Introductory Essay

The Temple and the Restoration

Truman G. Madsen

Truman G. Madsen, “Introductory Essay: The Temple and the Restoration,” in The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives, Truman G. Madsen ed., (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 1–18.

“. . . my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name” (D&C 124:39)

In an unpublished manuscript titled “Sacred Space in the Fourth Gospel,” W. D. Davies writes: “For many Jews in the first century, as ever since, Yahweh, Israel, and the land—a land which finds its quintessence in Jerusalem and the temple—were joined together by what has been called an unbreakable umbilical cord. This meant that for many religious Jews, the Land Jerusalem and the Temple were of central if not essential importance.” Elsewhere Davies shows the duplication of these ideas in “an American key” in Mormonism. [1]

The history of the Latter-day Saints is indeed a history of temples. That history recapitulates much Judeo-Christian experience. Joseph Smith established temples in the faith that he was reestablishing them preparatory to the eventual temples of both the old and the new Jerusalems. He did not teach that this was a luxurious importation on the restored gospel. It was its center and capstone “to usher in . . . a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations” (D&C 128:18).

Repeatedly the Restoration assumes “the ancient order,” [2] “the order pertaining to the Ancient of Days,” [3] and the “ancient order of things.” [4]

The earliest documents of the Restoration movement are replete with references to consecrated land, to Zion, and to “the Lord’s house.” For converts these became an instant and urgent priority. Even before adequate meeting places or chapels were established, temple land was dedicated at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833 (D&C 94, 95) and at Adam-ondi-Ahman and Far West, Missouri, in 1838 (D&C 115:7–16). In each case exile followed. In Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836 a “preparatory temple” was completed. From meager resources and with little understanding of the whys, Latter-day Saints of multiple religious and ethnic backgrounds undertook the task amidst severe opposition. (“O Lord, . . . thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation”—D&C 109:4–5.) They often labored like Nehemiah “with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.” Great dedication is in the record—theirs and that of the temple. But it was soon desecrated and the people dispersed. Within a decade it happened all over again at Nauvoo, Illinois. After only six weeks of ceremonial use, the magnificent Nauvoo Temple was reduced to rubble by arson, and the people dispossessed of homes and land. The trauma in the loss of two spiritual lodestones-comparable to the double tragedy of Jewish history that the First and Second temples were desecrated and destroyed-did not diminish the vision. Soon after the vanguard company of pioneers arrived in the Great Basin, Brigham Young pushed his cane into the alkaline soil and said, “Here we will build the temple of our God.”

The Temple as Center

The centrality of the temple in the Mormon ethos can be seen in other ways.

Latter-day Saints are characterized as city builders and colonizers, as founders. Their communities are seen as a “near-nation” amidst nations. But for Joseph Smith no city or nation was truly a stronghold of Zion that was not crowned by a temple.

Latter-day Saints are characterized as mission-minded on a worldwide scale. Yet Joseph Smith said in 1841 that “labor on the temple would be as acceptable to the Lord as preaching in the world.” [5]

Latter-day Saints are committed to the truism that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.” [6] “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36). The university in Nauvoo remained an embryo while the temple was completed. For Joseph Smith there were modes of light and truth—”necessary instruction”—which could be manifest only by participation in ordinances in a sacred place. These, he said, were “things spiritual, and to be received only by the spiritual minded.” [7]

Latter-day Saints are recognized as highly organized in a church structure that is elaborate and closely knit. Yet twelve years after its establishment Joseph Smith would say, “The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood.” [8]

Latter-day Saints are known for their insistence on “first principles and ordinances” in response to the atonement of Christ: faith and repentance leading to water baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. But for Joseph Smith these are first steps toward “those last and more impressive ordinances” of the temple. [9] All offices and ordinations in the priesthood, even the highest, are preliminary to “that which was lost unto you or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28). The fulness of the priesthood is received only by the faithful in the house of the Lord. “If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” [10]

