Answers to Gospel Questions 4:17; “To many, like the writer, such a custom is repugnant and contrary to the true worship of our Redeemer. Why should we bow down before a cross or use it as a symbol? Because our Savior died on the cross, the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship.”
For many of us there has been a time or two in life when we knew things were about to change. This happened to me several years ago as I sat listening to a pastor challenge his audience about their personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. Life as I knew it up to that point was radically different than what I was about to embark upon!
No sooner had my change of direction began, than the tone of the e-mails from the Mormons began to change as well. The one thing I noticed as a common thread time and again was their complete lack of understanding in regards to the most important subject in the life of man:
The Atonement of Jesus Christ
This more than anything hurts my heart. I remember as a Mormon I truly believed I knew and loved Him, yet I would keep an unhealthy distance between the two of us because He was the “only perfect person to walk the face of the earth”. His perfection became my pathetic excuse to not walk with Him as I should have done. I am certain I was not alone; thus the ministry of Life After.
Today when I study the Bible I have trained myself to put on the hat of a journalist. For each verse I ask the standard “5 W’s and an H” question. This prompts further investigation of other passages in His word and sheds light on the subject I am studying. With this in mind here we are at the feet of Jesus, asking Him these all important questions about the atonement.
Who: Who sent Jesus to the place of the atonement? Who or what is the enmity between God and man?
What: What purpose did the atonement serve; what did it mean when God forsake Jesus? What is the meaning of “it” when Jesus said “It is finished”? What constitutes an atonement?
Where: Where did the atonement take place; where did God forsake Jesus?
When: When were our sins forgiven; when did Jesus pay for our sins; when was He resurrected; when did He say He would return; when did God turn away from Jesus? When was the enmity between God and man abolished?
Why: Why did Jesus have to die; why did His blood have to be shed; why did the earth shake, the sky go dark and the veil in the temple get ripped in two? Why didn’t Jesus tell the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the atonement was taken care of? Why are my sins so bad? Why can’t mankind just repent without blood being a factor?
How: How was His crucifixion a fulfillment of prophecy? How does His death absolve us of our sin? How was Jesus’ death a fulfillment of the Law? How did the centurion know that Jesus was the Messiah?
To do any justice to those questions one would have to dedicate an entire lifetime to diligent study and I’m not so sure that would even suffice. Allow me however to try and attempt to briefly point the Mormon in the right direction of study.
Let’s break it up in two categories; the Cross of Calvary and the Garden of Gethsemane
While the Church is going abroad to “set the captives free”, they have presented themselves as true Christians. When asked about the absence of a cross the leaders of the Church tell the world it is most improper and irreverent to dwell upon the crucifixion; rather, a true believer must and should focus on other aspects of Jesus rather than His suffering. (See Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg. 345).
However with that being said, it is important to point out the vocabulary the Church chooses to employ when speaking of the atonement. In the Doctrines of Salvation 1:124 it says;
“We were in bondage, through Adam’s transgression. He and his posterity after him became subject to death. Death had dominion over us, and if that had continued, hell would have had dominion over us. What did Christ do? He ransomed us. He restored us. He brought us back through his atonement, through the shedding of his blood. He paid the price, as Paul says. He rescued us from captivity and bondage. That is what ransomed means. He liberated us from death. He paid the price that death required; and we, through his redemption, were recovered by the payment of the shedding of his blood.”
As you can see here they are speaking “Christian-ese” if you will, which makes it look as if they speaking our language, but they are not! So dig a bit deeper to discover what they really believe. From the pages of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg. 542;
“Modern LDS leaders have emphasized that Jesus’ most challenging experience came in Gethsemane. Speaking in a general conference of the Church in 1982, Marion G. Romney, a member of the First Presidency, observed that Jesus suffered “the pains of all men, which he did, principally, in Gethsemane, the scene of his great agony” (Ensign 12 [May 1982]:6). Church President Ezra Taft Benson wrote that “it was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world….”
To make sure it is clearly understood the Mormons do not believe that Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross let us look at this:
Jesus the Christ, pg. 568; “From the terrible conflict in Gethsemane, Christ emerged a victor. Though in the dark tribulation of that fearful hour He had pleaded that the bitter cup be removed from His lips, the request, however oft repeated, was always conditional; the accomplishment of the Father’s will was never lost sight of as the object of the Son’s supreme desire. The further tragedy of the night, and the cruel inflictions that awaited Him on the morrow, to culminate in the frightful tortures of the cross, could not exceed the bitter anguish through which He had successfully passed.”
If the atonement didn’t take place on the cross then a great portion of both the Old and New Testament needs to be tossed. The apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 1:18;
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
The Garden of Gethsemane is where Jesus went to pray before the ultimate sacrifice was made. Gethsemane means “olive press”. It is the place where Jesus and God spoke to each other and Jesus submitted Himself to the will of God. Clearly, the sacrifice did not take place inside the Garden of Gethsemane, else why would Jesus tell Peter this in John 18:11?
“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
Did you notice what Mr. Talmage said? The Cross could not exceed the Garden…
If the Cross couldn’t exceed the Garden of Gethsemane or the miracles He performed or … (you fill in the blank), then the cross means nothing and His death was all for naught.
One of the worst things the Church has ever said about the Cross came from one of their prophets Joseph Fielding Smith in Answers to Gospel Questions 4:17;
“Answers to Gospel Questions 4:17; “To many, like the writer, such a custom is repugnant and contrary to the true worship of our Redeemer. Why should we bow down before a cross or use it as a symbol? Because our Savior died on the cross, the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship.”
The cross is the central message of the gospel. The Garden of Gethsemane was our “gateway to life” and where Jesus being fully God and fully Man came face to face with sin (Oswald Chambers). The Cross was the triumph over sin!
Not accepting the Cross is not accepting that you are a sinner and by the way, Mormons don’t believe man is born a sinner. (D&C 29:46-47)
So what’s it going to be? If you call yourself a Christian it’s understood you accept and trust in the fact that God sent His Son to die on a cross for your sins. His blood was shed on that cross outside the walls of Jerusalem, not inside the walls of Jerusalem in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Mormons do believe that Jesus died on a cross, but only after he paid the price for sins in the Garden, don’t let them confuse you. It wasn’t until after I got out of the Church did I realize the error of my ways. The prophecies in the Old Testament and the fulfillment in the New are hard to ignore or gloss over, yet this is what they’ve managed to accomplish.
This subject matter is just one of the ways the Church continues to keep its members in a state of confusion.
Romans 4:25 says that Jesus was delivered for our offenses…Jesus wasn’t delivered to the Garden of Gethsemane friends, but He was to Calvary.
While home for a funeral earlier this week my grandmother commented on the cross necklace I was wearing asked me why the Church has such a disdain for the cross. She said she couldn’t remember why they didn’t like it or wear them in their jewelry. And yes, she’s a Mormon.
The heartbreaking part of her story is that the whole point of the sacrifice God made has been set aside and not even mentioned. My grandmother is in her 80’s and doesn’t know why the cross is such a big deal? My heart was so sad as I sat with her and explained why the empty cross is a necessary and vital part of understanding what Jesus has done for us.
Pray for these dear people won’t you please? Pray for my grandmother Elaine. We are ever diligent in being prepared to share the truth and want for the Mormons to know we pray they know the real Jesus of the Bible.
With Love in Christ;