“The Temple as a Place of Ascent to God” – Notes from Dr. Peterson’s Fireside

View of Salt Lake Valley from the Draper Temple on July 10, 2009.  The Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples are in the distance.

View of Salt Lake Valley from the Draper Temple on July 10, 2009. The Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples are in the distance.

On Sunday I had the opportunity of going to the Daybreak Stake Center in South Jordan and listening to a wonderful fireside given by Dr. Daniel C. Peterson about the temple.  I audio recorded the fireside, and have a digital copy.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get a hold of Dr. Peterson to ask permission to post it on TempleStudy.com.  But as I said previously, I also took notes as well as I could, and I hope that they might reproduce some of the excellent thoughts Dr. Peterson conveyed. [Note: Not all of the images below are the exact same as Dr. Peterson used, but I have tried to use similar ones.]

One of the first things he said was that the dedication of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple (which stands only a few blocks from the stake center) would be, in a way, a fulfillment of prophecy.

I believe he said it was Brigham Young that prophesied that one day you’d be able to stand on the roof of a temple and see another temple.  Dr. Peterson noted that you don’t even have to stand on the roof to see several temples today.  [This insight is interesting in that I just attended a sealing session at the Draper Temple on Friday.  After we were finished and exited the temple we saw the most gorgeous sunset from the grounds, peering out over the Salt Lake Valley.  From our vantage point we could see both the Jordan River Temple and the Oquirrh Mountain Temple.  I took several pictures, one of which is at the beginning of the post.]

Dr. Peterson cautioned that there are clearly some things that we can’t talk about the temple, but said that many of the things that he and others, such as Hugh Nibley, have spoken about in the ancient world hint at certain things in our modern temple if we listen or read closely.  The temple is a testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith.

Ascent Stories

He and a colleague at BYU have a dream of publishing a book about celestial ascent stories from around the world.  This is because they are so pervasive, and similar all over the world.

An example of an ascent story is Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor. 12:2–4)

There are 3 elements that are interesting to Latter-day Saints in this account:

  • 3rd heaven
  • Paradise
  • Unspeakable words – the original language used here implies words that one is not able to speak or beyond the capacity to utter, as well as things he was not permitted to speak.
Hebrew Cosmology diagram (click for larger view)

Hebrew Cosmology diagram (click for larger view)

The typical Hebrew cosmology contains these same elements of several heavens.  Showed a diagram of the Hebrew Cosmology, showing Sheol (signifying the Spirit World, where spirits are questioned), the Earth, First, Second, and Third Heavens.  Shows the firmament of heaven as a dashed line, with an ocean above, and that the ancients thought that it rained because of the openings in this firmament, in the spirit of “opening the windows of heaven.”  Shows the earthly temple mirroring the temple in the third heaven above.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, 12th Century (click for larger view)

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, 12th Century (click for larger view)

This idea of ascent is all over in the scriptures.  Showed a photo of a painting of Jacob’s Ladder from St. Catherine’s Monastery from the 12th century – the “Ladder of Divine Ascension.”  People shown going up the ladder, some falling off.  Comes from the story of Bethel, beth-el literally meaning the “house of God.”

Christ's Ascension, Ivory Panel, Munich (click for larger view)

Christ's Ascension, Ivory Panel, Munich (click for larger view)

Showed photo of the Ascension of Christ found in northern Italy, and is an ivory panel from c. 400, now in Munich.  Christ ascends from the temple on a ladder with the hand of God extending through the cloud to grasp Christ’s, and pull him through.  This motif of the hand of God reaching through the cloud is a common motif found in the ancient world.  [See Dr. William Hamblin and Dr. David Seely's excellent presentation, part 1, part 2, on that subject.]

3 Nephi 28 is an ascension text.  First of all, verse 10:

10 And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one; (3 Nephi 28:10)

There is a mathematical formula which says that if a = b, and b = c, then a = c.  That is what we have here.  Ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father, meaning ye shall be even as the Father is.  Many people say that human deification came late in the teachings of Joseph Smith, but there it is in the Book of Mormon.

12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he touched every one of them with his finger save it were the three who were to tarry, and then he departed.

13 And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things.

14 And it was forbidden them that they should utter; neither was it given unto them power that they could utter the things which they saw and heard;

15 And whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell; for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God.

16 But it came to pass that they did again minister upon the face of the earth; nevertheless they did not minister of the things which they had heard and seen, because of the commandment which was given them in heaven. (3 Nephi 28:12–16)

Compare this passage with Paul’s.  It’s a similar experience.  The three Nephites heard unspeakable things which they were forbidden to utter.  They were transfigured in some sense, transformed.

