43 Comments

  1. Thanks Bryce for your excellent notes. I am sorry I missed you at this fireside. I would have liked to meet you.

  2. Beautiful post, Bryce.

    The more I study our temple experience, today – as compared to how those anciently experienced it, I am profoundly struck by the many witnesses that exist, today.

    Just curious, have you read “The Second Comforter – Conversing With The Lord”, by Andrew C. Skinner? It is an excellent book, which covers many of the same things you mentioned here in this post. I would highly recommend it!

    I always find Dr. Peterson to be very skilled at teaching about the temple, and its symbolism. Thank you so much, for sharing your notes. This is a definite “bookmark” for me:-)

    tMDg

  3. The Second Comforter: Conversing With The Lord Through the Veil (2nd Ed., 2006, ISBN: 0974015873) was actually written by Denver C. Snuffer, not Andrew C. Skinner.

    Brother Snuffer has followed up with several related volumes: Nephi’s Isaiah: A Prophetic Look at the Latter Days (2006, ISBN: 097401589X), Eighteen Verses: A Discussion of the Book of Mormon (2007, ISBN: 0979845521), Ten Parables (2008, ISBN: 0979845572) and most recently Beloved Enos (2009, ISBN: 0979845580).

    Each contains plenty to ponder and think about. Highly recommended.

  4. Michael –

    Thank you, for correcting me. Not sure what happened ?? my brain just did a flip on me, and I didn’t catch myself. Yes, I have read his other books, as well. Nearly two years ago, I found his first, and have been a “fan” since then. I believe he just released another one, that you did not list. His insights, are to say the least… profound. I am so glad he decided to write.

    Again, I also highly recommend his books:-)

    tDMg

  5. Bryce:

    Wonderful notes!! I can’t thank you enough for this! I am going to enjoy some deep reading when I actually have a sliver of free time on Sunday.

  6. All that Dr. Peterson says about the temple is correct. But, there is one element missing from his insightful analysis that is vital. That is the recognition that the storied ascent of all the prophets and visionaries of the past is a vision of the ancient heavens that once dominated earthly skies, where a “temple” or “throne” was seen to set atop a “mountain.” Once the elements of our ancient skies, what Orson Hyde called the “grand constellation of worlds,” is thoroughly understood, all ascension visions and their earthly equivalent, the temple experience, are seen as one and the same thing. Every Latter-day Saint should learn about this. (Joseph Smith even drew a picture of it.) It is the key to all gospel symbolism, the symbolism/metaphor-based language of the prophets, all prophecy and our temple experience. This is invaluable information no Latter-day Saint should be without.

  7. Ben

    Bryce, what’s the source of your Hebrew cosmology pic? I’ve only seen them done in basic black and white before, not something this polished.

    Also, do you have a cite for Eliade?

  8. Br. Larson, I don’t see a missing element. One whole portion of his talk was about the “cosmic mountain,” the “temple” set atop a “mountain,” seen in many different cultures and time periods. See the notes again. If I may, not everyone agrees with the theory that the ancient heavens were vastly different from our modern ones. In fact, not any that I have read or spoken with agree with it. So I would disagree that that is the key to all gospel and temple symbolism. Yes, the cosmos are a huge part of understanding the temple, but many have come to understand gospel and temple symbolism without taking the particular viewpoint of a fundamentally different ancient heavens.

  9. Hi Ben, the Hebrew cosmology diagram was designed by nackhadlow on MADB.

    I don’t have a cite for Eliade. Dr. Peterson didn’t give one (that didn’t keep me from finding some of the others though). I only have brief rough notes from that reference.

  10. Br. Haymond,

    I wish you could see it. I am well aware of the “cosmic mountain” and “cosmic temple” archetypes (and the dozens of other archetypes that fill the lexicon of the prophets), and I read the article thoroughly. I have no issue with those universal images.

    The wonder is that too few ever ask “Where did such bizarre imagery come from?” That is the question each of us should ask ourselves, rather than simply accepting it on the face of it. What does going to heaven have to do with climbing a mountain, ladder or stairway? Why is it that such imagery places God’s residence on a mountain? Why is a temple called the “mountain of the Lord’s house?” Why would God use such the imagery of beasts, mountains, rods, seas, women, wheels, stars, planets, etc? Why not just speak plainly rather than employing such exotic imagery? There is a good and vital reason. But if you do not confront the “Why?” you will never know the message it’s meant to convey. Merely identifying and cataloging the imagery, as Dr. Peterson does, offers no insight into their origin or their intended message.

