Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Salt Lake Temple Towers Priesthood Symbolism

The Salt Lake Temple's towers symbolize the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  They do this many ways.  I have written on some of these before, but not organized quite this way.  Also I have some new insights.  Here are some of the ways that the priesthood is represented in The Salt Lake Temple's towers:
Salt Lake Temple (original photo)

Two sides of the temple
The Salt Lake Temple has two main sides - the east side and the west side.  Each end has 3 towers.  The west side represents the Aaronic Priesthood and the east side represents the Melchizedek Priesthood.  This two side pattern started with the Kirtland Temple which had 2 large rooms (one on the first floor and one on the second floor).  These rooms had pulpits at opposite ends that were designated for the Aaronic Priesthood on one end and the Melchizedek Priesthood on the opposite end.  The Salt Lake Temple started the practice of showing this two-ended priesthood symbolism on the exterior.  This pattern was copied for the Logan Utah and Manti Utah Temples, was brought back for the Washington D.C. Temple, and revived again for the 1980s six spire temples starting with the Boise Idaho Temple and ending with the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.  The San Diego California Temple is a unique version of a two ended temple with its two great towers.  Recently, two ended temples have returned starting with the Kansas City Missouri Temple, Brigham City Utah Temple, Rome Italy Temple, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, Fortaleza Brazil Temple and potentially with other temples in planning.

Three towers on each end of the temple
The west and east ends of the Salt Lake Temple each have 3 main towers.  These are used to represent the priesthood leadership.  The 3 Melchizedek Priesthood towers on the east end represent the First Presidency or a stake presidency - the leadership of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  On the east side the three Aaronic Priesthood towers represent the Presiding Bishopric or a local bishopric - the leadership of the Aaronic Priesthood.  Some other temples have kept the 6 tower symbolism.  The Logan and Manti Utah Temples each have smaller side towers that are often overlooked.  The Washington D.C. Temple and 1980's six spire temples also include 6 total towers.  The Brigham City Utah Temple has also included smaller side towers to keep the 6 tower symbolism intact.  A lot of the other two ended temples lack the 6 towers symbolism.

Twelve Pinnacles
You might notice little spires on the towers of the Salt Lake Temple.  On each tower of the temple there are 3 levels of 4 pinnacles.  This makes 12 pinnacles on each tower (in addition to the main point of the tower).  The pinnacles on the east end represent the 12 apostles.  The Bountiful Utah and Mount Timpanogos Utah Temples both have 12 circular windows at the top to represent the same thing (6 go into the celestial room and 6 into the chapel).  I have read that the 12 pinnacles on the west end of the Salt Lake Temple represent the high council, although I am unable to track down this explanation and am unsure how this relates the the Aaronic Priesthood.

Different Tower Heights
On the Salt Lake Temple, the east towers are 6 feet taller than the west towers.  This is to represent the Melchizedek Priesthood being above the Aaronic Priesthood.  This symbolism has also been done in the Logan Temple, Manti Temple, and many others.  The center towers on each side of the Salt Lake Temple are also taller than their side towers representing the President of the Church, stake president, Presiding Bishop, or bishop leading among their counselors.  The Washington D.C. Temple takes this symbolism even further by having all 6 towers at different heights which would show the relative position of a first counselor and a second counselor.

The windows on the Salt Lake Temple towers also contain symbolism.  The western towers have 4 levels of windows and the eastern towers have 5 levels of windows.  These represent the offices in the priesthoods.  The four Aaronic Priesthood offices are deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop.  The 5 Melchizedek Priesthood offices are elder, high priest, patriarch, seventy, and apostle.  Windows are a fitting symbol as they bring in light, as does priesthood and the revelations associated with it.  This window symbolism developed gradually - earlier temples lacked it and early plans for the Salt Lake Temple didn't include it.

So that is some of the priesthood symbolism in the Salt Lake Temple Towers.  Priesthood symbolism is important because the temple is very much about the priesthood and the 2 priesthoods are important to the ordinances of the temple.

Please comment with any insights you may have on this topic.

