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

Oct 16, 2013
4 min read


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 such large and numerous windows on the outside of the chapel. This will let in a great amount of natural lighting and light very symbolic, representing truth, intelligence, the Holy Spirit, glory and more.

There are two sets of windows on this side of the chapel and if there are two sets on the other side that would equal four, which as I mentioned before, is associated with mortality and potentially Aaronic priesthood authority. This room is also where the sacrament is administered by Aaronic priesthood authority as well so this is appropriate.

The windows are divided into 10 segments each and the number 10 potentially references completion, wholeness, and eternal life. 4 sets of 10 equals the number 40, which Val Brinkerhoff observes is closely tied to the number 8 as it relates to purification (I’ll have to post a reference to this later as a friend is borrowing my book which has the quote I’m needing), so it’s quite exciting to discover this in the architecture.

The steeple very prominently evokes the number 4 with its 4 sides and base which deliberately emphasizes the four corners. Note that the 4 in the steeple is upheld by the 3 on the front. 4 + 3 = 7

“Hundreds of scriptures point to 7 in association with the concepts of full, satisfied, or complete, most in connection with spiritual perfection, accomplished in a complete time period involving 7 day, 7 weeks, or 7 dispensations.”
Val Brinkerhoff, “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” (Book 2), 68

This chapel is where we gather each 7th day to worship on the Sabbath. 4 x 3 = 12 which is a number associated with priesthood power, thus priesthood and perfection are intertwined.


Though you can only make out six, I am almost positive that this chapel has 8 lights like most do today. While they are not pillars, anciently the number 8 was used in shape and in number of pillars to denote sacred space, especially in ordinances relating to rebirth.

The octagon or 8:

“The octagon draws on the symbolism of the number eight, emblematic of renewal. Eight-sided forms were felt to mediate between the symbolism of the square, representing earthly existence, and the circle (standing for heaven or eternity).”
Jack Tresidder, “Symbols and Their Meanings,” 154

The sacrament is a renewal or starting over ordinance so to speak:

“[Eight] is a starting-over number and is pervasive throughout scripture…”
Val Brinkerhoff, “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” (Book 2), 68

Here’s a quote associated with rebirth:

“Eight-niched soars this temple for sacred rites
Eight corners has its font
Right to build this baptismal hall about the sacred number eight
For here the people are reborn.”
Interior inscription for the baptistry of Milan


The one thing that makes this chapel really significant is the inclusion of a courtyard. My eye was immediately drawn to the octagon-shaped planter box/bench with a tree growing in the middle of it; this is fantastic.

As described previously, the octagon or number 8 has deep ties to rebirth, especially through Jesus Christ and to see a tree in the middle of an octagon doesn’t seem to be coincidence to me, they could have easily made this planter box a square or circle.

“The Tree of Life is found in the first and last books of the Bible (Gen. 3 and Rev. 2; another Alpha & Omega association) and early on in the Book of Mormon (1 Ne.). The olive tree may be the best example ‘Tree of Life’ since it symbolizes the Love of God (the Father) as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son on our behalf. A major portion of the Savior’s crucifixion occurred on the cross, a substitute tree for most modern Christians.”
Val Brinkerhoff, “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” (Book 1), 51

So two symbols of Christ are demonstrated here, one focusing on rebirth through his atonement and another demonstrating that he is the embodiment of the love of God. There’s a lot to ponder here, but I really like where chapel construction is headed.


I’d really love to take a tour of this building and see what other potentially symbolic teachings it holds. I love the idea of our chapels being a place where we are surrounded by symbolic motifs to ponder, in the same way, that our temples do.

Kudos to the inspired Church architects for the beautiful simplicity in which they build our chapels.

What do you think?

  • Have you noticed any symbolism in your own chapels?
  • Do you attend an older chapel with any interesting designs?
  • I collect chapel photos, so if you have any that are interesting, send them in!
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6 years ago

Hmm, symbolism in our own ward buildings. What if the symbolism I see is negative? What I see with the standard building plans for church buildings around here, are that they are all the same. You can go to one ward building and pretty much know where everything is because it is patterned after the one you got o all the time. Same floor plan, same interior with brown carpeting on the walls, same lack of natural light. Everyone having the same type of building might be an efficient way to erect structures, but I see it as kind of… Read more »

6 years ago

The elegant building you featured in this post is nothing like the drab, dated, smelly, and cramped building that the 300+ people in my ward, and the 300+ people in the ward who share the building, attend every week. We use the entire chapel, overflow, and cultural hall to seat everyone for sacrament meeting, and then use the same spaces for Sunday school and Primary. And no, we are not in a third-world country, but in an affluent area of the US. We have wealthy people in our ward. Our Stake has not had a new building since the 1980’s… Read more »

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
6 years ago

Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but as one who appreciates architecture, art, dance, music, literature, and the other arts, I think it’s fantastic that the Church grows from “grace to grace” in all of their endeavors, including the building of chapels. We must remember that the first building the early saints were commanded to build was the Kirtland Temple. They were a poor people with little money and limited resources. But with God, all things are possible. I encourage you all to read the story of Artemus Millet including his conversion, immigration to the United States of America, and… Read more »

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
6 years ago

Just Curious: Why doesn’t this post appear in chronological order anymore? (October 16, 2014). It seems like it was removed from the homepage.

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
6 years ago

Today’s Meetinghouses – Tomorrow’s Temples? We’re told from past and present Latter-day prophets that there will come a day when temples will flood the Earth. Said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “We expect to see the day when temples will dot the earth, each one a house of the Lord; each one built in the mountains of the Lord; each one a sacred sanctuary to which Israel and the Gentiles shall gather to receive the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps they will number in the hundreds, or even in the thousands, before the Lord returns.” The thousands! I personally… Read more »

Richard J. Nobbe III
Richard J. Nobbe III
6 years ago
Reply to  oneclimbs

Steven, thank you so much for your quick response. You said many of the things that I was thinking, (like the layout of chapels, stake centers, and smaller temples). It is curious indeed! I would not be surprised in the least if modern meetinghouses are built with the purpose of one day being used for something else. After all, it would not be unprecedented in the church. As I’m sure you know, Brigham Young saw in vision many things that he didn’t quite understand when the Salt Lake Temple was under construction, but he went along with it. Later, it… Read more »

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