Dante's Geocentric Universe (click for larger view)

Dante's Geocentric Universe (click for larger view)

Dante’s Divine Comedy is a comedy because it ends in heaven.  But it starts out in hell.  It is a long complex story of ascension.  Mount Purgatory diagram shown.  Also Dante’s Geocentric Universe with multiple heavens.  This same pattern is everywhere in the ancient world.  Dante ascends through many heavenly spheres to the 10th heaven.  As he ascends each he obtains the virtues and knowledge necessary to enter into the presence of God.

Mountains of the Lord

This idea of the mountain is everywhere.  It is the Mountain of the Lord, the cosmic mountain, that shows up all over the ancient world.  The Mountain of Paradise.  Mount Olympus.  Mount Sinai – Moses ascends the mount.  The Mount of Transfiguration.  The early Latter-day Saints would go to the tops of mountains on their journeyings across the country and dress in their temple clothing to pray.  Elder George Q. Cannon received his endowment on Ensign Peak.

The Psalms have much to do with ascent.  The Psalms of Ascent – chapters 120-134.  The Pilgrims songs.  These were the hymns pilgrims would sing as they ascended to Jerusalem to the temple.  When you go to Jerusalem you have to climb through the mountains to get there, no matter the direction you go.

Isaiah 2:

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2–3)

You go up to the house of God.  Micah said much the same thing.  These sayings must have been going around:

1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.

2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1–2)

Minaret in Samarra, Iraq. (click for larger view)

Minaret in Samarra, Iraq. (click for larger view)

Some were creating counterfeit mountains.  The Tower of Babel is such a mountain.  Bab-el means “gate of God.”  Showed photo of the Minaret at Samarra as an example of what the Tower of Babel may have l0oked like.  It has an outer ramp that winds around to the top.

Temple Worthiness

Only the worthiest could enter the the temple.  Some Psalms are like a requirements list in order to enter:

1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15)

Again in Psalm 24:

3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?

4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3–5)

Temple Structure

Temple themes are found in the Book of Mormon too.  This is a very nice summary of the things that are taught in the temple.  Mormon 9:

11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.

12 Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.

13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death. (Mormon 9:11–13)

Margaret Barker, a Methodist scholar, has become popular among LDS because of the things she’s said about the temple, among other things - [notes paraphrased] the earthly sanctuary was to reflect a heavenly pattern.  The personnel were a visible reality of the angels.  Basically, the priests represented God at the altar.

Mircea Eliade also said, the places in the temple represented different parts of heaven.  The temple is a meeting point of heaven and earth.

The temple literally is the meeting place of heaven and earth because of the vicarious work the living do for the dead.

Layout of the Karnak, Egypt, temple (click for larger view)

Layout of the Karnak, Egypt, temple (click for larger view)

The structure of the Egyptian temples are instructive.  Monumental Gateway.  Karnak shows this pattern.  Pylon is greek for “gate.”  The floor gets higher as you move further into the temple; the ceiling gets lower too.  This is the same as in modern LDS temples today – you consistenly move higher as you go into the temple.

Diagram of Moses' Tabernacle, zones of sacred space (click for larger view)

Diagram of Moses' Tabernacle, zones of sacred space (click for larger view)

There was gradated sacred space in Moses’ Tabernacle.  Different concentric sacred spaces – the court, Holy Place, the Holy of Holies.  This is the same as in other Israelite temples.  The Qur’an fall – it was a physical fall from a higher place to a lower place.

Temple as Garden of Eden

The temple also represents Eden.  Ezekiel 28 – Eden story.  Tyre.  He was rich and arrogant, and he fell:

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13–14; other surrounding verses also)

The Egyptian temple shows this garden scene.  It came out of the primeval waters.  Many parallels to Eden.  Lotuses, papyrus plants.  Creation stories abound.

Margaret Barker – the temple in Jerusalem was Eden.  The interior had palm trees… river flowed from the temple.  Ezekiel didn’t invent these features.  The righteous were the trees in the house of the Lord.  The candlestick was the tree of life.

Richard Eliot Freedman – the temple was Eden.  It was between heaven and earth.

Margaret Barker – it was closely associated with the myth of creation.

Karnak anointing scene. (click for larger view)

Karnak anointing scene. (click for larger view)

The water came out from the base of the temple, from the bottom, the only place it could.  It is interesting that the baptismal font is found in the basement of our modern temples.