Here are some of my references: See additional teaching idea 1.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temple World Rooms - The Salt Lake Temple

I have written a lot about murals in the past, but as I was attending the Salt Lake Temple last weekend it occurred to me that I could write more in detail about some.  So I am starting a set of posts on World Rooms in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temples.
Salt Lake Temple World Room

World Rooms are very interesting because they have to both show the fallen state of this world while at the same time indicating the progression of man through the temple and through mortality.  The tension between these two ideas, falling and progression, makes for interesting art and architecture.  In the Salt Lake Temple, this is accomplished in several ways.

As you enter the World Room you are now one floor higher than the Garden Room, having ascended most of the Grand Staircase.  There is also now natural light from windows on the left side of the room.  The ceiling is also higher than it was in the Garden Room and the chandeliers are larger and more ornate.  Moldings are more intricate and doors are taller.  All of these elements signify progression.  But this room also is used to represent a fallen world.  This is mainly done through the fine mural adorning its walls.

Salt Lake Temple World Room
The main theme of this mural is competition and decay.  It must have been interesting for the artist to brainstorm ways to repeat these themes over and over again.  We can start with the geological components.  At the front of the room there is a large cliff that was been eroded by a river.  A desert occurs on the right wall towards the back.  A storm rages in the back right corner.  A rocky mountain covers the rear wall.  On the left wall there is a swamp with its filthy water.  Also on this wall, there is a tropical scene complete with waterfalls cutting through the landscape.  Distant mountains are also seen throughout the painting showing rugged terrain in contrast to the Garden Rooms gentle scene.

Salt Lake Temple World Room
The plants further reinforce the mural's themes.  At the cliff in the front of the room plants have been completely removed by the erosive forces of a river.  Some that remain on the bottom are bent awkwardly either by wind or want of light.  On the right wall there are two trees competing for the same space, choking each other out.    On the left wall parasitic vines are climbing on tress in the swamp.  In the front left corner there is a tree that has some healthy branches, some diseased and dying branches, and some dead branches.  In the right back corner there is a completely dead tree and another tree with some major branches missing.  There is also desert with scraggly plants.  Barren cliffs are on one wall.  There is also a tropical forest on the left wall, which would be nice if it weren't for the creatures living in it.

Speaking of creatures, the mural gets more interesting when you consider the animals depicted in it.  At the front we see lions fighting with each other in contrast to the lamb and lion lying down together in the Garden Room.  In fact, whereas in the Garden Room the animals all seemed to be peacefully grazing, in this room they are running, hiding, fighting, eating others, being eaten, starving, competing, etc.  There are two different birds in the partially dying tree that don't seem to like each other at the front.  On the right wall, some sort of cat (bobcat? lynx?) is waiting in the trees, not sure whether to pounch on two bears, or flee from them.  At the rear we see an elk, with large antlers both for defense and for quarreling with other elk.  In the left rear corner there is a hawk flying back to its nest, which would be nice if it wasn't holding a small animal (rabbit?) in its talons.  On the left wall there is some large jungle cat rather enthusiastically eating its prey.  These are just the animals I noticed in the mural last week.  They remind us that competition, violence, etc. are part of this fallen world.  Through the teachings of the temple, we learn how to follow God's laws and overcome all these fallen aspects of life.

The mural shows the decay of this fallen world, but the mural also shows progression in several ways.  The vistas are grander than in the Garden Room.  The colors used are also lighter than in the Garden room.  The entire room is larger, so the mural is also larger.  It is also interesting that the World Room doesn't feel dark, despite all the decay and death it is showing, but it does make you feel like you need to do what you need to do and then more on to greater things.

The mural also works with the room to highlight parts of the endowment ceremony.  You might notice how the stream eroded cliff at the front works with a large staircase.  This staircase allows certain characters to enter and exit the room high up, while another enters through the door at floor level.  The two doors are kept vertically apart, highlighting the difference in the characters.  I won't explain more outside the temple, but it should be obvious to the initiated what I am talking about.  The door to the Terrestrial Room is also slightly elevated showing our progression from this fallen world to a better world where we keep God's commandments and the covenants we have made.

Those are my thoughts on the Salt Lake Temple World Room and especially its mural.  Please comment with other things you noticed in it.

