Masters Thesis

The Mormon order: understanding the symbolic heritage of the original Nauvoo temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a uniquely American religion. As with other religions, Mormons have a history of creating sacred spaces; however, the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois is distinct. The architecture of the edifice held as many symbols as the ceremonies performed within, in what contemporaries christened the “Mormon order” of architecture. Previous interpretations of the symbolism tend to exhibit bias in either an attempt to embarrass or defend the church. Only by placing it in its social context of inherited cultural symbolism, Christian scripture, Freemasonry, sacred space, and New England folk magic, can the symbolism be more fully appreciated. This study reasons that the symbolism can be read as a physical manifestation of early Mormon theology. It is an amalgamation of this inheritance created by a truly American religion, not only the culture and values of those who built the Nauvoo Temple, but those of their ancestors as well