When I hear songs like the one above by Casting Crowns I can’t help but flash back to a time when my view of Jesus was very different from what it is today. As a Mormon the Jesus I believed in was my elder spirit brother, he was also a created being and the one we choose to follow in a pre-earth life and who atoned for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There’s something about this time of year when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection that allows me to see just how far I’ve come from a sacred undergarment wearing, worthy temple Mormon to a sinner who knows she’s saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and who worships at the foot of cross.
As a Mormon many of my Church leaders from Sunday school teachers to speakers at General Conference taught me that the main focus of the atonement occurred in the garden, this was where Jesus sweat spots of blood, and took on the sins of the world (according to Mormon doctrine).
A recent example of this teaching can be found in President Thomas S. Monson’s closing comments during the April 2011 General Conference:
“Now, before we leave today, may I share with you my love for the Savior and for His great atoning sacrifice for us. In three weeks’ time the entire Christian world will be celebrating Easter. I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.” (May 2011 Ensign)
Discussing the cross was something many Mormons including myself at the time shied away from, we didn’t want to focus on it, mainly because we didn’t think it had any real importance to our salvation, and also because it felt odd to acknowledge something so cruel.
For the Mormon the cross just part of the atonement they believe it all began in the garden, and carried over to the cross. Because Christians acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross Mormons often accuse them of not worshiping the “living Christ”.
At an open house for one of the temples in Arizona the last Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley was asked why there was no cross on or throughout the building, to this question he replied:
“I responded: “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.” (May 1975 Ensign)
So to them the cross is a “symbol of the dying Christ” and they want no part of it yet they have no problem having the statue of a mortal man who died and became an angel mounted on the steeple of buildings they refer to as the “House of the Lord”? Anyone else as perplexed as I am?
I understand why they see the cross as a brutal, torturous instrument, it was, but it was also the place where Jesus paid, bled, and died for our sins so that we wouldn’t be sent to hell because of them. They don’t understand that this is the place which allows us to have eternal life, to live with our loved ones and our Savior after we die.
It’s incredibly sad to me how they want to almost pretend the cross never happen, or has any real significance in their salvation, instead they to opt to look to another place for security in their salvation, their temples.
In a talk given at the April 2001 General Conference Russell M. Nelson stated”
“The temple is the house of the Lord. The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant—the heart of the plan of salvation—is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house. Our efforts to proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead all lead to the temple. Each holy temple stands as a symbol of our membership in the Church, as a sign of our faith in life after death, and as a sacred step toward eternal glory for us and our families.” (May 2001, Ensign)
A few months after we left the Mormon Church two of their missionaries show up at our door asking to speak to my son who was then 14 years old. I reminded them that we had left the church, and wanted nothing to do with it. This raised their curiosity and they asked me what made us leave. I gave them a brief synopsis of my investigation in to the temple ceremony, and how I discovered from the Bible that we didn’t need temple ceremonies only Jesus Christ.
One of the missionaries then pointed to the part in the Bible where Moses put a snake on a pole and told the people if they would look at the snake they would be healed (Numbers 21:6-9). He was making a comparison to this event and the Mormon temple, saying people may not believe their ceremonies are necessary to their salvation,yet he believed they were.
What this missionary didn’t understand is what Moses did wasn’t to be compared to their temples, but to Jesus being raised on a cross and anyone who would look to him would be healed.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”
For the Christian the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “sign” of our faith, we know that it’s because of him and only him that we have eternal life. Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies made about him; he was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), hung on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23), and he would arise from the tomb (Psalm 16:10).
Do we worship the living Christ? Absolutely!!
Job 19:25- As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Romans 3:25 – whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
2 Corinthians 5:21- He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Colossians 2: 13-15 – When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Hebrews 10:10-14 – By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.