Friday, February 18, 2011

Wheat as a Temple Symbol

When you think of Latter-day Saint temple architectural symbols you usually think of the sun, moon and star stones.  Perhaps you think of the Angel Moroni.  One symbol you might overlook is wheat.  Several temples are adorned with wheat designs.  These can represent many things, including:

- Christ is the bread of life.  We need to be constantly nourished spiritually by him.
- A reminder about the parable of the wheat and the tares and that we need to be the righteous wheat that is safely gathered in.
- Preparedness.
- A reminder that the earth is "white, already to harvest" and that there is a need for missionary work.
- A reminder of the gathering of Israel just as wheat is gathered in from a field.

There are many more ways that wheat is used in our religion and many interpretations of its use in temple architecture can be found.  Here is my list of temples using a wheat design:

Cardston Alberta / Edmonton Alberta Temples (maybe)

Both of these share the same symbol (Edmonton copied it from Cardston because they are in the same province).  I've read that the symbol is the three hollyhocks, but I have since noticed that they don't resemble hollyhocks.  I've also read that the Edmonton Temple has wheat on its front so I assume it is this symbol.  I haven't seen pictures of this symbol on the Cardston Temple but assume it is there because the Flickr user said it was copied from the Cardston Temple for the Edmonton Temple.  If you know any more on this, please comment and let us know.

Seattle Washington Temple
The Seattle Temple has wheat designs in the cast stone panels sheathing the building.  The relief sculptures are huge staffs or wheat.  The narrow, tall, pointed windows enhance the wheat theme.

Rexburg Idaho Temple
The Rexburg Temple uses wheat in several ways.  First, the columns are made to look like stylized wheat.  Secondly, and most obviously, the stained glass windows throughout the temple are filled with wheat patterns that get fuller as you rise in the temple.  Third, other decorative details such as painted wall details, sculpted carpets, and metal details on the staircases have a wheat pattern.

San Antonio Texas Temple
The stained glass in the San Antonio Temple includes details of wheat.

I thought that the Manhattan Temple had glass panels on the exterior of wheat, but I've noticed that they don't quite match wheat and I read (on untrustworthy wikipedia) that they are representing flowing water.  I'm not sure what they are, but if any of you know, please let me know.  I would like them to be wheat, but if not that is also okay.  Whatever they are, I think if they were added on the other side (around the corner) the building would look better.  On the interior it is ornate, but the exterior is rather plain.

Those are the temples that I have found that use wheat as a symbol.  If you know of other temples that use wheat as a symbol, please comment and tell us about it.  If you know more details about some of these wheat symbols, write a comment and let us know.

In the press releases for some of these temples it was noted that wheat was used because of the agriculture in the area.  That is nice and great; however, since wheat is very clearly a symbol throughout the scriptures I think we should not discount its use in temples as just to blend in with the area.

Calgary Alberta Canada Temple
My original post didn't mention this, but the Calgary Temple, currently under construction, is using wheat in the stained glass and other details.  Please read the first comment on this post for more information.  You can look at a rendering here. Wheat can clearly be seen in the glass and stone details.

Nauvoo Illinois Temple 
My original post didn't mention this temple; however, I was just today looking at interior photos of the temple and bundles of wheat are carved into the door moldings.

The Kyiv Ukraine Temple also has wheat depicted in the baptistry stained glass, celestial room, and elsewhere.

The Laie Hawaii Temple has stylized wheat in the art glass windows.


William Thompson said...

Very interesting, I wasn't aware of how common the use of wheat as a symbol is on temples - particularly the Seattle Washington Temple (I grew up in British Columbia, Canada and went there many times as a youth, but never realized the patterns on it's façade may be wheat).

I recently gave a presentation during a Priesthood meeting about the design and construction of the Calgary Temple (based upon my review of the construction drawings & specifications that I have access to), sharing my insight about what makes this temple specifically 'physically' unlike other buildings.

The Calgary Temple too will heavily incorporate the symbolism of wheat throughout (in the art glass, stonework, woodwork, metal railings - and I assume the carpet sculpting and custom door hardware too). At least I believe it's wheat.

Scott said...

William - Thanks for commenting. I'd forgotten that wheat was used in the Calgary Temple design, but looking at it again it is obviously wheat.

Anonymous said...

The stained glass windows of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple are sort of a stylized wheat pattern. It is not as apparent as other Temples, such as Rexburg Idaho, but the wheat pattern is still the basis of the design.

Scott said...

I was noticing that about the Kyiv Temple as I was looking through my pictures yesterday. I actually noticed what looks like stylized wheat in the Laie Temple as well.

ltbugaf said...

I don't think I can agree with you about a wheat motif on the Seattle Temple. There's a church film about the Seattle Temple, in which architect Emil Fetzer discusses his design. He says it's supposed to be a modern interpretation of the flying buttress, a feature he had long liked but didn't feel he could put into a modern temple.

Scott said...

I found out about the Seattle wheat in the book The First 100 Temples by Chad Hawkins. He says:
"As the temple progressed, several details were added to beautify and give special symbolic meaning to the sacred edifice. On the exterior are high relief sculptures of stalks of wheat that appear to be growing out of the ground. These symbolize Christ, who is the 'bread of life' (John 6:35)"
The feature you are thinking of is on the spire where a stylized flying buttress is present. This is different than the relief sculpture of wheat in the cast panels.

Kim Siever said...

I haven’t seen it on the Cardston temple, but now I’ll have to try to remember to look next time I go.

Matt said...

ltbugaf, any idea what that film is called and where I could get a hold of it?


Anonymous said...

Phoenix will have a wheat theme also.

Sarah D Mize said...

Portland temple has wheat in the celestial room on the stair cases. It's tied together with three ties.

Don said...

Here's a link with photos showing many examples of the wheat motif occurring in the Calgary, Alberta Temple: