The Passion of Christ - Minus the Cross

by Rocky Hulse

March 2007

On March 31 – April 1st 2007 the Ministerial Association in Nauvoo, Illinois, presented the “Nauvoo Passion Play.”  The play was be hosted in the Joseph Smith Academy Theater, right across the street from the Mormon Temple.  We as Christians understand the “passion” of Christ as the suffering that He endured from after the “Last Supper,” through the agony of Gethsemane, His arrest, trials, beatings, and ultimately His gruesome crucifixion at Calvary’s Mount.

I was amazed when I saw the advertisements for Christians in Nauvoo to come and try out for the play.  Not that Christians shouldn’t be a part of a ‘passion play,’ I think they should; however, why would Christians join hands to present a play about what Jesus did for us on the Cross with those who do not believe in the Cross.  The Apostle Paul was quite pointed in his statement in II Corinthians 6:14:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

When we as Christians celebrate Easter and the ‘Passion of Christ,’ we are celebrating the belief that Jesus, as the Christian Messiah, suffered for us and took upon Himself our sins upon the the Cross; He then died and overcame the grave, being resurrected on the third day.  Easter for Christianity is a celebration of the work completed on the Cross and Christ’s triumph over the grave.
Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims & Mormons

Easter is a Christian event.  Do the Buddhist’s celebrate Easter? No.  Do the Hindu’s celebrate Easter? No.  Do the Muslims celebrate Easter? No.  Would we as Christians go to a Buddhist or Hindu Temple to conduct an Easter Sunrise Service? No. Would we as Christians go to a Muslim Mosque and have a joint Easter Service? No.  The Buddhists and Hindus don’t believe in Jesus period and the Muslims believe He was just a prophet.  None of these religions believe that Jesus was God incarnate that came to earth to die on the Cross for our sins; so, why would we celebrate something with someone who doesn’t believe in the reason for the celebration?

Understanding the logic of the above paragraph begs the question: Why would the Christian Ministerial Association in Nauvoo join with the Mormon Church to put on the ‘Passion Play’ in the Joseph Smith Academy, in Nauvoo?  You may be saying to yourself,” What’s the big deal?  Why are you objecting to this?

My objection is quite simple – the Mormon Church is no different than the Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims with respect to Easter.  The Mormon Church does not believe that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins.  The Mormon Church therefore, by definition of its doctrines, places itself outside the bounds of historic, apostolic, orthodox Christianity.  

This being the case, why is the Christian Ministerial Association in Nauvoo joining with a religion that does not believe Jesus died on the Cross for our sins to put on the ‘Passion Play?’

For us the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ

In the official Mormon Church Magazine, Ensign, for April 2005, the current Mormon Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“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 alters 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.” (Ensign, p. 3 April 2005)

Mormon Prophet Hinckley is exactly right in his explanation of the Cross in Mormonism: “the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ.” In Mormonism, the only thing the Cross represents is the place where Christ died; no understanding of the “Atonement” is represented in the Cross.  Mormonism teaches that Jesus did not die on the Cross for our sins.  Mormon doctrine teaches that the blood of Christ does not cover all sin, and the atonement was done in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Mormonism doesn’t hold to the shed blood of Jesus at Calvary, it believes in the sweated blood of Gethsemane!

Gethsemane – not Calvary!

Let’s have the 13th Mormon Prophet speak for the Doctrines of Mormonism concerning Gethsemane over Calvary:

On page fourteen of his book, “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson,” the Thirteenth Prophet of the LDS Church stated it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ “suffered as only God would suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied.”   He further states on the next page: “It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that his pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg 15).

In the April 2005 issue of Mormon Church’s official Magazine, Ensign, on page 54 there is an article called “Gospel Classics,” which is a reprint of a speech delivered by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie.  Apostle McConkie, who passed away in 1985, is in my opinion one of the most prolific Mormon writers of the 20th Century.  He is the author of the epic work “Mormon Doctrine.”  In this speech he very clearly lays out the Mormon doctrinal position of Gethsemane over Calvary:

“The most transcendent of all such events occurred in a garden called Gethsemane, outside Jerusalem’s walls, when the Chief Citizen of planet Earth sweat great drops of blood from every pore as He in agony took upon Himself the sins of all men on conditions of repentance. (Ensign, p. 54 April 2005)

