Several scholars, both LDS and members of other faiths, have noted that the temple is a model of the universe:
- The temple is a scale model of the universe… ((Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, 14-15))
- …the temple represents the principle of ordering the universe. ((ibid.))
- [The temple is] for the purpose of taking our bearings on the universe… ((ibid.))
- …the temple reflects things as they exist in heaven-things as they really are. ((Andrew Skinner, Temple Worship, 2))
- The temple embodies “the structure of the universe, so that ascent through the heavenly levels [is] also a journey ‘inward’ through the temple’s concentric areas of increasing holiness to the Holy of Holies at the center.” ((Qtd. in Matthew Brown, The Gate of Heaven, 7))
- …the temple (whether earthly or heavenly) is a miniature imitation of the structure of the universe. ((ibid.))
God’s perception of time and space are incomprehensible to our mortal and finite minds (Isa. 55:8-9). However, if the temple is an accurate model of the universe, then it should be possible to reproduce an approximate visual representation of the universe from what we learn from the temple, which is what I’ve attempted above.
The concentric circles represent the various degrees of glory. The red arrows indicate the path that the earth has taken from its terrestrial creation, its fall to a telestial state (our current state), its renewal to a paradisaical terrestrial glory during the millennium, and then its final purification when it is made a celestial sphere, and, according to Elder McConkie, “no one can live on it who does not conform to a celestial law. Hence, in that day it will be reserved for those who are saved and exalted” ((Bruce R. McConkie, New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 651)). The other planets shown represent the other innumerable worlds that now stand at some point in their progression from creation to celestialization (Moses 1:35).
Note that this is an attempt at an actual representation of the universe, so the earth would actually physically travel the path away from and back to the presence of God, passing through the different stages and levels. Indeed, the end of times sign of the “stars falling from heaven” has been described as the earth moving through space rather than the stars moving (Rev. 6:12-13; D&C 29:14; D&C 88:87; D&C 133:49). The pre-mortal world starts at the center of the celestial circle (in the presence of God). The spirit world is in the same location as the earth is, albeit in the different dimension. Our celestial kingdom will be upon this earth back in the center of the celestial circle and in the presence of God.
How accurate do you think this representation is? How could it be improved? What are your thoughts on the relationship between this model and the current scientific model of the universe we know today? Where do you think those who inherit the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms will reside in the universe? What have other prophets and apostles said about the structure of the universe that might help improve the representation? Where does our solar system, galaxy, and visible universe fit into this representation?
If we get convincing comments I will update this graphic to reflect the newfound insights.
I think that the universe is such a large place that it would be hard to prove a model like this to be inaccurate.
I agree about your “stars falling from Heaven” comment. Much like Joshua’s long day, the observers said the sun stood still, when actually the earth would have stood still. Scriptures are given from our point-of-view.
I like the concentric circles.
The only thing I could suggest to account for is Abraham’s governing bodies. Where would the 15 governing powers of our solar system, Kolob, etc. fit into this?
I would recommend you read up on the research of Anthony E. Larson, a LDS, as his work also reveals that the temple is a model of the heavens, meaning it teaches us about the heavens (the planets, stars, etc.) He gets into plasma cosmology and plasma mythology, which I recommend you study up on, as it will throw much light on your study of the temple and the symbolic meanings found there.
I actually have been in contact with Anthony Larson, and have read some of his research. He has some very interesting insights. Thanks for the recommendation!
I’ve read one book, “The Kolob Theorem: A Mormon’s View of God’s Starry Universe” by Lynn M. Hilton and am currently reading “Earth: In the Beginning” by Eric N. Skousen. Both PhDs and both come to a similar conclusion. Both state that our God and Father’s “universe” or creations reside in the Milky Way Galaxy and that other galaxies are creations of other exalted beings in the same way as this galaxy is to our Heavenly Father. If I could find more resources on this, I would be very greatful as it is so faciniating. Also, if you look at hubble images of some of these galaxies, you can see a blue ring (outside Telestial), red ring (middle Terrestial), and core or center that is white (Celestial) that is the gravitational or governing force for the galaxy.
Very interesting comment. I’d be interested to know how they support their hypotheses.
It’s interesting that if you go to the greatest governing “planet,” which is Kolob, which I have to assume is the center of the physical universe, you still have only come close, or nigh unto God. But you still have not reached to where He is. How can this be? Where can you go, after you get to the center?
