20 most popular LDS symbols and images

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Jesus Christ taught frequently using parables, so it’s only natural that his followers would have an affinity for symbols.

LDS culture is rich in images that are immediately recognizable to Church members in significant, subtle and sometimes even light-hearted ways.

Here’s our top 20 images and symbols most relatable to LDS faithful.

1. Jesus Christ

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(Image courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

By far the most popular image in the Latter-day Saint world is that of Jesus Christ. Paintings by LDS artists, traditional paintings by Carl Bloch and his contemporaries, and Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue are equally beloved.

2. CTR shield

ctr

(Image courtesy LDS media library)

The popular phrase “Choose the Right” got its start in LDS culture with the hymn by the same name. The motto has been shortened to “CTR,” which is frequently placed inside the shape of a shield to symbolize the protective influence of righteous living. The symbol is popular especially in Primary classes, which are designated by “CTR” followed by the age of the children in the class.

3. Angel Moroni

moroni

The Angel Moroni began as a symbol for the gathering of Israel and was originally found only atop temples. Over time, the Angel Moroni became a prominent LDS symbol. The robed man with a trumpet to his lips can now be found not only atop temples but also on tie tacks, mission memorabilia and icons for Church-sponsored mobile applications.

4. Temples

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(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

Members of the Church have been invited to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership,” and that goes for the general Church membership as well. Temples—especially the Salt Lake Temple—are recognized worldwide as symbols of the LDS Church.

5. Beehive

doorknob
(Image courtesy LDS.org media library)

Brigham Young established the beehive as a symbol of industry as early as 1851. The beehive remains Utah’s official emblem to this day. It is especially significant to members of the LDS Church because of its tie to Ether 2:3 in the Book of Mormon, where “deseret” is translated to “honeybee.”

Twelve- and 13-year-old girls in the LDS Church’s Young Women program are known as Beehives, and a beehive graces the doorknobs of the Salt Lake Temple, some Church welfare products and is seen along with the temple symbol on the Young Women Medallion. Elder M. Russell Ballard also discussed the symbolism of the honeybee in his April 2012 general conference address.

6. Tabernacle Organ

organ
(Image from deseretbook.com)

The iconic organ at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City has become a symbol for music in the Church and is the cover art on the 1985 hymn book, the Church’s music mobile app and printed material relating to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

7. Forget Me Nots

(Photos from deseretbook.com)
(Photos from deseretbook.com)

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Oct. 2011 Relief Society meeting address “Forget Me Not” created a new beloved symbol among members of the Church—the forget-me-not flower. President Uchtdorf gave sisters five things to remember—one for each petal of the flower—and gave Church members everywhere a new favorite flower.

8. Iron rod

(Image courtesy LDS.org media library.)

(Image courtesy LDS.org media library)

The iron rod is a symbol for the word of God taken from the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 15:24. What began as a simple method for teaching about obedience is now a well-recognized symbol of persistence, devotion and endurance.

9. Golden plates

goldplates

(Image courtesy LDS.org media library)

The golden plates that were translated into the Book of Mormon are a decidedly LDS symbol for learning about God putting the things of spiritual importance ahead of the riches of the world.

10. Handcarts

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(Photos from deseretbook.com)

Only a small percentage of pioneers crossed the plains to Salt Lake City using the inexpensive handcart, but the hard work and sacrifice of these Saints is legendary. Handcarts appear in movies, paintings, sculptures and almost anywhere else pioneers are shown.

11. Sunstone

nauvoo-sunstone-766070-gallery

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

The sunstone originally appeared on the Nauvoo Temple and has since become a reminder of both the Nauvoo period of Church history and the growing light the gospel brings to the world. The sunstone appears on the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple, in miniature form as bookends and other gifts, and as the name of an education foundation dedicated to promoting gospel learning.

12. Laurel wreaths

DNEWS 26Young Women Recognition

(Photo courtesy LDS.org)

The laurel wreath is traditionally used as a victor’s crown. It appears in LDS symbology on the Young Womanhood medallion and in the Young Women organization, where 16- and 17-year-old girls are called “Laurels.”

13. Stripling warriors

striplingbyubookstore

(Photo from byubookstore.com)

The stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon were “all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20-21). With a description like that, what clean-cut, dashing young LDS man wouldn’t idolize them?

14. Captain Moroni

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(Image from deseretbook.com)

If the stripling warriors are inspirations for today’s youth, Captain Moroni is the ultimate role model for grown men. After all, “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17). Cool enough to put on a tie bar? We think so.

15. Liahona

liahona

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

The Liahona was the GPS of Nephi’s day—it led their way in the wilderness. Today, Liahona is the name of the Church’s worldwide magazine for adults, youth and children, so named because it contains the words of prophets to direct members’ lives.

16. Stars

nauvoostars
(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

Stars appear in Mormon symbolism in a variety of ways. The five-pointed star and the pentagram grace the walls of the Nauvoo Temple and Primary children sing a song entitled “I Am Like a Star.” The Abrahamic Covenant makes reference to the stars, as does the plan of salvation.

17. Pioneers

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(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

With the Church’s worldwide growth, not everyone has ancestors who came across the Great Plains to Salt Lake City. But all members of the Church share the heritage of hard work and sacrifice these early Saints gave.

18. YW colors

(Photos from deseretbook.com.)

(Photos from deseretbook.com)

The Young Women organization has eight values that are incorporated into the personal progress program, Sunday lessons, camp themes and mutual activities. Each value has a color, and these colors create a rainbow of LDS products and craft supplies.

19. Missionary tags

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library.)

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

Ever since the minimum age requirement for full-time missionary service was lowered in Oct. 2012, missionary work has experienced a second wind. As such, missionary tags have become a symbol for the hastening of the work and spread of the gospel worldwide. Elder Neil L. Andersen talked about the missionary tag and what it represents in his April 2013 address “It’s a Miracle”: “If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—painted, as Paul said, ‘not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.'”

20. Tree of Life

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

(Photo courtesy LDS.org media library)

The Tree of Life appears in the same scripture story as the Iron Rod and, along with its fruit, represents the love of God. It appears in LDS artwork along with other significant trees, like the family tree shown often in family history artwork.

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Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

13 Comments

  1. Steve Reed Reply

    Yesssss. I love symbols. We typically just use the word “symbol” for describing things that are actually: Images, Types, Metaphors, Similes, Parables, Motifs, Archetypes and more! What’s the difference? I broke it down here on my blog for those who are interested: http://wp.me/p36hSd-Y6

    To explore more about LDS symbols, I’ve created an online resource called: ldssymbols.com to explore common archetypes, symbols and motifs within an LDS context.

    Two books I highly recommend are “A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe” by Michael Schneider and “The Day Star: Reading Sacred Architecture” by Val Brinkerhoff.

    Anyway, I could go on and on, but thanks for the article 😉

  2. shelley Reply

    The first picture you have listed is by LDS artist Del Parson. using his picture then failing to credit him while siting others by name is very poor taste.

  3. Gordon R Guymon Reply

    I think the tithing envelope is the most important symbol. Without these sacred sacrifices how else can we build malls for the Lord?

  4. Marc Sanders Reply

    In our town, the LDS churches have a pointed rod where most churches have a cross on top of the building. What does the pointed rod symbolize? [I have asked a few of people (at different times) at the LDS church near my house and none knew why the pointed rod is there or what it means.]

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