This video discusses the history of temples on the earth, including confusion over the future of temples after the death of Christ, and how the building of temples today is a strong evidence of the restoration. If you don’t have enough time for the full video, would highly recommend the slideshow of modern day temples set to music from 11:00 to 15:45.
I’m excited to do this Evidences video on the temple and modern day temples and ancient temples. So we’ll talk about this as we get into this, but it’s definitely an evidence of the restoration, the restoration of temples. I’m excited to show actually a presentation my wife put together to music on modern day temples that is absolutely stunning in my opinion. At the end, I have this crazy connection I want to talk about between Salt Lake Temple that you may have not heard with the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea with the temple in Jerusalem, future temple in Jerusalem. It’s fascinating.
So first of all, talking about the beginning of temples really could even, you could say start with Adam building an altar to offer sacrifice. We learned that in Moses 5 there and he didn’t even know why. The angel came and explained why, it was similitude of the sacrifice of our Savior. The earliest temple mentioned in the Bible is actually the Tower of Babel. It was an anti-temple, anti-temple polemic, essentially. This was 4200 years ago. The word “bab” is a gate and “el” represents deity. So the gate of deity. They were trying to get there for selfish and materialistic reasons, but it’s interesting to note that.
Now Hugh Nibley shares this, Common Themes in Ancient Temples Throughout the World. Five big themes: Dwelling place of God on earth, gateway to God’s dwelling in the heavenly temple, Garden of Eden imagery: trees, living water, cherubim, gradated sacred space creates for worshipper a journey to God, and the journey mediated by priesthood and consists of prayer and sacrifice. Temples back to the beginning. This is Richard Cowan, the gospel scholar presenting at the 2013 Sperry Symposium. “Temple worship is not unique to the present dispensation. The Lord directed His people in Old Testament times to construct these holy structures, and even from the beginning of this earth’s history, mortals have felt the need of establishing sacred sanctuaries where they can get away from worldly concerns and receive instructions pertaining to the eternities.”
He goes on to say, “Elder John A. Widstoe believed that all people of all ages have had temples in one form or another. There is ample evidence, he was convinced, that from the days of Adam, there was the equivalent of temples, and in the patriarchal times, temple worship was in operation in sacred places, the ordinances of the temple were given to those entitled to receive them. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, likewise explained that the Lord taught the fullness of the gospel to Adam and his posterity and gave them the law of sacrifice as a means of pointing their attention forward to His own infinite atonement.” And this is fascinating from Josephus. He actually recorded a Jewish tradition that Melchizedek, not Solomon, had built the first temple in Jerusalem.
Here’s the quote right here. “He who first built it was a ruler among the Canaanites, and is in our tongue called Melchizedek, the righteous king. He was the first priest of God, and first built a temple, and called the city Jerusalem.” That’s fascinating. All right, some of the earliest temples. Now this, if you want one book on the history of the temple, this is phenomenal. The history of the temples in the world, Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History, written by two members of the church, William Hamblin and David Seely, it’s absolutely fantastic. The next few quotes are going to be from that book. So, “One of the most dramatic temple related theophanies occurred when Jacob stopped at a place to sleep, taking a stone for his pillow. There Jacob dreamed he saw a ladder or stairway reaching from the grounds to the heavens upon which angels were ascending and descending, with the Lord standing at the top in the celestial temple.”
“When Jacob awoke, he exclaimed, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'” This is in Genesis. “Taking the stone under his head, he set it up as a pillar, anointed it with consecrating oil, and named it Beth-El, meaning the house of God. While there were no formal temples at the times of the patriarchs, these altars and ritual pillars continue to function as sacred sites. Shechem, which is where the Abrahamic covenant was made for example, became the place where Joshua would renew the covenant. Bethel, this place that Jacob has this experience, became a great temple pilgrimage center of the northern kingdom, while Mariah”, this is where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, “would become the site of Solomon’s temple.”
