Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

No, French Catholics Are Not Satanists: Understanding the Inverted Pentagram in Historical Christianity

During a pleasant but intense trip I once had in France, I was photographing a beautiful church in the Champagne region of France when I noticed an example of the inverted pentagram being used in an obviously Christian context. The church is the imposing Collégiale Notre-Dame de Vitry-le-François, a 17th century building that survived World War II, even though much of the surrounding town was destroyed. It is a beautiful and reverent building, filled with many images to remind people of Jesus Christ. One of those images--OK, two--are stars, inverted five-pointed starts, reminding us of the One the Bible calls the Morning Star (or "the bright and morning star" in Rev. 22:16). Yes, folks, we're talking inverted pentagrams, a Christian symbol that has very recently been hijacked by occultists.

Symbols can be used for good or bad purposes. The fact that pentagrams were used as pro-Christian symbols by earlier Christians and by Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Temple does not imply any connection to pagan or occult uses that were developed and published after Joseph Smith's time (ca. 1855 and beyond). For detailed information on this frequent objection raised by critics who should know better, see "Inverted Stars on LDS Temples" at FAIRMormon.org and the question on occult symbols at my LDSFAQ page on LDS Temples and Alleged Roots in Masonry.

By the way, France is such a wonderful nation. So many American stereotypes of France and the French are wrong, at least based on the people I've met. Warm, kind, hard-working, competent, temperate and family-oriented, many of them. And no stereotyping of French food, no verbal descriptions, can prepare you for just how good it is. What a marvelous country!

Related post and discussion: "Occult Symbols on LDS Temples??, June 2004, at Mormanity.


Patrick said...

I wrote this years ago on the Catholic.com forum when the LDS temple was once again being likened to a warren of witches due to the exterior symbols.

"Symbols change meaning, or can be hijacked by other groups and the meaning changed. A great example is the symbol of the Serpent.

The serpent first shows up in the Bible representing Satan in the Garden of Eden. It would appear that the serpent is a satanic symbol.

Later the serpent shows up on the end of a pole saving the Isrealites from venemous serpents. In Numbers 21:8-9 Moses is commanded to make a brass serpent and set it on the end of a pole. Now, whenever an Isrealite is bit by a venemous serpent he need only look on the serpent of brass and live.

Did the Isrealites suddenly become Satan worshippers? No, the serpent represented Christ lifted up on the cross. Just as the Irealites had to raise their eyes to the serpent to be saved, so must we raise our eyes to Christ to be saved from sin. I don't think this symbolism was lost on the Isrealites. They knew of Christ and awaited his arrival in the Meridian of Times.

I believe that the serpent was a symbol of Christ first. Satan tried to hijack this symbol in the Garden. Satan couterfeits that which is good for his purposes.

As an LDS member I feel an affinity for the symbols on the temple. They have special meanings to me, none of which touch upon the occult.

In my travels in Mexico and South America I am impressed by the sheer number of symbols carved into the Catholic Cathedrals. I've seen the skull, and the cross bones decorating a cathedral. Though I don't know what these symbols means to a Catholic, I would never accuse them of being a pirate."

Anonymous said...

...and don't forget Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent...

Openminded said...

Ha, what an ignorant position (that some Mormon critics take on). There's an inverted pentagram on the Medal of Honor. And of course it undergoes plenty of usage by Christians throughout history anyways.

Anyone know how the symbol was interpreted in Smith's time/culture though?

mttbrwn said...

Here are more Christian inverted pentagrams:

Cistercian Abbey in Hauterive, Switzerland
Gothic windows (1320-28 AD)



Here is an example of the same emblem being used in a non-occult context, in very recent times.


Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown did well to raise the awareness of the pentagram, whether used with good or bad in mind. As far as I'm aware the pentagram has the same shape as the orbiting planet of Venus around the sun, which planet is otherwise known as the morning star.


Anonymous said...

Given how recently the LDS leadership deemed the Catholic Church to be the Church of the Devil (I'm thinking of McConkie specifically, but he was hardly alone in this), it's good to see this reference to a Catholic Church as "a beautiful and reverent building, filled with many images to remind people of Jesus Christ." Especially since the whole "Church of the Devil" idea was that other churches led people away from Jesus rather toward him, and hence were "of the Devil."

