Gospel Symbolism

Gospel Symbolism by Joseph Fielding McConkie
Deseret Book (1985)

Symbols are a timeless and universal language God has chosen to teach His gospel, to reveal His covenants and ordinances, and to bear witness of His Son. In that case, why don't we hear more about symbols, and have them explained to our understanding? That is precisely what Gospel Symbolism does. Written for the layman, this book searches the scriptures, disclosing how passage after passage is layered with hitherto unperceived meaning. It shows how these countless types and shadows, the symbolic representations of Christ, assures us of the reality of His existence and the verity of the eternal gospel. And each step of the way, the reader's fascination will increase as the stimulating text opens his eyes to depths of understanding he had not previously imagined.


Welcome to "The Temple Study Book Club" Online

The study of the temple, and specifically the endowment, is an amazing subject but is one shrouded in mystery which makes it difficult to understand even for those who attend regularly. The instruction in the temple is by proverb and allegory where those who are diligent in seeking through the Holy Ghost the deeper and inner meanings will be greatly rewarded.

The endowment has been described as being so sacred as it contains some of the deepest teachings available to man. The truths taught are hidden by the symbolism through which they are revealed in the same way that the Savior choose parables as his preferred method of teaching. See: What is a parable? The situation is acerbated by the fact that our culture in the West is not symbol oriented. We tend to like things spelled out and explained in concrete ways. Yet the “mysteries of God,” the inner and less obvious or hidden meanings in the gospel and especially the temple are cloaked in metaphors, parables, allegories and analogies. Symbolism has the ability to weave many different levels of meaning that are adaptable to an ever changing life of a recipient as they grow and mature in the gospel. Understanding temple truths can eventually bring about a spiritual awakening and knowing of the mysteries of God.

Because of the esoteric (inner) nature of the Temple it has been suggested by a number of general authorities that most temple going members fail to even begin to understand the endowment and “the real meaning is the best kept secret in the Church.”

The objective of this online 'Temple Study Book Club' is to be a source of some amazing books on the subject of the Temple. And it is by study and righteous living we can all grow and learn so as to obtain a greater understanding of the exoteric (outer) knowledge about the temple. By so doing, we can all build a strong foundation and establish an environment for discerning those esoteric teachings taught only by the Holy Ghost in the temple. In no way is this book club to take the place of daily scripture study and prayer but is offered only as another means to help all of us to grow spiritually and come to know what it really means to be endowed with the “power of God.” May we all be vigilant in keeping our temple covenants and honoring their sacred nature, always striving to never be careless in any discussion of divulging holy truths that are only to be had within the confines of the temple. Our study here will consist of those things that can be discussed openly, “out of the best books” concerning the temple. May we all strive more “diligently” to become holy and pure in heart as we learn at the Masters feet and as we “teach one another.” (D&C 88: 118)

VIVATIS IN DEO “May you live in God.”
(An early Christian blessing of good wishes.)

The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount

The book, Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount, written by John W. Welsh, is an uplifting and informative LDS look of the Savior's greatest sermon. Welsh draws on insights from Jesus' "Sermon at the Temple" in 3rd Nephi to shed light on the "Sermon on the Mount" in the gospel of Matthew.

Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount builds on that 1990 book, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount. FARMS's decision to bring this eye-opening book back into print afforded Welch the opportunity to make substantial additions based on insights gleaned throughout a decade of continuing research.

But his analysis remains basically unchanged: understanding the Sermon as a temple text reveals that it has far more power and unity than a mere collection of miscellaneous sayings of Jesus. Seeing the teachings and commandments of the Sermon on the Mount in its Book of Mormon setting—at the temple, in connection with sacred ordinances of covenant making—opens new insights into the meaning and significance of the Sermon. In this light, readers will never again see the Sermon the same.

Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount can be purchased here:
Deseret Books

For those who wish to read the original book The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount it can be located online at Maxwell Institute or order from Deseret Books or Amazon. An old copy can probably be found at Ebay as well.

John W. Welch is an excellent writer and his writing style is easy to read.

In an article at FARMS, The Sermon At The Temple, Welch tells us:
"Interestingly, a few New Testament scholars have begun hinting that the Sermon on the Mount had cultic or ritual significance in the earliest Christian community. Betz, for example, sees the Sermon on the Mount as revealing the principles that "will be applied at the last judgment," and thinks that the Sermon on the Mount reminded the earliest Church members of "the most important things the initiate comes to 'know' through initiation," containing things that "originally belonged in the context of liturgical initiation." Indeed, the word "perfect" (teleios, Matthew 5:48) has long been associated with becoming initiated into the great religious mysteries."
The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount

1. Introduction
2. The Temple Context and Unity of the Sermon at the Temple
3. Toward an Understanding of the Sermon as a Temple Text
4. Some Personal Reflections
5. The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount: The Differences
6. The Common Israelite Background
7. Joseph Smith and the Translation of Sermon at the Temple
8. The Sermon at the Temple and the Greek New Testament Manuscripts
9. The Synoptic Question: Did Matthew Compose the Sermon on the Mount?
10. Results and Concluding Thoughts
11. Appendix: A Columnar Comparison of the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple
12. Selected Bibliography

The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple can be purchased here:
Barns & Noble
Google Books

FARMS Review of The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount is by Todd M. Compton.