“Although Solomon’s Temple remained the great central national shrine of Judah from its construction, 950 B.C., until reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah in the seventh century B.C., Israelites also worshiped the Lord at other holy places such as Ramah, where Samuel led the people in sacrifice. The Bible describes at least 11 buildings that can be identified as shrines dedicated to the worship of Yahweh, including …” and he gives a bunch of the names there. ” … the most prominent of these was Shiloh were the Ark was kept, and where Eli the priest is depicted sitting beside the door post of the temple of the Lord.” That’s in 1 Samuel. “Shrines at Dan and Bethel also existed from very early times.”
There’s apparently a statue of Yahweh in a temple at Dan. You can read that in Judges. Okay. The temple was not merely a place of ritual sacrifice. God considered it His house. It was where the word of the Lord came from. It was the center of Israelite life. It was a spiritual focal point. In the Old Testament, the phrase “before the Lord” means quite literally in the temple. Above all, it was a place of holiness set apart from the rest of the world, and God never said He was done with holy places. And then I love, this is the complete statement in the book in their conclusion section. It says, “For 3000 years, the idea and image of the temple have represented a principle religious paradigm for the Near Eastern and European monotheistic traditions. In countless permutations, the idea of the temple has manifested itself in ritual, music, art, architecture, literature, poetry, mysticism and politics.”
Remember also, God gave very specific instructions for some of the first temples, the Tabernacle, very specific details of how it was to be built. Solomon’s temple with great meticulous detail and the finest materials. The first temples in this dispensation, if you remember the phenomenal experience Joseph Smith had. The First Presidency actually saw the Kirtland temple in a vision come hover over them in the air. They saw the exterior. It came over their head. They could look inside of it. Frederick G. Williams tells of this experience, who he later apostatized, never denied this experience happened. You can see that in my video called How Could They Have All Lied? But phenomenal, kind of exciting. The Nauvoo temple, Joseph testified that the basic plan of the Nauvoo temple had been given to him by a revelation, and the Salt Lake temple, I’m holding out on this one for the end where I talk about Brigham Young’s experience and some fascinating correlations with that to Jerusalem.
Okay. On the Church website, this is what we read about temples. “For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the most sacred place of worship on earth. It is the house of the Lord. It is a place set apart from the rest of the world where members seek to draw closer to God. Modern temples have purposes similar to those of biblical temples. They are places of peace, learning, and inspiration. They are also where sacred ceremonies called ordinances take place. Through temple ordinances, members feel closer to God as the covenant to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. The phrases ‘holiness to the Lord’ and ‘the house of the Lord’ are found near the entrance of every temple and remind us that each is a sacred place.”
Now, there’s a video I’m going to recommend. I’ll link to it on the description, called Between Heaven and Earth, made in 2002. Fantastic video. The next few slides, we’ll have some quotes from that. Now Lawrence Schiffman was the director of Judaic Studies at New York University. He said, “The ideal covenant people are people who realize they have an agreement with God and that agreement obligates them and the obligation cannot be thrown off when it’s inconvenient, when it’s difficult. For example, Jews were persecuted and gave their lives rather than give up their religion. To a great extent, the temple is the spiritual center, or for us, the synagogue today, of such a covenantal community. So covenant is realized through action, ritual action, but remembering also the ritual action is designed to teach moral and ethical action.”
Now, I love this. This is from Professor Stehndal who was the Dean of the Harvard Divinity School, later became the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm, the state religion there in Sweden at that time. “In antiquity, a temple with its altars and its big basins for libations, the Jerusalem temple was a place you went to carry out holy acts, sacrifices, and the like, and I feel that the Mormon experience of the temple has sort of restored that meaning of the word temple.” Then back to a quote from Lawrence Schiffman at NYU. “When it comes to the temple, I think one of the ideas is that a person that comes into the structure is overcome spiritually to feel that he or she is in the presence of God. God is there. He has made this the indwelling of His presence and therefore when we wish to communicate with that presence, all we have to do is enter into that especially holy place. And in Judaism, some part of that is rubbed off on the synagogue, but it is generally understood the real presence of God dwells at a much higher level, you might say in a temple structure.”
