In the book Sacred Walls: Learning from Temple Symbols by Gerald E. Hansen and Val Brinkerhoff, the importance of the symbolism on the outside of the building is emphasized:
“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.”
This scavenger hunt activity involves going with children or youth to any LDS temple to spend time seeing what symbols they can find so that they can research them and learn more. If you live far away from a temple, you can view hundreds of temple photos at LDSChurchTemples.com.
Learn to pay closer attention to details and learn some of the potential meanings that can be associated with temple symbols. Rather than just walk around the temple and admire the grounds, children and youth can take a proactive approach to hone their skills of observation and explore symbolism within the context of a specific sacred structure.
- Printables (download here)
- Pens or pencils
- Cameras (take pictures to review later)
- LDS Symbol Cards, or printable versions (download here)
- Binoculars (for seeing stuff high up)
- At the temple, maintain a reverent attitude. As you “read” the temple, take time to really ponder in stead of trying to race.
- The symbols included on the printable are only a guide, see how many symbols you can observe and if you find anything that isn’t on the sheet, you can make sketches and record notes, observations, and impressions.
- Allow the youth enough time to reverently walk the temple grounds and collect their information.
- After everyone has collected their information, they can go to LDSSymbols.com or their scriptures to see if they can find any potential meanings associated with their symbols, numbers, colors, etc.
- Give the students an opportunity to share with one another what they learned.
- Symbols are not just shapes or objects, author Val Brinkerhoff noted that temples can teach using a variety of methods like: number and shape, light and color, space and time. (The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture, Book 1)
- Don’t make this a race, prepare enough time so that there is room for the youth to ponder and do a little personal or group research.
- Point out that learning from symbols is a very personal thing; different people can gain different insights from looking at the very same thing and that’s ok.
- Advise the youth to look for patterns as well and to sketch or take notes about what they find. When you put 2 or more symbols together, especially in a pattern, it can illustrate very rich doctrinal ideas.
- Encourage the youth to journal about any particular impressions they might have had.