As is the case with many religious beliefs, the gospel of Jesus Christ is rich with symbolism — and has been since the beginning of time. We find symbolism throughout the scriptures (consider this article on the symbolism of the parable of the Good Samaritan, or this article on scriptural symbols). Similarly, and not surprisingly, there are layers of meaning in all of the saving ordinances that are part of our belief system, including the ordinances of the temple.
An article on the simplicity of symbols explains:
Since the earliest days of the Church, critics have tried to uncover flaws in its teachings or history. Over the years, for example, they have tried to discredit the Prophet Joseph Smith by suggesting that he copied the ceremony and symbols used in the temple from other sources. Some have also found it strange that the Church uses such symbols and ceremonies at all.
But there are simple answers for those who are suspicious or uneasy about how we use symbols in the Church.
While we don’t talk specifically about the symbolic teaching that goes on within the temple, there is much about gospel symbolism that can help one understand more about temple worship and other symbolism in our faith. Whether you are someone not of our faith who is interested in understanding more about symbols in our worship, or you are someone preparing to receive, or wanting to ponder more about, the ordinances of the temple, we recommend the above articles, as well as the following resources to learn more about symbolism, and about the temple:
Understanding Scriptural Symbols, by Gerald Lund
The Holy Temple, by Boyd K. Packer
Prepare for Blessings of the Temple, by Russell M. Nelson