I think that Kolob is generally referred to as a star, not a planet (Abraham 3:2-3). So if that is the case, then God would reside on a celestial urim & thummim type planet orbiting that great governing star, and thus be “near to it.” Kolob governs all the planets and other orbs that surround it (Abraham 3:3, 9).
Anthony E. Larson
This is where Nibley, Hilton, Skousen and I part company, PhDs not withstanding. What Abraham saw in vision was not the universe or even our Milky Way galaxy. What he saw was the ancient order of planets in our own solar system, which was vastly different than the order we see now. It’s the same order depicted in Joseph’s illustration of the ancient heavens he drew for Philo Dibble. It’s the same order of the heavens depicted on the exterior walls of the Salt Lake Temple. The temple–any temple, ancient or modern–is an admixture scale model of the ancient and current heavens. As so many prophets have written, the heavens and the earth we see now are not the heavens and the earth of antiquity. And what we see now will all change once again in the Last Days. Knowing this enhances one’s temple experience immeasurably. In fact, this is the only perspective that answers all temple symbolism, exterior and interior. It is an heritage from the past that LDS temples have in common with every other temple or sacred sanctuary erected by ancient cultures. They were all designed to recall elements of the ancient and current heavens. Upon restoring the temple traditions, complete with the traditional symbolism from antiquity, Joseph Smith reconnected us with our ancestors and the astral knowledge they held sacred. It’s a powerful witness to the validity of his calling and a testimony enhancing experience for and Latter-day Saint who wants to understand the temple. It’s actually a teaching tool, just like the scriptures. I’d be happy to share my conclusions and my sources with anyone interested in knowing more.
Mr. Larson, I would appreciate your sources because I like to look at all possibilities. I hope you’ve read the sources I listed so as to have a legitimate difference of opinion by way of understanding their position fully. Thank you in advance for your source listing.
I would like to submit an alternative view to those already presented here.
I believe that the temple is the template of: 1.) The Universe. 2.) The Plan of Salvation. Both of which I submit are the same thing.
But I do not believe it is a representation of the heavenly bodies in their organization, or our solar system. These organization are changing all the time,
What the temple is displaying is that there are three degrees of glory, and one degree not of glory. That we experience mortality in at least one of these degrees. The organization of physical universe and our solar system rests upon the unchangeable structure of three degrees or glories. That in fact these degrees of glory are actually dimensions, one stacked, or built upon another. This is how we live here on earth, and the spirit world is also here.
The universe is made up of three degrees of glory, the law we are willing to live determines what dimensions of glory we will have in the resurrection, and everything exists within these degrees.
I would refer you to a chapter I wrote on this topic if you are interested further: Glory
Anthony E. Larson
For those who wish to see my evidence, I suggest you visit my webpage at http://www.mormonprophecy.com. Read all the articles there that were published in Desert Saints Magazine, a Las Vegas-based LDS publication. You can also see several of my video clips on You Tube, http://youtube.com/user/toeknee1943. If you want the arguement and the references specific to my assertions about modern temples, you can request my unpublished manuscript by sending me an email at the address posted on my website. I’d be happy to email it to you.
Thank you for this blog and all these posts. I am learning a lot from them. While I like how neatly the Kolob Theorem seems to “fit” into the pictures we have of the Milky Way and surrounding galaxies in our known Universe, one problem with “The Kolob Theorem: A Mormon’s View of God’s Starry Universe” and limiting our Heavenly Father’s creations to just one galaxy are statements made by the Apostles, including this recent Oct. 2007 General Conference talk by Elder Richard G. Scott (http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,89-1-775-32,00.html) in which he says, “What have we learned from the scientific approach to discovering truth? An example will illustrate. Try as I might, I am not able, even in the smallest degree, to comprehend the extent, depth, and stunning grandeur of what our holy Heavenly Father, Elohim, has permitted to be revealed by the scientific method. If we were capable of moving outward into space, we would first see our earth as did the astronauts. Farther out, we would have a grandstand view of the sun and its orbiting planets. They would appear as a small circle of objects within an enormous panorama of glittering stars. Were we to continue the outward journey, we would have a celestial view of our Milky Way spiral, with over 100 billion stars rotating in a circular path, their orbits controlled by gravity around a concentrated central region. Beyond that, we could look toward a group of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster, which some feel includes our Milky Way, estimated to be about 50 million light years away. Beyond that, we’d encounter galaxies 10 billion light years away that the Hubble telescope has photographed. The dizzying enormity of that distance is suggested by noting that light travels 700 million miles an hour. Even from this extraordinary perspective there would not be the slightest evidence of approaching any limit to God the Father’s creations.” Anytime you pit a PhD against an Apostle I’ll go with the Apostle while at the same time keeping an open mind to all possibilities. Thanks again.
