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Urloony

Is the Symbol of the Cross a Cultural or a Doctrinal Taboo?

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12 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

I just want to clarify this. Indeed for us it does symbolize those things -- hence the crucifix. But the reason for that is that we believe His suffering and death is what redeems us. It's what is able to cleanse us and bring us to God. It focuses on the fact that He descended below all. As God, He accepted this, because He loved us so. I understand (I think) what is behind the protestant ideas of the empty cross as a symbol of resurrection and life, but I think they are missing the more important aspect. God literally suffered for us. He allowed Himself to be tortured and mistreated, when in an instant He could have obliterated those who mocked Him and hurt Him.

I personally find it powerful to meditate on that when I pray before a crucifix. What God chose to experience so that we could be redeemed, so that He could truly say He understands the breadth and depth of human suffering.

This topic has been brought up here before, and I have disagreed with President Hinckley's statement, because it appears to ignore the fact that Christ chose to die. Of course He was going to live after, and of course there was going to be a message of a living Christ. But the decisive moment was Christ's choice to die, because that didn't have to happen. It was a conscious deliberative act, without which we and He would not be able to join together in union. Christ was going to live, but He didn't have to die. He chose that to save us and allow humanity and divinity to commingle.

That's why I appreciate the crucifix. It shows me what God went through for me, and reminds me what I must go through for God.

I appreciate that point of view, to a point, but I would rather focus more on how I should live my life as Christ lived and continues to live now.  True, Christ didn't need to suffer or die as a mortal... he didn't even need to become mortal, and could have chosen to remain in heaven as a spirit child of our Father in heaven... but he chose to become mortal, and allowed others to cause him to suffer physically in his mortal body... to fulfill the will of his and our Father in heaven, which ultimately was as good for him as for all of us who benefit from what he did to help us.  So rather than focus on his suffering and death, which in the eternal perspective was only a very brief moment in time, I would rather focus on how he lived and continues to live now, as he continues to do the will of our Father in heaven.

And I really don't believe his death is what redeems us. Not ultimately.  I think we are saved and/or redeemed by how he lived and continues to live, which resulted in some people wanting to kill him.  He was so good, a perfect example of righteousness, that evil people wanted to kill him to get rid of him because those evil people could not tolerate living in his presence if that meant they should try to follow his example.

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1 hour ago, Urloony said:

Thank you for linking the entire quote.  What I am challenging is the "for us" statement.  What prompted the statement?  It's possible that as the church grew throughout South America and other largely Catholic areas, the act of "worshiping at the cross" was a habit the church was trying to break.  Instead of requiring an implement with which to worship, whether it be rosary beads, a statuary, or a crucifix, converts would need to develop their faith without those focuses.

It might also be a way for differentiating us from all the other Christian faiths who do use the cross. We are a peculiar people after all.  

What prompted the statement?

President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the reason why we don't use the cross in a talk delivered in general conference. He told about talking to a Protestant minister following a temple open house. The minister had asked why there were no crosses anywhere if we say we believe in Jesus Christ. President Hinckley answered, “‘I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren 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.’

“He then asked, ‘If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?’

“I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (“The Symbol of Christ,” New Era, Apr. 1990, p. 4).

President Hinckley further explained, “On Calvary he was the dying Jesus. From the tomb he emerged the living Christ. … Because our Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of his death as the symbol of our faith. But what shall we use? No sign, no work of art, no representation of form is adequate to express the glory and the wonder of the Living Christ. He told us what that symbol should be when he said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15)” .

I don't think the church ever officially used the cross but it is possible that the new converts brought the practice with them from their other faiths and it took a while to let it go.

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4 minutes ago, JAHS said:

I don't think the church ever officially used the cross but it is possible that the new converts brought the practice with them from their other faiths and it took a while to let it go.

I don't think we're getting the full story.  I don't think Pres. Hinckley's response was an off the cuff remark to a pastor of another faith.  I think it was a response given after a long period of prior contemplation.  I fully understand the statement and it is certainly valid, but I think there may be deeper reasoning beyond this statement.  I think you're right that the church never official used the cross, although it does appear in the aforementioned Hawaii and Cardston temple designs and was in regular use by early saints.  So if the cross was never officially used, can if officially not be used?  I would say officially we don't use the cross.  But it still doesn't answer the question as to whether its official non-use is cultural or doctrinal.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Urloony said:

I don't think his statement establishes doctrine as much as it establishes opinion.  I don't want to derail into the territory of what qualifies as doctrine and what is opinion, but from what I'm seeing, the basis of our none use of the cross stems solely from Pres. Hinckley's statement from 1975.

