I recently came across a quote by Hugh Nibley in which he said,
It has often been claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot contain the ‘fullness of the gospel,’ since it does not have temple ordinances. As a matter of fact, they are everywhere in the book if we know where to look for them, and the dozen or so discourses on the Atonement in the Book of Mormon are replete with temple imagery. (Nibley, Approaching Zion, 566-67)
There are probably many more references to the temple in the Book of Mormon than we initially realize. Over the last few days I’ve pondered that, and wondered how many times I might see temple imagery in the Book of Mormon as I read.
This morning I was doing my Sunday School reading in 2 Nephi, chapter 4, sometimes referred to as the “Psalm of Nephi.” In this chapter, Nephi exclaims in poetic form (chiasmus) the afflictions and temptations that have befallen him in his life, but also the glorious blessings that the Lord has given him. I found several inferences to temples:
And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. (v. 25)
We know from modern revelations that the tops of mountains are considered holy places, much like temples, where the sacred ordinances of the gospel may be performed (Bible Dictionary, “Temple”). The experiences of the prophets on Mount Sinai and the Mount of Transfiguration have been equated with the temple. When Nephi was carried away to the tops of the mountains, he saw things and learned things that he could not write. It was sacred knowledge. He had a type of temple experience. Whether he received the endowment on such occasions is up for discussion, but he did have a temple experience – he conversed with God and His angels.
Later in Nephi’s Psalm he exclaims,
May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!
O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! . . . (v. 32-33)
Speaking of the “gates of thy righteousness” and the “robe of thy righteousness” certainly refers to the temple. It’s interesting to note that Nephi tells us of the existence of two gates, one in hell and one where the Lord resides. We know that it is by priesthood authority that the gates of hell will not prevail against those in spirit prison, and it is by the temple ordinances that they are enabled to be brought forth from that place, and pass by those gates (see Matt. 16:18).
Do you see any other temple imagery in Nephi’s Psalm? Share with us in the comments.
I love your blog! Thanks for your insightful comments. I think I’m going to write a blog about your blog for others to see because you share very insightful things on the temple.
Here’s what I found in 2 Nephi 4 in addition to your comments:
v20 “…he (God) hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness…”
v 24 “…I waxed bold in mighty prayer…and angels came down and ministered unto me.”
These verses made me think of the video that we watch in the temple.
Thanks Aaron! I love the temple. I love learning about the temple, and sharing my findings with others. There is a scripture in D&C which says:
There is a lot of material out there about the temple, from the General Authorities and scholars of the Church, which help give us a much better understanding of our temple ordinances and practices, and how they fit within the world of ritual worship. What we do in the temple is not weird, or out of standard liturgical practice, but it can appear so for those that do not understand history.
I hope this site can be a type of “educative apologetics”, a term Kevin Barney borrows from Roger Keller:
Here I hope to help educate Church members about our own temple practices, and ritual practices throughout history, and in this way help protect them against the material that the anti-Mormon community produces.
Those are good additional insights about the Psalm of Nephi. Ministering angels certainly invokes temple imagery.
Not only does Nephi’s Psalm contain temple imagery, the entire thing takes you step by step through the stations of the Old Temple. There are many more examples of this literary format in the Book of Mormon, as well as all the standard works. Below is a link an article about it in my blog:
For an in-depth treatment of New Testament examples of this literary form, visit this link:
Jack Welch explores the Temple imagery of the Sermon on the Mount (daily bread, candle, arrayed as Solomon, a group prayer, ask/seek/knock, etc.)
Changed my blog address slightly; above is the new link to the same post.
1 Nephi 22:10-11 are very baringly brilliant about the Temple and covenants.