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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Salt Lake Temple Stone Symbols

The Salt Lake Temple
The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the international symbol of Mormonism.  To outsiders, it can be seen as a mysterious building of which little is known.  But this confusion concerning LDS beliefs is alleviated by understanding the meaning of the symbols in stone.  President George A. Smith said of the symbolism, "Every one conveys a moral lesson, and all point to the celestial world" (Printed on a Charles W. Carter photographic collage entitled 'Salt Lake City Temple in its different stages of construction,' Archives Division, Church Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah).

An Earth Stone
The Earth Stones (50 in total) may not seem like much.  Originally they were to be carved with images of Earth and the seven continents, but the granite used in construction was not capable of such minute detail.

A Moon Stone
The Moon Stones (50 in number) show the 1878 lunar cycle.  From the June 1978 New Era we learn that there are 13 New Moons, 13 First Quarters, 12 Full Moons, and 12 Last Quarters.  The Moon Stones symbolize the Terrestrial Kingdom (see D&C 76:71-80).

Two Sun Stones
The Sun Stones (50 total) represent the Celestial Kingdom.  Revelation gives us greater insight into this kingdom.  It is written, "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.  He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase. (D&C 131:1-4)"

A Star Stone
 The Star Stones (I am not sure how many there are; if one knows, please enlighten me).  The Star Stones represent the Telestial Kingdom of God, of which revelation states, 

And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of th+e glory of the moon in the firmament.  These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.  These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.  These are they who are thrust down to hell.  These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work. (D&C 76:81-85)
The Hand Clasp
 The Hand Clasp is probably the most symbolically rich carving seen on the exterior walls of the House of the Lord.  Paul says in Galatians 2:9, "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship . . ."  Jeremiah writes, "the covenant . . . I made with their fathers in . . . that I took them by the hand . . . (Jeremiah 31:32)"  The scroll above the Hand Clasp says,"I am Alpha and Omega", which is a Title held by Jesus the Christ.

The All-Seeing Eye
The All-Seeing Eye symbolizes the infinite knowledge of God, as spoken of by Nephi's brother Jacob, when he says that the people are being examined "under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God. (Jacob 2:10)"  He later states, "O that he [God] would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust! (Jacob 2:15)"

The Big Dipper
The symbolism of Ursa Major is spoken of by President Gordon B. Hinckley.  At the April 2002 General Conference, he said, "Like the polar star in the heavens, regardless of what the future holds, there stands the Redeemer of the world, the Son of God, certain and sure as the anchor of our immortal lives."  Truman O. Angell, Sr., the Church Architect and designer of the symbols, spoke of Ursa Major as the lost finding themselves through the Priesthood (Deseret News, 17 Aug. 1854).

The Cloud Stones
The Cloud Stones represent the Presence of God and His divine protection.  "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11)"

I love the Salt Lake Temple.  Whenever I am down in Salt Lake City, I love to go to the Temple grounds and admire the stonework.  I know that the ordinances in the House of the Lord are necessary to live with God again.  If we do not obtain them, we cannot live with Him again.  I say this in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, amen!


Scott said...

The sun, moon, and star stones can have different meanings, and probably do (otherwise having star stones above the sun stones wouldn't make sense). Joseph Smith said the Nauvoo Temple (with similar stones) was made to represent the woman in Revelation 12:1
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars"
This is why the moon stones were at the lowest level, sun stones at the top of the columns and then star stones (as a crown of stars) above the sun stones. In this way the temple represents the church.
On the Salt Lake Temple the symbolism can be seen combined w/ the 3 degrees of glory w/ the earth stones representing the current telestial world and the star stones representing heaven and the exalted.
Also, the cloud stones were originally planned to include trumpets, so they are the same symbol that is a part of the sun stone capitals in the Nauvoo Temple. I named my blog after the trumpet stones because they were a poorly understood symbol.

Clark Herlin said...

From what I've read, It was Wandle Mace's words who described the Temple representing the Church, not Joseph Smith's words. ((Wandle Mace, Autobiography 207 (BYU Special Collections))

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but I appreciated reading it, thanks! I was taught an additional meaning for the stars which makes a lot of sense to me (I just don't know why they would put all that effort into carving stones to reference the telestial kingdom on the temple), that is the they represent posterity as numerous and the stars of the heavens :).