A week ago my parents took a trip down to California to see my younger brother dance with the BYU Ballroom Dance Team at the Embassy Ball in Irvine, California. As part of their trip they had the chance to do some fun things, like go to Disneyland. Whenever they are on a vacation during the sabbath, however, they try to do things appropriate for that day, such as visit any nearby temples. The San Diego California Temple was only about 80 miles away, and so they made their way down I-5 last Sunday afternoon to see it.
They enjoyed their visit at this unique temple, but by and large the most interesting thing that they experienced there that day was a story that the service missionaries told them who serve there. Apparently there are many tourists that stop by the temple (not surprising since the temple looms directly over the nearby freeway), and walk right into the temple to visit it. Unfortunately, they don’t know that you have to be a member of the Church and have a temple recommend to enter into a temple. Consequently, the authorities there have put service missionaries by the entrance to the temple to talk with tourists, teach them about the purposes of the temple, show them pictures, give them literature, etc.
My parents stopped by to talk with these service missionaries, and they recounted to them something very interesting about the design of the temple. This is how my father explained it:
The story the missionary told us is a simple one. As we stood there looking at the temple, Brother Williams-or Williamson, the missionary, told us that he heard an interesting story about the symbol that appears all over the temple. He said the architect, who is a current temple sealer, gave a fireside not too long ago. He said that the symbol that appears all over the temple in the stone, the glass, even the fence surrounding the temple, was just an architectural design. He said he thought it would be nice to have a recurring design that ties the temple together. He worked on the simple design, for about six months, toying with different designs. He finally decided on the design, two interlocking squares turned 45 degrees from each other– sometimes containing a circle in the center, sometimes not. He put it in almost every stone wall, every glass window, and even the ornamental iron fence around the temple grounds (I’ll send you the pictures). I think the missionary said that someone (I don’t know if it was a general authority or someone else from SLC) asked the architect at the temple open house where he got the design and what it means. The architect said that it was just an architectural design and didn’t mean anything. The person said something like, “Oh I think there is more to it than that.” The person came back to SLC and some time later the word came back that the design was known as the seal of Melchizedek. I asked the missionary who it was in SLC that told them it was the seal of Melchizedek. He said it was Hugh Nibley. He said the architect said that if it is the seal of Melchizedek it would have saved him a lot of time if the Lord had just revealed it to him instead of the tinkering that he did to come up with it. I didn’t get the impression that the architect felt like he had received it by revelation, at least not the version the missionary told us last Sunday. Nothing was mentioned about any dream. Of course, the missionary that told us the story was just retelling it from hearing it at a fireside. He may have missed some of the fine points of the story.
My parents were fascinated by this, and spent some time around the temple taking pictures wherever they saw this symbol used. My father has sent me the pictures he took, and I will include some of them below, showing this interesting detail, which is quite ubiquitous in the temple design. Immediately after leaving the temple, they called me on their cell to tell me the story, knowing I would be interested. And, of course, I was.
But if you know me, hearing this brief story was not enough. I wanted to know details. I wanted to know the source of the story. I wanted to know if the story was true. I wanted to know if Hugh Nibley had really said such a thing. I wanted to know if this symbol, the “seal of Melchizedek,” was known in the academic world. I wanted to hear or read the story direct from the architect. I wanted to know if the use of this symbol in the temple design might have been more than just happenstance. I’ll let you know what I found out in the ensuing parts of this series. Stay tuned.
See the pictures below.
This reminds me of Nibley’s article about the designs in the Manti temple that his Scottish Mason grandfather used. Though his grandfather was not aware of it at the time, the symbols used on the door knobs and other metallic objects were rooted in the Egyptian endowment. I have the book, but it’s hard to find. I need to read it closer again. Have you come across this as well?
WOW! This article and the corresponding pictures take my breath away! I have often said that we only comprehend about 10% of the symbols that are extant in the temples throughout the world….I think it might be less than that!