I don’t have a phd but it was my understanding that we were created in Gods presents or else why would we suffer a spiritual death when we were cast from thence? If we were created in the terestrial “ring” we would have already been removed, wouldn’t we?
I love the diagram, and I have pondered the “one galaxy” to a God idea, mostly because it is so neat and tidy to limit His creations to something that I can attempt to wrap my “tiny, tawdry” mind around. I am also a believer that all things in the plan/system testify of Christ, and recently I saw a presentation about December 2012 that beautifully illustrated the coming alignment of our sun [Son?] with the usually dark center of our galaxy (you all probably know this already)–a view that happens once every 26,000 years. That stunning illustration brought me back to this train of thought, and now I am reading this blog entry. What a wonderful time to be alive and discussing things so freely that once would have caused us to be burned at the stake!
Also, I’ve tried the link to David Littlefield’s “Glory” a number of times with no success. Any hints?
Ah, one more thing. I read Anthony Larsen’s early books when first published and had lost track of him. I’m glad to be connected to his web site. Thank you!
I have often thought about the universe and how it plays a role in God’s eternal plan. I have read both the books mentioned above, “The Kolob Theorem: A Mormon’s View of God’s Starry Universe” by Lynn M. Hilton and “Earth: In the Beginning” by Eric N. Skousen. They both offer interesting speculations but I defenitly don’t agree with everything they say, especially Skousen. I am new to Anthony Larson and have only read a couple of his articles. I don’t know what “theory” to hold on to. When I think of the galaxy being God’s creation and his “eternity” it is something that could make sense. However, what about when galaxies colide? I tend to think, and don’t know of anyone else who has the same opinion, that the Universe is all of God’s creation and that there could be an infinite amount of Universes. Any thoughts? I would love to know other people thoughts. If you read this post and are interested in having a conversation please reply.
Anthony E. Larson
I have little time for discussions. But, I have put my opinion, based on extensive research, into my monographs on my blog. May I respectfully suggest you consult those pertinent articles there. It’s not an easy read, and the perspective is unorthodox. But, I believe that it reflects the realities taught by Joseph Smith, rather than speculative constructs represented by others. Not only does it explain the Kolob question, it explains all of temple symbolism and ritual. Further, it makes prophecy plain. All this from one, central thesis: The ancient heavens were vastly different than those we see today. That comprehensive and inclusive ability alone argues for its validity–one thesis for all three questions. In that respect, in conforms to the Occam’s Razor principle. Give it a fair hearing, and you will see the value of this perspective.
SHANNA said “…it was my understanding that we were created in Gods presents or else why would we suffer a spiritual death when we were cast from thence?”
Good question! Would you then say that the Pre-existence is the same as the Celestial Kingdom where God dwells?
Sorry for the self-promoting plug, but here are my thoughts on that subject:
I appreciate the effort and thought you all have for learning the mysteries of Godliness. I do believe the internet was brought to us to increase our knowledge base and expose us to things that would not be possible in any other way. I am a little reluctan, however, to embrace anyone who claims to have all the answers. I would think the best approach to these things would be to go to the source: God himself. If one is worthy, God can and will reveal all things. As Joseph Smith said, if you could you gaze into heaven for five minutes, you would know more than what has ever been written on the subject! As you know, the greatest revelations have not been written, and indeed cannot be, perhaps because our current lamguage is inadequate to explain. I suspect that we are not fully capable of comprehending the reality of things concerning other dimensions, etc., which is why they are expressed in symbolic terms: as Carl Jung observed, the language of the unconscious mind. Joseph Smith said he was fettered and bound because he could not reveal a hundredth part of what he knew.
I would like to offer my perspective on black holes that I believe strongly supports the Temple as being a scale model of the universe. First, a scriptural reference where Jesus describes a black hole — bear with me. Towards the end of his ministry to the Nephites, Jesus teaches the following as Mormon describes it: “And He did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that He should come in His glory-yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth, even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away;” (3 Nephi 26:3). Looking at one end of a scroll, down through its center, at its edges, as it is wound or “wrapt” together, it looks as if it is being coiled or spiraled together — similar to the spiral staircases in the Salt Lake Temple — which if one looks down the staircase shows a “spiraling together.” One may want to Google “spiral staircase” and see the images. This spiraling effect is what the Lord intended to get across when he described the earth being wrapt together as a scroll. I believe this verse proves that the earth will be wrapt (or spiraled) together and transported or “pass away” across the universe from a telestial orbit to a terrestrial orbit. I also believe that God uses black holes to do the transporting of the earth to its new locations in the universe. Let me explain. The other day, I saw a documentary on black holes on the science channel entitled, “How The Universe Works: Black Holes. Narrated by Mike Rowe.” (couldn’t find exact video clip on youtube — perhaps you can) This show vividly portrays a black hole swallowing the earth — which matches exactly what Jesus described in 3 Nephi 26:3. I’ll describe. The show portrays a black hole shown moving into our solar system and as it comes near the earth, its gravitational pull causes the earth’s surface to melt and it becomes “an inferno.” Then, the earth’s elements gradually “spiral” into the black hole. This show portrayed exactly what Jesus (Mormon) described, “even until the elements should melt with fervent heat, and the earth should be wrapt together as a scroll, and the heavens and the earth should pass away.” The show goes on to describe that black holes can be portals between parallel universes where planets and even entire galaxies are transported from one place to another. Since God keeps track of every hair of our heads, then certainly He can melt the earth with fervent heat, wrap it or spiral it into a black hole and transport it across the universe without losing any of it when it comes out the other side. This show describes black holes as being a major controlling force in the universe and that theoretical physicists now have no doubt whatsoever that they exist. I believe that God is the creator of black holes and uses them to transport worlds, and even galaxies if He wants, to different places in the universe. The spiral staircases in the Salt Lake Temple are not there by mistake.
Wow. I read a magazine article about the Universe on my mission and when I saw a picture, I thought to myself, “But what surrounds the Universe?” I eventually thought about the Eternities, the beginning, and whatnot. After a few years of reading on my own I had actually drawn this same diagram in some of my journals. Obviously I was very happy when I found this page just now.
A few thoughts I wanted to share: The temple is a scale model of the Universe. Our body is a temple. I believe that our bodies, as well, are scale models of the Universe. Since Kolob is Arabic (or is it Aramaic?) for HEART or center, I see our body helping us realize that Kolob isn’t in the exact middle of the Universe, but close. Our heart isn’t in the middle of our bodies, just as God told Abraham thst Kolob isn’t in the middle of the Universe (“…because it is near unto me…”).
Nibley speaks a lot on the center of the world. He speaks on the Garden of Eden (in my opinion the earthly one). Then about how all the temples are symbolic of the navel of that society. The human body also has a navel.
Paul Davies in his book, “The Last Three Minutes”, speaks about false vacuums (which I dubbed the cosmos) vs. true vacuums (which I dubbed Outer Darkness, or where everything originates) and how “… Universes are created by intelligent manipulation” of these vacuums. He then has a VERY interesting picture of a “Mother Universe” spawning a “Child”, connected by a wormhole he refers to as an “umbilical cord”.
Now, I very, very, very much echo Nephi’s words when it comes to truth, or how things work (“I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”). I don’t know if what I have seen is “true”. I do think the connections are fascinating, though. In other words, even if this is not an interpretation of truth, I believe it to be a good application.
I have always wanted to post at least some of my thoughts somewhere. I also agree with an earlier comment about how the internet is such a blessing. I hope to be able to read some feedback! And thanks for this site!
Thanks for your comment “shiny.” I will look up Paul Davie’s book. Another book you may find interesting is Stairway to Heaven, by Peter Levenda. He traces the “assention” literature throughout all cultures, dating from Babylon and Egypt to the present day. It parallels some of Nibley’s observations of an Egyption endowment. Levanda shows this attempt to breach the veil was common to many cultures, and they all had similar elements.
True enough about the internet. It is a blessing and a curse. One click will take you to a porno site as quickly as general conference. I actually found one person on line who was willing to share thier experience of having thier calling an election made sure, which is rare. But it is encouraging that these things may happen more frequently than we realize.
