Category: Temples

Temple Architectural Heritages: Mexico City

The Mexico City temple is unique architecturally in that it draws on the Mayan Revival Style. From Wikipedia “Though the name of the style refers specifically to the Maya civilization of southern Mexico and Central America, in practice, this revivalist style frequently blends Maya architectural and artistic motifs ‘playful pilferings of the architectural and decorative elements’ with those of other Mesoamerican cultures, particularly the Central Mexican Aztec architecture styling from the pre-contact period as exhibited by the Mexica and other Nahua groups. Although there were mutual influences between these original and otherwise distinct and richly varied pre-Columbian artistic traditions, the syncretism of these modern reproductions is often an ahistorical one.” Evidently Frank Lloyd Wright, among others, drew on this style, but frankly when presented with examples of Mayan Revival Style I can’t really draw much of a common thread between them (probably due to my own lack of artistic sense), so to be more direct I just asked GPT-4 to list me some examples of Mesoamerican architecture that look like the building in the picture. It just give me the greatest hits of Mesoamerican architecture in general, but still the comparisons are elucidating. The LDS temple in the image is the Mexico City Mexico Temple, and it has been mentioned that its design is influenced by ancient Mesoamerican architecture. Here are a few Mesoamerican structures that share similarities with the architectural style of the Mexico City Mexico Temple: Teotihuacan: The ancient…

Temple Architectural Heritages: Los Angeles

The Los Angeles is an example of a “modern single spired design” like the Bern, Switzerland Temple and the London, England temple. It is also one of eight temples that have an assembly room. Being in the priesthood assembly hall–a large, cavernous room in the bright, holy context of a temple–is a special experience that I was able to have during the Washington DC temple rededication.

Temple Architectural Heritages: Manti

From Wikipedia: The Manti Temple is “Castellated Gothic.” From the Church website: “A castellated style reflects construction influences of Gothic Revival, French Renaissance Revival, French Second Empire and colonial architecture.”

Temple Architectural Heritages: Cardston

I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT-V’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples by uploading an image, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings.I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. From Wikipedia: It is one of eight temples that does not have an angel Moroni statue, and one of six without spires, similar to Solomon’s Temple. It is also one of only two temples the church built in the shape of a cross, the other being the Laie Hawaii Temple. [STC: It is worth noting that Catholic and other Christian churches are often built in the shapes of crosses]. STC Addendum: Commenters below noted Frank Lloyd Write’s influence on the Cardston temple, specifically his Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois. From the picture below, the resemblance is pretty clear.  This building showcases an intriguing mix of architectural styles, but certain key characteristics stand out: 1. **Art Deco**: The emphasis on vertical lines, stylized and geometric decorative elements, and the layering and stepping of the building’s profile are reminiscent of Art Deco. This architectural style, which gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, is known for its combination of modern styles with fine craftsmanship and luxurious materials. 2.…

Temple Architectural Heritages: Kirtland

I was just given access to Chat-GPT’s image upload functionality. I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings.I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. Colonial Revival: The symmetry of the building, the arrangement of windows in a regular pattern, and the classical gable on the central portion of the facade are reminiscent of the Colonial Revival style. This style was popular in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and sought to revive elements of American colonial architecture. Examples include the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and numerous homes and buildings throughout New England. Federal Style: The arched windows and the decorative detailing around them are reminiscent of the Federal style, which was prevalent in the United States between 1780 and 1830. The style is characterized by its use of symmetry and classical motifs. The Octagon House in Washington, D.C., is a prime example of this style. Gothic Revival: The building’s pointed arch windows on the upper floor and the tower are reminiscent of Gothic Revival, a style that was popular in the 19th century and inspired by medieval…

Temple Architectural Heritages: Provo

I was just given access to Chat-GPT’s image functionality. Now you can upload images and have it answer questions about it. (Yes, I know, but bear with me, after this I think it will be a while before we have anything fundamentally new in the AI space, so this might be my last AI series for a while).  I’ve always had a sort of passing interest in temple architectural history and design, so I thought I’d get Chat-GPT’s take on the possible architectural influences of different temples, asking it to “explain the architectural influences of this building and provide examples of buildings typifying these influences. Discuss non-LDS-specific architectural themes.” I hand-added images of the example buildings. I’m not an expert, but it appears to have basically gotten it right, although I make no claim as to what exactly inspired the architect in each particular case. 1. **Modernism**: The building’s clean lines, large flat surfaces, and minimal ornamentation are indicative of modernist architecture. Modernism emerged in the early 20th century and was a response to ornate Victorian and Edwardian styles, emphasizing function and the use of new construction technologies. – *Example*: The Villa Savoye in France by Le Corbusier is a prime example of modernist architecture with its emphasis on functionalism and the use of reinforced concrete. 2. **Classicism**: The building shows simplified elements of classical architecture. Symmetry, proportion, and the use of columns or pilasters are reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman buildings. –…

The Law of the Gospel

A couple years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints included a list of the covenants made during the endowment session in their general handbook. It was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. Yet, I missed a part of the significance of the text presented until reading a recent interview with Samuel R. Weber over at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk—not only are the specific covenants included, but definitions were as well. In particular, the Law of the Gospel, had an official definition pinned down for the first time in recent history, which is the subject of the interview.