Illuminating the Sermon at the Temple & Sermon on the Mount: An Approach to 3 Nephi 11-18 and Matthew 5-7

Additional Related Material:
Prophetic Enlightenment on the Sermon on the Mount (Ensign - Jan. 1999) By W. Jeffrey Marsh
Sermon on the Mount (Meridian Magazine) By John A. Tvedtnes
The Dead Sea Scrolls & Jesus’ Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount by Kerry Shirts
Review of Temple Themes in Christian Worship
The Beatitudes
New Testament Word Studies (Ensign - Apr. 19930) By John W. Welch

The House of the Lord

'The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern,' was written by James Edward Talmage and was published in 1912. It was the first book of its kind that not only gave an understanding of temple worship, both ancient and modern but also published photos of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple. The story behind the publication is as fascinating as seeing the old photos taken at the turn of the century.

In a FARMS article titled, Explaining the Temple to the World: James E. Talmage's Monumental Book, The House of the Lord by David R. Seely we are told how the events unfolded that brought about the publication of this first temple book. Seely explains how,

On 16 September 1911, the Salt Lake Tribune published an account of certain individuals who had secretly taken pictures of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple and who had attempted to sell them to the church. The headlines read: "Photographs secretly taken of Mormon Temple's interior; sent for sale to Church chief. President replies: Church will not negotiate with thieves and blackmailers.'" The blackmail scheme was perpetrated by Max Florence, who was at the time in New York City trying to sell sixty-eight unauthorized photographs of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple. Florence had employed the help of a recent convert to the church, Gisbert Bossard, who, disenchanted with the administration of the church, had, assisted by a gardener for the temple grounds, gained access to the Salt Lake Temple and had taken a series of photographs of the interior of the Salt Lake Temple. Apparently motivated by money and "revenge" on the church, these individuals had taken the pictures when the Salt Lake Temple was closed for renovation during the summer of 1911. Florence and Bossard had sent a letter to the First Presidency with a proposal of blackmail—that the church would give them $100,000 and the photographs would be returned; otherwise, they would be shown publicly. President Joseph F. Smith, the recipient of the letter, was outraged, and his response was, "I will make no bargain with thieves or traffickers in stolen goods. I prefer to let the law deal with them."

The rest of Seely's article details how James E. Talmage was commissioned by the First Presidency three months before becoming an Apostle to write 'The House of the Lord' with better quality photos of the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple as a "preemptive strike" against the designs of the blackmailers. Talmage has been described as "the most eloquent and prolific writer of the early twentieth-century LDS Apostles."

I was not able to find the Salt Lake Tribune article mentioned above but was able to find some articles from other newspapers in Utah at that time. They can be found at Utah Digital Newspapers at this link: 'My Favorites.'

This captivating book has generated intense interest and even some controversy from its first publication with additional editions released over the past century. The original 1912 edition with photography can be downloaded for free from Google Books.
The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern

Bookcraft republished the book in 1962 after it had been out of print for many years. The book publisher said it had received more requests for the out-of-print book than any other book. Deseret Book also republished it in 1968. Both reprints had several revisions to the original version. Several copies of these editions are available at
Ebay search for 'The House of the Lord'.

Signature Books released a special reprint of the original 1912 first edition, with the addition of a foreword by Howard Heath, who explains the history of the book and gives a biographical sketch of Elder Talmage's life. There is also an appendix by John Widtsoe, written in 1921, which gives further details about temple worship. In the Talmage text, he discusses the history of temple worship, why we need temples today, modern temple ordinances and includes several chapters detailing the specific dimensions of the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple.

There are 80 black and white photos of rooms in the temple, including pictures and description of the "Holy of Holies" room and the veil of the temple which were controversial at the time of the first publication. These photos were left out of the other reprints of this book. The pictures in this book are fascinating, not because they reveal anything secret, but because they show the changes from 1912 until now.
Amazon Books
Barnes & Noble

Deseret Books has come out with the latest edition of 'The House of the Lord' and also has a CD version available. This Collector's Edition contains the complete text from the original 1912 printing along with 12 beautiful color plates from well-known artists. This edition also includes stunning pictures for every LDS temple, as well as the dedication date for each temple and an excerpt from each dedicatory prayer. The original photos in the first edition are not included in this edition.
Deseret Books
Deseret CD

For quality color photos of the Salt Lake Temple go here: In His Holy House

It is hoped that this book will be well worth the read for everyone and that all will feel inclined to post their comments below.

