Episode 51: When Sacred things Become Mormon Taboos- the Cross

Join historian Michael G. Reed as he discusses his book Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo with Lindsay. The two discuss the history of the cross within Mormonism and use it as a field guide to how other cultural and doctrinal items in the LDS church become eventual taboos.

Purchase the book here.

27 thoughts on “Episode 51: When Sacred things Become Mormon Taboos- the Cross

  1. Great podcast. I can’t wait to read the book. I attended the Liberty Ward in downtown SLC from 2008-2009 (during the centennial anniversary of the building). It had beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel and I remember being struck at how they included crosses, among other symbols. Here is a link to some photos of the windows and the chapel:


  2. I feel very, very strongly about integrating the Cross into Mormonism. It’s a very powerful symbol that stands for Christ and devotion to Him throughout the world. There are so many reasons I want this change to take place. Thank you so much for talking about this.

  3. Great episode. I hope you bring this panelist in again. I love the relation of the cross to masonry and had never considered it before.

  4. Mike announced this podcast on a forum I visit and I really enjoyed it. I like how you lead into it by discussing some of the taboo topics in Mormonism such was women and the priesthood and then discuss the cross and Mormonism and how we have arrived at where we are today. I have had a few discussions with Mike about this and hope he keeps championing topics like this. I feel it is tragic that Mormons have separated themselves from others over issues like this. The realization by Mormons and others of how truly artificial these issues are hopefully will lead to further understanding and acceptance of one another.

  5. As an ill-informed cross-wearing Christian who attended BYU many years go, I was exposed to just about every negative comment about the cross from Mormons. After becoming fully aware of the irreconcilable differences between orthodox Christian belief on the nature of God and the atonement and that of Mormonism I was thankful that Mormons DON’T use the cross. It does not carry the same meaning and I think it’s better they left it behind.

  6. Lindsey: “So, what your are saying is, if I go to a swap meet and I see a really cute pair of crucifix ear rings, I can wear them without guilt?”

    MR: “Go for it…it also might be a conversation starter for you in church…”

    Lindsey: “Those out there who still have good will with your wards, you wear those crucifix ear rings!”

    MR: “Go for it.”

    Nothing says “I’m a Christian” better than some crucifix bling!


    These are pretty cute:


    And for you cowpersons out there, here’s some cuteness for your boots:


    And your jeans:


    This is adorable:


  7. I loved this podcast! I was one of those crazy Mormons who loved and wore crosses for years. It was fun to see the LDS reactions, actually. No one ever said anything to me, but I could see confusion cross their faces.
    Now I’m an ex-Mormon agnostic, however I still love crosses! I will be ordering your book, Michael. Thank you for your work on this ‘taboo’ subject.

  8. Bernard: Response? There is a difference between Mormon acceptance of the literary symbol of the cross, and the material symbol of the cross. I make this nuanced position clear in the intro to my book.

    1. But yes, I agree that there is a presence of the cross in the hymns, LDS scripture, etc. The cross just doesn’t seem to have much of a place in Mormon material culture (outside of artistic depictions). At least, not much since the mid 20th century. Thanks for your response Bernard.

      1. That’s why we are looking for the cross in all the wrong places. The cross is borne in the heart, not on the ear lobes or cowboy boots.

  9. I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just wanted to pop over and say how timely this podcast appeared. Growing up in NJ, I cultivated a deep love and respect for the Catholic church and because of my many Catholic friends, I was gifted a cross necklace. It was one of my favorite treasures, but I only put it on after I left for school and never wore it at home. Fast forward 10 years and I’m sifting through my jewelry box on Ash Wednesday looking for my necklace. I hadn’t worn it for years, but I wanted to pull it out for Lent this year. Yes, I was born and raised in the Church, but I’ve always privately loved the Lenten and Easter Season and celebrated quietly. After going through my box, drawers, baskets, purses, and EVERYTHING I could think of, I realized it was gone. My heart was broken. Fast forwards again just 2 months and at our April Enrichment Activity we had a “leave and take”. At the end of the night I was helping to gather up the unwanted items for donation and I saw on the table a BEAUTIFUL silver cross! It felt like a sign – my waning faith had started to return AND I was given a new cross. It was a strong and poignant moment for me.

    If nothing else, I love that the cross represents Christ and my personal relationship with him. It tells me that He LOVES me and He watches over me. I feel closer to Him when I wear it and I love the outward expression of my faith. It conveys so much to me and to others. So thank you for reaffirming the importance of this symbol in my life.

  10. As someone who’s constantly ranting about “2 piercings ONLY” being an American cultural conformity thing, not a “law of God”, I really loved this podcast outlining the change in culture regarding the cross. I have always felt the cross issue was cultural, not doctrinal, and this podcast was great for providing the history of this.
    I might still pierce my nose, like my many Indian sisters :) and just to have a conversation starter at church. BTW, my husband is Indian, so this is not totally off the hook. I’ll be a pierced nose, cross wearing Mormon.

    1. Seriously…you would pierce your nose just to have a conversation starter in church? Why would you use the most sacred commemoration of the true cross to air a personal grievance?

      1. Nah. I’m being a little flippant. I wouldn’t only do it as a conversation thing. I’ve always wanted to pierce my nose, even before it became the “wrong” thing to do in church. I think due to my Indian connection, which I’ve felt all my life. It does annoy me that something innocent has taken on a whole new immoral, rebellious meaning in the church. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and, well pretty much every Indian lady I know has a nose piercing and they of course are great people. It’s a purely cultural thing that it’s seen here in US as a sign of rebellion.
        As for comparing it to the cross, I’m making a point that these things have become taboo, not because of changing doctrine, or because of revelation, but because of what’s acceptable, or not, in our culture. Not trying to compare crosses to piercings, but merely pointing out how culture, not revelation, sometimes influence church leaders to take a stance against something. To me, this podcast made that point so beautifully.

          1. My research traced the development of the *taboo*, Bernard. This taboo was directed at Visual/Material Symbols. Not literary descriptions. Not literary symbols. Not material/visual depictions. As I have explained and shown in my book, Bernard (a book you haven’t read, btw), there has only been a mild concern in Mormon history for literary symbols and visual/material depictions. There is no concern for literary description of the cross. Again… my thesis is focused on one of these four categories: The material/visual symbol of the cross. This is where the taboo is primarily concerned in Mormon culture. Therefore, I’m afraid your message board post (which you wrote in response to my research) merely jousts windmills.

  11. Visual/Material symbols are not important. In fact, in some religions they are forbidden. As for the LDS Church, I see no need for them in regard to the cross. By stirring the pot as in this interview, you are creating dissension where it is not needed. We are to be united, not divided, by our adoration of the cross. As I said, you are looking for the cross in all the wrong places. It is found within the heart, not on the earlobes.

      1. Sorry, Mike. No offense intended. This is an important issue for you.
        I have presented my feelings about the cross. The most powerful symbolism of the cross for LDS is found in the temple. I don’t feel comfortable exploiting the cross or exposing it to misuse.

  12. I have been an active Mormon all my life. I love the Savior and am so thankful He saves me. I never really thought about the issue, until my daughter’s baptism, when her school teacher gave her a cross necklace. Of course, we let her wear it. No one at church batted an eye. I now love the cross and display it in my home. I’d like to get a cross lapel pin to wear during sacrament meeting. The cross is a reminder of the wondrous sacrifice Christ made for me. I like the reminder. I will wear it…not to create dissension…but as one more way to remember His sacrifice.

  13. I’m not quite sure why people are so infatuated with a symbol of torture and death that was pronounced on hundreds if not thousands of people before and after Christ. There is nothing sacred about the cross or Christ dying on it. You really need to get over your need for idolatry. That said, there are masterful examples of art that encompass the cross. I’m not sure why someone feels the need to display their “Christianity” in any other form than the way Christ did, selfless acts of love and kindness. Christ didn’t wear a cross. You shouldn’t be compelled to wear one either. Rejoice in his resurrection, the real miracle.

Leave a Reply