Symbolism

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Videos of 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

Source: TempleStudy.com

The Interpreter Foundation has announced the availability of the videos of the presentations given at the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Conference which took place on 25 October 2014 in Provo, Utah. Videos of each of the presentations are now available for free viewing on The Interpreter Foundation’s YouTube channel, or on MormonInterpreter.com.  They are also embedded below for your convenience. There is also a YouTube playlist available of the conference presentations. The conference proceedings will also be published in book form in the future.

Donald W. Parry’s Introduction to the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

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LDS Symbol Cards are GO For 2014!

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You can now purchase LDS Symbol Cards at the following URL: http://symbolcards.com

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The Shelf vs. The Garden

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There is a phrase I hear repeated every now and then among members of the church. Typically when there is an issue they come across that challenges their faith, they are able to either reconcile that issue one way or another or remain undecided.

Without the necessary information to arrive at a satisfactory understanding, the person says that, for now, they will put the issue “on the shelf”.

“The shelf” is the proverbial repository for issues that you no longer want to deal with at the moment for whatever reason. You don’t have the time, resources, information or desire to pursue an answer to the question so you “shelf” it.

Here’s why I really dislike this metaphor.

When you put things on shelves all they do is

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We Are Not Particularly a Symbol-oriented people

OneClimbs reader, Richard N., posted a portion of this quote in a comment a few days ago. He was kind enough to transcribe the full quote from an audio CD by S. Michael Wilcox.

“Part of our problem is that we are not particularly a symbol-oriented people.

We like prose; well-written sentences laid out so carefully that you can’t misunderstand them. We are not big on poetry; we don’t read very much of it, particularly any serious kinds of poetry.

We like the Doctrine and Covenants. It lays out ideas line upon line, precept upon precept, building upon each previous idea. We’re not big on the Old Testament. It is so large, and it is full of strange things that are going on there that we’re not always familiar with.

We like Nephi. He says, ‘My soul delights in plainness.’ We’re not wild about Isaiah. Isaiah uses all kinds of word-pictures. And he loves pronouns and doesn’t particularly feel it necessary to give you an antecedent to the pronoun.

Now the temple is more poetry than prose. It is more Old Testament than Doctrine and Covenants. It is more Isaiah than Nephi. So our challenge as members of the Church is to learn how to learn through the use of symbols.” (S. Michael Wilcox – House of Glory)

The good news is that you can learn this stuff, and it is very rewarding. I grew up completely oblivious to most of what I know now, and I acknowledge that I am still only at the very beginning of a long journey.

I drive back and forth from Nevada to Texas a few times a year so I’m not a big fan of long journeys. Perhaps thinking about it as a journey is part of our problem. We mark out a “point A”, a “point B” and sigh as we consider the distance.

Why do we do that when we do not even comprehend what lies at “point B”? I’ve found greater peace in just appreciating what I am becoming day by day; is there even a “point B” in eternity?

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Most Temples Have a Theme

“According to Keith Stepan (former Managing Director of Temple Construction), many LDS temples are thematic, making use of a single visual motif to unify the exterior architecture and interior design and furnishings. These unifying motifs potentially point to a particular doctrine or concept.  At the Mt. Timpanogos Utah Temple, for example, we see an arching motif in the main east and west windows pointing to the theme of Jacob’s Ladder. At the San Diego Temple, 2 interlocking squares are used over 10,000 times throughout the structure, potentially symbolizing the Melchizedek Priesthood. In these and other LDS temples it is the fence design that first reveals their general visual theme.” – Val Brinkerhoff, The Day Star – Reading Sacred Architecture (Book 2), 131

In a recently published book “Sacred Walls: Learning from Temple Symbols” by Gerald E. Hansen and Val Brinkerhoff (photographer), readers are presented with a series of doctrinal themes that are explained using the particular architectural symbolism of various temples.

On the inside cover flap of the book, “Sacred Walls: Learning from Temple Symbols” it states:

Both books and buildings have voices. But rather than the letters of an alphabet, buildings use towers and spires, columns and buttresses, mosaics and paintings, glass and geometric figures, and statues and friezes to speak volumes. However, even though architectural symbolism existed before the written word, the message of a building is often difficult for most of us to recognize.

For Latter-day Saints, temples are the most important and symbolic buildings in existence. Through temples the unique doctrines of the restored gospel are communicated. Although the bulk of this instruction occurs inside the temples, temple exteriors also tell of these profound doctrines — when you understand how to read them.

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Why President McKay was “Disappointed in the Temple”

President David O. McKay once said that he was “disappointed” when he first went through the Temple and he explains why. I think this could be helpful to any who are preparing for the temple, or who are still trying to understand what it is all about.

Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience. I have now found out why. There are two things in every Temple: mechanics, to set forth certain ideals, and symbolism, what those mechanics symbolize. I saw only the mechanics when I first went through the Temple. I did not see the spiritual. I did not see the symbolism of spirituality… I was blind to the great lesson of purity behind the mechanics. I did not hear the message of the of the Lord… How many of us young men saw that? We thought we were big enough and with intelligence sufficient to criticize the mechanics of it and we were blind to the symbolism, the message of the spirit. And then that great ordinance, the endowment. The whole thing is simple in the mechanical part of it, but sublime and eternal in its significance. (From Gregory Prince and Wm. Robert Wright. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005): 277)

I appreciated these words from President McKay. I think we all spend most of our first trips to the temple focusing on the mechanics if we were not adequately instructed on learning through symbolic teaching. While the initiatory has many parallels to baptism and confirmation, there’s nothing comparable to the endowment anywhere else in Latter-day Saint worship.

I think the closest you can get are the accounts recorded in scripture where a prophet is taken up into the presence of the Lord, guided by angels and shown the creation of the world and given sacred knowledge. At one level, I believe the endowment is a symbolic “ascension vision”, similar to the experiences of Abraham, Moses, Enoch, Nephi, and the Brother of Jared to name a few.

Here’s another great quote from President McKay:

“Brothers and sisters, I was disappointed in the temple. And so were you. […] There are few, even temple workers, who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment. Seen for what it is, it is the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence. […] If our young people could but glimpse it, it would be the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives!” (Andrew Ehat, ” ‘Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?’ Sesquicentennial Reflections of a Sacred Day: 4 May 1842,” Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1994), 58-59.)

President Spencer W. Kimball had this to say about the ordinances of the Temple:

“If you understood the ordinances of the House of the Lord, you would crawl on your hands and feet for thousands of miles in order to receive them!” (Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, p. 58-59)

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An LDS Meetinghouse in American Fork, UT Emphasizes 8

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I was up in Utah for a wedding and while driving around American Fork I stopped my car when I saw this LDS meetinghouse. I was immediately reminded of a chapel here in Nevada that I really like.

Just like the Nevada meetinghouse, the American Fort meetinghouse emphasizes the number 8 with a giant round window divided into 8 segments.

But wait, it gets better! There are also Read Full Post

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Deliverance & Rebirth: Hidden Treasures in Alma 5

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I was preparing an Elders Quorum lesson and felt particularly drawn to Alma 5. I fell in love with this chapter during my full-time mission days and when I really, really read it, I was highlighting so much that I actually outlined the entire contents of each page! I remember thinking: “This is just all so fantastic, I love it all!”

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Fast forward 14 years later Read Full Post

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“The Lady Of The Temple” Conference via the Academy of Temple Studies

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This conference which took place on October 23, 2013, in Logan, Utah was filmed and posted here at the Academy of Temple Studies and at TempleStudy.com.

First off, let me just say that I was really blown away by this conference; the insights presented were so rich, edifying and paradigm-shifting. Posting this today is a bit symbolic to me personally because today I celebrate two birthdays; the day I was born of my mother in the flesh and the day I was baptized by water and the Spirit by ordinances administer by my father.

As important as fathers and priesthood authority are, it is equally important to understand mothers and motherhood and how each plays an essential role in our salvation.

Just so you know, I don’t post anything on oneClimbs.com unless I feel that it is of particular value. I recommend viewing all of these videos and not skipping a single one because they build upon each other.

If you are a woman, then stop what you are doing and watch this conference!

I was the only boy in my family and was blessed with three little sisters, and as a father, I have been blessed with three little daughters, so the role and divine purpose of women is something close to my heart. I think that the information presented in this conference will be part of a greater understanding of women in the plan of salvation.

The beauty and inspired nature of LDS doctrine concerning men and women in God’s plan is seen afresh and in a new light, or perhaps, a more correct light. The truth is right there in front of us, we just don’t really understand what it is we are seeing, or worse, Read Full Post

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The Struggles of Approaching Symbolic Learning

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I’d like to give an internet high-five to the Church for this great page they put up for the youth called “Symbolism and Temple Preparation“.

We do a great job of teaching “that the teaching in the temples is done in symbolic fashion” (Boyd K. Packer), but I think we do a sub-par job of teaching how to learn from teaching that is done in a symbolic fashion.

Consider President David O. McKay’s words about his first temple experience:

“Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience. I have now found out why. Read Full Post

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Help Kickstart the LDS Symbol Cards Project!

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LDS Symbol Cards are a unique way to explore symbols within the context of the Latter-day Saint faith.

>>> VIEW THE KICKSTARTER PROJECT AND WATCH THE VIDEO! >>>

Symbolism is a passion of mine. I absolutely love the subject because I find it incredibly fun, enlightening and advantageous when it comes to increasing my ability to learn. When I first began to research the topic in real depth, I found it difficult to know where to begin.

