Sunday, June 12, 2011

LDS Temple Symbols - Starstones - 6 Pointed Stars

I am again writing about temple symbols and this time about 6 pointed starstones.  Five pointed starstones get a lot of attention because critics misinterpret the symbolism and use that misinterpretation to falsely characterize the temple and the church.  Since six pointed stars are harder to interpret sinisterly, they are conveniently overlooked by critics.  I am not a critic and will tell you about six pointed starstones.

Nauvoo Temple detail showing starstones (original)
The Nauvoo Illinois Temple was the first to have six pointed starstones.  These were found in several places.  The first are just above the inverted five pointed stars under the roof overhang.  This makes these stars literally overhead, which fits as six-pointed stars often depict the actual stars in heaven.  In this context, these stars can simply be a symbol for heaven or the heavens.  They can also remind us that as the stars are above this earth, God and his ways are greater and higher than this earth.  The temple then is an elevated place, a place where things greater than just this earth happen.

More six-pointed stars are also found further up on a railing surrounding the roof line (they are five sided point up stars near the tower).

What else do these stars represent?  Well, in my earlier posts on sunstones, moonstones, and five pointed starstones, I pointed out that one meaning was to represent the vision of John in Revelation 12:1 where he saw a woman with the moon at her feet, clothed with the sun, and with a crown of 12 stars.  This is part of the six pointed star meaning.  They can also have other meanings as discussed later on.

Salt Lake Temple big dipper (original)
Several temples were built after the Nauvoo Temple without six pointed starstones.  Then, the Salt Lake Temple was built with a few six pointed stars.  There are 7 of them (which is a symbolic number) and they are laid out to represent the big dipper constellation, which is the constellation used to find the north star, the one star that is fixed in the sky.  This makes these stars symbols of eternity, guidance, and finding our way (they help us find the north star which helps us find our way).  They represent the true direction possible through the temple and the priesthood.  An early trial version of these starstones is found inside one of the towers where there is a six pointed star cut into the stone rather than projecting out of it.  Apparently the builders didn't like the look and changed to the current design, but kept the trial stone for an interior block.

Washington D.C. Temple big dipper (original)
The next temple with six pointed stars was the Washington D.C. Temple.  Here the stars were again used to represent the big dipper.  In this case the stars were on the doors and are made out of metal.  A good image is found here.  A close up image of the big dipper panel is found here.  You will notice that not all of the stars are six pointed, but clearly they all represent the actual stars that make up the big dipper.

Portland Oregon Temple stars on spires (original)
The Portland Oregon Temple was the next to use six pointed stars.  Here they have several uses.  Most of the stars are on the eastern three spires (the west spires lack stars which confused me until I realized they were referencing the Salt Lake Temple symbolism).  These stars represent John's vision in Revelation 12:1 (being above the sunstones).  Additionally, they may represent the Melchizedek Priesthood guiding us and the noble and great ones foreordained to be the leaders in the church (read my 5-pointed starstone post for that explanation) The Salt Lake Temple has the same symbolic use of many stars (40) on the east towers that aren't on the west towers; whereas, the Portland Oregon Temple has 120 stars on the eastern spires.  Both numbers, 40 and 120, are symbolic.  Additionally, these six pointed stars can represent the heavens or heavenly things.  They may also represent the star of Bethlehem due to the elongated bottom point (as I also discussed in my 5-pointed star post). In the same way that the Star of Bethlehem pointed to where Christ was, these stars point down to the temple, where Christ can be found today.  The doors of the Portland Temple also have the same stars on them in beautiful wood.  Neither the wood door stars, nor the fiberglass spire stars are stone, so I guess these aren't really starstones, but they are close enough, and a beautiful variation on this symbol.

Las Vegas Nevada Temple Starglass
The Las Vegas Nevada Temple (a fraternal twin of the Portland Oregon Temple) has six pointed stars in art glass windows.  These are above the sunstones and represent John's vision and the heavens.  Additionally, the stars represent the 12 apostles.  This is because in the celestial room there are 12 star windows and one giant cut glass sunburst mandala (see manufacturer's website).  These combine to reference Lehi's vision in 1 Nephi 1 where he sees one like the sun followed by 12 like the stars.  So through clever placement of this star window, the star was able to have multiple meanings simultaneously.

The St. Louis Missouri Temple also features a six sided star glass window.  You can see it here.  You'll notice that there are also moons in the window, but I'm not going to get into the symbolism now.  The star portion of the window is a Star of David.  While this symbol is most commonly used to represent Judaism these days, on the temple it instead refers to God's covenant people, the restoration and gathering of the 12 tribes of Israel, God's covenants with us, etc.  Thus, it is not odd to see this symbol on this Christian Temple.  Similar Star of David windows are found on the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

I believe those are all of the six pointed stars on LDS Temples.  If I missed some, please tell us about them in the comments.  Also, please comment and let us know what you think about these stars and their use (symbolically and artistically) on Mormon Temples.


Brett said...

For awesome site. Keep up the excellent work.

Scott said...

Thanks for the compliment.

The Tolmans said...

Dombe room?

Anthony Simister said...

I am wondering what books or articles you can recommend that discuss the symbolism of numbers. It is use extensively throughout the scriptures, and I would love to better understand what they are trying to say. Great site. Just found it off an article on

Scott said...

I had an institute teacher who had studied theology and he told us some number symbolism based on Jewish traditions/teachings. I've developed some of my numerology understanding from him. Other number symbolism dealing with temple elements such as stars is occasionally mentioned in books about temples. I'm not sure about an specific book that addresses number symbolism in detail, but I'm sure there are some.

Nancy W. Jensen said...

Hey, this is perfect for my gospel doctrine lesson blog on the Book of Revelation! I'm linking to your blog from mine; thanks so much! My readers are going to love it.

Hartnell said...

I thoroughly enjoy your site, I return often and always seem to find something new and interesting, even though having read it before.
I have noticed the unique designs on the tower of the Los Angeles Temple, and that of the grill work on the sides of the building as well as surrounding the "wedding doors" in the rear.
The designs are different, and am wondering if there is any intentional symbolism. (Earth/moon/star stones in abstract?)
I would appreciate your thoughts.