I wasn't using President Hinckley's remark as an example of establishing doctrine, but to show the difference between the cross as a symbol of our religion and worship (in general) and a symbol of individual Church members' Christian belief and sentiment. He was showing the difference between his friend's use of the cross as "the" symbol of Christianity [the symbol is not a doctrine] with "our" message of the living Christ, or the lives He touches [the doctrine(s) of physical resurrection and spiritual rebirth]. In doling so, President Hinckley's explanation points to doctrinal basics, not symbolism. When the symbol is "us" there is no symbol, really. When the words and actions we use in expressing our message are symbols, the same. That is all I was saying, not that not using the cross as a symbol of our religion is doctrinal. Using it as a symbol of Christianity by others is not a doctrinal point, either.

The cross of course has place in our doctrine, or our doctrine speaks to it, but not as the symbol of our religion.

Edited by CV75
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36 minutes ago, Urloony said:

I don't think we're getting the full story.  I don't think Pres. Hinckley's response was an off the cuff remark to a pastor of another faith.  I think it was a response given after a long period of prior contemplation.  I fully understand the statement and it is certainly valid, but I think there may be deeper reasoning beyond this statement.  I think you're right that the church never official used the cross, although it does appear in the aforementioned Hawaii and Cardston temple designs and was in regular use by early saints.  So if the cross was never officially used, can if officially not be used?  I would say officially we don't use the cross.  But it still doesn't answer the question as to whether its official non-use is cultural or doctrinal.

President David O Mckay was the one who really started the church's official moving away from the cross.  In 1957, a jewelry store in Salt Lake City advertised cross jewelry for girls. LDS Church Presiding Bishop Joseph L. Wirthlin called President David O. McKay to see if it was proper for LDS girls to purchase the crosses to wear. 
President McKay expressed two reasons why he didn't think it was a good idea.   He said the crosses were "purely Catholic and Latter-day Saint girls should not purchase and wear them. ... and that "Our worship should be in our hearts."   (Michael Reed argues in the thesis, “The Development of the LDS Church’s Attitude Toward the Cross.”)

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29 minutes ago, JAHS said:

President McKay expressed two reasons why he didn't think it was a good idea.   He said the crosses were "purely Catholic

Take that, protestants! ;) 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Urloony said:

I don't think we're getting the full story.  I don't think Pres. Hinckley's response was an off the cuff remark to a pastor of another faith.  I think it was a response given after a long period of prior contemplation.  I fully understand the statement and it is certainly valid, but I think there may be deeper reasoning beyond this statement.  I think you're right that the church never official used the cross, although it does appear in the aforementioned Hawaii and Cardston temple designs and was in regular use by early saints.  So if the cross was never officially used, can if officially not be used?  I would say officially we don't use the cross.  But it still doesn't answer the question as to whether its official non-use is cultural or doctrinal.

Its non-use in the Church to me seems to be both cultural and doctrinal (chicken and egg), as follows:

Looking at the world in general, the actual use of the cross is a cultural artifact facilitated by policy of persecution and support (early Christians had to hide it, Constantine promoted it). This is different from the origins of its adoption and symbolic application, and there is nothing in the Bible commanding these.

For this reason its non-use would likewise be cultural, and its non-use is likewise unsupported by doctrine... though the doctrine of spiritual rebirth allows for an authentic personal expression of our religion, which is better than a symbolic, potentially hypocritical expression (and in the case of its incorporation into buildings, a corruptible and potentially defilable expression).

Edited by CV75
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1 hour ago, JAHS said:


President McKay expressed two reasons why he didn't think it was a good idea.   He said the crosses were "purely Catholic...

 

1 hour ago, MiserereNobis said:

Take that, protestants! ;) 

No, they would protest that idea.

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2 hours ago, JAHS said:

President David O Mckay was the one who really started the church's official moving away from the cross.  In 1957, a jewelry store in Salt Lake City advertised cross jewelry for girls. LDS Church Presiding Bishop Joseph L. Wirthlin called President David O. McKay to see if it was proper for LDS girls to purchase the crosses to wear. 
President McKay expressed two reasons why he didn't think it was a good idea.   He said the crosses were "purely Catholic and Latter-day Saint girls should not purchase and wear them. ... and that "Our worship should be in our hearts."   (Michael Reed argues in the thesis, “The Development of the LDS Church’s Attitude Toward the Cross.”)

