Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cornerstones, Keystones, and Capstones

In the church, we occasionally hear quotes that refer to cornerstones, keystones, and capstones.  It may help us understand those quotes' full meaning if we learn more about these stones and their function in building.


According to Wikipedia, the cornerstone is “the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure”(1).  Cornerstones today have a ceremonial role (and are the last stones put in place), rather than a functional role, but in history they were vital reference points.   The cornerstone was hewn to have true right angles, perfect perpendiculars, and perfect horizontals, so that if the rest of the stones were put in place with reference to it, it was impossible to make a mistake (2).
Cornerstone - Stock illustration
As we learn this, we begin to understand Paul's words about Christ:
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Eph 2:20)
Knowing the function of the cornerstone as an important standard makes Paul’s words that much more powerful.  They convey how Christ is the perfect example to pattern ourselves after and if we build our lives with strict reference to Him, it is impossible for us to err.

We also understand better what is meant by this scripture:
22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. (Psalms 118:22-23) 
We see that it prophesies that Christ would become the cornerstone even after being rejected by the Jews (or anyone else for that matter).


We are a little more familiar with the function of the keystone.  It is a wedge-shaped stone that goes at the top of an arch and locks all the stones into position so that they are able to bear weight.  It makes the arch self-supporting.
Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (3).

President Ezra Taft Benson mentioned three ways the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.  “It is the keystone in our witness of Christ.  It is the keystone of our doctrine.  It is the keystone of testimony” (4).

The Book of Mormon is a keystone in that it bolsters the witness of Christ that is in the Bible.  (If you have seen how Christ’s divine Sonship, His crucifixion, and His resurrection is questioned today based only upon the Bible, you know why the Book of Mormon’s witness is needed.)  The Book of Mormon also confounds false doctrine, lays down contentions, and establishes peace (see 2 Nephi 3:12).


Capstones (usually referred to as “coping” today), are used to cover the courses of a masonry work and shed water (5) so that the stones below remain strong over time in changing weather.  They are the most exposed element and are meant to be highly durable. 
arch in wall with keystone and capstone

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The Book of Mormon is the ‘keystone’ of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation.  The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone” (6).

Consider how many doctrines in the D&C protect us from the storms of life to which we would otherwise be fully exposed:
·      The doctrine of modern prophets
·      The doctrine of receiving and recognizing revelation
·      The doctrine of church organization
·      The doctrine of sacred ordinances
·      The doctrine of the worth of souls
·      The doctrines of Zion and gathering
·      The doctrine of the priesthood
·      The doctrine of temples
·      The doctrine of celestial, terrestrial, and telestial glory
·      The doctrines of stewardship and consecration
·      The doctrine of health in the Word of Wisdom
·      The doctrines of celestial marriage
·      The doctrine of salvation for the dead

Cornerstones, keystones, and capstones all have important qualities and we can see how they make great teaching analogies for conveying the importance of Christ’s example, how a second witness gives a religion cohesive strength, and how modern revelation on doctrine can protect us against present destructive forces.

(1)    Wikipedia, “cornerstone,”, accessed March 14, 2013.
(2)    “Cornerstones: A tradition of dedication that makes sense today,”
(3)    Book of Mormon Introduction
(4)    Ensign,  Nov 1986, p5-7.
(5)     Worknik, capstone.
(6)    Ensign, May 1987, p83


Tatiana said...

When you were talking about the cornerstone and Paul talked about how we are build on the foundation of apostles and prophets Jesus Christ being the cornerstone, it made me think also how guiding off of the perfect right angles of Christ the cornerstone is the only way that prophets and apostles are able to then prophecy of and teach us to square the gospel corners correctly in our own lives. So the prophets guide off of Christ and we guide off of Christ through the words of prophets.

Michaela Stephens said...

Good point, Tatiana. And it is nice that we have both the words of Christ and the words of the prophets.

By the way, I found more on "keystone of our religion" here: