Category: cross

3 Nephi 12: 30

“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.”
Each person’s cross is individual. Carrying “your cross” is not the same as carrying mine. Therefore, when you “deny yourself of these things” what you surrender and what you take up will be “your cross” and never mine.
It is odd how we are able to spot from a distance the weaknesses of others. We have highly acute sensitivities about others’ flaws. But we rarely appreciate the crosses they bear.
How hard a burden a man carries when he disciplines himself to rise daily, and work to sacrifice for his family, is not at all the same across the economic scale. Nor, for that matter, is the daily service carried on by mothers who have deprived themselves of other pursuits to raise sometimes ungrateful children.
But “hell” is where we are cast when we are pained by the regrets of having lived without discipline, having lived selfishly. (Mormon 9: 4-5.)  We will stand “naked” before God. All of what we want hidden will be before us, revealed and exposed to view.
The “hell” of it all will be our regret, for we are our own tormentor. The torment of a disappointed mind will be like fire and brimstone to the regretful. (TPJS p. 357.)
Christ is advising us in a kindly way how to prevent that moment of fear, regret and torment. He is telling us how to escape it. These teachings are not a threat addressed at us, but a caution about the future moment when these teachings apply to us all.
It is as if the Lord wants us to know clearly beforehand what we are going to wish we had done instead. Now, in mortality, while we can still change how things will turn out, He is telling us how to accomplish that. In an understatement, He advises: “it is better to deny yourself” than it will be to indulge. You may find it a “cross” as you do, but if you deny yourself now it will let you escape “hell” in the future. It is kindly advice, without a threat. It is a warning about the road you have taken, and guidance on how you can avoid the collision that is coming.
Whatever the “cross” is you take up in your daily effort to live inside the bounds prescribed by the Lord, it will be worth it. By heeding His counsel, you will become someone better and avoid becoming devilish.
The temptations each of us face are unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the limit placed upon temptations. They are never too great to resist. There is always an escape provided by the Lord. (1 Cor. 10: 13.) Nor are you given any commandment you cannot obey. (1 Nephi 3: 7.) However, that is not to say temptation is easily overcome. Weakness is our lot. (Ether 12: 27.)
What then are you to make of your cross? If you’ve tried to deny yourself and failed, does it mean you are hopeless? Is the persistent failure to lift the cross you have been called to bear proof that you are just unable to merit salvation? Does the relentless return to temptation mean you are lost? Are you necessarily doomed because you have not found the escape promised by Paul’s writing to the Corinthians?
Life is filled with cycles. When we battle and fail one day, then join the battle again, but fail again; then another, and another and another, what is the use? What do we make of such persistent failure, such continuing weakness? Is the lesson that we are lost? Or is it that we are weak? Weaker than we had ever imagined. Weaker than you could ever suppose man to be. (Moses 1: 10.) Is this evidence that you are doomed? Or is it merely a patient God proving to your utter satisfaction that you are indeed in need of saving grace to rescue you from where you find yourself? Is this the moment when, while filling your belly with husks along with the swine you’ve descended to accompany, you wake up? (Luke 15: 11-17.) If you will finally surrender your pride, come forward with a broken heart and real intent, returning to your Father, He will joyfully receive you still. (Luke 15: 18-24.) There is joy in heaven over you when you awaken.
Weakness is nothing, for all are weak. It is a gift, given to break your heart. Your broken heart will qualify you for His company. Whether a leper, an adulteress, a tax collector or a blind man, He can heal it all.  But what He cannot do, and you must alone bring to Him, is that broken heart required for salvation.
William Ernest Henley wrote Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Orson F. Whitney penned the response in The Soul’s Captain:

Art thou in truth? Then what of him

Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear. –
The God who died that man might live,
And endless glory share?
Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light may pierce the gloom,
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree.
Thou, captain of thy soul, forsooth
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine — free agency
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.
_______________________________

We choose. We live with our choices. It is better to deny ourselves and take up our individual crosses.

Why not the cross?

I was asked about the cross as a religious symbol and why I thought it inappropriate.  Here’s my response:
 
When Christ described what He accomplished for us in His Atonement, He referred exclusively to the suffering in Gethsemane.  (D&C 19: 15-19.)  Therefore, in the Lord’s own explanation, He used the suffering of Gethsemane as the exclusively to let us know the price He paid.
 
I know that among others, James Talmage and Bruce R. McConkie, have said that the suffering in Gethsemane was renewed on the cross.  I have a different view, and I explain that in Come, Let Us Adore Him.  I will not repeat that here.  I expect that since this is my personal view, there will be many who do not share it with me.  However, it is my view that the cross was the means of death; and His death became possible by what He went through in Gethsemane.  Had He not been weakened through the ordeal in Gethsemane, He could not have died on the cross.  But when He arrived at the cross, all that was left to accomplish was His death, while fulfilling the inspired, prophetic foretelling of the event in conformity with the 22nd Psalm.
 
The original Saints who belonged to the Primitive Church (New Testament Church) regarded the great symbol of Christ as the fish.  That symbol was used in the first centuries following Christ.  It was supplanted by Constantine.  Constantine adopted the cross as a symbol for the new, Roman state religion which changed the Primitive Church into the new, Historic Christianity.  It would undergo a name change to the Catholic Church (meaning Universal Church), then the Roman Catholic Church as it was entrenched as the state religion of the Roman Empire.  It has also been referred to as the Holy Roman Empire.  All those names are suitably descriptive.  The adoption of the cross as a religious symbol for this new Historic Christianity, supplanting the earlier fish symbol, is one of the reasons I think it not appropriate.  It symbolizes the change of Primitive Christianity into a new religious form significantly different from what it was when it began.
 
The cross symbolizes the newer form of the faith, which adopted many of the earlier Roman state myths and simply gave Christian names and references to them.  The celebration of Sol Invictus mid-winter became the celebration of Christmas.  Spring fertility rites, including use of the egg and rabbit symbols of fertility were converted into a “Christian” holiday of Easter.  Local deities no longer hailed from Olympus, but semi-deified “Saints” could be prayed to just as the earlier veneration of local deities.  The full panoply of changes would require books to explain, but for me these changes are symbolized by the adoption of the cross as the great symbol of the new Historic Christian movement.  Hence the reason I think it inappropriate as a symbol for a restoration of Primitive Christianity.