VIVATIS IN DEO “May you live in God.”
(An early Christian blessing of good wishes.)

Temple and Cosmos

The book, 'Temple and Cosmos' by Hugh W. Nibley, is an amazing work. Nibley's grasp of the subject matter is truly astounding as are all of his works. LDS and Non-LDS alike have come to appreciate the vast scope of Hugh Nibley's grasp of the Mormon faith and especially the subject of the temple. Nibley's work on Temples, ancient and modern, are incredible. Many of the chapters in 'Temple and Cosmos' were previously unpublished works. Others are from firesides and addresses at BYU and other places. All are generally aimed towards the LDS audience.
Dr. Nibley's understanding of the details of man's relationship to the heavens and eternity is at once both simple and complex: complex on the first read-through, simple once you understand it (after multiple readings and contemplation). But as Nibley has stated elsewhere, "Don't be afraid of something because you have never heard of it before."
I first became acquainted with Professor Nibley while attending BYU and was quick to become a Nibley fan. He is not only revered by LDS members but also by LDS critics who may not agree with the LDS beliefs yet still have a profound respect for Nibley's grasp of so many subjects. Nibley is also respected for being the father of LDS Apologetics as this article demonstrates: Mormon Apologetic Scholarship and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It? written by two Evangelicals, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen. (For the one of the best LDS Apologetic sites see FAIR: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.)
The complete book of 'Temple and Cosmos' is available online at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute and a list of many other works by Huge W. Nibley is also available. Since this books is a large volume it will be the pick for March and April for the 'Temple Study Book Club.


1. Temple Articles in Other Volumes of the Collected Works
2. Key to Abbreviations
3. Foreword by: Don Norton
4. The Meaning of the Temple
5. Return to the Temple
6. Sacred Vestments
7. The Circle and the Square
8. The Expanding Gospel
9. Rediscovery of the Apocrypha and the Book of Mormon
10. Apocryphal Writings and Teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls
11. The Terrible Questions
12. One Eternal Round: The Hermetic Vision
13. Do Religion and History Conflict?
14. Genesis of the Written Word
15. Science Fiction and the Gospel
16. The Best Possible Test
17. Some Notes on Cultural Diversity in the Universal Church
18. From the Earth upon Which Thou Standest
19. Foreword to Eugene England's Book

About Hugh Nibley:
Hugh Winder Nibley (1910-2005) was one of the most gifted scholars in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His linguistic abilities, his concern with detail, and his brilliant mind combined to make his efforts productive and meaningful.
He was a prolific writer and a popular lecturer. Dr. Nibley graduated summa cum laude from the University of California in Los Angeles and completed his Ph.D. as a University Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. While there he read every significant book in the Berkley Library. He taught at the Claremont Colleges in California before serving in military intelligence in World War II.
Nibley joined the faculty of Brigham Young University in 1946, where he spent most of his time in research and writing as a professor of history and religion. Dr. Nibley has been honored as the recipient of many awards, including the David O. McKay Humanities Award in 1971 and Professor of the Year in 1973. He served as a missionary for the Church in Switzerland and Germany and concluded his mission in Greece. He and his wife, the former Phyllis Draper, are the parents of eight children. Nibley's great-grandfather, Alexander Neibaur, a Jewish convert and immigrant taught Joseph Smith German and Hebrew.
Nibley was fluent in numerous languages, including Classical Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Egyptian, Coptic, Arabic, German, French, English, Italian, and Spanish. He also studied Dutch and Russian during World War II. He also studied Old Bulgarian and Old English, and his fluency in Old Norse was reportedly sufficient to enable him to read an entire encyclopedia in Norwegian.

There are many historical aspects that Nibley introduces in 'Temple and Cosmos.' Among some of the many interesting subject is 'gammadia markings' in early Christian art. These markings also show up in textiles at archaeology sites which Nibley talks about in the chapter six, Sacred Vestments in 'Temple and Cosmos.' For illustrations in historical Christian art of gammnadia markings see my posts: Garments, the Veil and Gammadia and Early Christian Garments, both located on the LDS Temple Endowment page.

VIVATIS IN DEO “May you live in God.”
(An early Christian blessing of good wishes.)

Update: For those who have come to love "The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley" series, his masterwork, "One Eternal Round," just came out this month (March 2010) in time for his 100th birthday, March 27th. See the article "Hugh Nibley writings that changed the church" at Mormon Times for the announcement.

Also See: Hugh Nibley a man of paradoxes and disagreements