Temples, Communication, and Covenants

Temple rituals form an important part of Latter-day Saints’ covenant relationship with God. A recently-released book by Jennifer C. Lane entitled Let’s Talk About Temples and Ritual delves into the importance of temple rituals. Lane has shared some of the insights she gained that are captured in that book in an interview with the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk. What follows here is a co-post to that interview (with some related information from a second interview included as well).

Wilford Woodruff and Adoption Sealings

Wilford Woodruff was hugely important in the development of temple work as we understand it today. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint blog From the Desk, Jennifer Mackley (the executive director and CEO of the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation) discussed some of the influence that Presisent Woodruff had on temple work. The interview covers a lot of ground, so this co-post is going to zoom in on one specific aspect–Priesthood Adoption Sealings.

Susa Young Gates and Joseph F. Smith’s Vision

The vision that we have printed as Section 138 was received by Joseph F. Smith in the last few months of his life.  Among the very first people he asked to have review the document was none other than his friend, Susa Young Gates.  In one of the excellent essays presented in the Revelations in Context book, Lisa Olsen Tait talked about Susa’s experience with the revelation.  More recently, Lisa Olsen Tait discussed more about Susa and the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead in an interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk.  What follows here is a co-post to that interview (a shorter post with some excerpts and discussion). Why was Susa one of the first people to read the vision?  Part of it has to do with her personal friendship with Joseph F. Smith.  As Tait described: Joseph F. Smith was over seventeen years older than Susa Young Gates. … They became friends in Hawai’i in 1885-87. Susa accompanied her husband, Jacob F. Gates, on a return mission to the Sandwich Islands, and their service overlapped with the time that Joseph F. Smith and his wife Julina were there, basically keeping a low profile during the anti-polygamy crusade. (Smith was a highly-wanted man due to his church leadership position and his knowledge of the records.) A few letters between them from that time survive, and, in my reading, evince a progression from friendly but formal acquaintances to deep…

Method Infinite: On Masonry and Mormonism

The recently-published Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration by Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski (Greg Kofford Books, 2022) is an insightful and information-packed volume about a plethora of possible points of contact between Freemasonry and the Restoration of the Church of Christ.   While many studies of Masonry and the Latter Day Saint movement focus primarily on temple rituals, Method Infinite covers the entirety of Joseph Smith’s life and follows the influence of Masonic ideas and rituals into some of the major branches of Mormonism that emerged in the aftermath of the Prophet’s death.  The book starts with a brief history of Freemasonry and its existence in the early United States of America, then discusses how Joseph Smith grew up in an environment saturated with Freemasonry.  It points to ideas that were being discussed or practiced by Freemasons and compares these with strains of Latter Day Saint thought and action, suggesting that Joseph Smith saw himself as the restorer of the pure form of Masonry from the outset and that he viewed the Freemasonry practiced at the time as an apostate or spurious form of Masonry.  Evidences for this idea that are pointed out have to do with the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham, the way various organizations within or connected to the Church were organized, specific teachings of Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders, the ways that the City…

Masonry and Mormonism

The relationship between Freemasonry and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a subject of controversy for members of the Church.  In the near future, two important studies of that relationship are slated to be published – Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration by Cheryl L. Bruno, Joe Steve Swick III, and Nicholas S. Literski, which will be available on 9 August from Greg Kofford Books (which discusses possible influences of Freemasonry on Joseph Smith’s ministry throughout his life) and Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, which is anticipated to be released the same day by the Interpreter Foundation (and which analyzes the relationship of Freemason rituals and Latter Day Saint temple rituals).  Last week, two interviews related to these books (one with Cheryl L. Bruno and one with Jeffrey M. Bradshaw) were published on the Latter-day Saint history and theology blog From the Desk.  What follows here is a co-post to the two interviews. Jeffrey Bradshaw summed up the crux of the concern that members of the Church have when approaching Freemasonry.  He wrote: There are elements of the Nauvoo temple ordinances—for example, some of the signs and tokens and related language—that are almost identical in form to those used in Masonic rites. Since Freemasonry is an 18th century creation, similarities like these seem to undermine Joseph Smith’s claims that the temple ordinances are ancient. The same applies to the Restoration…