Latter-day Saints are recognized as a people of consecrated joy, even defiant rejoicing and ceremonial feasting, who “offer up their sacraments” (see (D&C 59:9) in the manner of the ancient feasts and who live in the prophetic vision of the eventual messianic banquet. For Joseph Smith the fulness of joy is associated with “the temple of the most high God.” Temple dedications were “an event of the greatest importance to the church and the world in making the saints in Zion to rejoice, and the hypocrite and sinner to tremble.” [11]

Latter-day Saints are known for coping with crisis—for “taking care of their own.” How, then, could they build temples which were a steady drain of treasure and labor? (Joseph said of the temple blessings, “The rich can only get them in the Temple, the poor may get them on the mountain top as did Moses.”) [12] The admonition was, “Let the Temple be built by the tithing of my people.” [13] And so it was. “Neither planting, sowing, or reaping” was permitted to interfere. [14] It is clear that tithing—doubled in labor—was a sacrifice for all. But it was disabling to none. The economic consequences, some immediate, were beneficial. “Some say it is better to give to the poor than build the Temple. The building of the Temple has sustained the poor who were driven from Missouri, and kept them from starving; and it has been the best means for this object which could be devised.” [15] “It shall not impoverish any man but enrich thousands,” [16] said the Prophet.

In sum, Joseph Smith affirmed, “We need the temple more than anything else.” [17]

A Prerequisite?

In Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism one may pose an ultimate question—is any rite, let alone any temple rite, a prerequisite of or instrumental to salvation? For all three traditions the contemporary answer is, in the last analysis, “no.”

Orthodox Judaism, since Talmudic days, teaches that “the righteous of all nations will have a share in the world to come.” More recently this has been interpreted to mean the righteous of all religions. [18] It follows that many—Gentile as well as Jew—may be granted redemption while totally ignorant of the laws and rites binding upon the observant Jew. This includes the orthodox hope of an eventual renewed temple cultus.

Roman Catholic and Eastern traditions, for all their sacerdotal emphasis, affirm that many who have never sought the holy sacraments may nevertheless receive salvific grace. In certain circumstances, for example, they are assumed to be “baptized by desire.” Ronald Knox once summarized the Catholic universal vision by expressing the hope that “many a non-Catholic will show up in heaven with an R. C. tag.” [19] Salvation, in short, will not require sacramental channels.

For Protestantism, the doctrine of sola fide eliminates the need for any outward signs or works, even those of water baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Faith in Christ is sufficient and all-sufficient for salvation. And all “works,” including sacerdotal works, are “dead” or, at most, an outward sign.

This is not, of course, to say that any of these religious traditions abandon ritual. There have been ebbs and flows and liturgical revivals, the invocation of experimental additions and subtractions, embellishments and reductions. The twentieth century has witnessed extensive analyses of the functions of ritual-functions, however, which since the Enlightenment are thought to be detached from anything final or fixed. Their justification is construed in terms of historical, social, psychological, symbolic, and existential accounts. [20]

Eternal Sanctions

Joseph Smith taught that for the ordinances of the temple there were eternal sanctions. These were instituted, set, prepared “before the foundation of the world.” This is not to say that there is a Platonic archetype or pure form of the temple that transcends all earthly particulars. It is instead to say, with many strands of Jewish and Christian expectation, that the earthly and heavenly are counterparts.

The Restoration posits an “order of the House of God,” a premortal order introduced repeatedly in the world and now “renewed and confirmed” (D&C 84:48). Men do not here begin in the goodness of God. They continue in it (D&C 86:11). They are not born into the kingdom of God, but reborn into it (John 3:5). “Being born again comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances,” [21] which are essential and exceptionless. Ordinances confirm faith in God and his Anointed One; they also enliven it. They signalize the flow of Divine grace in one’s response to the Divine. They also transmit and intensify it “grace for grace.” Joseph Smith called these the “powers of godliness.”

In its patterns of worship, therefore, the temple is, from beginning to end, Christological. Explicit and implicit to everything that is said in Mormon sacred texts is that this temple allegiance is rooted in the New Testament era itself. But outside of Mormonism the New Testament interpretation is dominated by the view that holy places, the temple most of all, are replaced by the Person of Jesus Christ. The most extreme form of this view denies any “geographic theology” and insists that, whatever “sentimental attachment” remained in Paul to the “Temple built with hands,” Jesus was and remains the “only true Temple.” [22]

Let us briefly outline New Testament evidence that both Jesus and the temple are “true.”

