness, a charm of sexual harmony.

The so-called Celtic cross, with the crossing of the arms encircled by a ring, was another lingam-yoni sign of sexual union, known to the Hindus as Kiakra. Some old Celtic crosses still in existence show obvious phallic elements, even to a realistic meatus at the cross’s tip. Crosses signified a god’s love-death even in pre-Columbian art of the western hemisphere, which showed the Savior carrying his cross, an image very similar to the Christian one.

No one knows exactly when the cross became associated with Christianity. Early images of Jesus represented him no on a cross but in the guise of the Osirian or Hermetic “Good Shepherd,” carrying a lamb. Later, many different kinds of crosses were used as Christian symbols. They included the Greek cross of equal arms, the X-shaped St. Andrew’s cross, the swastika, the Gnostic Maltese cross, the solar cross or Cross of Wotan, and the ansated cross, a development of the Egyptian ank, also found as the Cross of Venus.

Greeks said this cross was “common to the worship of Christ and Sarapis.” The Goddess Isis is shown on the Isiac Table with the cross in one hand, a lotus seed-vessel in the other, signifying male and female genitalia. As her consort, the god Sarapis was incarnate in Ptolemy. The words “Ptolemy the Savior” were followed by a cross on the Darmietta Stone. Pious Christian scholar once tried to pretend that this phrase was really a prophecy of the future Christ.

Male genitals are still called “the tree of life” by the Arabs, and a cross was one of the oldest diagrammatic images of male genitals. Among Christians there was at least some recognition of the cross’s phallic significance. An ancient crucifix at Sancreed in Cornwall was a spear set upright in a holy vase (the uterine vessel with two testicle-like scrolls appended to its shaft. The cross entering the labyrinth was one of the oldest symbols of the lingam-yoni in the west, dating back to early Neolithic times. Spiral “feminine” labyrinths penetrated by a cross occur in prehistoric rock carvings from Crete, at Tintagel in Cornwall, Wier Island in Finland, and Chartres Cathedral.

The LDS Beliefs

Among the Assyrians, Persians, Phoenicians of Carthage, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the cross was an instrument of execution. From earliest times the eventual crucifixion and death of our Lord upon the cross was revealed to holy prophets. The gospel authors detail may of the events and circumstances incident thereto. And after his resurrection, our Lord said that the very reason he came into the world was to fulfill the will of the Father in being lifted up upon the cross.

Because of its association with our Lord, the cross has come to have symbolic meanings for those who profess belief in his atoning blood. Paul properly used the cross of Christ to identify to the mind the whole doctrine of the atonement, reconciliation, and redemption.

In succeeding centuries, the churches which came into being through an intermingling of pagan concepts with the true apostolic Christianity developed the practice of using symbolic crosses in the architecture of their buildings and as jewelry attached to the robes of their priests. Frequently this practice of dwelling on the personal death struggle of our Lord has caused theses churches to put sculptured representations of Christ on their crosses, these forming so-called crucifixes. All this is inharmonious with the spirit of worship and reverence that should attend a true Christian’s remembrance of our Lord’s sufferings and death. In fact, the revealed symbolism to bring these things to the attention of true worshipers is found in the ordinance of the sacrament.

Bible History concerning Solomon and the cross

The scripture says, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father [who, with all his faults, resisted every taint of idolatry]. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father”. (1 Kings 11:4-6)

There were two characteristics of heathen worship which made them far more abominable than simply bowing down to images of wood and stone. One was the use of erotic fertility rites in which drunkenness and acts of immorality were utilized as sacramental offerings by the heathen worshiper. The other was the slaughtering of human beings, particularly children and virgins, as forms of sacrifice. Only when these facts are understood will the Bible reader comprehend the vehemence with which the Lord and his prophets denounced “the groves,” the phallic symbols and all other aspects of heathen worship associated with idolatry.