But I'm sensing we have a bit of a ways still to go when it comes to religious tolerance. A while back, Mitt Romney gave a talk in which he said, basically, that we shouldn't care about the religious beliefs of presidential contenders, as long as they believed in God. That is, all theists welcome, but no atheists need apply. Too bad, as before that I actually might have voted for Romney.

I'm also troubled by this post's reference to "occultists." Isn't this just a loaded term, like "cultist," used to denigrate those OTHER people, whose beliefs, unlike our sensible ones, are outlandish and dangerous? This seems especially off considering the way some people STILL apply the term "occult" to the LDS.

FWIW, "a warren of witches" also seems unnecessarily disparaging. Or did I miss the memo that said Wicca is now the Great and Abominable Church, the Whore of All the Earth?

Seriously, let's try to practice religious tolerance and respect across the board.

Anonymous said...

"A while back, Mitt Romney gave a talk in which he said, basically, that we shouldn't care about the religious beliefs of presidential contenders, as long as they believed in God. That is, all theists welcome, but no atheists need apply. Too bad, as before that I actually might have voted for Romney."

So, basically you're saying that you're intolerant of Mitt's intolerance?

Not to pick on you, but I always grin at tolerance arguments because it seems that everyone else's intolerance is wrong, but the arguers intolerance is righteous and justified.

The reality is that few people are really more tolerant than anyone else, most people just tolerate different things.

And for what its worth, Romney never said that a belief in God should be required by law, it was just a sufficient standard for him for religiosity.

Its no different than a republican saying that they would vote for any republican as long as they believed in the constitution.

(Or a democrat that will vote for any democrat as long as they believe in stealing from one group to buy votes from another group ;-)

Anonymous said...

Not to pick on you back, but I referred specifically, not to "intolerance," but to "religious intolerance." I criticized an individual, Romney, not because of his religion or any other group identity, but because his statement dissed an entire group of people on the basis of their religious belief rather than their individual merit.

If I were to tell the world, "We shouldn't rule out any presidential candidate solely on the basis of their religious belief. We should judge individuals on the basis of their fitness or the job of president, unless of course the candidate is Mormon," then I suspect you would be the first to call me out for religious intolerance, and rightly so.

I never grin at people who don't understand why some forms of discrimination are justified and others are not, why voting on the basis of party is OK but voting on the basis of religion is not. I just get sad.

Pops said...

Given how recently the LDS leadership deemed the Catholic Church to be the Church of the Devil...

Yeah, that was a bad move. The Book of Mormon makes it clear that The Church of the Devil doesn't align with our societal organizations - its membership is based on the hearts of its members. They're scattered through all of our churches.

Anonymous said...

The Church of the Devil: a place where each of us worships at least occasionally. The line between good and evil, as they say, runs through every human heart.

Tom said...

The early LDS church is ripe with elements from the Masons. That poses problems, and they are of a caliber that more than just suggesting revelation rather than plagiarism would explain them away. Well, At least to the rational logical thinking non-Mormon. To a Mormon, who is already convinced of the veracity of JS and the Church, it is an easy sell.

Rich said...

You mean like plagerism is an easy sell to non mormons who are already convinced the church and JS are wrong?

Rich said...

oops I meant plagiarism, early

Tom said...

@Rich "Well, At least to the rational logical thinking non-Mormon."
Note the words Logical, and Rational?
Also, Non-Mormons do not have a belief system to defend in regards to the magic and the early LDS Church. So, as I stated, it is an easy sell to LDS.
To others, it is not such an easy sell that there are so many similarities to the Masons.
Although, you might be LDS, I hope there is enough honesty in your thinking to accept the logic of what I just said. Or are you just out to make snide remarks to defend your beliefs?

Rich said...

So you're saying that revelation is an easy sell to LDS where revelation is not an easy sell to non mormons who are rational and logical?
If that's the case then I do agree that you are probably right. But then doesn't it follow that plagiarism an easy sell to those same logical rational non mormons or is that off base?

Rich said...

Where did the Masons get those things that J Smith plagiarized? Did they make those symbols and rituals up themselves or did they borrow from things they knew?
I think the link that goes to the LDSFAQ article on LDS and Masonry handles all that pretty well.

Anonymous said...

where can I watch that movie?