Jesus and the Temple

Jesus “taught daily in the temple” (Luke 19:47). He spoke of the temple as “my house” (Matthew 21:13) and as “my Father’s house” (John 2:16). Literally and symbolically he cleansed it (see Luke 19:45). Some scholars interpret these incidents as Jesus’ act of making the temple his own, others as symbols of repudiation. [23] He was condemned because he spoke of destroying and rebuilding “this temple”—the temple of his own body. Of the Herodian Temple he said, “There shall not be left one stone upon another” (Mark 13:2; Matthew 24:2; Luke 21:6). That can be read as the foreshadowing of the negation of a defunct system, or as an affirmation of the renewed temple—the rebuilding, stone on stone, of the house that was left unto them “desolate” (Luke 13:35).

It is sometimes said that the temple cultus belongs not to Judaism, certainly not to rabbinic Judaism, but to a more primitive period. It can be allegorized. But as Louis Jacobs writes, “The idea of a rebuilt Temple in which animal sacrifices are offered [does not] seem to us the highest to which our religion can aspire.” [24]

But what did Jesus really have to do with the ritual system of temple?

Scholars have observed, especially in connection with the Fourth Gospel, that participation in all of the patterns of the temple cultus are demonstrated in Jesus’ life, and especially in the final week of his life. On his last visit Jesus gave directions for the offering of the Passover lamb. [25] It has even been urged that the Jewish lunar year-cycle, with its temple feasts, sacrifices, and ceremonies, is reflected in perfect sequence in the Gospel of John from chapters 13 to 20.

It is written that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34.) Why gather? Joseph Smith’s reply:

It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered. . . .

The main object [of gathering] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose. [26]

In the Gospel of John we read that in an upper room (on Mount Zion?) Jesus said to Peter that the acceptance of the ceremonial washing of feet was essential. Peter’s refusal would mean “thou hast no part [elsewhere translated inheritance] with me” (John 13:8). That is strong language. Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible notes that this washing “was the custom of the Jews under their law; wherefore, Jesus did this that the law might be fulfilled” (JST, John 13:10). Some scholars see this as a custom which Jesus replaced. In the Restoration it is both a preface to and an echo of sacred temple rites; a proper prologue of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 (which is a prayer for unity of Master and disciple as well as of disciple and disciple), and an example of subservience by a true and suffering servant. But it is more. It was given that they might “be clean every whit,” [27] a condition which apparently neither their faith nor their baptism had thus far fully achieved.

The Restoration movement universalizes temple ordinances. All “hard cases” are included—not by exceptionalizing the instruments of God’s grace but by revitalizing them, rooting them in the authorities who “hold the keys.” Temple ordinances are and will be available both on this side and the other side of the veil to all the family of man who have ever lived or ever will live. Thus the acts and atonement of Jesus Christ may reach consciously and voluntarily to all mankind. “This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation.” [28]

What is said here of washing applies likewise to ritual ablutions, anointings, covenant-makings, and sealings. [29]


In the epistles of John (1 John 2:27) there is reference to an anointing the faithful have received which “teacheth you of all things.” The writer pleads with them to remember this anointing, which “is truth.” In the earliest manuscripts the Greek word for this anointing is unique; it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It connotes an unguent or “smearing,” or figuratively an endowment of the Holy Spirit or a consecration to a religious service. Some scholars suggest that it refers to a ritual use of oil. But it has often been read to mean “to appoint” or “to elevate.” [30] By either reading, here is a ritual act among Christians—among the Johannine community—which is distinct from baptism and which for the writer of the epistle involves a communion or connection with God which teaches or assures. Its meanings are summed up by the admonition “abide in him [Christ].” [31] (Compare D&C 88:1–5; 124:124.) In the Restoration this is distinct from the “anointing . . . with oil” spoken of by James, which is for the healing of the sick (James 4:14–15).