Elder Holland, he said on the strength that comes from the temple, “I can go to the temple and feel close to God. I can feel holiness, and if I’m lacking in that for whatever reason on a given day, I can go and do a little better as a result of that. I can go and try to mend my ways and improve and promise and repent and fortify, and I can leave strengthened for the journey.” And I love this from Elder Packer on the comfort from the temple, “Temple is a great comfort. Another thing a temple is, it’s quiet. Pretty hard to find a place that is quiet in the world anymore. Members will often go to the temple when they are in stress, when they are mourning, when they have challenges. They go there and the place is totally sacred. Reverence is a reverence that allows you to ponder and meditate and think and feel, and so it’s the source of great comfort. Often members of the Church will go to the temple with a very vexing problem, and they have no idea of what they will do with it. And as they go to the temple and go through the ceremonies there, then it is as the scripture say, the voice of the Lord comes into their mind, and what was not solvable become solvable.”
And then I love this to launch this video section that my wife did. Professor Stehndal again at Harvard Divinity School said, “The temple was the house of God. It was where the divine and human touch.” And look at this symbol, you’ll find this all over the place on the temples, the square and the circle. The square representing the earth, the four corners of the earth, and the heaven as a circle. It’s never ending. You combine those together and that’s where the divine and human touch there. And with that, I want to show this presentation my wife put together, set to music. Ponder over these words as you view this. Remember each temple is very different, made with the best materials. And it’s also a representation of the creativity of God with each of these different temples, and many temples have these individual themes or motifs running throughout them as well. So please enjoy this presentation.
Okay. I hope you felt the Spirit in that video and the power of temples today. Some scriptures, Malachi 3:1 says, ” … and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple.” This is in the last days, and this happened April 3rd, 1836, the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery dual witnesses there of Him, and the Savior said He accepted the temple. And they described Jesus Christ in great detail. You can read that in D&C 110. I again found it fascinating that later Oliver apostatized and never denied any of these things happening. He did come back the last 18 months of his life. Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” which leads to our latter-day work.
Obadiah 1:21, “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion.” Think about the unique aspect of the latter-day temple work compared to ancient temple work. This proxy service. It was done on a very limited scale in early Christianity. I have a video on that about baptisms for the dead. It is mentioned in I Corinthians 15, but that’s a big part of the work that we’re doing. And I love this quote from the professor, the Dean of Harvard Divinity School again, Krister Stehndal. He says, and this is told in this video by Truman Madsen, Between Heaven and Earth video I mentioned early. He goes, “Let me give you an example of my holy envy for the Latter-day Saints. We Lutherans, when we lose our loved ones, we have funerals, we have cemeteries, but that ends our concern with those that have gone before. But the Latter-day Saints care about their forbearers to the point that they want to bring the blessings of Christ’s atonement to them, so they build temples, and according to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians, they perform baptisms for the dead.” Then he smiled and said, “I have holy envy for that.” I just love that.
Okay. Now let’s talk about some of the issues here with first of all, the veil of the temple. So if you recall the veil of the temple was rent at the Savior’s crucifixion, and many Christians today say, “Well, that was the symbol, the sign that the temple is not needed anymore there.” So, Hebrews 10:20, what was the veil of the temple symbolic of? It is very interesting. It tells you exactly in Hebrews 10:20. “By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” His flesh was the veil. Now, He paved the way through the atonement. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, that allowed us all to be able to come back to God. So, there is great symbolism of this as well, but the key aspect is that the flesh was torn. Three days later, Christ was resurrected. The veil was mended. The temple did not go out of existence there. That’s a misinterpretation there.