Yes, you're right, it's not just Pres. Hinckley.  I've read Pres. McKay's response before as well.  There is a Deseret news story that mentions their positions the topic.  The article points out that the church's position on the cross is a 20th century development, as it was in use by many members of the previous century.  In both instances, it appears the presidents are responding to questions about the cross, rather than preemptively establishing a doctrinal church position.  Caffeinated beverages are a prime example of the cultural influence on church doctrine.  The Ensign, in the past, has published articles discouraging the use of caffeinated beverages and condemned them as being against the spirit of the word of wisdom. BYU, the Provo MTC and other church owned locations banned the sale of caffeinated beverages.  President Hinckley affirmed that caffeinated beverages are opposed by the wow.  Today of course, that has changed and the 2010 handbook of instruction offers no position on the consumption of caffeinated beverages.        

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2 hours ago, CV75 said:

Using it as a symbol of Christianity by others is not a doctrinal point, either.

I agree with the majority of your post, however I don't think this part is accurate.  I think the symbol of the cross is very much a doctrinal point in mainstream Christianity.  So much so, that it is used as ammunition against us as Latter-Day Saints that we are not Christian.  This argument doesn't carry much weight, because after all the cross wasn't an overt symbol of Christianity until the 4th century AD.  As Latter-Day saints, we have embraced many more ancient symbols of Christianity such as the pentagram.  In fact, I would argue that we as Latter-Day saints embrace symbolism on a far larger scale than most of mainstream Christianity (Catholicism being an exception).  Most of ancient Christian symbolism has been lost on the majority of the world, and unfortunately on good portion of Latter-Day Saints as well.    

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, CV75 said:

Its non-use in the Church to me seems to be both cultural and doctrinal (chicken and egg), as follows:

Looking at the world in general, the actual use of the cross is a cultural artifact facilitated by policy of persecution and support (early Christians had to hide it, Constantine promoted it). This is different from the origins of its adoption and symbolic application, and there is nothing in the Bible commanding these.

For this reason its non-use would likewise be cultural, and its non-use is likewise unsupported by doctrine... though the doctrine of spiritual rebirth allows for an authentic personal expression of our religion, which is better than a symbolic, potentially hypocritical expression (and in the case of its incorporation into buildings, a corruptible and potentially defilable expression).

Its non-use in the Church to me seems to be both cultural and doctrinal

I think you have the correct answer.  I have to wonder though if its non-use is primarily due to a narrow interpretation of its meaning, ie. only Catholics wear crosses, or it's a symbol of Christ's death.    

Edited by Urloony

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5 minutes ago, Urloony said:

I agree with the majority of your post, however I don't think this part is accurate.  I think the symbol of the cross is very much a doctrinal point in mainstream Christianity.  So much so, that it is used as ammunition against us as Latter-Day Saints that we are not Christian.  This argument doesn't carry much weight, because after all the cross wasn't an overt symbol of Christianity until the 4th century AD.  As Latter-Day saints, we have embraced many more ancient symbols of Christianity such as the pentagram.  In fact, I would argue that we as Latter-Day saints embrace symbolism on a far larger scale than most of mainstream Christianity (Catholicism being an exception).  Most of ancient Christian symbolism has been lost on the majority of the world, and unfortunately on good portion of Latter-Day Saints as well.    

Yes, symbolism is a tremendous part of our system and can facilitate personal revelation on any of the represented subjects and applications.

The cross is used as a metaphor throughout the New Testament teachings, but to me this is not the same as using it, or requiring it to be used, as a symbolic object. Do you have some specific examples of religions where such a requirement is doctrine (as opposed to an established requirement of their devotional rites)? Doctrine informs the practices and rites, but typically does not prescribe their formats, and I'm not seeing any that refer to using a cross.

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19 minutes ago, Urloony said:

Its non-use in the Church to me seems to be both cultural and doctrinal

I think you have the correct answer.  I have to wonder though if its non-use is primarily due to a narrow interpretation of its meaning, ie. only Catholics wear crosses, or it's a symbol of Christ's death.    

I think the attitudes of our Presiding High Priests, narrow or broad, influence where and how the symbol is used. Primary sources are important in this regard (tracing the origins of cultural norms).

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32 minutes ago, Urloony said:

Its non-use in the Church to me seems to be both cultural and doctrinal

I think you have the correct answer.  I have to wonder though if its non-use is primarily due to a narrow interpretation of its meaning, ie. only Catholics wear crosses, or it's a symbol of Christ's death.    

