Symbolism

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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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Notes From the Climb: Jan 2013

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For something new, I’m going to be posting insights from my personal notebook that I feel are not too personal to share and may be of worth to some out there. If you are new to oneClimbs, you might not have read a how-to article I posted a while back about keeping your own “Small Plates“. If you want to understand more about this practice that I’ve personally used for the past twelve years, check it out.

The primary reasons I am doing this are both to share and also to encourage this practice among any individual seeking to improve their personal revelatory insights and experiences.

  • The priesthood is associated with signs; whenever ordinances are performed, signs are associated.
  • Symbols guide our understanding and  prepare us for experience.
  • Symbols establish a framework in the mind that revelation can fill.
  • Some things in life can seem as impossible to move as mountains, yet the scriptures testify that mountains are indeed movable.
  • There is no full atonement without a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. Tho know Him is to find salvation, to be a stranger to Him is to not know the atonement.
  • In innocence we transgressed,
    in knowledge we sinned,
    in virtue we return.
  • The temple is not the meaning, it is the context.
  • “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.” (The Lord’s Way, 1991, Spencer W. Kimball)

Begin keeping your own “Small Plates” today!

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Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

This Christmas I had some thoughts about the gifts that were given to the young Jesus by the wise men. I haven’t had time to really dig down deep and see what I can unearth concerning gold, frankincense and myrrh but I did have a few unique ideas that I don’t think I’ve ever read about anywhere else so I thought I’d take note of them here.

Gold

Gold can be primarily obtained by mining it from the earth or panning it out of rivers in tiny flakes. It is rare and must be sought for diligently and then purified by immense heat to flush the dross out. Gold does not rust under the same circumstances as other metals, it is extremely stable and attractive.

Frankincense and Myrrh

Myrrh

These two I am going to mention together because there are a host of dynamics that they seem to share. Both frankincense and myrrh are tree sap that is obtained by cutting into the trunk and allowing the sap to bleed out; ponder that for a bit. Read Full Post

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Video: Secrets in Plain Sight

How about taking a nice long trip down the rabbit hole of symbolism? Scott Onstott’s mind-blowing video details some of the world’s most fascinating symbolism hidden in plain sight, from Egyptian lore tied deeply within major cities of the world like Washington D.C, San Francisco, London and Paris, to the ratios of the universe and solar system embedded in to ancient megaliths.

Set aside a good 3 hours and 43 minutes for a mind-bending tour laced with unbelievable parallels that defy coincidence. At first, the video might seem a little conspiracy-theoryish, but give it a chance and wait for the math. You’re in for quite a ride to unlock mysteries more captivating than any fictional thriller. Truth is truly stranger than fiction and it is all right under your nose.

That said, hopefully this film can help to expand your vision and open your mind to a greater capacity to realize the immensity of hidden truths that do, in fact, surround us.

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Symbols of the Sacrament

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Looking forward without your eyes

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Moses and Facial Veils

Did you know that Moses had to veil his face around the Israelites? Read the account is taken from Exodus 34:29-35 CEV:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai, carrying the Ten Commandments. His face was shining brightly because the Lord had been speaking to him. But Moses did not know at first that his face was shining. When Aaron and the others looked at Moses, they saw that his face was shining, and they were afraid to go near him. Moses called out for Aaron and the leaders to come to him, and he spoke with them. Then the rest of the people of Israel gathered around Moses, and he gave them the laws that the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

The face of Moses kept shining, and after he had spoken with the people, he covered his face with a veil. Moses would always remove the veil when he went into the sacred tent to speak with the Lord. And when he came out, he would tell the people everything the Lord had told him to say. They could see that his face was still shining. So after he had spoken with them, he would put the veil back on and leave it on until the next time he went to speak with the Lord.

The apostle Paul referenced this account in a letter to the Corinthians:

The Law of Moses brought only the promise of death, even though it was carved on stones and given in a wonderful way. Still the Law made Moses’ face shine so brightly that the people of Israel could not look at it, even though it was a fading glory. So won’t the agreement that the Spirit brings to us be even more wonderful? If something that brings the death sentence is glorious, won’t something that makes us acceptable to God be even more glorious? In fact, the new agreement is so wonderful that the Law is no longer glorious at all. The Law was given with a glory that faded away. But the glory of the new agreement is much greater, because it will never fade away.

