Every year millions of visitors pass through Temple Square in Salt Lake City. They walk the grounds, snap some selfies and get to check out the famed Mormon temple. Well, one of the things you might notice while temple-gazing is that its architecture is replete with symbolism. But some people notice one symbol that doesn’t quite sit well with them: the inverted pentagram, or star.
“Cult! Satanism! Black magic!” Sometimes that’s the knee-jerk response to the questionable symbol, and frankly, it’s understandable. The inverted pentagram has indeed become a symbol of Satanism, amongst other not-good-things. But it hasn’t always been that way.
There’s a scene from The DaVinci Code that illustrates this point well:
Symbols have different meanings to different people. They change over time. In modern Mormonism, the first inverted star appeared on the Nauvoo, Illinois, temple in the 1840s.
The Church of Satan (yeah, it’s a thing) copyrighted their version of the inverted pentagram as the official symbol of their church in 1983, almost 150 years after it appeared in Mormon architecture (that data comes straight from their website, which I’m not going to hyperlink back to).
Of course, Satanists were using the inverted star before it was officially copyrighted, but the symbol’s early association with Satanism still only trails back to the mid-1800s to a man named Eliphas Levi who didn’t refer to the symbol in his published works until 1854. Joseph Smith died in 1844. Inverted pentagrams on Mormon temples were around well before the symbol became popularly associated with evil.
So, what do the Mormon stars represent?
A lot of different Mormon temples feature stars. Some are right-side up, some are upside down. Some temples feature dozens of stars, some only have a few. Their meaning can be different, depending on their number, orientation and position on the temple, but here are just a few things we know some of them represent:
The woman from Revelation
One of the men who worked on the Nauvoo temple described some of the exterior symbolism, saying that “The order of architecture was unlike anything in existence; it was purely original, being a representation of the Church, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. John the Revelator, in the 12 chapter [and] first verse of [the book of Revelation,] says, ‘And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.’ This is portrayed in the beautifully cut stone of this grand temple,” according to Fair Mormon.
This woman “clothed with the sun” is symbolic of Christ’s church, according to JST Revelation 12:1,7. Reflecting this, symbols of the moon on the Nauvoo temple appear below the sun symbols, which in turn appear below these inverted star symbols (which are on top, symbolic of the crown).
The morning star
In an 1880 edition of Deseret Evening News it says, speaking of the Logan, Utah, temple, “Carved upon the keystone is a magnificent star, called the Star of the Morning.” This inverted “morning star” is located on the East side of the temple (the sun rises in the East), but what does the morning star represent?
It’s a title of Jesus Christ. Revelation 22:16 says,
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
The morning star is also said to be the brightest in the sky, and one that travelers often used as a guide.
OK, so we’ve covered the woman “clothed with the sun” and the morning star symbolism, but there are still plenty of other stars (six-pointed stars, right-side up stars, etc.) that are symbolic of other things.
Some represent the Telestial Kingdom, the Priesthood and some even just represent stars in the sky. There are plenty of intended interpretations of these star symbols, but you can rest assured that none of them were ever meant to be associated with evil.
Additionally, lest ye think it’s too much of a “coincidence” that Mormonism and Satanism are the only organizations to use the inverted pentagram, take a look at these:
United States Medal of Honor
Arkansas State flag
Even the symbol of the Republican party
Needless to say, it’s a lot more common than we think. And if three examples aren’t enough, this Fair Mormon article lists dozens more. So, next time you spot an inverted pentagram on Mormon temples, don’t freak out. If people are looking for Satan, the temple is the last place they’re going to find him.