    The fact that most fail to ask those questions is why the message communicated by the symbolic system of gospel interpretation goes unheeded and unnoticed. If the connection of the imagery to the ancient heavens were nonexistent, as you maintain, then why did Joseph Smith spend so much of his time trying to make that connection? If it can be easily dismissed, as you seem to do, then why did it preoccupy the Prophet? Why are the visions of Moses and Abraham filled with this iconography? Why did cosmology preoccupy the ancients, the early Apostles and the primitive church, as well as a modern prophet? Why is it festooned on the early temples of the Restoration? It must be important to be found everywhere in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where did it come from, in your opinion?

    I know that most don’t agree with me. More’s the pity. That’s why I have published my conclusions for three decades, trying to help the Saints make the connection that the prophets intended. Turning a blind eye to this truth is folly. Rather than dismiss my claims out of hand, may I invite you to fully consider them first?

  11. Thanks for your comments Anthony. Can you point to Joseph Smith’s “picture”? Is this on your site? The one Philo Dibble had a copy of in What the Prophet’s Saw?? Thanks – love to know if you have it on one of your sites or somewhere on the Internet if this is not the one to which you refer.

  12. I’m not alone, Br. Larson. If what you are saying is true, why is it that most LDS scholars, except you, seem to have a blind eye? I know you have noted this is the case, but I find it hard to believe that you are the only one in the boat. I have considered your position, and found it lacking in many areas.

    Where did such bizarre imagery come from? I don’t believe it all came from a vastly different ancient heavens, for one. As you know, people create symbols to stand in the stead of other things, to represent them. These symbols can, and do, come from every walk of life itself, and can change over time. The only reason certain symbols such as beasts, mountains, rods, seas, women, wheels, etc. were sometimes applied to the heavens is because they represented something on earth first. They were realities in man’s immediate vicinity that had characteristics they thought could also apply to the motions and shapes of the heavens they saw above. But it would be nearly impossible to try to piece together these symbols to come up with an alternate ancient sky, especially since that sky no longer exists. We wouldn’t know what we were piecing together. The same symbols have been and are currently applied to our modern skies, and found overwhelmingly fitting.

    What does going to heaven have to do with climbing a mountain, ladder or stairway? They all go “up,” and heaven has traditionally been associated with being “up,” in the sky above, among the stars, in another sphere or dimension besides this one. The only way to leave this planet and go someplace else is by overcoming the force of gravity by propulsion in the opposite direction – up. All these symbols evoke leaving this sphere and going someplace else, or at least getting as far away from sea level as possible. As you know, God often uses parables, allegories, metaphors, and symbols to describe other-worldly things, not only to try to relate these things more closely to our own experience, and hence to our understanding, but to conceal principles from the unprepared. In this case, these symbols do not stretch my imagination.

    I don’t believe that scholars are failing to ask “why” or “from whence” came these symbols. On the contrary, most of their work seems to be geared in that direction (which you seem to discredit), continually digging deeper and deeper into the symbolism and its history, and ultimately the “why.”

    Clearly there is a connection between many of these symbols and the cosmos, I don’t deny that. Joseph taught it, and Hugh Nibley has brought it back in recent memory. But I don’t believe that Joseph, Hugh, or any others were constructing an ancient cosmos wholly different from the one we have today. There would be much more supporting evidence and scholarship on that conclusion if it were the case. Modern prophets and apostles would continually be teaching us to study these alternate ancient heavens in order to learn more about the gospel and the temple. But they are not. So far, I’ve only found one scholar that does. That, to me, is telling. If the prophets intended for us to understand the gospel and the temple the way you have shown, they would be doing it.

    I respect your unique perspective, but after reading some of your work and comparing it with others, I am persuaded not to believe it is factual.

  13. Greg,

    The Philo Dibble illustration is the one to which I refer. It is in several of my blog posts. Thanks for your interest.

    Br. Haymond,

    Rather than argue the point in reply, I will simply note that down through history, consensus is no indication of correctness. I’m sure you’re well aware of this. So, simply asserting that consensus of opinion does not make it right. I ask that no man or woman take my word for it. All I ask is due consideration of the evidence and my thesis rather than outright rejection. However, it’s your choice.

