As members of the church we often get a certain picture of what a temple should be like. The architecture can be limited by preconceived notions of how a temple should be. I wanted to dispel some temple architecture myths and highlight temples that are different. (By the way, a commenter on this blog was mentioning some of these and his comments led me to write this post. Please comment, you may have a similar effect on me :)
Myth # 1: All temples must have an Angel Moroni statue.
This is blatantly false. Many temples have been built without Angel Moroni statues. Three didn't even have towers (Cardston Alberta, Laie Hawaii, and Mesa Arizona). Others had towers, but were built before the Atlanta Georgia Temple when Angel Moroni statues became common (because a newspaper said the new temple wasn't to temple standards without one). Until that point, only the Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Seattle Washington, and Jordan River Utah Temples had Angel Moroni statues (the original Nauvoo Temple had an angel statue but it was not identified as Moroni). Several have been built without the statue since, only to have the statue added later. An Angel Moroni statue is a powerful symbol that we should be free to add to our temples for religious reasons, but is not essential for a temple to be a temple.
Myth # 2: Angel Moroni statues must face east.
This is false. The Nauvoo Temple (and statue) face west. The Dallas Texas Temple and statue face south, the Spokane Washington Temple recently had its Angel Moroni statue turned from east to west after President Hinckley didn't like how it looked. The Seattle Washington Temple and statue face west, the Taipei Taiwan Temple and statue faces west, and the Manhattan New York Temple and statue faces southwest. The myth developed because most Christian churches face east and so do most temples (this is a symbol of Christ coming from the east at the second coming) but is not essential. Also, President McKay had the Moroni statue of the LA Temple turned to face east even though the temple faces southeast (I think). This led to a conversion and spread the myth, even though the east facing statue was clearly for a specific reason.
Myth # 3: Sealing rooms must have facing mirrors, giving an eternal effect.
This type of mirrors is nice, but the St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples have some sealing rooms that don't even have mirrors. I'm sure other temples break this rule. The fact is, eternal mirrors are a nice decorative feature to use, but not an essential part of the room.
Myth # 4: Temple baptismal fonts must be on the backs of 12 sculpted oxen and be in a basement.
Several temples were built without oxen supporting fonts (even the Tabernacle in the Old Testament lacked oxen, they were added for the Temple of Solomon) and other temples were built with only 6 oxen and a mirror to give the effect of 12 oxen. During the design of the Ogden and Provo Temples, the design team looked in the necessity of the oxen and decided they were not essential (although those temples used oxen) and noted that in future temples oxen might not be used. A lot of 70s and 80s temples (Atlanta, Sydney, and most pacific island temples) were then built without oxen (most, if not all have had oxen later added, and the plan was always to add oxen at a later date). In these cases, a font similar to a meetinghouse font was used. As for fonts being in basements, the Doctrine and Covenants reads: "the baptismal font was instituted as a similitude of the grave, and was commanded to be in a place underneath where the living are wont to assemble". This means it needs to be underneath, but due to high water tables this doesn't necessarily mean in the basement, just on the lowest floor and if possible underground.
Myth # 5: Temples must get lighter as one progresses from room to room
Although light colors are the easiest way to express symbolic progression, light colors are not essential. The Cardston Alberta Temple has rooms actually getting darker because the woodwork is getting finer and more expensive. It turns out that the best woodwork is generally dark so the celestial room and sealing rooms in this temple are dark wood. Windows still bring light in. I like that this temple has a unique way to show that these rooms represent better and holier things and places.
There are some architectural myths I have identified relating to LDS temples. Please comment about these or point out others I've missed.