A Short Analysis of the New Symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
On Saturday, April 4th, 2020, Russel M. Nelson announced a new symbol to the general congregation. It places the familiar logo of the Church within a box that represents the cornerstone of the Church, which is Jesus Christ, and above that is the image of the beautiful Christus statue that is widely used through the Church.
But there is much more to understand about the symbol that a semiotic analysis could shed light on. Semiotics is the study of sign systems. It explores how words and other signs make meaning. In semiotics, a sign is anything that stands in for something other than itself. So, for example, a heart is a near-universal symbol for love even though in reality it has nothing to do with love, it is an organ in the body.
The new symbol of the Church is no exception. There are many aspects to the new symbol and if we analyze each one in conjunction with the rest, we can start to see a certain significance emerge.
Let’s start with what President Nelson told us about the symbolism. He said,
The name of the Church is contained within a rectangular shape that represents a cornerstone. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.
Not only is the name of the church within the cornerstone but the name “Jesus Christ” is the central focus of the words. It is a larger print and centered within the cornerstone.
The second symbol is the Christus by Bertel Thorvaldsen. “[The symbol] portrays the resurrected, living Lord reaching out to embrace all who will come unto Him.” The Christus Statue in this symbol is somewhat unique, the color is a stone color and not the normal white as are the statues in most visitors centers. It’s as if it has been chiseled out of a rock. This suggests a reference to Helaman 5:12 where Helaman says “remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.” The rock-like Christus reminds us that Christ is the rock of our foundation and immovable in nature.
President Nelson explained that “Jesus stands under an arch as a reminder of His emergence from the tomb three days after His death.“ This symbol tells us of the importance of the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Christus in the arch has a background that causes a forced perspective. The hands of the Christus are slightly outside the background which forces the viewer to see Christ at the forefront of the symbol. Also, the background layers intersect at the chest causing the viewer to focus on the upper body or chest of Christ.
Since we know that part of the symbolism the “living Lord reaching out to embrace all who will come unto Him” then the focus on the chest possibly symbolizes the intimate, personal nature of Christ with all of us. He is inviting us into his bosom, a place of security and comfort.
Lastly, we look at the position of the Christus in relation to the cornerstone. he is on top in a forced perspective, signifying the dominance, control, or ownership he has over the church. Without going into the symbolism of the Christus itself we can combine these symbols in a way that has real meaning. It has meaning on a personal level and also on an organizational level.
On an organizational level, we can understand the symbol to be that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a Christ-centered church with Christ himself presiding over it. He is the focal point of the church. The foundation and reason for its existence.
On a personal level, we can understand that it is through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that we can participate in His Goodness. He is inviting us to join His church through his compassion and love. He is our rock and our foundation. If we come to him through His church we will have security and comfort.
In either case, the underlying symbolism is clear, Jesus Christ is the center of worship for the church. He is the central figure. As a symbol, the combining elements work to show the world that Christ is at the head of the church and it is through him that we have comfort.