Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brigham City Temple Fountain

Brigham City Temple Fountain
This past summer my wife and I took our kids to the Brigham City Temple open house. I was very impressed by the beauty and design of the temple and enjoyed having the chance to see it prior to its dedication. It was a wonderful experience but the thing that impressed me the most was not the building itself but the fountain on the temple grounds. It is not a large or especially spectacular fountain but its symbolism is very striking. To understand its symbols it is helpful to understand the ancient Hebrew conception of the cosmos and how they understood the creation. It is also helpful to understand the prophecies regarding the New Jerusalem and the temple which is to be built there.

The Cosmic Mountain

In his essay entitled "What is a Temple? A Preliminary Typology" found in Temples of the Ancient World, John Lundquist explains that "The temple is the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain" (84) and that "the cosmic mountain represents the primordial hillock, the place that first emerged from the waters covering the earth during the creative process" (86).  To the ancient Israelites the earth emerged from the ocean of chaos during the creation (see Genesis 1:9-10). They believed that the first point to emerge was the cosmic mountain (aka the axis mundi or the omphalos) which they associated with the Garden of Eden (see Parry, Donald W. "Garden of Eden:Prototype Sanctuary" in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 133-37).

Therefore, to put it simply the cosmic mountain, the Garden of Eden and the temple were all associated with one another. The temple was seen as a representation of the creation and the Garden of Eden.

Sacred Waters

Genesis 2:9-14 explains there was a river that began in Eden and split into four branches. Each river was thought to have flowed to one of the four cardinal directions (see Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven, p. 28). The names of the rivers were the Gihon, Pison, Euphrates and Hiddekel. In several places in the scriptures rivers are associated with the temple. John the Revelator saw in his vision a river flowing from the throne of God and the Tree of Life which were located in the temple (see Rev. 22:1). Nephi also saw the Tree of Life in vision which was associated with a fountain of living water (see 1 Nephi 11:25) and Ezekiel saw in vision a river flowing from threshold of the temple (see Ezekiel 47:1-12).

The fountain on the east side of the Brigham City temple seems to incorporate these themes into the design of the fountain. It is reminiscent of the cosmic mountain rising up from the waters of chaos from which is flowing the four rivers of Eden and it is a very appropriate symbol for a temple.

The New Jerusalem

Folio 55r of the Bamberg Apocalypse depicts
the angel showing John the New Jerusalem,
with the Lamb of God at its center.
 In John’s apocalyptic vision of the last days he saw the New Jerusalem descend from heaven and heard a voice from heaven proclaim that “the tabernacle of God is with men” (see Rev. 21). He then was shown the city in detail and saw that the city was laid out in a perfect square which was aligned to the compass.

Each side of the city square contained three gates for a total of twelve. Verse 22 explains that there was no temple in the city because the entire city itself was a temple.

Additionally, in chapter 22 John explains that he saw a river of pure water flowing out of the throne of God and of the Lamb and the Tree of Life. 

The Brigham City Temple fountain seems to reflect this imagery with its design. The fountain itself is laid out in a square with three water channels on each of its four sides similar to the gates of the New Jerusalem. Also, the fountain preserves the imagery of the fountain of living water flowing out from the abode of God.

So, while the fountain at the Brigham City Temple is not particularly large or grand it is a fascinating object. It’s simple design incorporates many temple related symbols including the creation, the Garden of Eden and New Jerusalem and to me is the most interesting portion of the entire structure.