Sunday, September 4, 2011

LDS Temple Glass - Trees

Stained glass and other forms of art glass are one of my favorite features in LDS Temples.  This art form was used in several early temples and then became very simple for a long period of time.  In the last 15 years or so, art glass use in temples has increased.  Windows are now made very unique.  A lot of windows depict things and are not purely geometric.  People, events, stars, suns, moons, and trees are depicted in temple windows.

In this post I will discuss how trees are depicted in LDS Temple art glass.  Trees are highly symbolic so it makes sense that they would be incorporated into sacred temple architecture.  The scriptures use trees symbolically and we should recognize what a specific tree might symbolize when we see a depiction of it.  Tom Holdman, who has done windows for the Palmyra New York, Nauvoo Illinois, San Antonio Texas, Winter Quarters Nebraska, Manhattan New York, Boise Idaho, Laie Hawaii, Rexburg Idaho, Draper Utah, and other temples often discusses symbolism he hides in his windows.  You might notice that all the tree windows I am highlighting were done by him.  So expect them to have hidden meaning.

I mentioned that trees have symbolic meanings.  Take for instance the following stained glass window in the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple that depicts the baptism of Jesus.  Many artists would simply have added some vegetation.  Mr. Holdman has certainly added vegetation, but he has carefully chosen it to teach us more.  Those in tune with the spirit can thus be taught much more deeply than would otherwise be the case.  Two trees are depicted.  On the left is a fig tree and on the right is an olive tree.  Figs may remind us of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve made aprons of fig leaves to hide their nakedness.  They might also remind us of the story when Jesus cursed a fig tree (shortly before his death) because it had leaves but no fruit.  We might remember Jesus' words "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:16).  In fact, if you search the scriptures, you will find that figs mean a lot.  Olives similarly have great meaning.  We might think of the parable of the Olive Tree in Jacob in The Book of Mormon.  Or perhaps we will think of olive oil used in blessings, or the olive as a symbol of Israel (just like the 12 oxen also in the baptistry).  My point is that using trees in this window adds a lot of meaning.
Nauvoo Illinois Temple Baptistry Stained Glass Window
Another notable use of trees is in the Palmyra New York Temple.  This temple overlooks the Sacred Grove, a forest where God the Father and his son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith.  Because of this, the temple windows are meant to depict trees to remind us of the Sacred Grove.  One window features The First Vision.  Others generally represent the grove.  The trees are again used symbolically.  Most windows have 7 trees with the number 7 representing perfection, holy things, etc.  Meanwhile, the front door has 5 trees.  This is meant to represent the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the Garden of Eden.  This tree is important in scripture and symbolically as we enter the temple and go through this symbolic door we can be reminded that we have all entered mortality just like Adam and Eve and we have things to learn.  The Celestial Room has a central tree that represents the Tree of Life.  There are other symbols (numerical and other) that will be discussed when I write about this temple, but for now here are some pictures.
Palmyra New York Temple First Vision Stained Glass Window
Palmyra New York Temple Baptistry with Tree Windows
Palmyra New York Temple Celestial Room with Tree of Life Windows
Palmyra New York Temple Sealing Room with Tree Windows
  The Tree of Life has similarly been used in other temples.  It appears in the Winter Quarters Nebraska and San Antonio Texas temples' stained glass windows.  It also appears in other temples.
Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Celestial Room with Tree of Life Windows
San Antonio Texas Temple Sealing Room with Tree of Life Window
Several temples have interesting stylized trees.  The Manhattan New York Temple has tree windows in the Terrestrial Room, in the Celestial Room, and in the Sealing Rooms.  The Sealing Room windows are very interesting because they show two trees with roots intertwining and branches intertwining.  This is an interesting window for a room where couples are married for eternity and children are sealed to their parents.  This is done for the living and on behalf of the deceased.  Fruit is also used symbolically in the sealing room window.  The Laie Hawaii Temple has similar stylized trees in its recently added baptistry windows.
Manhattan New York Temple Celestial Room with Tree Windows
Manhattan New York Temple Sealing Room with Tree Window
Laie Hawaii Temple Baptistry Tree Window
I previously mentioned the Winter Quarters Temple.  It has other tree windows.  You can read about those in my post on that temple.

I also already mentioned the San Antonio Temple and its Tree of Life window in a sealing room.  There are other depictions of trees including the stunning Celestial Room windows that make us think about the future Celestial kingdom whose Edenic glory will eclipse the original garden's grandeur.  The Boise Idaho Temple also recently received a stained glass dome with trees in its celestial room.  This can be seen here.
San Antonio Texas Temple Window with Trees
San Antonio Texas Temple Celestial Room with Tree Windows
That's my list of trees in Mormon Temple stained and art glass windows.  I likely missed some and you can discuss them in the comments section.  I also haven't spelled out all the symbolism and don't know it all so feel free to discuss that in the comments section as well.  Or just comment on these beautiful windows.  They are wonderful treasures in our temples.


Ky said...

Any word on if the stained glass dome will remain in Boise? I know right now they are doing an extensive refurbishment/remodeling, so it would be sad to see such a gorgeous piece gone.

Scott said...

I'm pretty sure it will. It is a new dome (only a couple years old). I'm pretty sure they added the dome during a maintenance closure as part of a master plan. The reports I've read about the remodel mainly talk about a new basement area and restroom remodel and new shear walls. So it looks like the floor plan will be mainly the same with a seismic upgrade and new finishes.

Anonymous said...

Where are the altars in the Palmayra and Manhattan Temple sealing rooms??

Scott said...

I've noticed that the church often takes the photos of sealing and endowment rooms before the altars are added. I'm not sure why, because they sometimes take the pictures after. In the Palmyra Temple and Manhattan Temple sealing rooms the altars are in the center of the rooms just like most temples.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. That threw me off a bit. I am going to the Fresno Temple to do sealings on friday, and it's a model similar to Palmayra. I was thinking to myself how would it fit to not have an altar? lol. Must make those rooms feel tiny though once they put the altar in afterwards. I've never seen a pic of the cookie cutter temple sealing rooms with an altar.

Dustin said...

Hi there,

My wife and I were married in the Manhattan New York Temple. I would like to have some images of the interior of the temple. I've looked for them online, but all I've found is low resolution. You seem to have some high-resolution photos here. Do you have any other high-resolutions images of the interior of the Manhattan temple that you could send me? I'd really appreciate it.

My e-mail address is

By the way, high-resolution images of the interiors of temples used to be available at, but I think they got rid of a lot of the older images in a past redesign of the site (not the most recent redesign, but the one before that).

New York City

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