The Doctrinal Matrix

Undergirding all this is what might be called an axiom of continuity between the mortal and immortal spheres. It makes five doctrinal assumptions which are foreign to the philosophical garnishing of both Jewish and Christian thought after the third century: (1) The Divine realm is everlastingly involved in space and time. Both are to be sacralized. (2) The world of spirits is near and (though in subtle ways) tangible, not a remnant of superstition or a metaphor. (3) Freedom and the capacity for receiving a full measure of God’s truth, way, and life do not end at death. (4) “The elements are the tabernacle of God” (D&C 93:35). “The spirit and the body [together] are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Earthly sacramental acts aim at the transformation of the flesh as well as of the spirit. And finally, (5) “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2)—here as hereafter there are many kingdoms and levels of spiritual attainment. When one asks “Will all mankind be saved?” the proper question should in fact be “To what degree?”

To the Hebrews

After the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, many Jews anticipated a heavenly city and a heavenly temple which would appear on earth more magnificent than any of its predecessors. Some Dead Sea Scroll fragments record the same hope. [32] It was to be erected by divine decree and intervention. Some aspects of Midrashic and rabbinic thought teach that this temple will somehow be “brought” from heaven.

The undergirding theme of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ, by his life and atonement, renews priesthood, law, ritual, and covenant. The temple may be still standing when he returns. But if the only temple now available is in heaven, then Christ is, in fact, offering sacrifice there. The book draws exact parallels between earthly and heavenly temples. Levitical priests, it says, functioned in the earthly sanctuary. Now Jesus, the great High Priest, ministers in the heavenly temple. [33]

With a reverence for the older temple cultus, its meanings, sacrifices, covenants, and functions, the book of Hebrews teaches of Messiah, the Christ, who fulfills temple traditions by becoming their perpetual minister through his bloody covenant and through a heavenly temple ministry.

It has been difficult for scholars to reconcile these chapters with the premise of Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) on earth. And stranger still to think of anything heavenly needing sanctification, cleansing, and sacrifice. But for Hebrews, Jesus is clearly an active and heavenly high priest; the imagery includes the recognition of angels who attend this sacred service.

Orthodox theology today speaks of Christ “as very God of very God.” The writer of the book of Hebrews—in the manner of the Restoration—holds that Jesus was indeed Son, Firstborn, Son of Man, Messiah, High Priest, and Apostle. But the writer did not impose the creedal suppositions of the third century.

Hebrews stresses further the prominence of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Melchizedek figures in both Jewish and Christian art through the centuries. But as a source of ordination rights (rites) and powers, his role is obscured. The book of Hebrews makes him, as Albright believed, a legitimate king—his very name meaning “my king is righteousness.”

Joseph Smith taught, in defiance of biblical scholarship of his day, that the passage “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8) referred to Melchizedek and not to Jesus. But the book goes on to make Jesus the fulfillment, not only of the Melchizedek-type, but also of Abraham and of Moses.

Sacrifice Restored

Similarly, Joseph Smith taught that there were higher ordinances, including sacrifice, for which Moses tried in vain to prepare his people.

These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued. [34]

Elemental Functions

The modern command to build a temple describes it as:

A house of prayer,

A house of fasting,

A house of faith,

A house of learning,

A house of glory,

A house of order,

A house of God.

(D&C 88:119.)

In all these roles or functions it is a house of covenant, and through all these modes a house of sanctification. “Holiness” is a term itself derived from the concept of ritual purity. One must be properly prepared thus to participate in official acts in the presentation or representation of divine service. The idea of makom kadosh or holy house has Old Testament precedent, not only for the building but for the entire covenant-community. In the writings of Paul, as of Peter (see 1 Peter 2:4–9), this house is the focal point for priestly entry, for consecration (both temporal and spiritual). The “chief cornerstone” of the temple, as of the service, is the Messiah himself. [35]

The idea of the temple as a house of prayer and fasting has roots in the ancient order of prayer in which God’s name prevails (see 1 Kings 8:28–29). The orthodox Jewish prayer quorum or minyan is traceable at least as far back as the Babylonian captivity. And the book of Daniel (6:10) spoke of his praying toward the temple three times daily, a practice later encouraged by Joseph Smith. [36]