We do whatever we do because of what we believe, and we teach whatever we teach (as our doctrine) because of why we believe whatever we believe.  So I believe we don't wear crosses and we don't teach others to wear crosses because we don't know a good reason to.

Others, apparently, believe they should or that they have a good reason to wear one.

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52 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Yes, symbolism is a tremendous part of our system and can facilitate personal revelation on any of the represented subjects and applications.

The cross is used as a metaphor throughout the New Testament teachings, but to me this is not the same as using it, or requiring it to be used, as a symbolic object. Do you have some specific examples of religions where such a requirement is doctrine (as opposed to an established requirement of their devotional rites)? Doctrine informs the practices and rites, but typically does not prescribe their formats, and I'm not seeing any that refer to using a cross.

I would suggest that "established requirement of devotional rites" would be classified as doctrine.  In Catholicism, the Veneration of the Cross is a key doctrine in their worship of Christ through the vehicle of the cross.  Protestant doctrine is harder to establish due to the variety of doctrinal beliefs.  I will concede that as a result, there may be a variety of inconsistent doctrinal positions with regard to the presence of the cross in their worship service.   

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49 minutes ago, Ahab said:

We do whatever we do because of what we believe, and we teach whatever we teach (as our doctrine) because of why we believe whatever we believe.  So I believe we don't wear crosses and we don't teach others to wear crosses because we don't know a good reason to.

Others, apparently, believe they should or that they have a good reason to wear one.

Historically, most converts from other Christian faiths would have had a tradition of wearing the cross or seeing it regularly in their churches, on their Bibles, and in their artwork.  Are you suggesting that our choice to wear or not wear a cross is cultural, because Latter-Day Saints don't have a good reason to wear a cross?  If it is cultural, should we be suggesting to converts that they not wear a cross simply to fit "Mormon culture"?    

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21 minutes ago, Urloony said:

I would suggest that "established requirement of devotional rites" would be classified as doctrine.  In Catholicism, the Veneration of the Cross is a key doctrine in their worship of Christ through the vehicle of the cross.  Protestant doctrine is harder to establish due to the variety of doctrinal beliefs.  I will concede that as a result, there may be a variety of inconsistent doctrinal positions with regard to the presence of the cross in their worship service.   

The doctrine of the Veneration of the Cross is the teaching about the rite, not the requirement to practice it: “this cult must be considered as not belonging to the substance of religion, but as being one of the adiaphora, or things not absolutely necessary to salvation. Indeed, while it is of faith that this cult is useful, lawful, even pious and worthy of praise and of encouragement, and while we are not permitted to speak against it as something pernicious, still it is one of those devotional practices which the church can encourage, or restrain, or stop, according to circumstances.

Without getting into the territory of what qualifies as doctrine, this particular teaching about the cross seems to qualify as a practice or rite, and optional at that. I cannot think of optional and unnecessary doctrine that qualifies as doctrine of the highest standard (in the sense of saving us). Similarly, our sacrament is not doctrine but a rite, and is optional in practice without impacting salvation (assuming everything else is in spiritual order), except perhaps for that special sacrament administered in D&C 27:5-14.

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7 hours ago, Urloony said:

I agree.  I don't think an object should be an object of worship, but merely a symbol of faith.  In Mormondom, Moroni has become a symbol for preaching the Gospel to the world.  In many respects, it has been adopted as a symbol of our faith. 

Not really.  When Moroni dropped the trumpet on the top of the Salt Lake temple, the writing was on the wall...….He's out.  Christus is in.  The symbol on my iPad APP was changed not long after.  There was a lot of pontificating about refocusing the Church on Christ.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Urloony said:

Historically, most converts from other Christian faiths would have had a tradition of wearing the cross or seeing it regularly in their churches, on their Bibles, and in their artwork. 

I was a convert from another church... same Christian faith... and neither I nor any member of my family I knew of wore a cross as a member of that church.  I did see some crosses on the church building, though, and in that church's artwork, but I didn't put it there and I knew of no good reason for those crosses to be there, even while knowing those crosses represented the cross where Jesus was hung to die by the Romans and Jews who approved of his death. 

Quote

Are you suggesting that our choice to wear or not wear a cross is cultural, because Latter-Day Saints don't have a good reason to wear a cross? 

Cultural, because it is not what we do, or what we teach that we should do, because we (as a collective) don't know of a good reason to wear one, otherwise we would wear one and in our culture it would be a usual thing that we wear one. 

