Temple Centennial: Sermon in stone

From the statue of the Angel Moroni crowning the top tower of the Salt Lake Temple to the earth stones at its base, the temple has a wealth of symbolism carved on its granite surface.

"Every one points to a moral lesson, and all point to the celestial world," wrote President George A. Smith of the First Presidency, who was quoted in the April 1893 Contributor.At the foot of the temple walls are the earth stones, that may symbolize this world. These 50 stones are the largest in the temple, and are 51/2 feet by 4 1/2 feet by 20 inches, and in rough form, weighed 31/2 tons each.

On the walls above are the moon, sun and star stones, possibly symbolizing the three degrees of glory in heaven. The 50 moon stones "represent on their exposed surface the moon in all its phases," as they were sketched by Elder Orson Pratt from his observatory on the Temple Block, built in 1878, from which he studied the moon and stars. An interesting contribution from his sky-watching are observations resulting in a row of 184 stones representing the planet Saturn with its rings.

Nearly every keystone on the temple is ornamented with a five-pointed star, of which there are 104. On the west center tower is the constellation of Ursa Major, the big dipper. Its "pointers indicate the locality of the North Star, as near as a fixed symbol may do." This symbolizes that those in doubt should follow the path indicated by the priesthood. In a larger sense, it also points to the harmony between the earth and the heavens.

Above these are placed the 50 sun stones, each cut with 52 points representing the weeks of the year. Originally these were to be gilded to emphasize the glory of the highest kingdom.

Two cloud stones, with rays of light (the gospel's truth) penetrating a dark mass of clouds (superstition and error) are located on the east center tower. And the three towers on the east represent the First Presidency. The east towers stand 6 feet higher than the west towers, which represent the Presiding Bishopric.

On the front are carved "I am Alpha and Omega," (Rev. 1:8), clasped hands, representing "the hand of fellowship," and the all-seeing eye, reminding saints that the Lord is ever watchful.

The temple itself is a symbol, a sermon in stone. All who see it are moved to lift eyes upward. As they do, the temple points the way heavenward.

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