On the Priesthood and Temple Ban

With the recent hullabaloo about Brad Wilcox’s firesides, I have had a few things on my mind, perhaps most intensely around the priesthood and temple ban against individuals of black African ancestry.  The short version is this: After studying the evidence, I believe that the ban was not instituted and sustained by God’s will.  Now, I’m not trying to pick on Brother Wilcox by bringing this up (he did apologize, etc.), but because of the discussion about his fireside, the topic has been on my mind, and I feel like I need to share my perspective. It should be noted up-front that current Church statements leave the issue of whether the ban was of God or human-made open to interpretation.  For example, the heading to Official Declaration 2 acknowledges that “Church records offer no clear insights in the origin of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice.”  The Gospel Topics Essay on the subject acknowledges that American racial culture of the mid-19th century may have influenced Brigham Young in establishing the ban.  It also echoes the language of the section header for Official Declaration 2, leaving it open to interpretation whether the ban was inspired and held in place by God’s will or simply held in place by the personal beliefs of Church leaders in the words and actions of their predecessors.  Thus, there is room in the Church for accepting…

Sextuple Endowment Rooms: What Does it Mean?

“In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures,” stated Frank Gehry—an important contemporary architect. One of the more interesting episodes in the treatment of historic Utah structures has been the decision to tear both the Ogden and Provo temples down to their frames and rebuild them with completely new façades. Back in 2010, preservationists Steve Cornell and Kirk Huffaker related this structure to the character or nature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by stating that: “Architectural preservationists should be up in arms about the planned changes. The Ogden temple with its counterpart [in Provo], represent a paradigmatic shift in the way Mormons conceived and interpreted the temple, transitioning from a sacred abode to a sacred machine.”[1] While the Ogden and Provo temples have an important place in history, it should not be assumed that they represent a worldview change in Latter-day Saint temple doctrine. The shift that Cornell and Huffaker are referencing is the streamlined organization of the buildings that allowed them to house six endowment rooms, which allowed an endowment session to begin every twenty minutes in each temple, while older temples usually were only able to begin a session every hour at best.  Temple architect Emil Fetzer was commissioned to design a temple that was economical and functional that “the membership can use to do efficient temple work.”[2]  Fetzer described the experience of creating the interior design that was…

Does This Design Offend You?

It has been our privilege, as guided by the whisperings of thy Spirit, to build unto thee this temple, which we now present unto thee as another of thy holy houses. … We humbly pray that thou wilt accept this edifice and pour out thy blessings upon it as a house to which thou wilt come and in which thy Spirit will direct all that is done, that it may be acceptable unto thee.[1] Fifty years ago today, the Ogden, Utah Temple was dedicated.  Its sister, the Provo, Utah Temple, followed a month later, on February 9.  I’ve lived in Weber County, Utah for a significant portion of my life, so in many ways, the Ogden Temple is my temple.  Yet, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the temple itself—the space-age appearance I grew up with was unique, but not terribly attractive.  At the same time, I found it a bit sad that the Church felt the need to change its appearance so drastically a few years ago and that we will soon see, as President Nelson announced in general conference, the “reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple.”[2]  I’m caught between the side of me that has a strong preservationist urge (as discussed last spring with the pioneer temple murals) and the side of me that has an appreciation for the aesthetically pleasing update to the Ogden Temple. I’m not alone in being caught in the crossfire of torn feelings…

“I saw the hosts of the dead”

President Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead is one of the most recent documents to be included in our cannon (only followed by Official Declaration 2).  Experienced on 3 October 1918 and recorded shortly thereafter, the vision outlines the underlying theology behind proxy work for the dead that we perform in the temples.  Received against a dramatic backdrop of death, the vision gives hope for all of humankind.  Yet rather than breaking new ground, the document is a capstone of years of theological development in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  That doesn’t undercut its significance, however, since its later inclusion in the scriptures canonized those developments for the Church. Received over 100 years ago, this important vision came at a time of wide-spread death and destruction.  WWI was just a month away from its official end, after four years of carnage that resulted in millions of deaths.  Similar to today, a deadly pandemic was raging at that time that would kill tens of millions of people.  Joseph F. Smith himself had experienced loss not long before the vision.  In that year alone, his eldest son, a son-in-law, and a daughter-in-law had all died at young ages.  In addition, as his great-grandson stated: “During his lifetime, President Smith lost his father, his mother, one brother, two sisters, two wives, and thirteen children. He was well acquainted with sorrow and losing loved ones.”[1]  It was…

