Symbolism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Bern Switzerland Temple statue of Angel Moroni

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches that "the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (KJV, 1 Corinthians 2:10,14)

One of the many important uses of symbolism by the LDS Church is to enable spiritual discernment of the "deep things of God" in a way that becomes veiled from the "natural" or intellectual mind of man, but reaches the inner heart and soul in a memorable way that may provide new levels of understanding through meditation, prayer, heed and diligence.

Common[edit]

Replica of Thorvaldsen's Christus in Temple Square visitors' center

Because of the central role the Angel Moroni played in the restoration, an image of the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet is used as an unofficial symbol of the LDS Church. Moroni is commonly identified by Latter-day Saints as the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6, "having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people". Moroni appears on the cover of some editions of the Book of Mormon, on USVA headstones, and statues of the angel stand atop nearly all LDS temples. In 2007, the LDS Church claimed that an image of the angel Moroni in an advertisement violated one of the church's registered trademarks.[1]

Former church president Howard W. Hunter encouraged church members to "look to the temple ... as the great symbol of your membership."[2] Images of temples, especially of the Salt Lake Temple, are very commonly used in LDS media as symbols of the faith. Additionally, church leaders have encouraged members to hang pictures of temples on the walls of their homes,[3][4][5] and it has become a common cultural phenomenon described even in publications intended for children.[6]

Bertel Thorvaldsen's Christus has great appealed to the members of the LDS Church and a 3.4 m replica is on display in the Temple Square North Visitors' Center in Salt Lake City.[7] There are additional replicas of this statue in many LDS Visitor Centers, including those at the Mesa Arizona Temple,[8] the Los Angeles California Temple,[9] and the Washington D.C. Temple.[10] The LDS Church commonly uses images of the statue in official church media, such as the Internet site LDS.org.

A CTR ring is a common symbol of the Church.

Members may wear a ring with the Choose the Right shield on a daily basis, to remind them to be righteous. Other symbols in Mormonism include the tree of life (also representing the love of God and eternal life, 1 Nephi 11:8-22), the iron rod (the word of God, 1 Nephi 11:25), the tame and wild olive trees (the House of Israel, Book of Mormon Jacob 5), a tree seed (the word of God planted in one's heart, Alma 32:28), the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16-17), the many symbols of Christ and his mission as the Savior of mankind (for example, Isaiah 53:7, 55:1, John 6:35) and many others. Wheat grain on the stem is a symbol traditionally used by the Relief Society, as a historic reminder of their efforts to foster self-sufficiency.

When questioned on the subject of symbols, former church president Gordon B. Hinckley said that Latter-day Saints themselves are the best symbols of their religion.[11]

Sacred[edit]

See also: Temple garment

All of the symbolic elements involved in the LDS Church temple ceremonies are considered to be very sacred and are thus not discussed publicly. Two symbolic ideas that are discussed in temple open houses before they are dedicated are as follows:

  • Members who enter the temple change in private lockers into white temple clothing to remind them of leaving outside the cares of the world, and of becoming one with each other by being dressed in similar clothing that symbolizes purity and "holiness to the Lord."
  • Each temple includes a baptismal font similar to the "molten sea" described in Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 7:23–26). The font is placed below ground level, signifying a place of symbolic burial of the carnal individual and a renewal of life as a "born again" individual who has covenanted and become clean through the atonement of Jesus. The font is placed on twelve oxen, three facing each direction, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel whose descendants are scattered throughout the earth. The LDS belief is that as each baptism for the dead occurs, the person being represented by proxy may accept the baptismal ordinance in the Spirit world and thus be joined with the House of Israel in an eternal covenant with Jesus.[12]

Restrictions[edit]

By policy, no pictures or icons are depicted in the chapel within LDS Church meetinghouses, in order to avoid an image becoming the focus of worship rather than the reality of God. However, images such as paintings of Christ and photographs of LDS Church leaders and temples are common in other parts of church buildings.[13]

The LDS Church does not use the Christian cross, crucifix or ichthys as symbols of faith. Mormons view crucifixion related symbols as emphasizing the death of Jesus rather than his life and resurrection.[14] The early LDS Church was more accepting of the symbol of the cross,[15] but after the turn of the 20th century, an aversion to it developed in Mormon culture. In 1957 church president David O. McKay institutionalized the cultural uneasiness regarding the cross, stating that wearing cross jewelry is not appropriate for Latter-day Saints, and that the use of the cross is actually a "Catholic form of worship".[16]