Proxy Baptism for the Dead

Baptism for the dead, so convention has it, was a non-Christian aberration, perhaps with prior connections to Jewish tomb feasts or burial rites. But historically the evidence can be summed up thus: There is no evidence of this practice among non-Christians. And there is some evidence, in addition to the statement in 1 Corinthians 15:29, that proxy baptism for the dead was practiced among and by early Christians. Indeed, in the iconography, in the typology, and in the baptismal instruction of the early church fathers one may discern at least two different sorts of initiation: one through water baptism, and the other through certain initiatory oblations and anointings and baptism for the dead. [37]

Proxy Ordinances

That men and women are privileged to “go through” each and all of the patters and ordinances for and in behalf of their deceased families and others is unusual in contemporary religious practice. But, again, the proxy and representational ideas are not at the periphery of early Jewish and Christian practice; they are at the core. In the ancient temple, the high priest stood in sacred vestments on the most sacred of ground (the Holy of Holies) on the most sacred of days (the Day of Atonement) and spoke the most sacred of words (the Tetragrammaton). And he did all this representing the whole house of Israel, who stood thus before God as if they were one man. The Holy of Holies registered or recorded their acts, and the act of cleansing the sanctuary through genuine repentance and sacrifice involved the idea of the “merit of the fathers,” as it did the idea of atonement. The related New Testament phrase that has become a prime text in the Restoration is the statement in Hebrews that “they [the dead] without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). (The RSV says “apart from us they should not be made perfect.”)

As for Christian understanding, the substitutionary or representational or ransom theories of atonement all presuppose one principle: Christ can merit and mediate for us, speak for us, act for us. Obadiah’s expression “saviours . . . on mount Zion” (1:21) is, after all, plural. And in Christ’s image and through his sanctions and keys and authorities, the faithful may act officially for others. “We are commanded to be baptized for our dead, thus fulfilling the words of Obadiah, when speaking of the glory of the latter day: ‘And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion.’” [38]

The Apocalypse

The locus classicus of the temple vision tied to future culmination is the Revelation of John. The Messiah—the Lamb of God—comes down from heaven. The dispersed of Israel are gathered. The church is arrayed like a bride for her husband (Revelation 21:2). Celestial and terrestrial are somehow fused. The New Jerusalem becomes the center of a newly created earth as the preface to a new era, a theocratic community. And the Father and the Lamb as well as the faithful become temples.

The apocalypse lends itself to fanciful and exaggerated readings. But one theme is inescapable: The temple and its liturgy are the apex of man’s earthly quest for the heavenly, and of the heavenly transformation of the earthly.

Indeed, the promises given the seven churches in the Apocalypse, each one beginning “To him that overcometh,” are promises that can be superimposed fittingly on the sequences described in traditional and modern temple worship. [39]

The Seven Promises

1. The Tree of Life Promise (Revelation 2:7): Paradise, spoken of in the Apocalypse, may well refer to Genesis 2:9 and the tree of life in the midst of the Garden. Jewish teaching anticipates that the tree of life will reappear in the messianic era. The book of Revelation identifies the tree of life with and/or places it in the midst of the temple. Pseudepigraphical sources teach of the eventual role of the Levite priests (whom Joseph Smith said will offer anew in the temple an “offering in righteousness”—D&C 13:1, 84:31; 124:39): they will officially remove the threatening sword and cherubim and allow the saintly to eat of the tree of life with its variety of fruits. [40]

2. The Crown of Life Promise (Revelation 2:10): The imagery of royalty, of scepter, of dominion, of crown, of coronation, runs through the entire book of Revelation. Kingship associated with the priestly roles of Israel is presented in a temple context. The opposite of such a crown is “the second death.” The seal, or “sealing in one’s forehead,” scholars see as associated with security, with victory, with culmination. In the Restoration these sealing powers are reserved for the temple.

