Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kirtland Temple Symbols - Explanation part 1

In my last post I showed a few symbols from the Kirtland Temple.  Now I am going to explain some of them with a huge disclaimer.  Here is the disclaimer:
       In my research I discovered that the symbols were taken from 2 architectural books (dated 30 years apart) and are decorative details.

Okay, so what do I mean by that and why does it effect the symbol interpretation.  Well, this means that the symbols' meanings were probably unknown to the builders of the Kirtland Temple.  With other temples the symbolism can be found in documents from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or the builders.  Symbolism was intended.  With the Kirtland Temple the symbolism doesn't appear to be intended.  If this is the case, then any meanings we interpret from the symbols is either:

  (a) our wrong interpretation
   (b) possibly a correct interpretation that God arranged to be in the temple without the builders realizing it.

I like the idea of (b) being correct and that is great if it is, but from a scholarly perspective (a) is probably more accurate.  Nevertheless, I'll go ahead and state some interpretations of symbols which may or may not be what they mean.

Labyrinth
This symbol is a labyrinth or maze.  Labyrinths are common in Christian churches and cathedrals as a symbol of the meandering journey through life.  As a temple symbol it could signify finding our way through life and the mysteries and knowledge that will show us that true way.  One problem with interpreting this symbol as a labyrinth is that most labyrinths only have one way (although that way is winding).

Gonfalone
This symbol is sometimes interpreted as a gonfalone, a type of flag or banner.  These banners are used in religious ceremonies in many Christian churches.  As a temple symbol it would remind us of "the standard of truth" and "an ensign to the nations" and "the title of liberty".  The biggest problem with this symbol being interpreted as a flag or banner is that it is upside down from any gonfalone I've ever seen.  It looks more like a 'w' to me, or maybe the Hebrew letter shin (sort of) which is related to 'w' and can also be used to represent God.

 Spiral
This symbol is a spiral which symbolizes progression ever closer and closer to the center (perfection, heaven, eternity, etc.).  The idea is that this is an upward spiral.
 





Squares Within Squares
This symbol is said to represent increasing zones of holiness.  The symbol would represent the temple as a sanctuary from the world with areas in the temple being holier and holier. It is the idea of the ancient temple's outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies.  This symbol has been recycled in other temples with circles withing circles.  I'm guessing the symbolism wasn't intended in the Kirtland Temple, but was intended in other temple.

Those are some symbols.  Again, it is likely that they are purely decorative, or if actually symbolic, that the interpretations are wrong.  Regardless, they are beautiful and make for a finely crafted temple.

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