Revision 8.13 “A New Temple in Jerusalem?”

Revision 8.13 “A New Temple in Jerusalem?” January 23, 2021

 

The Jezreel Valley
Israel’s Jezreel Valley as it appears today.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image.)

 

Another development that needs to be achieved, as most Latter- day Saints know, is the construction of a temple in Jerusalem. The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of a great latter-day temple and its ritu­als and recorded that vision in chapters 40-47 of the Hebrew biblical book named that bears his name. Joseph Smith taught that, although the entire law of Moses would not be restored, the rituals of sacrifice would be restored and carried out (at least temporarily) in that temple at Jerusalem.[1] Little more than a year prior to his death, at the April 1843 general conference, Joseph prophesied that

Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple …and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.[2]

Two months later, on 11 June 1843, the Prophet taught a very important historical principle to the Saints at Nauvoo, one that has application to the future as well. “What was the object,” he asked,

of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?… The main object 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. 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.[3]

What kind of a temple will this be? That question is closely linked to the question of precisely who will participate in its con­struction. “Who do you think is going to build it?” Elder Orson Pratt asked at a special conference in Logan in 1877. “You may think that it will be the unbelieving Jews who rejected the Savior.” However, Elder Pratt could not accept that notion. “The Temple at Jerusalem will undoubtedly be built,” he declared, “by those who believe in the true Messiah.”[4] Certainly we can conclude that valid and authorized (and thoroughly Christian) ordinances revealed in connection with the restored gospel will be practiced there, since Jerusalem is one of the places designated in the Doctrine and Covenants for the performance of vicarious baptisms for the dead.[5]

Construction of the temple raises a very serious question, though. Charles W. Penrose, speaking before his call to the Council of the Twelve and, later, to the First Presidency, remarked that “the gathering of the Jews to their own land” was in process in order “that they may build it up as it was in former times; that the temple may be rebuilt and the mosque of the Moslem which now stands in its place may be moved out of the way; that Jerusalem may be rebult [sic] upon its original site; that the way may be prepared for the coming of the Messiah.”[6] I am glad that Brother Penrose was not yet an apostle when he made this statement because I hope it is par­tially wrong. Let me clarify what I mean. Some Latter-day Saints look forward with positive pleasure to the day when the Dome of the Rock will be cleared off the Temple Mount and the site will be ready for the construction there of the great latter-day temple. I do not. I love the Dome of the Rock, which, in my judgment, ranks as one of the world’s truly important, interesting, and most beautiful buildings. (Perhaps, I some­times daydream, it will be possible to incorporate the Dome into the design of the new temple?) Furthermore, I am aware that the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent mosque of al-Aqsa are among the most holy shrines in the world of Islam. Any deliberate injury to them will almost certainly provoke terrible bloodshed. I cannot see why anybody would look forward to such a thing.

Unfortunately, though, we can be quite confident that terrible bloodshed will come. According to the Revelation of John, a horrific war of the evil nations against Israel will occur in the valley of Arma­geddon—or Har Megiddo, “the hill/mount of Megiddo,” which is also known as Esdraelon or the Jezreel Valley. This is a triangle-shaped plain sit­uated about sixty miles north of Jerusalem, a place associated with a number of decisive ancient battles. The most traumatic of the con­flicts that occurred there, from the point of view of ancient Israel—or, more precisely, of ancient Judah—was the one in which pharaoh Necho, going up against Assyria, was intercepted by the righteous king Josiah. Josiah did not appreciate the Egyptians’ unauthorized transit through his territory and went out to stop them. Unfortunately, he was killed in the ensuring battle.[7] So the place already had strong and melancholy associ­ations in the minds of the Jews. But, looking into the future, John saw

spirits of devils, working miracles,… go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty… And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.[8]

The prophet Joel apparently also knew about this titanic struggle.

For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem [i.e., when I shall bring the captives back], I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat… Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears … [9] Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen… Let the hea­then be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats [i.e., vats] overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.[10]

Armed and bloody conflict seems inevitable. Does that mean that we as Latter-day Saints and as citizens of our respective nations should simply sit back and let it happen? Does it mean that we have no responsibility as citizens of the world or, it may be, even as gov­ernment officials to try to make an unpleasant prophecy fail? I can­not imagine that our Heavenly Father would have us draw such a conclusion. “Therefore,” the Lord directs us, “renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn… the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets, and the prophets unto the Jews; lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me.”[11]

 

[1] See History of the Church 4:211-12.

[2] History of the Church 5:337. The prophecy of the healing of the waters of the Dead Sea echoes that of Ezekiel 47:1-10. Incidentally, the very ancient notion that the waters of life are to be found at the base of the mountain of the Lord’s house reappears in the location of baptismal fonts in or near the basements of Latter-day Saint temples.

[3] History of the Church 5:423.

[4] Journal of Discourses 19:20

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 124:36.

[6] Journal of Discourses 24:215.

[7] Judges 23:29. See also Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 9:27; Zechariah 12:11.

[8] Revelation 16:14, 16.

[9] This is a direct contrast to Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3.  There is no specific valley that bears the name Jehoshaphat, which means “Jehovah judges” or “Yahweh judges.”

[10] Joel 3:1 2, 9-14.

[11] Doctrine and Covenants 98:16-17.

 

 


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