By Hollie Ogden
A World of Symbols
There are symbols everywhere you look!
Hearts represent love, a gold star represents achievement or success, a handshake symbolizes agreement, thousands of little emojis represent and depict everyday emotions and objects. The very words you are reading are just a string of symbols that represent sounds, words, ideas, and concepts.
A quick Google inquiry tells us that a symbol is “a thing that represents or stands for something else.” Expanding on that definition, a symbol is something that is simple, real, and tangible that helps us grasp or understand something a little more complex or abstract. A heart is a physical shape that a toddler can draw. It is there, it’s on the page, you can see it. But it represents an emotion and idea that has fixated mankind for all of time. It is ethereal and unexplainable, but we represent it with a simple little shape.
The Lord Teaches Through Symbols
King Benjamin taught his people in the Book of Mormon that, “...The Lord God hath sent ... many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows ... unto them, concerning his coming.” (Mosiah 3:13-15) The Savior has always used symbols to teach mankind about Him. He presented the Law of Moses to the ancient Israelites, which was simply a long list of symbolic actions that would direct their minds to Him and His role in the plan of salvation. In the New Testament, the Savior taught profoundly through parables. (See Matthew 13:10-12) And through all time He has taught through the sacred symbols found in ordinances, especially those of the temple.
Bruce R. McConkie beautifully stated, “...if we had sufficient insight, we would see in every gospel ordinance, in every rite that is part of revealed religion, in every performance commanded of God, in all things Deity gives his people, something that typifies the eternal ministry of the Eternal Christ.” (Promised Messiah, pg. 378, 448)
Everything in the gospel ties back to Him. Absolutely everything.
Symbols of Ordinances
The symbols aid in making the ordinances more comprehendible and profound. Imagine trying to understand the significance and meaning of your baptism without the straightforward visible and physical act of submersion in the water, representing death, burial, and resurrection. Without the physical idea of being born again, it would be a lot more complicated to wrap our mortal minds around what the new spiritual life at baptism really means and represents.
The temple ordinances, particularly the endowment, are symbols of our loving Father’s miraculous plan for us- both collectively and individually. In about two hours, the recipient of that ordinance receives an overview and knowledge of God’s entire plan for mankind! His mysteries are revealed! The role of Christ as our Savior is very directly explained and highlighted. And we make special promises with our Father using more symbols.
Once again, something transcendent and bewildering is represented by simple, concrete, and visual symbols. The Lord has said that “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
For us to catch a glimpse of His thoughts, the Lord knows how we will be able to understand. He uses symbols.
We’ve all be away from the temple for longer than we would like. But, trying to make the most of the situation, I’ve found my mind going to the temple and walking through those sacred ordinances.
I’m eternally grateful for the symbols that are used, and the symbols that I wear that help me remember the complex and eternal truths I am taught.
Think about those beautiful symbols. And more than anything, try to find Christ in them.
(See also 2 Nephi 11:4, Moses 6: 63, Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple)