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The Book of Mormon on Temples


The Book of Mormon on Temples

Temples are special houses of worship in which people perform sacred ceremonies or rites. They were used in ancient times and are also used today. Both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon (a scriptural record of Christians who lived in the ancient Americas) mention temples and refer to their importance in religious life. Reviewing references to the temples in the Book of Mormon reveals how temples blessed people anciently. Modern teachings supplement that information to show how temples bless people today. 

Temples Were Important In The Book Of Mormon

The Book of Mormon tells the story of a family who left ancient Israel and relocated to the New World. One of the first things they did after arriving was to build a temple.

  • Following an ancient pattern. Nephi, a son in that original family, directed the construction of the first temple, designing it after the one King Solomon had built in biblical times (see 1 Kings 6). Nephi and his family honored God by using the best materials available and building the temple with “exceedingly fine” workmanship (see 2 Nephi 5:16).
  • Building many temples. From that time on, the descendants of Nephi built many temples throughout their lands. The Book of Mormon mentions several of these.

People Taught At The Temple

Often when a prophet or leader had a message for the people, he gathered them to the temple to deliver it. The temple was an important place of instruction and learning. One temple-teaching experience came from the life of King Benjamin, a righteous ruler who had worked diligently to bring peace to his land. Near the end of his life, he gathered his people to the temple and delivered one of the Book of Mormon’s most powerful sermons.

  • Gathering the people. King Benjamin sent out a proclamation asking his people to gather to the temple. The people pitched tents “round about the temple, every [one] having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple” (Mosiah 2:6). Of course no public address system existed, so King Benjamin spoke from a tower and had his words written and distributed to those who could not hear him (see Mosiah 2:7–8). 
  • Teaching important doctrines. In his sermon at the temple, King Benjamin taught many important things, including the importance of service: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings,” he said, “ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). The bulk of his sermon focused on the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Atonement is the sacrifice by which Jesus paid for the sins of every person (see Mosiah 3:5). By the end of King Benjamin’s sermon, the people were filled with a sincere, overwhelming desire to “apply the atoning blood of Christ,” to “receive forgiveness of [their] sins,” and to have their “hearts . . . be purified” (Mosiah 4:2).

Jesus Visited The Temple

Many other prophets and leaders have taught at temples throughout history (see, for example, Mosiah 7:17, where it mentions that King Limhi taught the people at the temple), but the most important temple-teaching event recorded in the Book of Mormon occurred when Jesus Christ appeared to a group of righteous people gathered at the temple in Bountiful.

  • Background. When Jesus died on the cross, darkness fell and an earthquake shook Jerusalem (see Matthew 27:45, 52). On the other side of the world, the ancient Americas experienced even greater natural disasters. Prophets had foreseen this and had taught that destruction would mark the Savior’s death. The Book of Mormon records that a storm unlike any other descended with “great quaking,” “terrible tempest[s],” “sharp lightnings,” thunder that shook the earth, and many fires (see 3 Nephi 8:5–12). Finally, complete darkness covered the land for three days. In the darkness the people heard the voice of Jesus Christ inviting them, as He invites all people everywhere, to follow Him (see 3 Nephi 8:20–23; 9:1–22).

Jesus appears at the temple. Sometime later, while the people were still “marveling and wondering” and showing each other all the changes that had happened because of the storm, a group of righteous people had gathered near the temple in Bountiful. Three times they heard a quiet voice that “did pierce them to the very soul” (3 Nephi 11:3). As they looked up to see where the voice was coming from, they saw the resurrected Christ descending from heaven. Jesus Himself stood before them and allowed each person to feel the nail prints in His hands and feet. He blessed them and taught them, and just as He had in Jerusalem, He called twelve disciples to lead His Church, giving to them power to baptize people in His name (see 3 Nephi 11:5–28). Jesus gave a discourse similar to the Sermon on the Mount (see 3 Nephi 12–14). He also quoted ancient prophets, healed the sick, and blessed the children, just as he had done before (see 3 Nephi 16–17). After He instituted the sacrament, Jesus ascended to heaven (see 3 Nephi 18). Jesus Christ’s appearance at the temple is the central event of the Book of Mormon.

Modern Teachings Clarify The Temple’s Purpose

The Book of Mormon contains teachings and prophecies specifically intended to testify of and to clarify Christ's divine role. While the Book of Mormon mentions the building of temples and using temples as gathering places, the book does not fully explain why these temples were built. A look at modern teachings and revelations explains more about the purposes of temples.

  • Ordinances. An ordinance is a special, sacred act or ritual performed by authority from God. In modern temples, faithful people participate in ordinances such as marriage for eternity, in which families are sealed together in a way that allows them to still be together after death. In addition, some ordinances are performed for people who did not have a chance to do them while they were alive. For example, baptism for the dead requires a living person to be baptized in place of someone who has passed on, thus giving the deceased person a chance to accept the work performed and to claim all the blessings of baptism into Christ’s Church.
  • Covenants. A covenant (as it is used here) is a promise between a person and God. The person promises to follow God’s will, and in return God promises to give certain blessings. Covenants accompany ordinances.
  • Instruction. In the temple you learn about God’s eternal plan for you—the plan of salvation. You are taught what you should do to live a happy life here and how to claim God’s greatest blessings in the afterlife; for example, you learn what you need to do here on earth to return to live with our Heavenly Father and your family forever. The temple teaches you precious truths about God and His love for you. 
  • Requirements. To enter the temple, also called the House of the Lord, you must be worthy, which means you need to live by certain standards. These standards include being baptized by proper authority, being willing to follow God’s commandments, and demonstrating faith in God. People who live worthily and participate in the ordinances of the temple receive countless blessings. 

The temples in the Book of Mormon were holy places where prophets taught and Jesus Christ visited. The people of the Book of Mormon learned important truths about life and eternity as they gathered to temples, and you can, too.

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