This wonderful hope makes us feel like speaking freely. We are not like Moses. His face was shining, but he covered it to keep the people of Israel from seeing the brightness fade away. The people were stubborn, and something still keeps them from seeing the truth when the Law is read. Only Christ can take away the covering that keeps them from seeing.

When the Law of Moses is read, they have their minds covered over with a covering that is removed only for those who turn to the Lord.  The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and the Lord’s Spirit sets us free. So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord. (2 Cor. 3:7-18 CEV)

Most people are familiar with a bride wearing a veil as part of the wedding ceremony. There are some deep roots to this tradition that traces back to Rebekah and Jacob in the book of Genesis. The Jewish tradition incorporates a veiling ceremony known as “Bedeken”. An article over at Chabad.org features some intriguing points behind this tradition:

There are a number of interpretations of the veil’s symbolism, all of which reflect truths that are worthy of being dramatically enacted before the wedding service.

The veil is a symbol of the married woman. It expresses a dignity, which Isaiah (3:18) calls tiferet, and which was reserved for women of station. Ezekiel (16:20) speaks of “covering with silk” the woman he loves. Interestingly, Rebecca does not wear a veil while on the journey in the company of the servant, Eliezer, but instinctively dons it when sighting Isaac. This may account for the insistence of major authorities that the groom himself veil the bride, and that it should never be done without him—it is only his presence that makes her veil significant.

The veil is symbolic of her new unapproachability to others, not only sexually, but as hekdesh, a sanctified object in the temple. The sacred objects of the tabernacle were “veiled” before being taken up to be carried by the Levites. The betrothal ceremony is likened, in a legal sense, to those sanctified objects of the temple. This is the significance of the term kiddushin: the groom, in marriage, sets the bride aside as hekdesh. The analogy strikes deeper if we compare it to the face of Moses, which radiated light after he received the commandments. Moses placed masveh (a veil) over his face as though to imply separateness, withdrawal, almost an other-worldliness. [source]

See also: White Cloth, Fire and the Glory of God

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The Mountain and the Climb

The symbol of a mountain is a common archetype in religious traditions and is it any wonder? Their everlasting stability, their untouchable heights and the way the light paints them in quiet mornings and sets them afire in evenings have always inspired man.

Within the LDS faith, the mountain has a special meaning. I suppose that one of the most immediate correlations would probably be to the temples.

The same way that the Lord’s voice can be heard through scripture, he speaks to us through number, shape, color, light and movement in nature, in temples, in our dreams and visions and in many other circumstances. Everything in our perception can teach us if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, hands to touch and a heart that yearns for virtue.

The mountain; it is a striking visual symbol encompassing many ideas, sermons and truths. Perhaps the mountain peak represents the final destination of man or the ultimate height one can achieve with only God as a way to ascend higher. What I find especially fascinating isn’t the mountain itself, but the climb.

The climb teaches us, it requires strength and in turn makes us strong, it is brutal, unforgiving and perilous.

It seems safer to stay at the bottom, but is it? What if the point of life isn’t to make it safely to death? What if we spend our lives dragging our way to the top but never make it? What is at the top? Is reaching the top of the mountain really even necessary if the point is the climb?

Perhaps the climb begins with covenants. Under covenant, life and every experience of every moment are another rock, another precipice, another dreadful cliff, treacherous winds and a host of spectacular terrain.

Everything becomes the climb; what you do right after you wake up, how you treat your family, friends and enemies, what you do and think when you are alone, how you apply your talents, how you deal with fear, how you handle knowledge and what your attitude is concerning the things you encounter.

The climb; you will either discover what awaits you or you will spend eternity contemplating two words, “what if”.

