Join Editor Taylor Petrey as he interviews Jeremy M. Christiansen about his Winter 2022 article “The Garden Atonement and the Mormon Cross Taboo” for our 36th episode of Dialogue Out Loud.
Michael Reed’s 2012 book Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo sets out an excellent account of the uncomfortable relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the core symbol of Christianity: the cross. Reed persuasively demonstrates that the taboo was a late development in Latter-day Saint history and locates much of the taboo’s roots in anti-Catholicism of the early to mid-twentieth century.
This article presents a modest contribution to Reed’s scholarship by accounting for the role of the distinctive Latter-day Saint belief about the Garden of Gethsemane in Christ’s atonement and its relationship to the cross taboo. As taught in the Church’s official Guide to the Scriptures, Jesus “suffered in Gethsemane for the sins of mankind.” We can refer to this belief as the “garden atonement.” That belief is distinctive in and of itself, but many articulations of the doctrine also place the garden over and above Jesus’s crucifixion.