“This ordinance belongeth to my house”

Throughout this year, I’ve talked about the development of temple doctrine as a braiding of strands from Joseph Smith’s theology and cosmology.  That continues to be true of the 1840s, when the Latter-day Saints were working on the Nauvoo temple.  Previously, when discussing the House of the Lord in Kirtland, I discussed the idea of beholding the face of God, an endowment of power from on high, preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus the Christ, the Zion project, and some practical functions of the temples (in connection with building Zion).  These threads continued to have a place in the Nauvoo Temple but began to be ritualized and some meanings (such as that of the endowment of power) began to shift.  In addition, priesthood, binding or sealing power, and salvation for the unbaptized deceased were added to the braid of temples by the time that 1842 the epistles we are reading this week (D&C 127-128) were written.  Later, binding or sealing into eternal families and the connected concept of plural marriage would likewise be woven into temple liturgy as well, though those are topics for another day. The endowment of power is, perhaps, the key example of a shift in understanding and ritualization of previous hopes for the temple and priesthood.  Originally, the endowment of power seems to have been considered some sort of blessing from God that would be helpful in missionary work.  In its initial rendition, this endowment seems to have been…

“Concerning the building of mine house”

The temples of the early Latter Day Saint movement were a place where several strands of Joseph Smith’s theology and doctrine were braided together.  In the summer of 1833 (in the revelations we are studying this week for “Come, Follow Me”), we can see that braiding happening.  Referencing some major topics we’ve already discussed this year, we can see the idea of beholding the face of God, an endowment of power from on high, preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus the Christ, the Zion project, and some practical functions of the temples (in connection with building Zion).  Each of these had become a component of how the House of the Lord in Kirtland and Zion were meant to operate. The endowment of power from on high was one area of particular concern to the early Saints.  They had been promised in early 1831 that when they relocated to Kirtland, Ohio, they would be blessed with the law and an endowment of power akin to the one that the early Christians received on the day of Pentecost.[1]  The law was given in a series of revelations that spring, but the endowment of power proved more elusive.  Ordination to the high priesthood at a conference in 1831 and the meetings of the School of the Prophets functioned as earlier endowments of power, but the Saints continued to look forward to the construction of the House of the Lord as a place…

“Endowed with power from on high”

The revelations we are studying this week continue with themes found in revelations from throughout 1830, such as an imminent Second Coming and the gathering, but also set up an expectation for an endowment of power that would be an important theme for much of the remainder of Joseph Smith’s ministry. After the conversion of a significant number of people in Kirtland and the subsequent arrival of Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge in New York to meet Joseph Smith in December 1830, a set of revelations were recorded that indicated that the headquarters of the Church should shift to Ohio for the time being.  On 30 December 1830, a revelation stated that: “A commandment I give unto the Church that it is expedient in me that they should assemble together at the Ohio.”[1]  Three days later, after requests for further information about this command to move to Ohio, another revelation came that drew upon a significant amount of eschatological imagery, stating that: “The day soon cometh that ye shall see me & know that I am for the chains <?vails?> of vails of darkness shall soon be rent & he that is not purified shall not abide the day,”[2] but added that: “ if ye are prepared ye need not fear.”  It went on to state that it is in preparation for that time that the commandment to gather to the Ohio was given, “that ye might escape the power of the enemy & be gethered unto me…

Counterpoint: A Feeling of Loss–On Murals and Temples

I lived a significant portion of my life in Logan, Utah and frequently attended the temple during the time that I lived there.  I had a lot of beautiful and sacred experiences while doing so, but I also rarely attended that temple without experiencing some feelings of loss.  In the late 1970s, in order to introduce the use of filmed endowments to that temple, the building was gutted and almost all of the paintings, stained glass, chandeliers, furniture, and other furnishings were stowed away in archives in Salt Lake City or Provo, sent to other temple and Church office buildings for use, or given away.  The murals and the ornate “gold room” sealing room decorations couldn’t be removed intact and the parts that weren’t cut out as souvenirs were destroyed.  The temple they built inside the shell of the original was far more efficient, more structurally sound, and had better air conditioning, but lost most of what the pioneer Saints had lovingly contributed to the house of the Lord.  President Spencer W. Kimball reportedly expressed regret at the loss of the pioneer craftsmanship, which is the same reason I felt some feelings of loss when I visited.  To see the furnishings from the older iteration of the temple, I had to visit the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City rather than the temple itself (until that, too, was renovated and the section about historic Utah temples removed).[1]  While the…