And in fact, here’s some great examples from the apostles involved in the temple after the Resurrection. New Testament apostles continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple after Christ’s ascension. I’ve given you all the verses. You can look them up here if you want. Even Paul worshipped there. Paul is explicitly said to have performed purification rituals. Paul prayed in the temple. Paul claims he has not offended against the temple, implying he accepted sanctity. Paul also offered sacrifice, prosfora, in the temple. Paul had a vision of Christ in the temple. I think about Christ Himself, His last week is talked about Him daily teaching the temple. But importantly, He even cleansed the temple, really showing His Father’s house and the sanctity, the state of sanctity that was needed to be retained in that site there.
Okay. Now, the next three slides are from the late LDS scholar Matthew Brown, and he spoke at the 2008 Fair Mormon conference. He had this paper he put together, The Israelite Temple and the Early Christians. He said, “It can be seen that the first-century disciples of Jesus Christ attended the temple often, experienced purification rites there, prayed there, taught there, and received revelation from the resurrected Lord there. Notice that all of these things happened after the tearing of the temple veil, which occurred during the crucifixion. It is obvious that the destruction of that particular curtain did not signal to the first-century Christians that the temple had become obsolete and should therefore be abandoned.”
“Another argument made by the critics is that since Moses built the temple and the rituals of priestly initiation where practiced inside the Tabernacle, they must’ve been classified as part of the Law of Moses. Therefore, when the Atonement abolished the Law of Moses, the initiation rights of the priests become obsolete, or so the argument goes. But as anyone who reads the Old Testament should know, the office of priest, as recognized by God, predated the Law of Moses, and so did the office of king. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest in Genesis, and as indicated in the Psalm 110 coronation text, the king of Israel was by divine decree a priest after the order, not of Aaron in the Law of Moses, but of Melchizedek, because the offices of king and priest existed prior to the Law of Moses. There was no reason for the abolishment after the Atonement had eliminated the old law.
Some other key biblical verses. So the destruction of the temple by Titus in 70 A.D., not leaving a stone unturned is a prophecy fulfilled. Further evidence that God was rejecting the temple, some may say. Well, look at these. Some key biblical verses of future temples. Ezekiel 40 through 44 records a vision of the gathering of Israel and of another great temple, which will be built at Jerusalem in the future. Isaiah 2 prophesizes of a temple that will be built in the last days, and the tops of the mountains and all nations shall flow into it. Revelation 6, it’s indicated that some people who once dwelt upon the earth had ascended to the heavenly temple and were invested there with white robes. And then Revelation 7:15, the apostle John saw during his vision, God’s throne was still located inside of His heavenly temple after the Atonement had taken place, and that those who had overcome through the blood of the Lamb were before the throne of God and served Him day and night in His temple. And He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Okay, and then here, Matt Brown. “The text of the New Testament suggested the orthodox Christians who lived in the area of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus Christ did not abandon the Israelite temple after the Atonement had been wrought; they were forced to leave it instead. The book of Revelation indicates that these Christians held to a belief in the existence of and relevance of the heavenly temple of God, and they also believed in the ideologies of kingship and priesthood as connected with that temple. In addition, they claimed that as mortals they had, like their heavenly counterparts, been made kings and priests unto God. Jesus Christ gave a series of promises to His faithful disciples in the book of Revelation, which all have connections to Israelite temple concepts, and most of them have connections to the actual initiation rituals of the Israelite kings and priests.”
This is actually the next video I’m going to do is tying many of these ancient and even primitive Christianity ties with symbolism in the temples today. Okay. And then I’m excited to finish with this last interesting aspect. So in Isaiah 2, as I mentioned, it says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills. And all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.'” This is the Salt Lake Temple.
I love what Brigham said about seeing the Salt Lake Temple in vision. This was four days after arriving in the valley, so July 28th, 1847. This is Brigham Young saying, “I scarcely ever say much about revelations or visions, but suffice it to say five years ago, last July,” which is 1847, “I was here, and I saw in the spirit, the temple, not 10 feet from where we have laid the chief corner stone. I have not inquired what kind of a temple we should build. Why? Because it was represented before me. I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there. I see it as plainly as if it was in reality before me.”