Pharoah is guided by the hand through ritual. Karnak. (click for larger view)

Pharoah is guided by the hand through ritual. Karnak. (click for larger view)


The initiatories are seen around the world – cleansing, purifying, washing, anointing.  Muhammad was asleep.  Gabriel cames, cleanses his heart, washes it, before Muhammad begins his ascent.

Showed the Presentation Scene from Karnak, Egypt.  Pharaoh is taken by the hand by a guide and led.  As part of being Pharaoh he was taken through a temple ritual.  Showed photo of Pharaoh being washed (anhk symbols poured over him).  Clothing and crowning scenes shown, placing the crown on Pharaoh’s head.

Pharaoh being enthroned. Karnak. (click for larger view)

Pharaoh being enthroned. Karnak. (click for larger view)


The idea of a climb through the heavens, passing curtains or veils is pervasive.  Muhammad rides a steed through seven heavens, marked off by curtains or veils.  A prophet guards each one, and they have a question and answer session with Muhammad before he is allowed to pass, when they extend their hands and pull him through.  This happens 7 times on his ascent.  God is depicted in human form on the throne.  Story about 50 daily prayers with Moses and Muhammad.

Dome of the Rock interior. (click for larger view)

Dome of the Rock interior. (click for larger view)

Celestial Dome.  The Dome of the Rock interior shows the floor of heaven overhead.  Floral motifs (Eden) around the base.  The Seven Heavens of Muhammad.  Muhammad at the Veil.  Ascension of Abraham – God pulling back the veil, with winged angels, chariot wheels.

Early Byzantine Veil in Kapnikarea, Athens (click for larger view)

Early Byzantine Veil in Kapnikarea, Athens (click for larger view)

Kapnikarea Church in Athens has a restored interior.  They put the altar behind a veil with interesting right angle marks on it [gammadia].

The Divine Embrace.  Shown in Karnak.  The Pharaoh is received by the god by an embrace.

Pharaoh embraced by gods.  Karnak. (click for larger view)

Pharaoh embraced by gods. Karnak. (click for larger view)

Mysteries of Mythra.  Seven heavens, gates, greeted angels, formulas had to be given to get passed these guardians.  There was a celestial father who received them as children.  The person is often deified, becomes a god.

“Revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets” – this was because the prophets had been admitted to the divine court of the gods and had come back and could pass on the secret they gained there.

The celestial tree of life.  The ascension of Muhammad.  Jewels on a splendid tree.

The god Osiris paints Pharaoh's name onto leaf of the tree of life. Karnak. (click for larger view)

The god Osiris paints Pharaoh's name onto leaf of the tree of life. Karnak. (click for larger view)

Showed the tree of life in the Egyptian tradition.  The god Osiris writing Pharaoh’s name on a leaf of the tree of life.


Dr. Peterson ended with 2 lengthy quotations.  First from 3rd Enoch, which is a late Jewish or early Christian text.  Speaking of Enoch being deified, and given the name Metatron – before the throne.

R. Ishmael said: Metatron, the Prince of the Presence, said to me: By reason of the love with which the Holy One, blessed be He, loved me more than all the children of heaven, He made me a garment of glory on which were fixed all kinds of lights, and He clad me in it.  And He made me a robe of honour on which were fixed all kinds of beauty, splendour, brilliance and majesty.  And he made me a royal crown in which were fixed forty-nine costly stones like unto the light of the globe of the sun.  For its splendour went forth in the four quarters of the “Araboth Raqia’, and in (through) the seven heavens, and in the four quarters of the world.  And he put it on my head.  And He called me THE LESSER YAHWEH [Jehovah] in the presence of all His heavenly household; as it is written: “For my name is in him.” (3 Enoch 12:1-5)

Jewish Midrash:

The Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future call all of the pious by their names, and give them a cup of elixir of life in their hands so that they should live and endure forever… And the Holy One, blessed be He, will in the future reveal to all the pious in the World to Come the Ineffable Name with which new heavens and a new earth can be created, so that all of them should be able to create new worlds… The Holy One, blessed be He, will give every pious three hundred and forty worlds in inheritance in the World to Come… To all the pious the Holy One, blessed be He, will give a sign and a part in the goodly reward, and everlasting renown, glory and greatness and praise, a crown encompassed in holiness, and royalty, equal to those of all the pious in the World to Come.  The sign will be the cup of life which the Holy One, blessed be He, will give to the Messiah and to the pious in the Future to Come. (Mid. Alpha Beta diR. Akiba, BhM 3:32)

We are enacting something in the temple that we hope will happen to us some day.  The remnants of it are scattered all over the world of these things.  Joseph revealed these things, and likely didn’t know he was revealing them.  They have been found in distorted fossils in all places and times of the world.

