It’s important to understand how our salvation takes place. Mormonism puts a lot of emphasis on Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, while biblical Christianity puts the main focus on Jesus’ death on the cross.
From the Beginning, the Penalty of Sin is Death
God placed Adam and Eve in a perfect paradise with no death – until they partook of the forbidden fruit. God had told them, “If you eat of the fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:16-17). So, as a result of their sin, death entered the world. This is echoed in the New Testament. After Christ’s crucifixion, the apostle Paul wrote that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Sin and death are always connected, from the very beginning.
In Old Testament Sacrifices, Death Was Required to Atone for Sin
Every year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the ancient Hebrews killed an animal to atone for the sins of the nation for that year. This illustrates how death is required for God’s perfect justice to be fulfilled. Death is necessary to atone for sin. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, sin had to be paid for by the death of an animal, as a substitute for the sinner.
Only Jesus’s Death Could Pay for Sin Once and for All
Jesus suffered in many ways in Gethsemane. His friends deserted him as he wrestled in anguish with God over his impending sacrifice. But his suffering there cannot have been payment for sin, because he did not die there. To say that Jesus’ suffering for us secured our atonement is not enough. In particular, it is Jesus’ death for us that mattered.
Romans 5:6-8 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
So our atonement could not have happened in the garden of Gethsemane. It could only have happened on the cross.
[Related: Why Was Jesus’ Death Necessary?]
[Related: What It Means to Be Made Right with God]
Placing atonement in Gethsemane undermines the significance of the cross. But Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross (John 19:30). Different religions in history have sought to minimize the centrality of the cross. This makes light of the saving work Jesus accomplished there.
By contrast, the biblical apostles repeatedly emphasized the cross.
Colossians 2:14-15 God canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Galatians 6:14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
[Related: The Cross of Jesus and the Altar]
[Related: The Cross of Jesus and the Courtroom]
If the church you’re attending puts a lot of emphasis on the cross – as opposed to the garden of Gethsemane – that is appropriate. This is why: because the cross is where Jesus died to pay for our sins so that we can be forgiven and have relationship with God.
[Related: Understanding the Cross After Leaving Mormonism]