Quote

 

If it is cultural, should we be suggesting to converts that they not wear a cross simply to fit "Mormon culture"?    

Seeing that in our culture we don't wear one because we don't know of a good reason to wear one, why would we suggest that others not wear one? 

If we were to say anything about it, I would think we would simply say we see no good reason to wear one, maybe while talking about what we do see and something we think is a good or better thing to do, instead.

Edited by Ahab
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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, MiserereNobis said:

Bold mine. CFR

There is basically no cross on any building or person in the LDS faith. I see no cross ANYWHERE. If there is a cross in the temple, it certainly cannot be greater than the focus on the cross in the Catholic Church, which appears EVERYWHERE and is the absolute focus of our most important rite, the Eucharist.

We hold that what transpires inside the Temples is sacred rather than secret, so we decline to talk about it openly. But there are several and very significant references to the cross within the Temple work.

There are Latter Day Saints that do wear crosses, my wive and my girls among them. In fact, I bought a cross in silver with a tree of life motif, several years ago in Mexico. My wife wears it on occasion. But from a historical, and for Latter Day Saints a cultural standpoint, the cross was an instrument of death and torture. It was not until the 4th century that the cross begins to be associated with Christianity. The meaning and significance of the cross, as it is understood now, was attributed later with the expansion of Christianity thru the Roman Empire. But it was not always so.

Edited by Islander

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1 hour ago, mrmarklin said:

Not really.  When Moroni dropped the trumpet on the top of the Salt Lake temple, the writing was on the wall...….He's out.  Christus is in.  The symbol on my iPad APP was changed not long after.  There was a lot of pontificating about refocusing the Church on Christ.

Your observation makes my point.  However, Moroni was note exchanged for the symbol of the Christus.  The Christus was added as a symbol.

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1 hour ago, CV75 said:

The doctrine of the Veneration of the Cross is the teaching about the rite, not the requirement to practice it: “this cult must be considered as not belonging to the substance of religion, but as being one of the adiaphora, or things not absolutely necessary to salvation. Indeed, while it is of faith that this cult is useful, lawful, even pious and worthy of praise and of encouragement, and while we are not permitted to speak against it as something pernicious, still it is one of those devotional practices which the church can encourage, or restrain, or stop, according to circumstances.

Without getting into the territory of what qualifies as doctrine, this particular teaching about the cross seems to qualify as a practice or rite, and optional at that. I cannot think of optional and unnecessary doctrine that qualifies as doctrine of the highest standard (in the sense of saving us). Similarly, our sacrament is not doctrine but a rite, and is optional in practice without impacting salvation (assuming everything else is in spiritual order), except perhaps for that special sacrament administered in D&C 27:5-14.

The "doctrine of the veneration of the cross" is still Catholic doctrine regardless of whether its practice is required by the church or not.  Doctrine is not limited to just saving ordinances.  My doctrinal definition seems to be broader than yours, which may be the cause of our difference in perspective here.  I adopt Bruce Rs simple definition that doctrines are teachings which are either true or false.  The sacrament for example is a rite, but could also be described as a doctrinal rite.    

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1 hour ago, Islander said:

There are Latter Day Saints that do wear crosses, my wive and my girls among them. In fact, I bought a cross in silver with a tree of life motif, several years ago in Mexico. My wife wears it on occasion.

That's interesting.  Even as a convert, I never wore the cross on my person.  We would make crosses out of palm branches at Easter which is a typical tradition among many Protestant churches.   

1 hour ago, Islander said:

But from a historical, and for Latter Day Saints a cultural standpoint, the cross was an instrument of death and torture. It was not until the 4th century that the cross begins to be associated with Christianity. The meaning and significance of the cross, as it is understood now, was attributed later with the expansion of Christianity thru the Roman Empire. But it was not always so.

From a historical LDS standpoint the cross was prominently worn by many 19th century saints.  The cross as a symbol of Christianity existed prior to the 4th century and is present as early as the 2nd century AD.  

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The shape of an older church building in Ogden Utah. I wonder if the cross was in mind when they designed this?

823311721_crosschurch.jpg.8b4f6aec42406eb8a633ab8d318a8037.jpg

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21 minutes ago, JAHS said:

The shape of an older church building in Ogden Utah. I wonder if the cross was in mind when they designed this?

823311721_crosschurch.jpg.8b4f6aec42406eb8a633ab8d318a8037.jpg

Traditional cathedrals are built in the shape of a cross.

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