Thank you for bringing this to light!
I’ll see if I can track down the article you are referring to.
I’m glad you liked the article. I plan on following up this post with probably one or two others on the same subject. 🙂
I actually have the book at home. I could only find it at a local grocery store in Manti, but I think that this is it:
Nibley’s article is brief but interesting. I was going to do a post on it.
I did some asking around, and yes, The Manti Temple is the book. I believe the article that Nibley penned in it is entitled, “The Manti Temple: Decorative Hardware with Intricate Meanings.” However, it won’t be published in the Collected Works of Nibley because apparently it has some information in it that is inaccurate.
In any case, I would still be interested to read the article.
I’d post the article if I could but it’s copyrighted so I’ll just use snipets and see if I can scan some pictures. I’d be curious to see what is considered inaccurate so that when reviewing I can point it out. Do you have a reference for that?
I was living in SD when the Temple was built. I remember a fireside by the architechts (Catholic husband and wife team, Hyndman’s).
I don’t know anything about them mentioning the symbol other than they used it extensively.
In “Temple and Cosmos” there is a an image on an altar with this symbol. Hugh B. Nibley refers to it as the Seal of Melchizedek. I remember that many people in our stake were very excited to find this reference and link it to the SD Temple, but no one referenced him specifically.
Anyway, I’m not saying this isn’t a true story, just that while I lived there, it was a little different.
Lori, thanks for your comments. One of the first things I did when my parents related this story to me was do a search for “seal of Melchizedek” among Nibley’s writings, and I found the mosaic drawing in “Temple and Cosmos” that you are referring to. I will write more about this in the next part of this series of posts.
Also, I actually spoke on the phone with one of the architects, Br. William S. Lewis, Jr., who is a sealer at the temple now. He was the design architect on the temple, and was intimately involved in the development of this symbol. I will relate my phone conversation in an upcoming post too.
This is a very exciting subject indeed.
Here’s a blog I discovered regarding the “seal of Melchizekek.”
There is a image link in the blog post to the “Ravenna Mosaic” that Nibley refers to in the book, “Temple and Cosmos” you refer to above. Here’s the image:
Lol… you guys are going to write the next part of the series before I get to it. 🙂 You are absolutely right Steven.
My late father was actually close friends with the architect we’re taking about. My dad was involved in construction in San Diego for years. An interesting thing about the temple is that while grading the land for construction they cut off the tip of a hill, turning it into a flat table suitable for the building. Turns out they cut it down too low, so the whole thing had to be re-designed.
At least according to my father, this was cause for a lot of stress so many decisions were made not quite understanding why.
The San Diego Temple has so many seal of Melchizedek symbols it’s insane. It’s arguably the most beautiful temple and takes everyone’s breathe away when they see it on the freeway. Tons of Japanese tourists think it’s a theme park or something.
I wasn’t sure where to post this but did it under this one as I saw the angel Moroni atop the temple in the picture with this post. I recently did a short post about Angel Moroni atop LDS temples. I references ldschurchtemples.com and how they have interesting facts there. There it says a few temples have the statue facing West while the rest have Moroni facing East. (Christ coming from the East, early Christian belief etc) I always thought ALL Moroni’s face East for the reasons in brackets and the symbolism associated with it. So I was wondering if you knew why there are Moroni’s facing West and if there are stories behind it?
Love your blog and will keep reading it. Drop me a comment at my blog or just email me.
Thanks for your comment. I think that some temples are just not situated right such that the Moroni can always fast East, but I’m not sure. Some temples don’t even have an angel Moroni because of local laws/customs/traditions. I think Nibley once was very concerned because one of the temples was not facing east – the entire temple. I believe it was the Provo temple that he was referring to (which also didn’t have an angel Moroni for a long time). But then he realized that symbolism such as this isn’t necessarily a requirement. For example, if you can’t bury someone facing east for some reason, it will still be OK for them in the resurrection.
