Of all people, Latter-day Saints should be striving more to "talk of Christ", "rejoice in Christ", and "preach of Christ" (2nd Nephi 25:26). Thus, it was with great satisfaction that I listened to Elder Holland's "instant classic" conference address this past Sunday--"None Were With Him".
Two days later, there was an interesting write-up of the conference talk at another blog in which some of the ensuing comments brought to light that there are Latter-day Saints who don't understand the integral role of the cross in the Atonement. Some are under the impression that the Atonement of Jesus Christ took place ONLY in Gethsemane, but not ALSO on the cross. That some don't realize that the Atonement was worked out BOTH places made me wonder if there was any connection to the absence of the cross as a visual symbol of our faith.
I don't know exactly how, when, or even why we began to separate ourselves from the Traditional Christian world in terms of how we use (or don't use) the cross, but I do think there may have been an over-reaction in our attempt to be "different". I suspect we have a lot of LDS who have less than desirable feelings towards the image of the cross simply because they don't want to be mistakenly grouped with other churches, or perhaps because it just hasn't traditionally been a part of their worship experience. I understand those who have valid reasons why they wouldn't want to emphasize the cross. If I had a relative die in a car accident, I probably wouldn't want to wear a symbol of a car around my neck, either. But for me, the cross is different.
There is a statement on LDS.org which says that
the cross is used in many Christian churches as a symbol of the Savior's death and Resurrection and as a sincere expression of faith. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also remember with reverence the suffering of the Savior. But because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith.
We may not use it as a symbol of our faith institutionally, but I've become much more open to it as a symbol of my personal faith in Christ. Paul says we are to glory "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).
When I think of the cross, I "glory" in it not because it makes me focus on his death, but because it boldly proclaims that Christ has overcome death. It is a symbol of His magnificent Atonement--the greatest act of love ever shown. Like the sacrament, the cross is also an emblem of Christ's suffering, and "contact with the emblems of Christ’s suffering should shock us, humble us, and evoke in us a deep sense of gratitude" as well as our submission to Him (see "The Root of Christian Doctrine").
Jesus suffered for all of our sins, pains, and infirmities. Gethsemane literally means "olive press", and in that garden, appropriately, the Savior was crushed by the weight of all the world's sins (and everything else effected by the Fall), as an olive on the wine press. But then all of that was repeated AGAIN while on the cross, while suffering a most painful death so that we too could overcome spiritual and physical death. What began in Gethsemane reached its climax on Golgotha.
While I personally do not wear a cross, I would hope any stigma associated with it might be diminished. I personally have no problem whatsoever with those in or out of the Church who choose to wear a cross, not for show, but as a deeply personal demonstration of faith. Our next-door neighbors gave me and my wife a gift last year of a cross with a scripture engraved in it. I felt that was such a heart felt gift and I deeply appreciate it. It's small, but I have it sitting on my book shelf because of what it represents to me.
It has been said that our lives are to be the symbol of our faith, and I couldn't agree more. We are to "receive His image in [our] countenances" when we are "born of God" (Alma 5:14), not merely surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Thus, perhaps institutionally we won't change much on this, and we probably shouldn't. The world would only view it as an attempt to be recognized as part of "mainstream" Christianity, anyway. For me, it's not about that at all--it's personal. Between me and my Savior, I deeply appreciate that symbol of salvation--and I glory in it.