A symbol can be defined as a visible sign or object that portrays a spiritual truth or concept. The unique quality of a symbol is that it can have multiple meanings and thus reflect a whole range of insights and concepts.
Joseph Fielding McConkie clarified: “Symbols are the timeless and universal language in which God, in his wisdom, has chosen to teach his gospel and bear witness of his Son. They are the language of the scriptures, the language of revelation, the language of the Spirit, the language of faith. They are a language in which all gospel covenants and ordinances of salvation have been revealed. They are a means whereby we enrich, deepen, and enhance understanding and expression. They enable us to give visual and conceptual form to ideas and feelings that may otherwise defy the power of words. Symbols take us beyond the language of words, granting us an eloquence in the expression of feelings… To be literate in the things of the Spirit is to be fluent in the language of symbols.” (Gospel Symbols, [Bookcraft, Inc., 1985], p. 1-2).
The Lord described the temple as “a house of learning” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119). “There we are taught in the Master’s way” legde ouderling Russell M. Nelson uit. “His way differs from modes of others. His way is ancient and rich with symbolism. We can learn much by pondering the reality for which each symbol stands.” (Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings, Ensign, May 2001, p. 33).
By contemplating the symbolism of the temple we can receive a better understanding of the gospel and the Savior. Because “all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63).
Finally, president Boyd K. Packer explained: “The temple itself becomes a symbol. If you have seen one of the temples at night, fully lighted, you know what an impressive sight that can be. The house of the Lord, bathed in light, standing out in the darkness, becomes symbolic of the power and the inspiration of the gospel of Jesus Christ standing as a beacon in a world that sinks ever further into spiritual darkness.” (The Holy Temple, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2007], p. 48).