Earlier this month I was privileged to present the following peer-reviewed paper titled “Temples as Text: The Swinging Pendulum of Shifting Ritual-Architectural Priorities” during the 54th Annual Mormon Historical Association Conference in Salt Lake City on June 8, 2019.
ABSTRACT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow beyond its headquarters in the mountain west and dot temples around the globe. A diachronic study of the architectural history and development of Zion and her temples reveals shifts in ritual-architectural priorities over time. The stylistic changes in architectural form or unified appearance from standardization help to not only illustrate priority shifts but also historical periods of isolation and integration. Following the theoretical framework of retrenchment and assimilation for Latter-day Saint history outlined by Armand Mauss, this paper provides historical insights of how the concept of Zion and its physical manifestation through architectural form have changed over time. The following questions will guide these efforts: Why do the fortress-like castellated pioneer temples suggest a period of isolation and retrenchment while the modern design for the Alberta Canada Temple reads as an effort to assimilate back into mainstream society? Why did architectural standardization for temple plans or sites with high visibility help regain a unique sense of identity and legitimacy for the Church? How do recent efforts to blend into foreign contexts by imitating traditional or indigenous architectural styles suggest another shift back into a period of assimilation? As ritual-architectual priorities shift back and forth, they demonstrate the ongoing tensions between periods of isolation and integration. New historical insights for periods of isolation and integration emerge by reading the temple as a text and by considering the varying religio-political messages that are communicated through architectural means to insiders and outsiders.
CITATION: Brandon Ro. “Temples as Text: The Swinging Pendulum of Shifting Ritual-Architectural Priorities.” In Abstracts of the 54th Annual Mormon Historical Association Conference, p.48. (Salt Lake City: MHA, 2019).