However, Solomon’s sin appears to have been the building of heathen temples where these rites could be practices rather than actually participating in them himself. And he appears to have built these heathen centers in response to the teasing and conniving of his idolatrous wives. The seriousness of his offense is spelled out in the following scripture, “Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem [the Mount of Olives] and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”

The founding fathers of the Church fought for over 500 years to keep this pagan symbol out of the church. The early Christians were tortured and killed for their beliefs. One by one, the Apostles were killed. Because of the persecution, surviving Apostles could not meet to chose and ordain men to replace those who were dead. The perfect organization of the Church no longer existed, and confusion resulted. But as the Roman pagans took over and reorganize the Church this symbol was transferred from the pagan church to the Christian Church and then the great apostasy from the True Church began. Then pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. The Roman emperor chose the leaders of the church and uses the same titles as the true Church of Christ. Church officers were given honor and wealth. Bishops and archbishops fought among themselves to gain more power. There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts.

The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants there of; because they have transgress the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name had been changed.

My Comments: As can be seen from the above quotes, the cross was never intended to be a symbol to be worship or to be used as an article to identify one as a Christian. This was a pagan symbol created in the minds of non-believers of God of Israel by Satan himself from the beginning to be used in the sacrificial murder of the innocent and/or to promote sexual rites. This is the reason that we do not use the cross in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Research and comments by my Step-Father.

Good work, George.

If the original authors of the items borrowed above and used to explain why the Mormon Church doesn’t use the cross are offended by their re-posting here, pls contact me and I will happily remove the items of concern.  But really, it’s a blog, it ain’t that serious.  lol  At least, this blog isn’t.

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10 comments on “Mormon Theology — Background of the Cross

  1. FYI… as I was reading your blog, some of the text sounded familiar… so I did some checking. It turns out that this entire post seems to have been plagiarized. The first part comes word-for-word from Barbara G. Walker’s book “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” (p. 188-190). The second (also word-for-word) comes from Bruce R. McConkies’ “Mormon Doctrine” (p. 172-173). As for the third section, the majority of it comes from the LDS Church’s “Gospel Principles” manual (chapter 16). You might want to consider taking take this blog post down, or cite the sources appropriately (maybe my citations above will help you do that). If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
    Best regards,
    Mike Reed

    ps. I’ve researched this topic extensively… and I have to say that I disagree with the conclusions of the original sources. The Minucius Felix quote given by Barbara Walker, for example, is taken out of context. If she would have quoted further, it would have become rather obvious that he (like other Christians of his day) held the cross to be sacred, and (rather than create a material image of it) searched for its hidden occurrence in the world around him.

  2. Mike Reed, Yes you are right, I did take them out of the three sources you quoted. Good for you. This was an e-mail to my son Jonathan who wanted to know about why we did not worship or used the cross in the LDS Church. This was not a term paper or to be published as my own original work and I never claim it to be. There were too many references to be listed and would be too formal in a personal e-mail. But I take responsibility for the words written after “My Comments”. To take up one’s cross is scared, but a material cross is an image that should not be worshiped and carried as a symbol of your beliefs. It was evil from the beginning. But to bear one’s cross is the burden of each of God’s children. “If Christ was shot, would Christians be worshiping guns and wearing them around their necks?” [Can’t remember who said that]. In “my view” that is why it is so silly to wear a cross. The cross was evil, created by evil to make the children of God suffer. In “my view” Satin is the one who masterminded the making of the cross to stop the Plan of Salvation. He was blinded to the fact that Christ’s suffering in the Garden was way more important that the dieing on the cross. Christ saw each of our images,one at a time, in the Garden that day and he knew and loved each of us personally and he suffered for our sins individually. Remember God’s time is not our time.

    • George: Mike Reed, Yes you are right, I did take them out of the three sources you quoted. Good for you.

      Me: Having studied this topic for years, a couple portions of your quotes were easily recognizable. I wrote my MA thesis on “The Development of the LDS Church’s Attitude Toward the Cross.” The Salt Lake Tribune did a story on my thesis a couple months ago: http://www.wwrn.org/article.php?idd=30855&con=4&sec=16

      George: This was an e-mail to my son Jonathan who wanted to know about why we did not worship or used the cross in the LDS Church. This was not a term paper or to be published as my own original work and I never claim it to be. There were too many references to be listed and would be too formal in a personal e-mail.