  14. Wonderful notes, Bryce. Thanks for putting them together so beautifully and orderly. And your images are great! Do you know who put together the Hebrew Cosmology diagram? I think that’s just fantastic and so well done! Thanks again for taking such good notes.

  15. Gary R

    I know the discussion has been about ascension and such but I have often wondered about the layout of the Catholic and Lutheran churches. I know that they are often laid out as a cross but the interiors are subdivided. They are divided into sections; an entry way (I believe they call it a narthex; an area for the non member), then the congregational area, then the area where the priest officiates, and then there is a rail near the far back (or front) of the chapel where the high alter resides (usually where the crucifix is).

    It is interesting that the this pattern of three areas goes back to the tabernacle and the temple.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narthex
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_diagram

  16. JL

    When I was first directed to this site, I mentioned it in ward council as a wonderful place to learn and broaden one’s understanding of the temple. When it came time for the High Priest Group Leader to report, he began by saying the only teacher anyone needed for the temple was the Holy Spirit. Ouch! Unfortunately, I learned early on in my gospel education that there are many members with their eyes and ears closed. I’m grateful for the many and varied resources for gospel scholarship that have opened up to us in this Last Dispensation.

    I’m never interested in what those who are against the Restored Gospel may have to say, but I strive to keep an open mind when it comes to all other gospel scholarship that is well documented. Brother Peterson is a favorite.

    Bryce, I appreciate your efforts to share this and everything else you have posted.

  17. DavidC

    I was at the fireside, and have long been interested in this kind of perspective and was already familiar with some of the information. But partway through the fireside I started asking myself where the value was in knowing this kind of stuff.

  18. I think part of the value comes in knowing how our temple experience fits into the larger world stage of religion, and ritual experience, and in coming to understand the temple at a deeper level. This wasn’t something that Joseph Smith invented. The “scattered fragments” of the temple, as Nibley used to put it, are far-reaching through history.

  19. DavidC

    I’ve been satisfied with that answer for a long time — I’ve owned MofJSP since about 1977 — but for some reason I left the fireside wondering if I was missing the bigger picture. I came to the fireside mainly wondering how to organize such information in a way that was meaningful. While I came away with a few new impressive scraps of information, I thought the most memorable comment came near the end when he said that we are enacting something that we hope will actually happen to us. I don’t know if any kind of organization would be meaningful to the High Priest’s Group Leader mentioned above, but if he’s focused on the spirit I can’t rule out that he’s got a better grasp of the bigger picture that I do. Probably I’m just wrestling with what “meaningful” means.

  20. Raymond Takashi Swen

    I would suggest that another passage of scripture that involves temple imagery is the first three chapters of Revelation. The seven branches of the church are named in the sequence where they stood on a “ring road”. With each branch there is a message that makes promises to the righteous, and each ends with the the same admonition that Jesus used to introduce the Parable of the sower where he discusses hidden meanings: Him that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Anyone who has received temple ordinances can identify each of the seven promises with a corresponding stage of the temple ordinances. The Parry brothers in an article published in a book on the temple discuss how the first sections clearly evoke the Garden of Eden and involve John the Revelator entering a heavenly temple. I suggest that the correspondence to successive stages of the temple are also present, and that these reminders were intended by John to be a reminder to the Saints of their temple covenants, reminders that would not be meaningful to those who lacked the experience of the ordinances. The last message describes Christ standing at the door and knocking, and promises that god’s name shall be written on the righteous. At the final stage of the temple, the participant has become like Christ. The first three chapters symbolically take John to the throne of God (remember he also had the experience of being Translated), where he receives the rest of the vision.

  21. Matthew Briggs

    Hey Bryce,

    I’ve been following your blog for some time now, but have never commented even though I love most all of your posts. But I wanted to ask if you got a hold of Dr. Peterson about the audio recording. I am a student at BYU, and if you haven’t asked him, I’d go and ask him, because I sure would love to listen to it.

  22. Matthew Briggs

    Thanks Bryce, do you know if the video stream is only a video stream to be watched once (like while the presentations are being presented) or if it will be access to downloads with the ability to watch them at different times?

    I thought you’d be the best person to ask.

    Thanks!

  23. Thanks Bryce. I just finally got around to reading this. Amazing stuff.

    Could I make a suggestion for your already amazing site/blog? Hope this is okay to suggest, but a Lightbox or Shadowbox plugin would help readability a lot. Every time I clicked one of your great images to see it bigger, I had to click back, then scroll down to find my place again. A lightbox or shadowbox plugin will automatically load the image over the page, and you don’t have to do anything more than link the thumbnail to the larger image. You know I appreciate this site, this is just something I noticed in particular on this post because of the great pictures.