The LDS Church strongly discourages tattoos, including those which incorporate LDS symbols promoted in other art forms.[17] Likewise body piercing, even if they include symbols that would otherwise be acceptable, are also discouraged.[18]

Examples[edit]

Picture Symbol Name Description
Clear.gif All-seeing eye Appears on the Salt Lake Temple exterior and on other early LDS buildings.
Engel Moroni Bern Tempel.JPG Angel Moroni Final author of the Book of Mormon and the person who revealed location of the golden plates to Joseph Smith.
Beehive House South Temple Street.jpg Beehive From the Book of Mormon; refers to deseret, meaning "honeybee." Appears on the Utah state flag, Utah state seal, Brigham Young's Beehive House, Salt Lake Temple, Utah state highway markers, etc.
Clear.gif Handclasp Appears on Salt Lake Temple exterior. One modern adaptation is the "Helping Hands" logo on t-shirts worn by LDS members when performing community service (see also: right hand of fellowship).
Clear.gif Iron rod Originates with the Book of Mormon; symbolizes the "word of God," meaning the scriptures, the words of the living prophets, or the gospel of Jesus Christ generally that leads one to the Tree of Life.
Crossing the Mississippi on the Ice by C.C.A. Christensen.png Pioneer wagon Emblem often appearing in Pioneer Day celebrations; evokes connection of living members to deeds of the Mormon pioneers. Variations often include a handcart.
Sego lily cm.jpg Sego lily Image appearing in several temples, due to its importance to early Mormon pioneer settlers in Utah as a source of sustenance. As a result of its importance in early LDS Church (and, thus, Utah) history, it also appears on the Utah state flag and is also the official Utah state flower.
Nauvoo Temple Sunstone 2003.jpg Sunstone Appeared on original Nauvoo Temple.
Tree of Life Lehi from Book of Mormon.jpg Tree of life Symbolic element featured prominently in the beginning portion of the Book of Mormon; symbolizes the love of God.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Adams, "Angel Moroni at the Center of Controversial Ad Campaign", KSL Radio, March 23, 2007.
  2. ^ Hunter, Howard W. (November 1994), "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises", Ensign: 8 
  3. ^ Monson, Thomas S. (May 2011), "The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World", Ensign 
  4. ^ Nelson, Russell M. (March 2002), "Prepare for Blessings of the Temple", Ensign 
  5. ^ Hunter, Howard W. (February 1995), "A Temple-Motivated People", Ensign 
  6. ^ Pingel, Shari (April 2013), "A Picture of the Temple", The Friend 
  7. ^ Temple Square North Visitors' Center, "Places to Visit: Visitors' Centers", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  8. ^ Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors' Center, "Places to Visit: Visitors' Centers", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  9. ^ Los Angeles Temple Visitors' Center, "Places to Visit: Visitors' Centers", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  10. ^ Washington D.C. Temple Visitors' Center, "Places to Visit: Visitors' Centers", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  11. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (April 2005), "The Symbol of Our Faith", Ensign 
  12. ^ Baptisms for the Dead, "Gospel Topics", LDS.org (LDS Church), retrieved 2013-12-11 
  13. ^ 21.2.1 Artwork, "21.2 Policies on Using Church Buildings and Other Property", Handbook 2: Administering the Church (LDS Church), 2010 
  14. ^ Cross, "Gospel Topics", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  15. ^ Gaskill, Alonzo L. (2013), "Michael G. Reed's Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo [Book Review]", BYU Studies Quarterly 52 (4): 185, "What Reed shows, rather convincingly, is that Mormonism has not always been uncomfortable utilizing the cross as one of its symbols..." 
  16. ^ Reed, Michael (2012). Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo. Independence, Missouri: John Whitmer Books. pp. 67, 122. ISBN 978-1934901359. OCLC 844370293. 
  17. ^ Tattooing, "Gospel Topics", LDS.org (LDS Church) 
  18. ^ There is an exception for "one modest pair of earnings" for female members; see: "Body Piercing", True to the Faith, LDS Church, 2004, p. 27 

References[edit]