THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBOLS
Symbols are all around us; we use them every day without even thinking of it and often without even understanding the meanings behind them.
Jesus taught in parables. The Bible is saturated with archetypes, motifs, types, shadows, metaphors and allegories as is the Book of Mormon and especially modern temples.
Like most religious traditions in the world, the Latter-day Saint faith incorporates symbols into many aspects of religious life, yet many are illiterate in the language of symbols.
Steve Reed, the creator of One Climbs and LDS Symbols, has written many articles and created educational resources for learning the meaning behind many symbols. He is currently running a check out the LDS Symbols KickStarter campaign to support this project.
SOME EXAMPLES OF SYMBOLS USED BY THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
- Beginning, Middle, End
- Past, Present, Future
“Three is an unfolding of the One to a condition where it can be known – unity becomes recognizable.” ( Carl Jung, “A Psychological Approach to the Trinity,” Psychology and Religion, CW, Vol. XI, 180 )
“Plato saw 3 as…the simplest spatial shape, and considered the world to have been built from triangles.” ( Encycolpedia Britannica; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/604590/triangle, accessed 12/10/2012 )
“Most every LDS temple utilizes 3 in some form, normally in their 3-part progression through both sacred space (3 ascending rooms) and through sacred time (past, present and future). And last, when temples are dedicated Saints repeat the sacred Hosana Shout 3 times, sealing the ordinance, as first seen in the modern era at the Kirtland Temple.”
Val Brinkerhoff, “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” (Book 2), 67
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” ( 1 John 5:7-8 )
“…3 and 4 and 6 and 8 and 12 are considered structural numbers, the numbers nature builds with.” ( Michael Schneider, Oral Interview, via YouTube )
- The Flow of Life
- Man + Woman (2 opposing spirals)
- Divine Proportion (Phi)
- Ascent / Descent
“Spirals are a sign of growth and transformation through resistance. While their sizes and substances vary widely, nature’s spirals result from an interplay of opposites…” ( Michael S. Schneider, A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, 155 )
“The single spiral or swastika’s traditional connection to creation is even more appropriate when it appears in LDS temples in the opposing male-female form. There it potentially signals a sacred union resulting in endless offspring into the eternities… Spirals and swastikas have had ancient connection to men, women, and creation for thousands of years.” ( Val Brinkerhoff, The Day Star – Reading Sacred Architecture (Book 1), 166 )
There have been many great books written on the subject of symbolism in LDS theology, but Steve Reed wanted to produce something more unique. He has created something dynamic, portable and engaging that even a small child could understand.
Please check out the LDS Symbols KickStarter campaign and consider supporting them today
Also for more information about LDS Symbols visit: LDSSymbols.com
17 thoughts on “Exploring Symbols Within a Latter-day Saint Context”
Wow. This stuff is neat. Enjoyed the video except for the quote by denver snuffer. Why do people quote denver as if that is any kind of authority. He was exed because he reached out beyond his stewardship to steady the ark of the Lord. Why those who seek the mysteries so often fall because they lack the patience to wait upon the Lord is troubling. But nonetheless they are eager to share what they know beyond their authorized stewardship which is contrary to the Lords way and causes more problems than it would appear to solve. Trust the Lords structure and order and we will all be better off.
Hey, this is Steve, I made the video. I made the video back in March of this year and used the Denver Snuffer quote because it is true and very well said.
Truth is truth, it doesn’t matter the source. We still have Psalms and Proverbs in the Bible which Christ quoted from in his ministry. Yet one of the authors built an altar to Molech, the god of the child-sacrifice cult and the other had a guy killed so he could lust after his wife. Yet they taught truth and that truth was preserved and is read by billions as scripture.
The cards themselves feature quotes from several non-LDS authors, but Denver Snuffer didn’t happen to be one of them.
I tend to share Brigham Young’s perspective on truth: http://wp.me/p36hSd-ai hope that helps, thanks for your thoughts.
Lots of people can convey a truth. Selecting one of those people who has credibility lends greater weight to the truth being conveyed. At least to those who would otherwise not listen. David and solomon phad personal failings. They knew what they were doing was wrong. As far as I know they werent teaching others to do what was wrong in scriptures. They blew it but so do many of us. With such a wealth of duly called and faithful servants of the Lord can nothing be found among them to convey the thought to the intended audience rather than a self proclaimed watchman on the tower?
You can of course say whatever you want on your video. I am only saying that using someone like denver is distractive and counter productive in reaching the intended audience.
I found that quote long before this whole debacle with Snuffer began. I made the video before all the drama as well.
That said, I’d still use the quote if I made the video again because it’s a great explanation of a profound truth. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter too much to me who says what, it’s truth that counts.
If I found a better quote I’d use it in a heartbeat. Got any suggestions?
