Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Words as Temple Decoration

Several temples use words to decorate the temple.  For example, at the entrance to the Cardston Alberta Temple there is this verse by Orson Whitney that I found here.  Here is the verse:

Where spreads a feast unknown to festive halls.
Freely partake, for freely God hath given
And taste the holy joys that tell of heaven.
Here learn of Him who triumphed o’er the grave,
And unto men the keys, the Kingdom gave;
Joined here by powers that past and present bind
The living and the dead perfection find.
 In other temples a verse of scripture is used.  In the Mesa Arizona Temple, above the celestial room doors (seen from the grand staircase) is part of D&C 93:36:
THE GLORY OF GOD IS INTELLIGENCE
I think it was also in the Mesa Temple (but may have been elsewhere) that the beatitude found in Matthew 5:8 is inscribed on a wall:

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD
The Idaho Falls Temple has  Habukkuk 2:20 on the wall in a foyer area:
BUT THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE: LET ALL THE EARTH KEEP SILENCE BEFORE HIM.
Of course most temple exteriors contain the words:
HOLINESS TO THE LORD
THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
The Salt Lake Temple contains a scroll stone engraved with the words:
I AM ALPHA AND OMEGA
The original Nauvoo Temple had inscriptions in the lower assembly hall.  Above the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits, following the arch of the ceiling in gilded letters were the words:
THE LORD HAS SEEN OUR SACRIFICE - COME AFTER US
Both the Kirtland Ohio and Nauvoo Illinois Temples had assembly halls with three initials on each of the 24 pulpits.  The Kirtland Temple had the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits engraved with the following from top to bottom:

M.P.C. (Melchizedek Presiding Council)
P.M.H. (Presiding Melchizedek High Priesthood)
M.H.P. (Melchizedek High Priesthood)
P.E.M. (Presiding or Presidency Elders Melchizedek)
On the eastern Aaronic Priesthood side the initials are from top to bottom:

B.P.A. (Bishop Presiding over Aaronic Priesthood)
P.A.P. (Presiding or Presidency Aaronic Priests)
P.T.A. (Presiding or Presidency Teachers Aaronic Priesthood)
P.D.A. (Presiding or Presidency Deacons Aaronic Priesthood)
 This website claims that in the Nauvoo Temple the initials were, on the Melchizedek Priesthood side:

P.H.P. (President of the High Priesthood)
P.S.Q. (President of the Seventy Quorums)
P.H.Q. (President of the High priests Quorum)
P.E.Q. (President of the Elders Quorum)
 And on the Aaronic Priesthood side there were the initials:
P.A.P. (President of the Aaronic Priesthood)
P.P.Q. (President of the Priests Quorum)
P.T.Q. (President of the Teachers Quorum)
P.D.Q. (President of the Deacons Quorum)
The assembly hall in the Salt Lake Temple contains inscriptions above the pulpits on each end.  They are:
Aaronic Priesthood
and
Melchizedek Priesthood


The Manti Temple doorknobs contain what is claimed to be stylized Arabic (stylized to the point where the inscription cannot be interpreted today), a common art form used by Masons (the doorknob maker was a mason).  For more information, read the book The Manti Temple.  This book was printed to commemorate the centennial of the Manti Temple.

In Islam since images are often considered idol worship, their mosques and other buildings are often decorated with verses from the Koran, usually extremely stylized.  So using text to decorate religious architecture is not even unique to Christianity (which has many examples of using scriptures to decorate churches).  I also read a newspaper article a few years ago that featured an old LDS church with scriptures written on each of the roof trusses visible in the chapel.

The Oakland California Temple has relief sculptures of Christ in the New Testament and The Book of Mormon on the temple exterior.  On the New Testament Side the inscriptions are:
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD -Matt 5:8
SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS -Matt 6:33
On The Book of Mormon side it reads:
BEHOLD, THEY SAW A MAN DESCENDING OUT OF HEAVEN AND HE WAS CLOTHED IN A WHITE ROBE
BEHOLD, I AM JESUS CHRIST WHOM THE PROPHETS TESTIFIED SHOULD COME INTO THE WORLD- 3 Ne 11:2&10

There is also a large plaque quoting 3 Nephi 17 in the courtyard of the Oakland Temple.

Surely there are many more examples of words being used to decorate temples.  Words can remind of of scriptures and easily put us in the right frame of mind.  Also, they are easier to understand than the hidden symbols frequently used in temples.  Scriptures can bring the spirit and remind us of things we should be focused on.

Although not decorative, when the Logan Temple was gutted they found a wall full of engravings in the plaster hidden beneath the surface.  The inscriptions (with spelling errors galore) had names, mentioned that they were being persecuted, and gave other historical information.

I hope some of you know of engravings on temples and can add a comment telling us how words are used to decorate temples.  We can also discuss how words could be used in future temple architecture, or what you think of the inscriptions I have highlighted so far.  Please comment.

4 comments:

The Tolmans said...

You should do a segment on the additions to temples like the back end of the St George temple being added or how the Boise temple was closed and enlarged. things of that nature or you could talk about how power and air ducts where added to the old temples and how that changed the temple a bit. If you have info on the old Manti carriage tunnel and how that was blocked up and what that space is now used for. Things like that how the temples have changed over the year form when they where first built.

Bert said...

Scott,
Great posts lately, thanks!
I thought I would comment on this post as you mention the words written in the Assembly Hall in the Salt Lake Temple. You may recall in a previous post of yours about assembly halls, that after I had attended a meeting in the Salt Lake Temple, I wondered about the spelling of "Melchizedek". I found a website of someone who took pictures of the temple model in the visitors center. The spelling on the model is how it is actually written in the Assembly Hall, "Melchisedec". Here is the link, you can click on the picture to enlarge it.

http://kokorowosukiruappu.up.seesaa.net/image/Model10_Salt-Lake-Temple-Model-Assembly-Room.jpg

Any idea why it was spelled this way?

Scott said...

That is interesting. Your comment went to my blog's spam folder temporarily, so sorry for the delay getting it posted. Melchisedek would just be another spelling of Melchizedek. I have no idea why they used that particular spelling in the temple, as it is spelled with a "z" in our scriptures. Spellings were more fluid a hundred or more years ago, so the spelling may not have been standardized yet.

Christian Tidwell said...

So, I attended the Mesa, Arizona Temple yesterday for the first time, and as we walked from the assembly room and came upon the grand staircase, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed at the beauty of this architectural "moment".
As you walk out from a hallway into the open staircase landing. You are surrounded by beautiful stone walls, and directly in front of you at about 2 feet or so above eyeline is the phrase "BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD". And just above that is a window. And I don't know if I was just lucky enough to come at the right time of day, but the light coming through that window shone directly on your face as you came to the landing and were about to turn around to climb upwards, like a small glimpse of the indescribable joy we shall have when we will see our God.
I gained an even greater appreciation for the architects of these "antique temples", and the symbolism that they were inspired to employ, and felt it fitting to share on this "words as temple decoration" page.
The reason I bring this experience up on this old post, is that I was wondering if anyone had a photo of this area of the temple from renovation days or any other similar occasion. I can only find a picture of the top of the stairs where it reads "The Glory of God is Intelligence", but I can't find any of the bottom of the stairs.
Thanks, and what a wonderful blog to stumble upon.