And all of the symbolism, you know with the Melchizedek priesthood and Aaronic priesthood, the spires, the middle spire to be higher representing the First Presidency also and the Presiding Bishopric, which is the lower spires. But all of the great symbolism there. Now, if you were to actually look, so Ezekiel talked about this temple in the last days in Jerusalem would have water flowing out of it that would come down to the Dead Sea and heal the Dead Sea. Phenomenal symbolism with this. What’s fascinating is look at this picture here and if you want to go on Google Earth, you can actually see this and measure it. If you were to look at where Brigham Young pounded his cane into the ground, where the temple was to be built, the distance from that spot to the Great Salt Lake was similar to the distance from the Jerusalem temple to the Dead Sea. So very interesting aspect to that. And to take it even a step further, and I’m going to mention that City Creek coming out of where the Salt Lake temple is in a minute, but to continue the parallels, look at this.
The Jordan River, so if you were to go back and do an overlay of the Holy Land to the Salt Lake Valley, you’ll see a fresh body of water, Utah Lake, and a river flowing into the Great Salt Lake and it’s virtually the same distance approximately that you will see in the Holy Land between the Sea of Galilee freshwater and the Jordan River flowing there to the Dead Sea there. Kind of a fascinating overlay to that. And also I thought, well the last shall be first, the first shall be last. There’s some there because in the Holy Land, it’s north to south, but the the river flows in Utah south to north, but the exact same setup. And then you see where the temple is and this leads to this quote.
Salt Lake Temple President 2012, President Alldredge shared this at the LDS Business College Devotional. He says, “What is interesting is to compare the latter-day temple in Jerusalem with the Salt Lake Temple. Do you know that there is one place on the face of the earth where a river flowed from where the Salt Lake Temple is out of the Jordan River and then to the Great Salt lake, which is comparable to the Dead Sea, a very salty body of water. There is only one place in the world that could be like it. It is in Jerusalem. The Salt Lake Temple was built right over what is called City Creek, a little stream flowing out of City Creek Canyon. The stream originally came out of City Creek Canyon and divided into two forks and what is now where the Brigham Young Park is. One stream flowed down through what is now the City and County building. The other flowed right through what is now temple square.”
“Did you know that? It flowed out North Temple and eventually went to the Jordan River and then the Great Salt Lake. It’s an interesting parallel between the temple that Ezekiel saw, which would be built in Jerusalem, and the Salt Lake Temple.” I love the symbolism of the healing that comes from those waters that Ezekiel talked about, and if you think about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That’s what the whole thing that the temple is about and the power to heal and this healing power that came through Elijah. It says that the whole earth, Malachi says that the whole earth would be wasted in its coming if Elijah had not come in. The power that comes through all of those ordinances in the temple and the atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible. Hope you enjoyed this video. It’s such a thrilling, exciting part of the Restoration. Subscribe for more.
Solomon’s Temple: Myth & History by William Hamblin and David Seely
David Seely and William Hamblin 2007 FairMormon Conference: Solomon’s Temple: Myth & History https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCovs…
Matt Brown – 2008 FairMormon Conference The Israelite Temple and Early Christians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agsbZ…
And the transcript: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Between Heaven & Earth (2002) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TbEN…
Ancient Temples and Their Functions – Sydney Sperry Ensign Article in Jan 1972 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/s…
LDSBC Devotional with Salt Lake Temple President, Mar 2012 – Salt Lake Temple Fulfills Biblical Prophecy https://www.ldsbc.edu/salt-lake-templ…
5 Incredible “Coincidental” Similarities Between the Holy Land and Utah Valley – Thirdhour.org: https://thirdhour.org/blog/faith/5-si…
Hugh W. Nibley, “What Is a Temple?” in The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives: https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/selected…
Richard O. Cowan, “What Old Testament Temples Can Teach Us about Our Own Temple Activity,” in Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament (2013 Sperry Symposium) https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/ascendin…
Inside Temples – ChurchofJesusChrist.org: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/t…
Temples After Christ – Fairmormon.org: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Mo…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.