Mormonism and temples/Symbols on the Nauvoo Temple
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This page is based on an answer to a question submitted to the FAIR web site, or a frequently asked question.
I've heard there are some strange symbols on the Nauvoo and Salt Lake temples. My non-member friend claims these have an "occult" significance. Some people are of the opinion that they are Masonic.
Creepy...This article’s intent is not to condemn Mormonism as a faith, but rather to analyze the symbols in Temple Square in an objective matter. A visitor of this religious area finds himself surrounded with symbols esoterically associated with Black Magic, evil or ancient paganism. Why are these symbols visible on supposedly Christian buildings, of all places? Many ex-Mormons have claimed that the LDS secretly leads followers to the worship of Lucifer. Are they right?
— Anti-Mormon author "Vigilant, Saints Alive in Jesus website, "Sinister Sites – Temple Square, Utah," (6 April 2010).
LDS Temples are directed to the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Symbols can have multiple applications in different cultures; the intent of LDS symbols have been explicitly described by the prophets, architects, and craftsmen involved. All are focused on the worship of God and His Son. The "occult connection" exists only in the mind of the critic.
Symbols Shown By Vision
The symbols located on the exterior of the Nauvoo Temple can be directly connected with a vision shown to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
In a revelation given on 19 January 1841 (which is about the Nauvoo Temple) the Lord Jesus Christ stated: "I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house" (DC 124:42; emphasis added).
Joseph Smith later confirmed to the temple's chief architect, William Weeks, "I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building." The Prophet insisted that it be built according to the "pattern" that he had been shown.
The Prophet was once asked by a stone carver, with regard to one of the sunstones he was working on, - "Is this like the face you saw in vision?" To which the reply was, "Very near it".
Sequence of the Symbols
Even though the exterior symbols on the pilasters of the Nauvoo Temple are the sun, moon, and stars it should be understood that they are not arranged in the sequence that is associated with the three degrees of glory (i.e., star on bottom = telestial kingdom; moon in the middle = terrestrial kingdom; sun on top = celestial kingdom). Rather, the sequence on the Nauvoo Temple is moon (bottom); sun (middle); star (top). The physical arrangement of the symbols on the outside of the Nauvoo Temple indicate that they do NOT represent the three degrees of glory.
Meaning of the Symbols
These symbolic images can be matched up with information provided in the Joseph Smith Translation of the 12th chapter of the book of Revelation. There it is said of a vision that was shown to the ancient apostle John, "And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (vs. 1). Thus, the moon is placed at the bottom, the sun in the middle, and the stars on top. In verse 7 of the same chapter the Prophet clarifies that "the woman . . . was the church of God."
Wandle Mace—the foreman for all of the framework done on the Nauvoo Temple—left behind a statement that makes a clear connection between the visions of John the Revelator and Joseph Smith. He said,
- "The order of architecture [on the Nauvoo Temple] was unlike anything in existence; it was purely original; being a representation of the Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. John the Revelator, in the 12[th] chapter [and] first verse of [the book of Revelation] says, '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 portrayed in the beautifully cut stone of this grand temple."
Thus, the symbols on the outside of the Nauvoo Temple are a representation of the Church of God. And since the symbols are displayed in a heavenly setting they can naturally be associated with the Lord's heavenly Church, or what is sometimes referred to as The Church of the Firstborn. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism indicates that "the Church of the Firstborn is Christ's heavenly Church, and its members are exalted beings." This is significant because on 4 May 1842 Joseph Smith gave the Nauvoo-era temple endowment for the first time to several of the Saints. The Prophet said that these ordinances consisted of "washings, anointings, endowments and the communication of keys pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedek Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days, and all those plans and principles by which anyone is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which have been prepared for the Church of the Firstborn." Therefore, it appears that the Lord had symbols placed on the outside of the Nauvoo Temple that represented the nature of the ordinances that were to take place inside of that building.
Inverted Five-Pointed Stars
Critics of the LDS Church are uncomfortable with the inverted five-pointed stars found on the stones and in the round windows of the Nauvoo Temple because in modern times they have come to be associated with Satan and devil worship. It should be noted, however, that this association did not occur until after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
It should be further noted that Latter-day Saints publicly disclosed their interpretation of the inverted five-pointed star when they built the Logan Temple in northern Utah. A contemporary newspaper report states that the star was symbolic of "the Star of the Morning"—which in the New Testament is a title of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:16).
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:196–197. BYU Studies link
- [note] Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past: From the Leaves of Old Journals (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883), 389.
- [note] Wandle Mace, autobiography, 207, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
- [note] Ivan J. Barrett, "Church of the Firstborn," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:276. off-site off-site
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:1–2. BYU Studies link
- [note] Deseret Evening News (20 August 1880): 3.