Thanks for the compliments.
I served an LDS mission in San Diego from 1997 to 1999. We were told the architect wasn’t LDS and that the seal of Melchizekek mantra was just a rumor spread around firesides. Not sure what to think now.
Partly that is true. Some of the architects were not members (Dennis & Shelly Hyndman), but the design architect was. I spoke with him personally – Br. William S. Lewis Jr. The seal of Melchizedek story is definitely not a rumor. It was the design architect himself that gave many of those firesides, and still does. See part 4 of this series where I write about my phone conversation with him:
Has anyone run across the Seal of Noah? When the ark was emptied, Shem closed the door with his father’s “seal.” Just wondered what it looked like.
That would be a rainbow, no?
Jennifer–that’s an interesting idea I had not considered. I wonder if Noah did design his seal with a rainbow motif? Thanks.
I have been doing some study into the New Jerusalem being a cubic structure (12,000 furlong or 1500 miles in distance in all directions) “a most precious stone clear as crystal Rev 16”. This sounds to me like a diamond which interestingly is on the molecular level is a cube within a cube or in other words the seal of melchizedec in a 3 dimensional crystal. When the molecular structure of the diamond is rotated we see the star of David. The way a diamond becomes a diamond is thru intense heat and pressure thus orienting the carbon atoms into the cube within a cube. Sounds alot like what happens to the earth at the end of times when the earth become the sea of glass or a giant Urim and Thumin (D&C 130). In the new annex of the Salt Lake Temple we seal the seal of melchizedec diplayed over and over again in the entrance glass. I have come to believe that this symbology now being used with frequency within the temples represents the ultimate fate of the our earth or a celestialized sphere or heaven if you will. Obviously someone has figured out the truth revealed within the very molecular structure of a simple diam0nd. I would also refer you to the ancient Kabbalistic geometry of metatrons cube. Likewise a diamond revealed/star of david/seal of melchizedec/ the 5 platonic shapes ect. It is all one eternal round. Syd James
This is all very interesting…
You may be interested to know that following a recent tour of the Houses of Parliament in the UK I noticed two large ‘Seals of Melchizedek’ in the floor tiling. One is in the main central lobby which used to be called Octagon Hall. It is a major thoroughfare in the building and separates the House of Commons from the House of Lords. When I asked the tour guide she didnt know what the symbol was or meant. Check out House of Parliaamnt on Wiki and scroll down and you will see it in the picture for ‘Central lobby’.
I suspected it was put into the floor design by Pugin the 19th Century Architect who designed the Palace of Westminster and other grand designs of the period. I believe that it is supposed to be a very powerful symbol.
I also suspect that it is related to Freemasonary as are a lot of architectural symbols.
I have also come across the same symbol whilst studying Reiki. It is not a Reiki symbol but my Reiki Master gave it to us to use as it is a spiritual symbol for assistance in Astral travel during meditation.
I know some of this may well sound far fetched for the majority of readers but I offer these insights for your consideration.
I had heard that he points represented the offices of the priesthood, Aaronic and Melchizedek, (Deacon, Teacher, Priest, Bishop and then Elder, H. Priest, Apostle/70, Patriarch). Have you run into to this same or different representation?
Sorry for being so late to this discussion. Historically, temples always had the front door facing east (and the front door is not always the one you enter–SLC for example). Nauvoo Temple faces west as it looked toward the direction the pioneers were traveling for religious freedom. Many of the smaller temples have no “front door” other than the one you enter and many of them do not face east. It seems to have been a “trait” of ancient temples that was adhered to early in Church history, but has kind of gone by the wayside if design and location don’t cooperate. As for the angel Moroni, they do not always face east and not all have a trumpet. Some have a scroll and some have the Gold Plates. Here is a link for some trivia facts that cover this:
an article by Alonzo Gaskill about the Seal of Melchizedek is a must read.