Will you climb the rock
Or wait at the bottom for a free ride up
Will you look to the top
And wonder what it would be like
Or will you stand up and climb?
– (Lyrics from the song “Lemonade” by U-turn)

Related posts:

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TempleStudy.com Fireside Discussion on Andrew Skinner’s book “Temple Worship”

My good friend Bryce Haymond of TempleStudy.com hosted a Google Hangout discussion on Andrew Skinner’s book “Temple Worship”. It was fantastic to participate in this event and enjoy the fascinating information that was shared. I think we’re going to do this on a regular basis on Sabbath evenings so feel free to join in if you can and if not, you can catch the discussion on Youtube!

Panelists in this discussion were:

  • Bryce Haymond
  • Frederick M. Huchel
  • Gary N. Anderson
  • Steven Reed
  • Tevya Washburn

I wish I could spend every afternoon talking with these gentlemen.

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Plato, The Allegory of the…Living Room

Below is an excerpt of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” with a few minor edits I’ve introduced.

[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: – Behold! human beings living in carpeted caves of their own making, which has a front door open towards the light and reaching all down the hallway; here they have been from their childhood, and have their hands chained to remote controls, video game controllers, computers and mobile devices and can only see what is directly before them. Above and behind them are broadcasters disseminating information at a distance, and between these broadcasters and the prisoners – I mean, people – there is a screen, much like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

[Glaucon] I see.

[Socrates] And do you see, I said, men, women, animals, sports, pornography, preachers, programming, games and entertainment all appear on these screens.

[Glaucon] You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners, er, people.

[Socrates] Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only pixels, appearing on their screens as intended by the broadcasters.

[Glaucon] True, he said; how could they see anything but the pixels Read Full Post

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LDSSymbols.com is now live!

 

LDSSymbols.com is a new site that I just launched today to help anyone become more literate in the alphabet of LDS symbology. While not exhaustive, it provides a starting place to begin to identify potential meanings in some of the symbols we encounter throughout LDS architecture, scripture and in nature and throughout the universe.

Everything is connected; and when you begin to understand some basic archetypal meanings behind some of the shapes and numbers God uses in His works, you’ll find hidden treasures that have been right in front of your nose your entire life.

LDSSymbols is a work in progress, so further meanings, photos and quotes will be added as time goes on. If you feel that you have anything to contribute to the project, feel free to contact me via the contact page on this site.

Enjoy!

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Sikhism’s “Five Ks” and Other Sacred Clothing and Artifacts

I was driving down my street the other day and noticed that there was a family gathering going on at one of the homes. Seeing the turbans I figured that they must be of the Sikh faith. I realized how little I knew about their beliefs and thought I’d do a little research since I like to study other religions.

It is a very simple faith with some unique aspects that I found fascinating.

The Sikh (pronounced ‘seek’) religion that originated in southern Asia around the 15th Century. The word Sikh means ‘disciple’ or ‘student’ and the core purpose of the faith is to seek oneness with God. In order to escape the cycle of reincarnation, and become one with God, one must overcome the five obstacles which are: lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.

Seemingly corresponding with the five obstacles are symbolic emblems that are continually worn called the “Five Ks”

  1. Kesh (uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in the Sikh Turban, Dastar.)
  2. Kanga (wooden comb, usually worn under the Dastar.)
  3. Katchera (specially made cotton underwear as a reminder of the commitment to purity.)
  4. Kara (iron bracelet, which is a symbol of eternity.)
  5. Kirpan (curved sword, comes in different sizes.)

Each of these symbols are a “representation of the ideals of Sikhism, such as honesty, equality, fidelity, militarism, meditating on God, and never Read Full Post

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Of Parables, Symbols and QR Codes

I submit that where symbolism is in use, there is an invitation to receive more knowledge via a revelatory experience.

The veil exists to ensure that we are not held accountable for that which we are not willing to receive.

When the disciples of Christ came to him and asked “Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (Matt. 13:10)” Jesus responded saying “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given… therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matt. 13:11,13) Read Full Post

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The Seal of Melchizedek?

by Alonzo L. Gaskill
(alonzo_gaskill@byu.edu) is an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.

To be unversed in symbolism is to be scripturally and ritually illiterate.

