The reason Mormons do not wear cross necklaces is deeply rooted in Mormon theology and history. In summary, Mormons view the cross as a symbol of Christ’s death, and they prefer to focus on His life and resurrection rather than His death on the cross. Additionally, crosses were not used as a symbol in early Mormon history, so they have not traditionally been a part of Mormon culture.
The Cross Represents Christ’s Death, Not His Life
For Mormons, the cross is almost exclusively a symbol of Christ’s death. While His death was an important part of His mission on earth, Mormons prefer to focus on Christ’s life and resurrection rather than just His death. As a result, they do not use the cross as a symbol in their jewelry or decoration of church buildings.
The focus on Christ’s life and ministry rather than just His death on the cross is evident in much Mormon artwork. Pictures of Jesus Christ in Mormon publications almost always show Him resurrected and alive. Emphasizing His life helps Mormons remember all He taught and accomplished during His ministry.
Mormon Scripture Supports Focus on Christ’s Life
Several verses in the Book of Mormon point to the importance of focusing on the life and mission of Jesus Christ, not just His death on the cross:
- “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)
- “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)
- “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:20)
Because of scriptural passages like these, Mormons believe it is more important to focus on knowing and loving Christ during His life and ministry rather than memorializing His death.
Early Mormons Did Not Use the Cross as a Symbol
In addition to theological reasons, Mormons initially avoided the cross as a symbol because it was not part of the culture Joseph Smith, Jr. grew up in during the 19th century. Early Mormon settlers did not have a tradition of using the cross in their architecture, jewelry, or decoration. Some common symbols early Mormons used instead included:
- The angel Moroni blowing a trumpet, symbolizing the restoration of the gospel
- Beehives, symbolizing work and cooperation
- The sunstone, symbolizing light and truth
- The moonstone, symbolizing order and eternity
- The handclasp, symbolizing friendship and the Holy Spirit
Additionally, crosses were comparatively rare symbols in most forms of Christianity during the early 1800s. Using the cross as the preeminent symbol of Christianity only became more common after the mid-19th century. As a result, the cross was not firmly established in Mormon culture during the early years of the church.
Persecution May Have Discouraged Cross Use
Some historians believe early Mormon persecution by those identifying as Christians may have also contributed to the reluctance to adopt the cross as a symbol. Many of the mobs that persecuted and killed early Mormon settlers claimed to be fighting in the name of their Christian faith. As a result, some historians theorize that early Mormons wished to distinguish their version of Christianity from the persecutors’ version by avoiding use of the cross symbols commonly used by other faiths.
Some Exceptions Exist Among Individual Mormons
While Mormon doctrine does not encourage the use of cross symbols or jewelry, some individual Mormons do choose to wear cross necklaces or display cross symbols. However, this is not extremely common today. Reasons why individual Mormons may wear cross jewelry include:
- It was given as a gift by a non-Mormon friend or family member
- It belonged to a deceased relative they wish to honor
- They do not share typical Mormon theological views on avoiding cross symbols
- They enjoy the style and wish to wear it as a fashion statement
These Mormons likely view wearing a cross necklace as more of a personal choice rather than an expression of Mormon cultural identity. The church does not prohibit crosses, but the official stance is that such symbols are not encouraged or emphasized.
Other Christian Groups Also Avoid the Cross
While the Mormon avoidance of the cross as a symbol is well-known, some other Christian churches also shun using the cross. These groups argue that the New Testament does not describe early Christians using the cross in worship. Groups with theological objections to using the cross include:
|Reason for Avoiding the Cross
|They believe Christ died on a stake or pole, not a cross
|Some Protestant Denominations
|They view it as an empty symbol and idolatrous
|Some Restorationist Churches
|They believe early Christians did not use the cross as a symbol
As with Mormons, these groups do not forbid the cross outright, but they believe focusing on the cross distracts from Christ’s teachings and God’s word. As a result, they actively avoid emphasizing it.
The Mormon Focus: Christ’s Resurrection
Rather than using visual symbols like the cross, Mormons focus on Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead. They believe remembering and celebrating His resurrection is the most important way to honor Christ’s mission on earth. Mormons believe the resurrection demonstrates Christ’s power over death and His divine sonship.
Unlike the cross, Christ’s literal resurrection was an important symbol used by the earliest Christian apostles and converts. The New Testament and Mormon scriptures emphasize the reality and importance of the resurrection repeatedly:
- “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:6)
- “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12)
- “And he said unto them: Because of your unbelief; for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
By emphasizing Christ’s literal resurrection, Mormons honor His victory over physical and spiritual death. This focus on the living Christ is considered more important than symbolic crosses or crucifixes.
Mormon Temple Architecture: Life, Not Death
The focus on Christ’s life and teachings rather than just His death on the cross is also evident in Mormon temples. Temples have no crosses on the exterior or interior design. Instead, they focus extensively on Christ’s life and resurrection through artwork and sculpture.
Common symbols and images in Mormon temples include:
- Statues of the resurrected Christ
- Doors or paintings depicting scenes from Christ’s life
- Flowers and plants symbolizing renewed life
- Statues of apostles like Peter or scenes from Acts and the apostles’ ministries
Temples point church members’ thoughts to Christ’s life of service, His teachings, and His ultimate resurrection – not just His death on the cross. The prevailing message is Christ conquered death and is alive today.
Garden of Gethsemane Artwork
For example, temples often feature paintings or artwork of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. Although this event immediately preceded His death, Mormons focus on the spiritual and emotional anguish Christ suffered while taking upon Himself the sins and pains of all mankind. The artwork serves as a reminder of Christ’s willingness to suffer for others out of love.
In summary, the Mormon avoidance of cross symbols stems from a desire to focus on Christ’s resurrection and life. It also reflects the church’s early history when the cross was not emphasized, even in other Christian faiths. While some individual Mormons do wear cross necklaces today, this practice is relatively uncommon.
By concentrating on Christ’s teachings, example, and resurrection, Mormons honor Him in what they believe is a more appropriate way. They prefer tangible reminders of Christ’s power to overcome death through the Resurrection rather than more abstract symbols like the cross. Christ-centered living and service take priority over visual symbols in the Mormon faith.