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|
|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|
|Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple Celestial Room with Tree of Life Windows|
|San Antonio Texas Temple Sealing Room with Tree of Life Window|
|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 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|