Symbolism is the language of scripture and ritual. To be unversed in symbolism is to be scripturally and ritually illiterate. As one text notes, “Symbols are the language in which all gospel covenants and all ordinances of salvation have been revealed. From the time we are immersed in the waters of baptism to the time we kneel at the altar of the temple . . . in the ordinance of eternal marriage, every covenant we make will be written in the language of symbolism.”[1] While Latter-day Saints accept and utilize a number of symbols common to other religious traditions, we also have our own unique set of symbols foreign to most other faiths.[2]

In recent years Mormonism appears to have adopted a new symbol, one quickly growing in popularity. It is commonly referred to as the seal of Melchizedek and consists of two interlocked (or overlapping) squares, making what appears to be Read Full Post

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A diamond sun and celestial worlds

Several years ago, scientists discovered what they believe is the largest diamond known to man: “a compressed heart of an old star that was once bright like our Sun but has since faded and shrunk.” LINK

A BBC article reported:

The huge cosmic diamond – technically known as BPM 37093 – is actually a crystallised white dwarf. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star, left over after the star uses up its nuclear fuel and dies. It is made mostly of carbon.

For more than four decades, astronomers have thought that the interiors of white dwarfs crystallised, but obtaining direct evidence became possible only recently.

The white dwarf is not only radiant but also rings like a gigantic gong, undergoing constant pulsations.

“By measuring those pulsations, we were able to study the hidden interior of the white dwarf, just like seismograph measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study the interior of the Earth.

“We figured out that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the galaxy’s largest diamond,” says Metcalfe.

Astronomers expect our Sun will become a white dwarf when it dies 5 billion years from now. Some two billion years after that, the Sun’s ember core will crystallise as well, leaving a giant diamond in the centre of the solar system.

“Our Sun will become a diamond that truly is forever,” says Metcalfe. LINK

This made me think of Doctrine and Covenants 130:6-9 which speaks of our world, when redeemed, becoming like crystal or a sea of glass:

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.

Interesting that there is at least one crystal celestial body floating around out there that is not only “radiant” but “rings like a giant gong undergoing constant pulsations”. I wonder what these pulsations are and how they occur.

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Restoring the pentagram to its proper place

The pentagram. At the sound of its name the average person might think of “Satanism”, you may walk down the aisle of a video rental store and see it on the covers of horror movies, but has it always been this way? Has the pentagram always been associated with evil? How did it come to mean this?

Below are two stars that appear several times on the outside of the LDS Nauvoo temple. These two inverted stars are actually tied deeply to Jesus Christ and have been for a very long time; I’ll explain.

The pentagram, or day star/morning star is an ancient representation of the planet Venus. Jesus Christ, in the New Testament is referred to as both the “Day Star” and the “Morning Star” in connection to the planet Venus.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)

“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)

In eight earth years, venus will have orbited the sun 13 times Read Full Post

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Discovering sacred teachings in LDS Chapel architecture

Just as LDS Temples bear profound doctrinal teachings in their architecture, I suspect that our meetinghouses might have some things to teach us as well.

For the past several years, I’ve been paying close attention to the architecture certain styles of chapels that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been building. I found curious repetition of certain numbers and themes and assumed that they were probably just coincidental, but then had some fun considering possible meanings in the design.

I’ve still got a lot of studying yet to do, but I’ll share what I’ve observed thus far along with some potential interpretations. Read Full Post

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Do Latter-day Saints Need a Symbol?

Typical LDS faith claims, presented as statements, raise the question of truth: statements can be true or false. Symbols can’t really be true or false in the same way that statements can. Instead, they take on meaning, and there’s nothing to stop different people or different groups of people from ascribing different, even radically different, meanings to a given symbol. A particularly stark example is the cross, which for Romans symbolized execution and the power of the state, but for Christians came to symbolize Christ’s death and, by extension, the atonement and even the resurrection. But Mormons have not adopted the cross as a preferred symbol. It’s not clear what fills the gap left by the absence of the cross in the set of Mormon symbols: Gethsemane? The Christus statue in the Temple Square Visitors’ Center? The First Vision as a revelation of God and His Son? LINK

I couldn’t agree more with the first three sentences. I don’t think a lot of people really understand this principle; symbols are not inherently good or bad or true or false. There has to be some understanding and context that come into play when interpreting them in their usage.