  24. Tevya! That is one of the best suggestions I’ve receive in a long time! Thank you! I’ve implemented the Shadowbox across TempleStudy.com. All image links should now open in a nice in-line image viewer (although it doesn’t seem to work in IE 7… surprise). Thanks again!!

  25. D. Thorpe

    The ascension into heaven, in historic Christian art, is also connected to deification = becoming divine, or gods! It was part of their earlier Christian mysteries too.

    Here’s some other examples to check out:

    The Ascension, Northern French ivory carving work, about 1160-70 AD, the right hand of the Father extends down to grasp Christ’s right hand, during Christ’s ascension into heaven.
    http://rubens.anu.edu.au/raid3/new/england/london/museums/victoria_and_albert/ivories/northern_french/_thumbnails/PICT8269.JPG

    Christ’s Ascension, Drogo Sacramentary (Paris BN lat. 9428), 9th cent. The right hand of the Father extends down to grip the right hand of Christ, as Christ stands on a small hill. (L’Ascension 40 jours après la résurrection de Pâques Jésus caché par une nuée s’élève dans le ciel IXe siècle Bibliothèque nationale Paris).

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_oAjpSCHvrRE/S4xYjnQWrMI/AAAAAAAAADg/kKy_DLVRj5U/S570/L%27Ascension+40+jours+apr%C3%A8s+la+r%C3%A9surrection+de+P%C3%A2ques+J%C3%A9sus+cach%C3%A9+par+une+nu%C3%A9e+s%27%C3%A9l%C3%A8ve+dans+le+ciel+IXe+si%C3%A8cle+Biblioth%C3%A8que+nationale+Paris.jpg

    Ancient American cases:

    There’s even cases where ancient American “gods” ascend, with helping hands, in “resurrection” depictions, such as the Corn God being resurrected with the help of the head band twins. (Susan Milbrath, Star Gods of The Maya, Astronomy In Art, Folklore & Calendars, (Texas Un. Press, 1999), 100-1, fig.3.11), Late Classical Vessel, Corn God Resurrected by Head Band Twins, Mayan art work). http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_oAjpSCHvrRE/S4yvNjRVnOI/AAAAAAAAAGQ/WkxLgeHbJnM/S570/Mayan+head+ban+twins+resurrection+clasp.jpg

    An interesting Mayan work on a bowl shows another ascension out of the underworld, a hand extends down with a wound(?), or dot (death spot on the hand?), it grasps the right hand of the one ascending. (974 bowl Veracruz during the Classic Period 300-900 AD, wounded hand clasp?)
    http://www.famsi.org/research/kerr/articles/hero_twins/index.html

    In the Book of Mormon, 3rd Nephi 8:5, during the first few days of a new year, the 34th year, the 4th day, a great storm (volcano?) arose, the earth shakes, a vapor of darkness blocks out even the sun light. 1 Month, year 34, 4th day, or 1-4-34. Three days later, 1-7-34, the people hear the voice of God calling out to them to repent, etc. (3rd Nephi 8:23; 9). About a year later, towards the end of the 34th year, Christ appears to people at the temple, which was in the land Bountiful, & invites them to come forth & feel his wounds, (3rd Ne.10:18, 11:1-17). What is interesting to me is the traditions that Mayans & other native Americans have about a bright wounded wandering God, who appeared & promised to one day return. In the Mayan calendar system, 7 manik matches up with day 7 of a new year. Manik is a hand symbol that looks like it is grasping. Note again, that it’s for DAY 7!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MAYA-g-log-cal-D07-Manik.png
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_calendar

    It looks like the hand is wounded or is cut off. 7 in Mayan count, rolls around on the wheels to line up with a line or bar with 2 dots, for #7. Note, grasping hand, day 7, of a new year. This is when the resurrected Christ was starting his world wide visits all around the world. He kept appearing to different people for some time, after his resurrection. Then, towards the end of the 34th year, it was the people at the temple in the land of Bountiful’s turn:

    “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands & feet,…” says the resurrected Christ to the ancient Americans, (3rd Ne. 11:14). I believe there must be a connection with all these art works that testify of the memory of Christ as not only the wounded Son of God of the Old World, but also the wounded Son of God of the New!

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