The above quotes are quite clear; however, the next quote I think is quite important because it is the statement of a Sunday School teacher preparing her lesson about “Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice” from her Mormon Church provided Sunday School Teacher’s Manual:

In the article  “Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice”, Sunstone Magazine 8:6/17, November 83,  Mormon writer Joyce N. Woodbury stated, “On a February evening I sat down to prepare the Sunday School lesson for a class of thirteen-year-olds; on page 56 of the teachers manual, I read:  “Draw a priority chart with 1st, 2nd, 3rd across the top and A (cross), B (garden), and C (washing) down the side….Let A represent Christ hanging on the cross, B his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, and C Christ washing the feet of the apostles….have the students rank the events first, second and third in order of their feelings for Christ’s greatest act of love.  Have them show their decision by raising their hands.  Count the number of hands raised and write it in the correct box on the priority chart.”   It is important that the students understand that Christ’s greatest act of love was shown when he suffered for the sins of the world in the garden of Gethsemane (Introduction to the Scriptures, Part B [Sunday School Course 13 teacher’s manual] (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980), p. 56).

Space doesn’t permit more quotes; however, I believe these quotes absolutely show the Mormon Doctrine that Christ’s Atonement was in Gethsemane, not on Calvary.  This Mormon Doctrinal teaching is completely in opposition to the Biblical Christian doctrine that Christ died for the sins of humanity on the Cross of Calvary.

Jesus’ Blood Does Not Cover All Sin!!

Not only does Mormonism deny the atonement on the Cross, but also Mormonism teaches that the blood of Jesus does not cover all sin.  Let’s look at this:

“It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol 4, pg 54, September 21, 1856)

So Brigham Young, the second Mormon Prophet, says Jesus’ Blood does not cover all sin.  That doctrine is purely Anti-Christian.  What does the Bible say about the “Blood of Jesus”?

7b. “… “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)

What does God’s inerrant Word say about the Cross of Calvary?

20. And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. Col 1:20

In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he told us of the importance of the Cross:

17.  For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 1 Cor 1:17

Why is the Cross the symbol of Christianity?

14. Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Col 2:14-15

As Christians we love the Cross because it was there that our sin was nailed by Jesus.  Verse 15 above, clearly states that Jesus triumphed over Satan and the principalities and powers at the Cross – not in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane is only mentioned twice in the Bible: Mt 26:36 and Mk 14:32.  The greatest missionary the world has ever known, the Apostle Paul, never gloried in Gethsemane, but he certainly gloried in the Cross because he understood what the Lord had done for humanity on that tree.

14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Gal 6:14

The above documentation is quite clear that in Mormonism, Jesus did not die on the Cross for our sins, but sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane; also, that sweated blood only covers some sins – not ALL sin.  In Mormonism Jesus only went to the Cross so that He could die to be resurrected – nothing more.  These distorted doctrines are the reason that Mormonism shuns the Cross and will not display it.  The Apostle Paul called that foolishness:

18.  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  1 Cor 1:18

The Ministerial Association in Nauvoo is wrong to include the Mormon Church in a Christian celebration of the ‘Passion of Christ,’ when they do not believe in it.

Pastor Jim Spencer says it best:

“When we fellowship with Mormons in such things as public worship, or when we send signals to people who are ignorant of the real methods, intent, and doctrine of Mormonism, we confuse potential victims.  That is both counterproductive and ungodly.  At its best it is naïve and devoid of wisdom.” (Can We Fellowship With Mormons?, pg 5)

“When we stand on podiums together in Easter, Christmas, and World Day of Prayer meetings, we tell ungrounded Christians that spiritual fellowship (which for Mormons includes the missionary discussions) is OK.  We cause our weak brothers to stumble. (Can We Fellowship With Mormons?, pg 8)

Let’s look again at II Corinthians 6:14:

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” The Nauvoo Ministerial Association is unequally yoked – mixing righteousness with unrighteousness and light with darkness.  Folks, be vocal.  Don’t let your church be involved in such events with unbelievers.  Doctrine is important.  Jesus confronted false teachers and false teaching.  II John 10-11 couldn’t be more appropriate:

  1. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
  2. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.