As for the rest of the paragraph concerning a ‘preferred symbol’ for the Mormons, I don’t see why the church needs a particular ‘symbol’ per se. Christ himself is the greatest symbol of our faith since he epitomizes what we believe and what we are seeking to become like. Some may find it uncomfortable that we do not have a symbol and would prefer that we choose one like all the other faiths.

In the Old Testament, the vast majority of other religions had idols that represented their respective Gods while Israel had none at all; they didn’t need a symbol to represent their religion. I’m not equating religious symbols to idolatry here but I see a similarity in the attitudes of the people involved.

In the Hebrew temple there were images of Cherubim on the veil of the temple and on the Ark of the Covenant and brazen oxen under the laver but these were not representations of the faith. In like manner we incorporate an angel on the tops of our modern temples along with various celestial symbols, but these are not meant to be representations of the faith.

For whatever reason, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just not adopted a particular iconic symbol to represent itself. People will sometimes use the figure of Moroni to represent the faith and I don’t really see a problem with it but in the end, I don’t believe that it really matters whether we have a symbol or not.

If we did choose a symbol, what should it be?

If we HAD to choose a symbol that would represent the faith, I’m not quite sure what I would choose, personally. Perhaps a viable candidate would be the symbol that we see most associated with the temples which is a circle within a square. This icon seems synonymous with modern LDS temples as it is used regularly in the architecture of most modern temples.

Temple work is one of the key components of the restoration and is really the defining work of this dispensation. Temple work provides the vehicle for the fulfilling of the covenant that God has made with man through Christ. The square within the circle, as I understand it symbolically, represents the eternal (circle) comprehended within the bounds of the temporal (square); or in other words, a temple is a physical place where we go to learn eternal truths.

The meaning of the symbol is a little more obscured, like that of the star of David and not plainly obvious like the cross, but it is distinct and memorable and maybe that is all that is important.

Conclusion

I don’t think Latter-day Saints require a symbol to be an icon representative of the faith. I still love the answer that Gordon B. Hinckley gave to a Protestant minister when he asked “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?” to which Hinckley replied “the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.” (LINK) It reminds me of something that Jesus once said “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16).

Personally I think it is more important to be recognized as a follower of Christ because of his image in my countenance instead of the symbol hanging around my neck.

——-

Updated: June 1, 2011

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White Cloth, Fire and the Glory of God

I sat pondering in a sacrament meeting one day looking at the table (or altar) on which the emblems of the sacrament, the bread and water, were placed.

Both above and below the emblems are a pair of white sheets. I have often heard it said that the white sheets covering the sacramental emblems was to give the impression of the body of Christ on an altar. This always made sense to me because there are numerous references to Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who gave his own life as an offering for our sins.

However on this day my thoughts went down another road.

The modern ordinance that we call the ‘sacrament’ used to be something else before the atonement. Since Adam and throughout the era where the Law of Moses was in effect, that table or altar used to be an edifice where animals were slain and consumed by fire. We have in our modern ordinances emblems that represent the flesh and blood of a sacrificial victim, and an altar on which they are placed, but what are these white linens covering the emblems? What do they represent? I began to wonder if it was possible that the white cloth could be a representation of the fire that enveloped the sacrificial emblems.

Fire and the Presence of God

All these thoughts reminded me of how the presence of God is often related to fire; here are a few significant verses: Read Full Post

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Three: The Exploration of Archetypal Symbols Series

With three points we have for the first time, dimension. Three was considered to be the first number whereas one and two were looked upon as the parents of numbers (A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, by Michael Schneider – 1st ed., 39). Although three becomes the first number, it only exists in the 2 dimensional world. No matter how you configure the points, it will always produce a flat plane of undefined thickness that does not exist in the three dimensional world.

We can construct a perfect equilateral triangle with using various points of the vesica piscis. Three occurs all over scripture and there is something about the number three that makes things feel complete. The most obvious reference in Christianity is to the holy Godhead made up of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We have the elements of three occurring in our physical birth into the world and also in our spiritual rebirth as children of Christ. This is illustrated in Moses 6:59-60:

That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust  a living soul, even so ye must be born  again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy  the words  of eternal  life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;

The temples of the Old Testament were made up of three areas: Read Full Post

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