      Me: Understood.

      George: But I take responsibility for the words written after “My Comments”. To take up one’s cross is scared, but a material cross is an image that should not be worshiped and carried as a symbol of your beliefs.

      Me: I don’t agree. I think God would care less about whether or not the cross is used as a symbolic expression of faith, and would be much more concerned about his children being one and free from hypocrisy (see below).

      George: It was evil from the beginning. But to bear one’s cross is the burden of each of God’s children.

      Me: Since the symbol of the cross is pre-historic, your claim that it was evil “from the beginning” is both unsupported and unverifiable.

      George: “If Christ was shot, would Christians be worshiping guns and wearing them around their necks?” [Can’t remember who said that].

      Me: You may be thinking of Joseph Fielding Smith’s quote from his multi-volume work, “Answers to Gospel Questions” (vol. 4, p. 18). Of course, though, Joseph Fielding Smith did not come up with this rationale himself. Anti-Cross Protestants expressed this argument LONG before Mormons ever did. In my view, this apologetic smacks of the same kind of sensationalism that one should expect to hear from anti-Mormon Ed Decker. It is my opinion that Latter-day Saints should not assert such accusatory questions. Not only because it comes across as insulting to the Protestant mainstream, but also because the statement has a glaring hypocrisy: the symbol of the Nail (also an instrument used to kill Jesus) is a central part of the LDS endowment. You have been endowed, haven’t you? Besides, Mormons often tour Carthage jail–the location where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother were shot and murdered–and report having spiritual/cathartic experiences during their visit. If this is acceptable for Mormons, then on what grounds do you condemn the cros?

      George: In “my view” that is why it is so silly to wear a cross.

      Me: Silly? Do you have a habit of mocking other people’s faiths?

      George: The cross was evil, created by evil to make the children of God suffer. In “my view” Satin is the one who masterminded the making of the cross to stop the Plan of Salvation.

      Me: Again… these are claims that cannot be supported or verified.

      George: He was blinded to the fact that Christ’s suffering in the Garden was way more important that the dieing on the cross.

      Me: And yet, the passages (in LDS scripture) that mention Jesus suffering for sin in the garden are relatively few, compared to those passages that state Jesus suffered for sin on the Cross. Why do you think that is, if the event in the garden was so much more important? And why do you think that God answered the prayer of the soon-to-be Apostle Spencer W. Kimball with a sign of a cross? Was he a disciple of Satan? Kimball recounts a personal story of the struggle he had in 1943, after being called to serve as an Apostle for the LDS Church. With great feelings of inadequacy, he turned to God in prayer. Kimball wrote a week after being called to the Quorum of the Twelve: “No peace had yet come, though I had prayed for it almost unceasingly these six days and nights. I had no plan or destination. I only knew I must get out in the open, apart, away,” he says. “I dressed quietly and without disturbing the family, I slipped out of the house. I turned toward the hills. I had no objective. I wanted only to be alone.” Kimball then describes the tearful hike he made up the hillside. “I climbed on and on. Never had I prayed before as I now prayed. What I wanted and felt I must have was an assurance that I was acceptable to the Lord. I told Him that I neither wanted nor was worthy of a vision or appearance of angels or any special manifestation. I wanted only the calm peaceful assurance that my offering was accepted. Never before had I been tortured as I was now being tortured. And the assurance did not come.” Finally, Spencer W. Kimball saw a sign that gave him assurance that God was with him: “As I rounded a promontory I saw immediately above me the peak of the mountain and on the peak a huge cross with its arms silhouetted against the blue sky beyond. It was just an ordinary cross made of two large heavy limbs of a tree, but in my frame of mind, and coming on it so unexpectedly, it seemed a sacred omen.” This experience made such an impact on him, that he revisited the place two years later(1945). Kimball recorded in his journal: “I began to re-live my unusual experiences…. I followed my footsteps of that early morning…. Finally at the top of my sacred mountain I found my cross of July ’43 was broken. I found a cross beam and carried it up the hill (remembering the Savior as he carried his cross up Calvary) and fixed it the best I could.”*

      * Source: Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), 192-94; 221-222 [original spelling and punctuation retained].

