Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Cross

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley: “We recently held an open house in the Arizona Temple. Following a complete renovation of that building, nearly a quarter of a million people saw its beautiful interior. On the first day of the opening, clergymen of other religions were invited as special guests, and hundreds responded. It was my privilege to speak to them and to answer their questions at the conclusion of their tours. I told them that we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Many were asked. Among these was one which came from a Protestant minister.

Said he: “I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”

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. 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.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, Apr 2005, 2–6)

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)” (pp. 6, 7).

Even though we do not believe in using the cross as a symbol in our Church, we do not criticize others for wearing or using the cross in their religions. We should understand that the cross is significant and sacred to them. In fact, the 11th article of faith says, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

We focus on the great atonement of our Savior, his sacrifice for us that makes eternal life possible. We think of his life and sacrifice every Sunday during the sacrament. Our testimonies become the precious things that we bear, along with our obedience, to show we are true followers of Christ." (Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Sep 1996, 17)

Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
"Many nonmembers who visit our chapels wonder why we don’t have crosses on our buildings of worship. They ask, “Why aren’t your chapels built in the shape of a cross?” and “Why don’t you encourage your people to wear and display crosses?” Even some members wonder about the Church’s policy toward crosses.

We may find part of the answer to these questions in Matthew 16:24–25, where we read, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” [Matt. 16:24–25]

Over the centuries, in the minds of millions of people, the cross has been recognized as a symbol of Christianity. But rather than displaying the cross, we prefer to try carrying our crosses.

The Lord’s message to us is “Take up your cross.” Take yourself the way you are, and lift yourself in the direction of the better. Regardless of where you have been, what you have done, or what you haven’t done, trust God. Believe in him. Worship him as you carry your cross with dignity and determination.

As we read in Matthew, we save our lives by losing them for the Lord’s sake. As we lose ourselves, we will find God. That is his promise, and I declare that it is true." (Marvin J. Ashton, “Carry Your Cross,” Ensign, Feb 1988, 69)

My Own View

As I was thinking about this subject, I also thought about how the Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. His pain was so great that he bled from every pore. What He did for us in that garden is essential to our salvation. I wondered to my self why so much of the world focuses on the cross, and not the garden. For me, taking the sacrament is the time when I can focus on both of these great events. The eating of the bread helps remind me of His body that He sacrificed for us, and the drinking of the water helps remind me of the blood that He shed when He sacrificed for our sins.

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