There are so many thick books, many of them which are phenomenal, but for the average person or child it can be hard to access this information and process it.

For the past few years, I have been working on a way to take all of the information that I have learned and condense it into a simple tool that anyone can use.

I’ve carried around version after version of prototypes, using them in my own personal study along with teaching my children. I feel that I have produced something at this point that is worth sharing with the LDS community.

Inspired by the work of Val Brinkerhoff, Michael S. Schneider, Alonzo Gaskill and more, these cards are an attempt to bring the world of symbolism down to a place where any Latter-day Saint can begin to get more out of the many symbolic teachings that are important to our faith.

>>> KICKSTART THIS PROJECT AND HELP MAKE IT A REALITY! >>>

If this project gets funded, this is on the beginning of a whole series of symbolism cards that I plan on releasing. Technically, the “TEMPLE THEMES: Volume 2” set is already done, but I’d like to get at least these three sets funded before I produce any more.

Depending on how well this project does, I’d like to get these into some LDS bookstores as well. At the very least, I’ll be creating an online store where all these cards and future sets and educational products will be offered including occasional freebies!

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Early Analysis of the Potential Symbolism of a New South Jordan Meetinghouse

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Link to the Deseret News article

I was listening to the This Week in Mormons Podcast when I heard this chapel mentioned. As I looked at the photos, some things stuck out to me.

I wish there were some better photos of this chapel. The only ones I could find were small and, unfortunately, dark and look like they were taken with a camera phone.

I’d like to see a better view of the front of this building, especially the very front were there are 3 areas with some kind of “cross” or “T-like” motifs towards the top. The number three is connected to the following doctrines or themes:

  • Divinity
  • Unity
  • Beginning, Middle, End
  • Past, Present, Future
  • Godhead

Symbolically speaking, the numbers 3, 4 and 8 are perhaps the most appropriate to be featured on a chapel considering the purposes of which it exists. 3 signifies divine unity while four expresses mortality and perhaps the Aaronic priesthood in that the square is a sign associate with this authority. Eight is a symbol connected with rebirth and especially Christ and we see a lot of the number eight in LDS chapel construction.

I love the fact that there are Read Full Post

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In just a few days…

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This is just a little bit of early notice before the LDS Symbol Cards project goes live in the next few days on Kickstarter! As soon as I finish the promo video, we should be good to go and I’ll post the info here!

Here’s the official description:

LDS Symbol Cards are a unique way to explore symbols within the context of the LDS faith and find meaning in nature, scripture, architecture, ritual and more.

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Karate Kid Perspective on Ordinances

For those who have seen the original Karate Kid movie you’re probably familiar with the famous “wax on, wax off” lesson that Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel. I like the updated version of this lesson presented in the new Karate Kid movie starring Jackie Chan. You might be wondering what this has to do with ordinances – bear with me.

In the first scene, Dre (updated Daniel) enthusiastically approaches Mr. Han (updated Miyagi) and begins by trying to show Mr. Han how “good” he is and what “skills” he already possesses. Go ahead and watch this first clip:

Do we approach God thinking that we have it all figured out? Are we overly-impressed with our own wisdom and skill like Dre who felt like he had to validate himself somehow to Mr. Han? There is a verse in the Book of Mormon that I think is related to this idea:

“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.” (2 Nephi 9:42)

It is easier to fill an empty vessel than a full one. Are we willing to make ourselves that vulnerable? Are we willing to sell all that we have acquired for the pearl of great price?

Dre thinks that Mr. Han is going to show him all these incredible kung fu moves, but Mr. Han has him do a seemly mundane task over and over again. Dre responds almost immediately with frustration, Read Full Post

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Symbols, Images, Types, Metaphors, Similes, Parables, Motifs, Archetypes and more!

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Perhaps most of us throw around the word “symbolism” without understanding the various nuances of the subject.

I created ldsSymbols.com with reference to the word “symbols’ because that is what most people understand. Alonzo Gaskill’s book “The Lost Language of Symbolism” defines symbols, images, types, metaphors, similes, parables, motifs and archetypes. He also mentions other categories such as analogies, comparisons, emblems, figures, hallmarks, insignias, models, seals, signs and tokens.

Here is a list of definitions from the book along with the page number for reference:

  1. Symbol: Something that represents another thing (p. 11).
  2. Image: A word or action that names a concrete thing (p. 11).
  3. Type: A symbol that looks forward to an antitype for future fulfillment (p. 11).
  4. Metaphor: An implied comparison (p. 13).
  5. Similes: Compare one thing to another by using the formula like or as (p. 13).
  6. Parable: Brief stories that employ familiar situations, events, characteristics, or elements in order to teach important spiritual truths (p. 14).
  7. Motif: A recurring theme or a “structurally unified verbal whole” (p. 14).
  8. Archetype: An image or pattern that recurs…the universal elements of human experience (p. 15).