      Did you know that in 1916 the Church petitioned the Salt Lake City Council to erect a cross monument on Ensign Peak? It is true. Did you also know that LDS aversion to the cross was more of a late development in Mormon history, first starting at the grass-roots level around the turn of the 20th century, later being institutionalized by David O. McKay (on grounds that the symbol was purely Catholic)? This is also true. As it turns out, the LDS aversion to the cross fundamentally has an anti-Catholic basis.

  3. Mike, George (Sorry David to be using your blog for this debate). Apparently you did a lot of research on this subject for your MS. Congratulation. While working on my MS most of my papers were on the future of the military, terrorism, and purchase of a dedicated GPS’s satellite for civilian and military air traffic control in the Fort Campbell, Nashville and Memphis fling area. While just trying to answer a question for my son I used only the resources I had in my house and my 64 years of life experiences. The other two resources that I used in answering Jonathan’s question are THE FOURTH THOUSAND YEARS (FROM DAVID TO CHRIST) by W. Cleon Skousen (The information about Solomon)and THE INFINITE ATONEMENT by Tad R. Callister (The information concern the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.)
    The quote I used about the Christ being shot and people wearing a gun was from a comedian on TV who was making fun of Christians and other religious people. This was about 20 or so years ago. It had nothing to do with any leaders of the LDS Church.

    “Your message: George: In “my view” that is why it is so silly to wear a cross.

    Me: Silly? Do you have a habit of mocking other people’s faiths?”

    I respect everyone’s religion. “Silly” is very mild comment and is not an attack on anyone religion. I could have said the same thing about people who carry a rabbit’s foot or wear a new age rock around their neck. Have you heard the verbal attacks and violent attacks on Mormons? If you haven’t go on Glenn Beck’s website and read the attacks on him and the church. There are hundred of books written against the Church. There are hundred of anti-LDS sites on the INTERNET. DVDs sent to members of the church by the Baptist here in Kentucky attacking Joesph Smith and the Church. (I got one by the way – there were so any lies in it.) Even in the history of a nation who prides itself on the right to freedom of religion attacked the member of the LDS for their beliefs and view. I live a block from the Southern Baptist Seminary here in Louisville KY. You should listen to the horror stories I get from the LDS Missionaries in this area as they are being set up by these students by pretending to be investigator of the Church.
    I have a doctor’s appointment, therefore I have to cut this short. Have a great day.

    George

    • George: The quote I used about the Christ being shot and people wearing a gun was from a comedian on TV who was making fun of Christians and other religious people. This was about 20 or so years ago. It had nothing to do with any leaders of the LDS Church.

      Me: Ok. I believe you. Turns out, though, that this rationale is quite popular in Mormon circles (largely because of it was published in Joseph Fielding Smith’s “Answer to Gospel Questions”). Although you may not intend it to be this way… the rationale comes off as insensitive, antagonistic, and sensational. In much the same way, Mormons (with other Christians) could be mocked for their weekly ritual of symbolic cannibalism. Are remarks like this helpful during interfaith dialogue? It seems to me that a more productive approach would be to first try to understand why other religions do the things they do, and to then try to find commonality with one’s own faith. As I mentioned in my previous post, the mainstream reverence for the cross is similar to Mormon reverence for Carthage Jail (as a sacred space), or the symbolic use of the nail in the temple endowment.

      George: I respect everyone’s religion. “Silly” is very mild comment and is not an attack on anyone religion.

      Me: Coupled with your previous gun/cross remark, your “silly” comment perhaps came off as more extreme than would have otherwise been the case. But yes… I concede that your remark is mild compared to the severe mockery/persecution Mormons have at times received over the years.

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