Gordon B. Hinckley, a previous prophet of the Mormon church, was asked by a minister why there were no crosses on or in the Mesa, Arizona Mormon temple. He answered, “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues 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.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, Apr 2005, 2-6)
The Savior’s death on the cross was caused by the acts of men. Jesus Christ allowed them to do this, because a voluntary laying down of life was one of the requirements for an atoning sacrifice. The Mormons honor the Savior for that, and understand the extraordinary pain, suffering, and abuse He willingly endured for us. The Mormons do have pictures of Jesus on the cross, which are used in teaching lessons, but they do not wear the cross as a decoration or jewelry. It was, after all, a terribly painful moment for Jesus Christ.
Mormons also keep in mind the suffering of the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus Christ actually took on Himself, voluntarily, the sins of the world, and suffered an agony we cannot even imagine. Selecting only the cross ignores the intense power of what happened in the Garden, and the sacrifice involved. The Savior, who had no sins of His own, and who could, therefore, have died without ever suffering the effects of sin, chose to take on not just a few, but every sin that had and would occur.
Mormons honor and revere those critical moments in our eternal lives, but we prefer to focus our attention on the living Christ. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and lives even today, acting as our mediator, and loving us. So often, people focus so much attention on the death of the Savior, they seem to forget He once lives and He lives again. The resurrected Christ is proof that He really is our Savior.
Marvin J. Ashton, a high-ranking Mormon leader, suggested part of our answer to this question is in the Bible, in the words of the Savior, Himself:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24-25.) Jesus suggested that the true measure of a Christian isn’t his jewelry, but his actions. He asked us to take up our cross and carry it, not wear it.
With this in mind, Mormons work hard to emulate the Savior’s example throughout His lifetime on earth. They seek out ways to help others who are ill, as the Savior did. They feed the hungry. They honor their families, attend their meetings, and try to represent the Savior. When they are baptized, they take on themselves the name of the Savior, and this is a powerful responsibility. They take up His cross by wearing His name well and representing Him properly.
Carrying His cross also means to teach others about him, even when they face ridicule, persecution, or even death. Most of us are not called upon to die for our faith, although some are, but all of us are called on to live for it, and that is how we carry our cross.
While Mormons have great love for the sacrifices Jesus Christ made on the cross, they try to focus the major part of their life on living worthy of those sacrifices.