Monday, May 27, 2013

Looking for the Cross in All the Wrong Places
We may not know, we cannot tell, what pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us he hung and suffered there. Hymn 194

Some observers find fault with the supposed LDS neglect of the Christian symbol of the cross because of its intentional absence on Mormon church buildings, clothing, jewelry, art, and iconography.(1) Since most Mormons do not openly use the cross or crucifix, one might mistakingly conclude they do not revere the cross. On the contrary, Mormons celebrate the cross with reverence and devotion in the weekly sacrament meetings.
Elder Dallin Oaks explained the significance of this meeting. “The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. It is the only Sabbath meeting the entire family can attend together. Its content in addition to the sacrament should always be planned and presented to focus our attention on the Atonement and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”(2)
The paramount reason for attending sacrament meeting is to partake of the sacrament. There are three parts to the sacrament presentation: singing the hymn by the congregation, blessing the bread and water by the priests, and passing the emblems to the congregation by the deacons. It is during the sacramental hymn that the members of the church express their deepest feelings for Jesus and the Atonement. This is a good place to look for the cross in the LDS church.
There are twenty-eight “sacrament hymns” (hymns intended to precede the ordinance of the sacrament) in the LDS hymnbook.(3) The texts may include references to the personal meaning of the Atonement, the sufferings of Jesus, the events that took place, and the gratitude of the Saints for His sacrifice. 

Nine hymns use the words cross or crucified. For example, hymn #184:

Upon the cross of Calvary they crucified our Lord
 And sealed with blood the sacrifice that sanctified his word.
Upon the cross he meekly died for all mankind to see
That death unlocks the passageway into eternity.
 Upon the cross our Savior died, but dying brought new birth
Through resurrection’s miracle to all the sons of earth.
Three use the word “tree” instead of “cross,” as in 185:
Rev'rently and meekly now, let thy head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one; think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain, sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee.
In this bread now blest for thee, emblem of my body see;
In this water or this wine, emblem of my blood divine.
Oh, remember what was done that the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary I have suffered death for thee.

“Calvary” or “hill” (the location of the crucifixion) are mentioned in thirteen hymns. For example, 171:
With humble heart, I bow my head and think of thee, O Savior, Lord.
I take the water and the bread to show remembrance of thy word.
Help me remember, I implore, thou gav'st thy life on Calvary,
That I might live forevermore, and grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.
Hymns that do not explicitly mention cross, crucifixion, tree, hill, or Calvary refer to the sufferings endured by Jesus, such as hymn 187:

God loved us, so he sent his Son, Christ Jesus, the atoning One,
To show us by the path he trod the one and only way to God.
He came as man, though Son of God, and bowed himself beneath the rod.
He died in holy innocence, a broken law to recompense.
Oh, love effulgent, love divine! What debt of gratitude is mine,
That in his off'ring I have part and hold a place within his heart.
This sacrament doth represent his blood and body for me spent.
Partaking now is deed for word that I remember him, my Lord.
And hymn 191:
Behold the great Redeemer die, a broken law to satisfy.
He dies a sacrifice for sin, that man may live and glory win.
While guilty men his pains deride, they pierce his hands and feet and side;
And with insulting scoffs and scorns, they crown his head with plaited thorns.
Although in agony he hung, no murm'ring word escaped his tongue.
His high commission to fulfill, he magnified his Father's will.
For many Mormons, these are the most sacred of all their hymns. During the quiet reverence of the sacrament service, they sing of Jesus, His flesh and blood, His suffering and Atonement, the cross. During the passing of the sacrament they reflect on these things, silently repent and ask forgiveness, and pledge to always remember Him. This is where the cross is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 3 Nephi 18: 1, Jesus said, “And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”



(3) Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1985, hymns #169-197.

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