"Bee" Anxiously Engaged: The Church's Continuing Use of the Beehive
For early members The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the beehive represented the literal building of God’s Kingdom on Earth in the form of the State of Deseret. Church leaders frequently incorporated the beehive in design elements of temples, chapels, and other church buildings as a reminder of this important work. Its use also identified Church members as God’s elect, the builders of this kingdom or hive. Therefore, the beehive was highly symbolic to the early Church and its members.
Contemporarily, the Church and its members still use the beehive. However, its meaning has shifted towards representing the work required to build the metaphoric, spiritual Kingdom of God. In this regard, the beehive’s symbolic nature is less significant and more nostalgic, or as Hal Cannon, curator of The Grand Beehive exhibit commented, “it’s [the beehive] a sentimental thing, connected to Mormonism” (Horn, 230).
Church leaders and teachers frequently use the beehive as an instructional aid or metaphor in sermons and lessons. Until October 2019, the beehive served as the name and icon for the youth for 12 and 13-year-old girls who learn the importance of working together in cooperation and harmony."
When used in this context, the beehive reminds individuals to be busily engaged in building the hive of God’s Spiritual Kingdom by doing their small part to share the gospel and support the Church.
As the icon of the Church’s Welfare Services, the beehive urges individuals to aid the poor and needy, ensuring the well-being of everyone in the hive. Additionally, in developing self-reliance, members and the Church as a whole, become self-sufficient like the beehive.
The beehive is also the logo for the Church’s various organizations, associations, affiliations, institutions, and partnerships, such as Deseret Industries, Deseret News, and Brigham Young University. Its use illustrates the relationships between the Church and these entities.
The pulpit in the Conference Center auditorium is perhaps one of the Church’s more prominent contemporary uses of the beehive. Completed in 2000, the Conference Center replaced the Salt Lake Tabernacle as the home of the Church’s semi-annual General Conference, along with other major church gatherings and devotionals.
During these meetings, Church leaders speak from the central pulpit. Unlike the rest of the auditorium’s cherry woodwork, the pulpit is constructed from a black walnut tree planted by Gordon B. Hinckley, previous President of the Church. To blend the look of the two types of woods, President Hinckley requested beehives made of cherry be added to the pulpit. Despite past precedent, the pulpit is the only item in the Conference Center featuring the beehive motif.