Let us avail ourselves of the temple.  It is precious.  The power of godliness is manifest in them.

Conclusion to Notes

Dr. Peterson’s fireside was excellent.  He spoke on a multitude of subjects related to the temple, from many different cultures and times across the world.  It appears that he will present a similar presentation at next month’s FAIR Conference in Sandy, Utah, because his presentation is entitled the same (here is the link to that presentation).  I look forward to any new insights he might bring there.

Update: Someone noted that Dr. Peterson and Dr. William Hamblin joint taught a course at BYU on “Celestial Ascent” in the Winter 2007 semester.  Their notes and lecture videos are available here.


  1. DavidC
    Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Were you the person making the video from the back of the chapel?

  2. Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

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

  3. Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    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:-)


  4. Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    No, I did not video the fireside. I just audiorecorded it. I was sitting on about the third row, center section, on the left.

  5. Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. Yea, it would have been nice to meet you in person, Greg. Didn’t know you were planning on being there. Maybe at FAIR?

  6. Posted July 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Kathryn. I haven’t read Dr. Skinner’s book. Is it new? I’ll have to pick it up.

  7. Posted July 15, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    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.

  8. Posted July 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    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:-)


  9. Posted July 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    OOPS! Perhaps I need to update my glasses, Michael… as I SEE now, that you did mention his most recent book;-)


  10. Posted July 15, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink


    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.

  11. Posted July 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Great report, Bryce. It would have been nice to be there, but this makes it all better.

  12. Posted July 16, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    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.

  13. Ben
    Posted July 16, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    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?

  14. Posted July 16, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    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.

  15. Posted July 16, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    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.

  16. Kim Siever
    Posted July 16, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    This great. Thanks.

    I am passing this on to my EQP for next fireside.

  17. Posted July 16, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    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?

  18. Posted July 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    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.

  19. Posted July 16, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    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.

  20. Posted July 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink


    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.

  21. Posted July 16, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately, consensus is an indication of correctness when it comes to the Brethren.

  22. Posted July 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if this is at all helpful at this point, but I wonder if Donna Nielsen’s comments at Four Levels of Interpretation might apply here. Only the Lord knows how to teach these sacred principles and the “hearts of those who seek Him”.

  23. Posted July 17, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    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.

  24. Posted July 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks David! The Hebrew Cosmology diagram was designed by nackhadlow on MADB. It is well-done.

  25. Gary R
    Posted July 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    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.


  26. JL
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    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.

  27. DavidC
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    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.

  28. Posted July 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    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.

  29. DavidC
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    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.

  30. Raymond Takashi Swen
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    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.

  31. Matthew Briggs
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    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.

  32. Posted July 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi Matthew. I haven’t been able to get a hold of Dr. Peterson about the recording. If you want to ask him, that’s fine. You can also hear his presentation at his 2009 FAIR presentation next week, either in person or through the video stream.

  33. Matthew Briggs
    Posted August 3, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    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.


  34. Posted August 11, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Do you get the sense that the Minaret at Samarra has a similar appearance as the Community of Christ temple in Independence?


  35. Mamba
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Great – thank you for taking these notes!

  36. Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    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.

  37. Posted October 5, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    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!!

  38. D. Thorpe
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    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.

    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).


    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?)

    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!


    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!

  39. Posted April 25, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    D. Thorpe, thanks for that! That’s great stuff. Makes this great post even greater.

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Haymond over at http://www.templestudy.com has posted his notes from Dr. Daniel Peterson’s fireside Sunday on “The Temple as a Place of Ascent to [...]

  2. By Ancient Hebrew Cosmology | Visions of the Kingdom on August 13, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    [...] discussion that was concerned with ancient cosmology. Eventually, this image passed hands until I learned it was used as a visual aide by BYU Professor Daniel C. Peterson for a presentation on ancient [...]

  3. [...] and many who are LDS might even benefit from reading it, if it gets them to ask more questions about the symbols and symbolism in our own temples and the temple experience. It also, as Mark Koltko-Rivera pointed out, may lead to great missionary opportunities as people [...]

  4. [...] the Book of Revelation? (I’m unsure what reference they are referring to).  It’s been shown in the past that such a line is a kind of “worthiness” requirement for those who would ascend to [...]

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