Loved the presentation! The information was really fascinating. Thanks for the share!
With that being said, I’m going to play my own devil’s advocate. It’s quite clear that the use of numbers in the scriptures is very important, because the symbolism of numbers is EVERYWHERE; much like it is used everywhere in temple construction.
However, I fail to see why those numbers or shapes are important for us to understand. Or let me put it another way. Given the fact that these symbols are not openly taught to the lay member, they have become incredibly difficult to understand, and have even taken on a “mysterious” quality. At least, they have become mysterious to me (but, I don’t think that I’m the only one).
I can understand why many would fail to see why numbers or shapes are important. Yet if they were being intentionally used to communicate doctrines or principles (which they are) then it is easier to see the importance of learning something concerning them.
The letters of the alphabet are important to learn so we can read scripture and hear the voice of the Lord. In the same manner, we can also hear the word of the Lord in a rich and unique way by learning the language of symbols which have a far greater capacity to enlighten the mind than words, in my opinion.
But, when you start learning what the symbols are symbolic of, I kind of start thinking “Well that’s not that big of a deal. I learned that and MUCH more by reading the scriptures.” So, it seems like making the symbols mysterious is kind of a waste.
Take for example the octagon, or the number 8, representing rebirth, or Christ as a mediator. While it is REALLY fascinating that there is that much care put into designing the buildings, after having learned what the symbol meant, my understanding of Christ or the gospel has not become deeper or more rich as a result of having learned the symbol.
Symbols point to other things. If you know what they are pointing to, then as you meditate upon those things, the Spirit can teach you.
The same thing happens with scripture. As you open it up and see those markings we call letters and words, your thoughts are directed to higher things.
The only difference is that we are not literate in symbols, so many miss out on additional light.
Thanks for the replies to my comments.
I don’t want to sound critical of your video. I think you did an amazing job, and I’ve watched it twice already (will probably watch again soon). I’m really just trying to play devil’s advocate, as I guessed it would invoke a response.
I DO believe that there is more to learn from the temples than casual attendance will teach us, and I’m convinced numbers are a part of telling a deeper story, too. Sadly for me, though, I am one of the many illiterates. I really do want to learn more and be worthy of more, but this has just been one of those things that has remained a mystery to me, and there’s not really a lot of resources for becoming literate.
Anyway… great video.
Oh, I didn’t take your comments as critical. The perspective you expressed is common among many people. If you’d really like to learn more there are two amazing books I’d suggest. One focuses on the number as you mentioned:
“A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” by Michael S. Schneider
Here’s a review I did on the book:
The other book is actually so large it’s broken up into two books. It’s called “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” by Val Brinkerhoff
I have yet to review this work but in my opinion it is the best resource that has ever been compiled on LDS symbology.
Read “Beginner’s Guide” first and then “Day Star” and your mind will be blown.
What I CAN say is that after learning what the symbols mean, that looking at the temple reminds me more about the gospel and my covenants; this is a GOOD thing. But, why not make this symbolism more readily available if it is only meant to REMIND us of what we already know. Why do they make it so mysterious? They should put the meaning of symbols online, and talk about them in the Visitors Centers.
It always seemed to me that the symbols were there to communicate something of deeper meaning to the initiated. But, this could just be me looking beyond the mark. I dunno.
Well, I certainly hope so. I’d like to think that there’s a deeper meaning to all of it. But, if so, the video doesn’t really touch on any additional meaning (or at least I didn’t get anything. But, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, and probably higher than average time spent in the scriptures).
If they do have any additional meaning, care to share any examples?
From my experience, whenever symbols are being used, it’s kind of a cue that revelation can be used to teach more than what is plainly seen.
When Christ taught in parables, those that were worthy were taught eternal truths and not just about sheep, pearls, prodigal sons and Samaritans.
My point in making the video was to provide some ideas on how to “read” temples. The idea was to illustrate some basic things about symbols so that the viewer can take it further on their own, especially when it comes to the sacred ordinances therein.
The beauty of symbols is that God can use them to teach us what we have the capacity to receive. To the novice they will see a shape, to another, they will see a sign and to another, they will understand the elements of eternity.
Well said steve.
Symbolism is very important. I have been looking for a source to learn these things. I feel that knowing the meanings of symbols will help us in the Gospel. Thank You steve Reed!
Do you live in the Provo/SLC area? I really enjoyed your “Reading Temples” on Youtube. Do you do Firesides? Thank you.
I live in Las Vegas. I have never done a fireside, but the Reading Temples video was little more detailed version of a presentation I gave to the youth in my ward. The youth leaders invited me to present some information to the youth on how to make the temple relevant and useful in their gospel study.
I’m not a scholar or anyone with any professional credentials, I’m just an average member of the church who enjoys to study this subject.