As a piece of fun trivia, if you look at the wall between the doors to the Terrestrial Room and the large staircase you can see an inscription by artists that touched up the murals during the depression (thanks to the commenter who pointed this out).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Temple Ordinance Space and Other Space

My last post drew a lot of attention and has apparently led to some arguments and it sounds like hurt feelings.  I have re-read my post and made some changes that hopefully convey what I wanted to better without sounding negative.  I hope you will forgive me if my opinions, or the comments on either side of the issue offended you.  That post is somewhat related to this post.  I think this post is interesting, although it is essentially an essay.

Original Font, Logan Utah Temple
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temples have certain areas that are required for ordinances.  These are the baptismal font, confirmation rooms, initiatory rooms, endowment rooms, celestial room, sealing rooms, Holy of Holies and Priesthood Assembly Halls (the sacrament is performed there).  Some of these are somewhat optional.  Confirmations don't require a separate room and are occasionally done in the font room.  A sealing room can also be used as a temporary Holy of Holies.  Temples generally need to have this ordinance space to be considered a temple, although the Kirtland temple only had initiatory space and Assembly halls and most temples don't have assembly halls.  In theory a temple could consist of purely a baptistry, although I would be really surprised to see the church build one like that.  The point I want to make is that ordinances and the rooms associated with them are what is most important architecturally in a temple.

Waiting Room, Palmyra New York Temple
There are other rooms in temples that aren't vital.  These include lobbies, waiting areas, worker training rooms, bride's rooms, kitchens and cafeterias, laundry areas, locker rooms, the grounds, atriums, temple offices, bathrooms, staircases, closets, etc.  None of these spaces are really required for a temple, although a lot of them are practical so we almost always see them in temples.  For example, locker rooms are always there so we don't have to change into our whites before even entering the temple.  Other spaces such as cafeterias are no longer added to temples to save space and money as they aren't necessary.  President Hinckley's small temples were possible because he identified what was really necessary for a temple and left almost everything else out.  This saved expense and space and allowed for easier permitting for temples and much faster construction.  Even so, these temples still have Bride's rooms, waiting areas, and locker rooms.

Bride's Room, Manhattan New York Temple
Temples often have non-ordinance areas either for convenience or to architecturally strengthen the temple experience.  Bride's rooms are a good example of this.  They allow a bride to relax and feel special on their wedding day.  This highlights the sealing ordinance.  In my earlier controversial post I argued that Groom's rooms could also be included in temples to enhance the sealing experience for men in the same way as they do for women.  I hope we all agree that Bride's rooms (and Groom's rooms if ever added) are other space.  They aren't vital to the temple, but they help the temple experience.  I think they would be a nice addition to the temple.  If you don't that is fine, but please let me have an opinion on the matter.

Spiral Staircase, Manti Utah Temple
Other rooms also help our experience.  Lobbies frequently contain art that inspires and adds to the temple experience.  The Washington D.C. Temple lobby displays a large mural of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  The Provo Utah Temple has a low relief sculpture of Christ with the woman at the well.  Other temples have paintings or stained glass of Christ visiting the Americas.  The Ogden Utah Temple used to have a mural or Christ and some Apostles at the Mount of Transfiguration.  These all help to reinforce temple themes and strengthen church members.   The atriums in the San Diego, Bountiful, Portland, and Las Vegas Temples highlight the beauty of God's creations, reinforcing themes from The Temple Endowment.  Spiral staircases give a feeling of upward movement and demonstrate great skill and dedication in the construction of the temples.  All of these non-ordinance spaces in temples augment the temple.

A major purpose of this blog, for me, was to influence future architects to build exceptional temples.  I have been writing about architectural insights I have about temples partly so future architects can learn from them.  Sometimes I write suggestions on what would be interesting to see.  Yes, groom's rooms are an example of this.  Other suggestions are ornate door handles, particularly if symbolic, stained glass, spiral staircases, etc.  I hope that readers will continue to appreciate my insights and suggestions, even when their tastes are different than mine.

Well that is the post.  I'm not sure that it had much or a point other than letting me think about how space is divided in temples and what is really important, what is helpful, and what is merely convenient.  Please comment with any thoughts you have.  Hopefully I'll get back to posting somewhat regularly soon.