3. The Hidden Manna and the New Name Promise (Revelation 2:17): This manna, some biblical scholars conclude, is “from the tree.” To partake of or share in it is to “partake of the divine nature” (see 2 Peter 1:4). Many commentators find here sacramental or eucharistic overtones (see John 6). Again the tree of life is transplanted to the temple and with it the nourishment process.

Names in Jewish thought are theophoric, though to be all but identical with the personality. [41] To “hold” fast to the name of Christ is to take upon oneself the burdens and characteristics of Christ in covenant-relationship. Anciently the name of God was spoken only by the high priest annually within the Holy of Holies. In other traditions the name of the Messiah was supposed to be engraved on a stone in the temple. Apocalyptical literature speaks of “plants of renown,” renowned men who were surnamed as of Israel. Those thus marked or sealed belong to the glorified Messiah, who in the naming process glorifies them. [42]

4. The Rod (elsewhere translated scepter) and Morning Star Promise (Revelation 2:26–28): Authority is promised here as it is received “of my Father”; also the “morning star.” Here again the Messiah, or king of Israel, bears the scepter of rule, which ultimately draws together all forms of rule. The promise of power to rule is now shared and legitimized by the Father and the Son—the power to shepherd as Christ does, but also to shatter (see verse 27). Here is portrayed the military and political Savior of Israel arising from Jacob as from Judah. He is fully King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to his faithful ones are promised kingship and lordship in his likeness. One reading of the gift of the morning star (compare 2 Peter 1:19) is that it is the Son of God himself (Revelation 22:16).

5. The White Raiment Promise (Revelation 3:5): For the Revelator, to be acknowledged before the Father in the presence of his angels is to be reclothed. Jewish tradition stressed the priestly shawl, the priestly robes in the temple, and (among the Essenes) white garments which were a symbol of inner purity. The Book of Life idea is traceable to Daniel. The related passages on books of remembrance are often seen as the list or registry of those of righteous destiny. Such lists on ancient parchments could be immersed in liquid, hence erased. Ritual ablutions completed by clothing in clean clothes characterize early Jewish and Christian practice. But for the Revelator, as for Joseph Smith, the robes off those in the community of the faithful are delivered by the Messiah for his worthy representatives. This is on a day of fulfillment and of spiritual triumph. [43]

6. The Pillar in the Temple Promise (Revelation 3:12): “I [will] make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” Written on “the pillar” is the name of God and of the City of God and of the New Jerusalem “which comes down from heaven.” In Jewish sources it is said that the Levites were entrusted with the “keys” of the temple, with power to overpower or bind both the evil and the good. (Joseph Smith taught that temple ordinances were given “in order that [one] may be prepared and able to overcome all things” and may learn to “prevent imposition” by the forces of darkness and evil.) [44] In one strand of rabbinic thought God will restore all crowns to mankind which have been withdrawn from them. [45] The “being written on” recalls the promise of Jeremiah (31:33) that “I will put my law in their inward parts” (cf. Hebrews 8:10, 10:16). It was proof of citizenship in the heavenly city. The victory of Christ becomes the victory of Christ’s sons.

7. The Promise of a Feast, a Messianic Banquet, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 3:20–21): “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” The promise is not for the lukewarm but for the fully regenerate. To be anointed is to have one’s eyes opened “to the glory of the kingdom” and then to become partaker or “to share” thereof. Such promises are not made on faith alone, but to those whose faith has brought them the mark of the prize of the high calling of Christ. He who will rule and reign forever now promises that his own will rule with him, will be with him. And one high symbol of that invitation to share is in the glorious consummation of a feast. Those who have come up through affliction, who have not been defiled, who have had their faith and love tested, are “called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). [46] They are they who have fully embraced and been embraced in the holiness of God in his sanctuary.


One might trace in detail the counterparts and implications of these patterns in the sacred texts of the Restoration. Enough has been outlined to underscore a simple conclusion: Within the Jewish-Christian tradition one may find the doctrinal and ritual core of the ceremonials of modern Mormon temples. Whatever else Latter-day Saint temple worship may seem to simulate, its deepest roots and closest ties are here. In fact, Mormon understanding of temples may well be closer to normative Judaism and first-century Christianity than either of these traditions is presently close to the other. The Mormon temple faith is at once biblical, messianic, and millennial. The papers in this volume are a beginning toward identifying and relating some of these roots and ties.