If one is truly interested in the technical aspects of the spiritual realm, it is important to keep a pulse on what is happening in science right now. As it says in D&C 121:26-32; in the last days all things would be made known to the faithful. Since things are moving so fast, I think it would be wise keep an open mind and suspend judgement, as no firm conclusions can be made yet.
Today, some of the most basic assumptions in science are being challenged. It is quite apparent that the current model is incomplete. The laws of quantum mechanics have recently been shown to apply to large systems, which is turning Physics upside down. As physicist Richard Feynman once wrote: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Einsten called it “Spooky action at a distance,” for it challenges our notions of common sense. Stephen Hawking thinks that Einstien’s relativity theory will have to be replaced with a deeper concept where time and space do not exist at all. That agrees more closely with how the scriptures describe God as being “in, around, and through ” all things, and how all things are continually present before him, past, present and future.
All these things are little bits and pieces of a very large puzzel. If you suspend judgement and start collecting the pieces, some day perhaps they will all fit together. But there is something else one must keep in mind about the deeper things of God. One must be careful not to run faster than one has strength. In other words, don’t dig deeper than you are ready, for it is possible to be decieved and get into some strange paths:
“..strong meat belongeth to them that are full of age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” ( Heb. 5:14) Therefore, a spiritually mature person will be selective about how they give information, so as not to injure someone else who is on a different spiritual plane. That is why Brigham Young said the following:
“There is one principle that I wish the people would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to call them so, of the Kingdom of heaven- that you are full of confidence in God- that you will never betray a thing that God tells you- that you will never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, and as quick as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity of them to bestow upon you. Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. And just as fast as you prove to him that you will preserve everything in secret that ought to be- that you will deal out to your neighbors all which you ought, and no more, and learn how to dispense your knowledge to your families, friends, neighbors, and brethren, the Lord will bestow upon you, and give to you, and bestow upon you, until finally he will say to you, ” You shall never fall; your salvation is sealed unto you; you are sealed up unto eternal life and salvation, through your integrity””.( Jrn. of Disc. 4 : 371 )
True words from President Young. I do see a need to not make someone build a house without a proper foundation. I guess if all things were to be revealed publicly instead of to individuals, God would see to it through the proper channels. 🙂 Thank you.
Excellent post. This validates my personal study as well. I am also reading the Kolob Theorem, and it appears that many minds converge on the same conclusions.
@David Littlefield – I see some value in your theory as well regarding dimensions. Regarding God’s ability to see past, present and future, it reminds me of the 4th dimension as shown here:
With that said, I think there is more to consider within dimensional theory and its implications as well.
The Age of the Earth? First Impressions – Temple Study - LDS Temples, Mormon Temples, Study Blog
[…] as well to another time and space, created in a terrestrial state and falling to a telestial state (see my post referring to that subject). When did it move? How long did it take to move? How did the passage of time change as the Earth […]
This is a facinating discussion thus far. For those interested, I have recently published an article discussing how this pattern is evident in Jewish, Catholic, and Latter-day Saint sacred architecture, which I believe many of you would find facinating.
It explains how the temple really is a miniature model of the universe by looking at each part of the building and its correlation to an episode of sacred (cosmic) history (aka, the plan of salvation). The simplified diagram of the research is below:
1) Creation = Holy of Holies = West = God’s Presence / Heaven = Celestial
2) Garden of Eden = Holy Place = Middle = Paradisal Realm = Terrestrial
3) Fallen World = Courtyard = East= Earth’s Current State = Telestrial
4) Millenium = Holy Place = Middle = Paradisal Realm = Terrestrial
5) Celestial Kingdom = Holy of Holies = West = God’s Presence / Heaven = Celestial
In short, Bryce’s diagram above can essentially be superimposed on both the ancient and modern temple. Hopefully this is not seen as a self-promoting commentary. It was Bryce’s diagram and post that originally set me out on a journey several years ago to see if the pattern existed in sacred buildings themselves…and it does! Thank you Bryce!
Below is the reference and link to the PDF:
“(Re)Interpreting the Cosmic History of the Mormon Temple Experience: Theological Connections between Jewish and Catholic Sacred Space.” Journal of Comparative Theology 4, no. 1 (June 2013): 21-73. Available online at http://www.comparativetheology.org/