The Creation Room:
|Salt Lake Temple Creation Room|
Originally the creation room didn't even have murals (they were added many years later). The lighting is very simple (newer lighting has been installed in the last few years, but it still has the simplest lighting). There are no staircases and no natural light. Also notice that there isn't even an altar in the room. Although a nice, moving room, the creation room is very simple. It is also the lowest in elevation (in the basement) and has the lowest ceilings of the endowment rooms. This is the first endowment room in the temple. It is our starting point - the creation of the earth and mankind. The murals in the creation room also show progression from a disorganized world, to land and seas being formed, to plants being formed. It is somewhat interesting that no animals are shown in the murals in the creation room despite the fact that animals were created during the creation. This is used as a way to show progression in the garden room.
The Garden Room:
|Salt Lake Temple Garden Room|
The next endowment room in the Salt Lake Temple is the Garden Room. This room represents The Garden of Eden. To get to the room, patrons go up a small rise from the creation room (a few feet). The room is now larger and taller. There are more lights are each is more ornate (in the picture they are slightly more involved, newly installed lights are really nice) and there is a large light at the top where the ceiling is recessed (recently upgraded with clear art glass incorporating sego lilies). An altar is present, and although nice, is simpler than other altars in the temple. 3 staircases are now present although they are short and fairly simple. Originally this would have had a small greenhouse behind the curtains that can be seen in the photo. This would have brought natural light into the room. Also notice that the door has glass on the top half and filling the arch above. The murals now show the Garden of Eden in idyllic splendor with nice plants and animals all getting along. Adding animals shows progression from the creation room.
The Grand Staircase:
|Grand Staircase, Salt Lake Temple|
|Grand Staircase, Salt Lake Temple|
The Telestial or World Room:
|Salt Lake Temple World Room|
This room represents the fallen world that we all live in, yet at the same time it has to symbolize a progression. The fallen state of the world is shown through fighting animals, trees competing for space or dying, a river eroding a hillside, etc. The progression is shown in many ways. Tall windows let natural light flood into the room. In addition, the chandeliers are now clusters of ball lights instead of single lights. The altar is more ornate. The doors are taller. The staircase is now more detailed and quite a bit taller. The entire room is more spacious. Also notice that the doors now have significantly more glass than in the garden room. The color scheme is also slightly lighter than the garden room. The murals also show progression because although representing a fallen world, they are more interesting than those in the garden room with more going on. Notice that to leave this room one goes up a slight rise.
The Terrestrial Room:
|Salt Lake Temple Terrestrial Room (back)|
|Salt Lake Temple Terrestrial Room (front)|
Patrons go straight from the world room to the terrestrial room. This room represents the Terrestrial Kingdom of God (2nd highest of 3 heavens) or the better world we can experience while still alive if we follow God's commandments. The room shows obvious progression with ornate chandeliers, moldings, columns, details window arches, a Tiffany art glass window, a nice altar, this time surrounded with a large platform. A staircase is also present with intricate carvings on it. The color scheme of the room is the brightest yet with pastel blue and pink and cream. A large painting is hung in this room (the temple rotates which painting hangs here so I can't say which one), usually of Jesus Christ as a fitting symbol of the only way to attain this state and more even further in life and towards life with God. Interestingly, the chandeliers were originally clusters of ball lights like those seen in the world room. This made it so the lights followed one theme and got nicer. Also, the windows used to let natural light in, but have since been blocked by the sealing room annex (a hallway is now on the other side of the windows). The terrestrial room is taller, larger, and higher than previous rooms. Like the other rooms, the architecture here shows us that as we progress in the gospel and follow God's plan we increase in every way. You might also notice that above the stained glass window there is a detailed carving with flowers and I think fruit, a small hint of what is to come in the celestial room.
The Celestial Room:
|Salt Lake Temple Celestial Room|
The endowment ceremony always ends in the celestial room, no matter the temple. In the Salt Lake Temple, the celestial room's architecture is used in an effective way to reinforce the teachings of the endowment. The room is the largest, highest, tallest, and most ornate of the endowment rooms. The lighting now consists of eight chandeliers with clusters of more ornate pointed lights (instead of spheres). Windows and Tiffany art glass windows along the top are also used to bring in light. Mirrors and glass are used a lot. Columns, arches, etc. are all far more ornate than in the terrestrial room. Also, along the ceiling there is a lot of carved fruit and flowers. Vines, trophies, flowers, etc. are painted on the walls. Birds are carved into the walls. The color scheme is bright and glorious with gold details. When I first went to the Salt Lake Temple I didn't know how the terrestrial room's architecture could be outdone (and I had seen pictures of the celestial room). Then I stepped into the celestial room and saw how much nicer a room could get. It is breathtakingly beautiful with so many intricate details. It is a wonderful representation of the highest heaven where we can dwell with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. No picture does this room justice.
Although not endowment rooms, the sealing rooms and Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple continue the theme of progression. Notice that from the celestial room you can see (and walk into if you want) the sealing rooms. To enter each you go up either 2 steps or up a short staircase. The staircase has a cupid statue as a symbol of love. Each sealing room is even more ornate than the celestial room, and two of them contain art glass windows. The sealing rooms have the most ornate altars and have high ceilings. This shows that as we are married for eternity in temples, and sealed together as eternal families, we grow, progress, fulfill God's plan, and become qualified to enter the highest part of the highest heaven. In the photo, the second doorway from the right (next to the open sealing room) leads into the Holy of Holies. This room is the most ornate of all with a short staircase leading from the doorway to another doorway into the room. The room has a tall dome with art glass windows along the top and a stained glass window of the First Vision. You can see a picture of it in my post on temple stained glass windows here.
I love how the architecture of the Salt Lake Temple has been used to give a progression with patrons moving higher from room to more ornate/tall/spacious/bright/light/detailed/etc. room. I love how the endowment feels when presented in this way. Unfortunately, most temples have patrons in a single endowment room for the entire ceremony and then finally entering the celestial room. This gives these temple their own unique ways to symbolize the progression (generally through the lights getting turned on brighter partway through the ceremony), but I think the temples with 4 endowment rooms before the celestial room are able to show this best. In my opinion, the Salt Lake Temple does this best with the most areas of progression used.
Please comment and let me know what you think. If there are details you noticed that I didn't mention, or other insights you had, please comment and let us all know.