The next set of definitions are from various sources online:

  1. Analogy: A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification. Google Definition
  2. Comparison: an examination of two or more items to establish similarities and dissimilarities. Merriam Webster
  3. Emblem: A heraldic device or symbolic object as a distinctive badge of a nation, organization, or family. Google Definition
  4. Figure: A person, animal, or object that symbolizes something. A pictorial or sculptural representation, especially of the human body. The Free Dictionary
  5. Hallmark: Any mark or symbol of genuineness or high quality. Your Dictionary
  6. Insignia: A symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction. Wikipedia
  7. Model: A three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original. Google Definition
  8. Seal: An embossed emblem, figure, symbol, word, letter, etc., used as attestation or evidence of authenticity. Dictionary.com
  9. Sign: A token; something by which another thing is shown or represented; any visible thing, any motion, appearance or event which indicates the existence or approach of something else. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
  10. Token: A sign; something intended to represent or indicate another thing or an event. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
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Follow oneClimbs on Instagram!

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Throughout my day I come across interesting motifs and symbols and usually take pictures of them. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday to use something like Instagram to document and share the things I come across. Since this is just really brand new, I put some images up that I already had on my phone and made a few comments and insights on the images.

If you’d like you can follow oneClimbs and share in the discovery of interesting things all around us in plain sight!

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Symbolism of the Bee: “The Deseret Connection” by Hugh W. Nibley

In response to an email question about the meaning of beehives sent in by Cameron to ldsSymbols.com, I dug up some information that I had read several years ago. I located the article I was looking for here, which contains a really great history of what the beehive meant to the Egyptians. This is pretty significant to Latter-day Saints who also use the beehive as a primary symbol of the faith as well as the culture and people of Utah.

Why should what the Egyptians believed be of any significance to Latter-day Saints today? Perhaps it is because the Egyptians, while practicing beliefs that on the surface seem foreign to modern people, had many core principles tied into truth obtained from an earlier time. Abraham 1:26 states:

Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

I find it interesting that some people conclude that that Latter-day Saints hijacked temple ceremonies from the Masons and that Christianity hijacked teachings from the Jews who hijacked their temple rights and beliefs from the Egyptians who hijacked them from…well, maybe the guys who had it right in the first place. I believe that everything goes back to the beginning anyway, and that the “doctrinal debris” left behind can be “restored” or “reconstituted” into a form where truth and light can come to us from it. Read Full Post

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First oneClimbs Documentary: “Reading Temples” Now on YouTube!

Did you know that you can “read” temples? What if all of the temples around the world today constituted a vast library of new scripture just waiting to be read if we had eyes to see? This presentation covers some basic concepts relating to LDS Symbology and a guide to approaching the subject of learning symbolism.

This video presentation incorporates my first attempt at presenting principles related to “reading” temples. The content of the video is suitable for all ages and anyone interested in learning how understanding symbols can play an incredible part of their spiritual lives.

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The Nephite Interpreters

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Pictured above is my latest rendering of the Nephite Interpreters that were in the possession of Joseph Smith for a time. I have always wondered what these instruments must have looked like so I began by creating a few simple illustrations. Over time, the illustrations evolved into a more realistically rendered piece of art and this is the latest version. One day, I think it would be interesting to try to construct a physical model.

You can begin to get an idea of what these interpreters must have looked like by examining quotes from witnesses that actually saw them; from there you are left with gaps that can only be filled in with speculation. Here are the aspects of this version that I feel are pretty solid:

  1. Triangular shape of the “stones”
  2. Figure-8 design of the frame
  3. “Glass” setting for the interpreters

Here are the characteristics that are speculations and assumptions Read Full Post

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Why Every Latter-day Saint Needs to Own This Book

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A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe is probably one of my favorite books in the whole wide world. Is it the be-all, end-all, of all things ever? Nope. So what’s the big deal about it? It is a “switch-flipper” an “ah-HA!” generator and an incredibly fun read!

Latter-day Saints are a people that are swimming in a world of symbolic meaning, especially those that attend the temple, but how many really ‘get it’? The problem is with the way that we think and author Denver Snuffer hit it right on the head:

“Exposure to the culture of ceremony and symbols is a priceless advantage to anyone coming from a secularized and demythologized society. The power in the temple’s rites and symbols, lies in the reorientation of the individual and their minds from what is in society today to a different setting and different world-view…one in which you are prepared for companionship with those who, behind the veil, live in a culture of symbols and ceremony where deep meanings and eternal patterns are seen endlessly.” (Denver Snuffer, The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord through the Veil, Millcreek Press, pps. 260-61; 374-75)

I love that quote. In our “secular and demythologized society” we are dense to anything beyond what we see Read Full Post

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