5 Beautiful Themes in Temple Architecture You May Have Missed


Flowers are also common motifs. The Provo City Center Temple uses the Columbine flower, the Brigham City Utah Temple uses peach blossoms, and Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple uses the mountain prairie flower.

Image title

Provo City Center: Oil and cold wax, 20"x24" available for prints

While each temple has a reason for using their specific flower, some are more ornate in design and interpretation, like the apple blossoms in the Payson Utah Temple, which change from buds to full bloom as you go higher up in the temple, much like our own progression. Other temples have more generic flowers or plants as their theme, simply representing what is commonly found growing in the area in which they are built. The Albuquerque New Mexico temple, for example, has a beautiful design of the agave plant in its stained glass windows. The Rexburg Idaho and Calgary Alberta temples use wheat throughout their designs because the temples are located in farming communities.

Image title

The Maple leaf is a symbol of the country of Canada. It represents unity, tolerance, and peace. The Montreal Quebec Temple picked this theme for its building both for what it represents and to portray its location.

A lot of the small temples introduced by Gordon B. Hinckley are indistinguishable in design but have state flowers in their rugs, upholstery, and other areas to help them fit in locally. For example, the Panama City Panama Temple displays the Holy Ghost orchid, their national flower, all throughout the small temple to set it apart from others, and the Fort Collings Colorado Temple uses the state flower of Colorado, the columbine.

Image title
The Fort Collins Colorado Temple uses the columbine flower as its theme since it is the state flower of Colorado. It is found in the stained glass windows along with the furniture, masonry and other locations all throughout the building.

The Purpose of Temple Themes

Why do we have these themes? Church scholar Paul T. Smith theorized that by adding symbols or motifs to the temple, one can learn different layers of instruction based on one’s own understanding of the scriptures or doctrine. Smith said, “You could come from any foreign background and if you had some background in scripture or in the doctrines of the Church, then you could look upon that building and learn great things from it” (Hansen, G. E. (2009) Sacred Walls: Learning from Temple Symbols. Covenant). Like the parables of Christ, different people can look at the same symbol and get different meanings out of it that will help them understand principles for themselves. The purpose of the temple is instruction, not only through listening but also through observing visually. Smith went on to explain, “It is a great resource for people. The temple is a house of inspiration, and those symbols can help trigger inspiration.” The Church architects go to great lengths to find a theme that will uplift those who enter the temple, while also adding a local touch to distinguish that building from another temple elsewhere.

As a professional Latter-day Saint artist, I have been fascinated with temple themes for many years. I paint a unique style of temple art involving cold wax and oil paint, in which I try to create a different way of seeing the temples. I love to use color and texture along with hidden images in the painting that represents the temple, including the themes.

For example, in my Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple painting, I placed the mountain prairie flower throughout the piece along with the colonial colors of red, navy, and creamy yellow, since those are the rug colors used to decorate the floors of the temple:

Image title

Philadelphia: Oil and cold wax, 20"x24" available for prints.

In my recent autumn Salt Lake Temple piece, I made sure the beehive was hidden somewhere in the picture. I feel these additions add to my paintings a stronger feeling of how wonderful these buildings are in both helping us learn and feel closer to God.

About the artist and author: Jolynn Forman lives in Santaquin, Utah, with her husband and four daughters, along with way too many pets. She loves to create, whether that is a really cool treehouse in the backyard or a giant toaster boat made out of cardboard (both real-life projects of hers). Her art is found in Deseret Book stores along with Zions Mercantile in Provo, Utah, and www.foursquareart.com. Her email address is jolynnforman@gmail.com. Website: www.jolynnforman.com. Follow her on Instagram @jolynnformanart.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com