When the Mormon missionaries last visited us, I had some time with one of them alone and we managed to discuss the cross. I talked about how I was at their church and I did not see a cross anywhere. This struck me as quite interesting so I chose to discuss it, knowing quite well what I would hear, and indeed, that is what I heard.
I was told that for the Mormons, they do not choose to focus on the cross. That was the low point as it was. They choose to celebrate the empty tomb. To a degree, many of us can sympathize with this. Certainly, Christianity is not Christianity if there is no empty tomb and certainly, that tomb being empty is something to celebrate. Yet at the same time, we in Christianity celebrate what we call “Good Friday”, the day Jesus died on the cross.
This was also forefront in the mind of the apostles. A brief search through an online concordance brought up numerous verses with the word “Crucified.” Here are some:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
Note that Paul identifies our transformation with crucifixion.
1 Cor. 1:13
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
And with the Corinthian church, he identifies it as a main event. He didn’t say resurrected but crucified. For Paul, the cross is where atonement was made. (Contrast to the Mormon saying it was also made in the garden.)
And what did Paul preach? 1 Cor. 1:23
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
What did he desire to know? 1 Cor. 2:2
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
In talking about righteousness and how it comes in Galatians 3:1, Paul says this:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
And note also a search for the word “Cross”
1 Cor. 1:17-18
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Notice the message that Paul says he brings. It’s the message of the cross.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Notice that the cross is where Paul says reconciliation took place.
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Notice that opposing the ministry of Jesus is seen as opposing the cross. It is equated with the message of the gospel.
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Again, notice that the peace, or atonement, is made through blood shed on the cross, not blood in the garden.
14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Notice that the law against us was put to death on the cross and the powers of darkness that were at work were triumphed over at the cross.
Now make no mistake, the empty tomb is essential, but the cross was important. Why?
Philippians 2 tells us that Christ was obedient to death on a cross. Note how Hebrews 12:2 also says he endured the cross scorning its shame.
Those are two clues. They tell us the cross was shameful. Deuteronomy 21:23 tells us that anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse, and this was seen as crucifixion later on to Israel. There were numerous Messiah claimants in Israel at the time of Christ. They all had one thing in common though. When they died, their movements died with them.
That would especially be if they were crucified. Why? Who wants to follow someone under a curse of God?
Yet for Christ, that didn’t end it. It led to the beginning. No cross. No empty tomb.
What does the resurrection mean to the cross?
It means that God accepted the sacrifice of Christ. It means that he vindicated his claims as well. It means that he was not a blasphemer when he claimed to be God. He was speaking the truth. It means that we do have forgiveness. Paul makes this clear in his writings in such places as 1 Cor. 15. The empty tomb is as important to him as the cross, but the cross is important.
Could it be that there really is a lack of atonement in the doctrine of Mormonism and that’s why the cross isn’t there? Let’s be sure on this friends. If the Scripture highlights the cross as a point of victory and Mormonism doesn’t want to show it, there’s something telling going on. The cross is where we receive our atonement. It is where we were reconciled to God.
Is the cross a symbol of shame today? Nope. It is the way God reverses things. Today, it is a symbol of victory. God takes what is a thing of shame and makes it a thing of honor.
If the Mormons don’t want a cross in their church, it will be their problem. I’m pleased to see a cross in any church and even wear one around my neck to remind me of the great truth it conveys.