[1] “Israel, the Mormons and the Land,” in Truman G. Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, Religious Studies Monograph Series, vol. 4 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978).

[2] History of the Church, 4:492.

[3] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), p. 237. Hereafter cited as Teachings.

[4] Teachings, p. 223.

[5] Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps. and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, Religious Studies Monograph Series, vol. 6 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), p. 70.

[6] Teachings, p. 217.

[7] History of the Church, 5:1–2.

[8] Teachings, p. 224 (28 April 1842).

[9] Teachings, p. 362.

[10] History of the Church 5:424.

[11] Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (unpublished mss., LDS Church Archives), 6 January 1842.

[12] History of the Church 4:608.

[13] Teachings, p. 230; cf. D&C 97:10–14.

[14] Teachings, p. 196.

[15] Teachings, p. 329.

[16] See “A Few Items from a Discourse Delivered by Joseph Smith,” 19 July 1840, LDS Church Archives, Manuscript D, 114, Box 4, Folder 4.

[17] Journal History, 4 May 1844.

[18] See C. G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), p. xiv.

[19] Related to the author by the Jesuit priest Gustave Weigel.

[20] See, for example, Abraham Kaplan, “Explanations of Ritual,” Presidential Address, Israel Philosophical Association, May 1983.

[21] Teachings, p. 162.

[22] C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John (London, 1955).

[23] Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1970), p. 172.

[24] Louis Jacobs, A Jewish Theology (New York: Behrman House, 1973), p. 300.

[25] See “Jewish Background to Christian Worship” in R. J. Beckwith, The Study of Liturgy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 42.

[26] Teachings, p. 308.

[27] Teachings, p. 91.

[28] Teachings, pp. 191–92.

[29] In 1835 Joseph Smith spoke of “the order of the house of God,” including the ordinance of washing of feet, as “calculated to unite our hearts, that we may be one in feeling and sentiment, and that our faith may be strong, so that Satan cannot overthrow us, nor have any power over us here” (Teachings, p. 91; cf. D&C 88:138–41).

[30] Geza Vermees, Jesus the Jew (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), p. 92.

[31] Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1982), pp. 341–49.

[32] See R. Williamson, “Platonism in Hebrews,” Scottish Journal of Theology 16 (1963): 418–19.

[33] It was customary for centuries to suppose that “the (one) temple” was the temple in Jerusalem and that Jewish faith made no room for others. But now at Arad a temple has been uncovered known to be contemporary with Solomon’s temple. Its design includes an altar and a first tent or curtain, then a second curtain, and a holy of holies. Y. Aharoni, “Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple,” Biblical Archaeologist 31 (1968): 18–27.

[34] Teachings, p. 173 (5 October 1840).

[35] See B. Gartner, The Temple and the Community and the Qumran and the New Testament (Cambridge, 1965).

[36] Teachings, p. 161.

[37] Roger J. Adams, “The Iconography of Early Christian Initiation: Evidence for Baptism for the Dead” (unpublished ms., 1977); Hugh Nibley, “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times,” Improvement Era 51–52 (Dec. 1948–Apr. 1949): passim; Bernard M. Foschini, “Those Who Are Baptized for the Dead,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 13 (1951): 328–44.

[38] Teachings, p. 223.

[39] See James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern (reprint ed.; Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962); Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980).

[40] Testament of Levi 18:9–12.

[41] See Joseph Smith’s dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland Temple (D&C 109) and the response, “My name shall be here” (D&C 110:7; cf. 1 Kings 8:29).

[42] See J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1975), p. 400.

[43] Joseph Smith’s translation of the New Testament parable of the marriage supper notes that those who are “called” but not “chosen” are those who “do not have on the wedding garment” (JST, Matthew 22:14).

[44] Teachings, p. 91; Words of Joseph Smith, p. 21.

[45] Sabbath 88a, in The Babylonian Talmud, trans. Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, vol. 1 (London: Soncino Press, 1938), p. 418.

[46] Compare Teachings, p. 42.