Christ Is the Center of Temples Today and Anciently
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
- The biblical phrase “tabernacle of the congregation” could also be translated as “tent of meeting.”
- A temple is a place where the faithful come to “meet” God.
- In modern and ancient temples alike, we come to know God and become like Him by making covenants.
“Christ … is center of our temples, and He invites us there to learn through covenants how we may become holy, sanctified, and clean.” —Ann M. Madsen, Sunday School general board
Presenting information from accounts of the appearance of Solomon’s temple, Ann M. Madsen of the Sunday School general board spoke of how the ancient temple compares with other places of worship, including Latter-day Saint temples being built around the world today. In her address at the annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium at Brigham Young University on October 26, Sister Madsen spoke of places of worship—such as the tent of meeting in the Old Testament—and how holy structures built at God’s command facilitated the law of Moses.
The building of the temple of Solomon was at the time when the practice of the law of Moses moved from a moveable temple or temporary tent of meeting to a fixed structure on a mountain.
“What a setting for His holy house. [It was] built and dedicated by Solomon to exact dimensions given of God in the same way Moses received detailed plans for the tent of meeting, only double the size.”
The phrase “tent of meeting” is usually translated from Hebrew as “tabernacle of the congregation,” Sister Madsen said. It is a common phrase and appears more than 100 times in one form or another in the King James Bible. A later consensus of translators favors the meaning “tent of meeting,” making it a place for the faithful to come to meet God.
Anciently, tents were constructed to carry out the work of the Lord. “They were living in tents so the Lord asked for a tent that He might ‘tent’ or camp among them,” Sister Madsen said. “In fact, the camp of Israel was organized with the tent of meeting in its center, with Levite tents surrounding it and the tents of the other tribes moving out from them in all directions.”
A few hundred years after the people had settled in a promised land, it became time for a more permanent house of the Lord. Solomon was allowed to construct the place where God would dwell among the people. “Towering adjectives” are necessary to portray how “larger than life” the temple was, Sister Madsen said. “Some of the awe of Isaiah’s vision of the Lord Jehovah must have been enhanced by the setting itself.”
Many sacred and holy events took place under the law of Moses, including sacrifices representing the ultimate sacrifice of the Savior. Prior to being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., Solomon’s temple had been remodeled on several occasions. It had been used for more than just worshipping purposes.
Lehi and others left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., before the temple’s destruction. “So this temple is the temple that Lehi and Nephi knew,” Sister Madsen said. “It was far from what it had been at the time of Solomon, but it still had the same structure.”
Throughout time many temples have been patterned after Solomon’s temple, both in Jerusalem and on the American continent, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. In 2 Nephi 5:16 in the Book of Mormon, Nephi builds a temple patterned after the temple of Solomon. Sister Madsen spoke of Jacob teaching in the temple after receiving his assignment from the Lord.
“I have to ask, had he obtained that errand in the temple? I think lots of times we visit our temples and obtain our errands from the Lord.”
Although both are structures built under the direction of the Lord, there is a difference between the law of Moses temples and modern temples dotting the earth today, Sister Madsen explained.
The law of Moses temples were operated by men born to the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood and were led by a high priest, who was a literal descendant of Aaron. That high priest was the only person who entered the most sacred room on only one day a year—the Day of Atonement. It was just outside of the temple on an altar that sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses were offered, Sister Madsen taught.
Modern temples operate under the direction of a living prophet who holds the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood that were first restored to Joseph Smith. All worthy men, women, and children over the age of 12 are able to enter on a regular basis.
Sister Madsen said the building of temples is an invitation from the Lord to come and meet with Him, just as He did anciently when He promised He would come to the “tent in the midst of His people.” It is in the temple that members are able to claim their heritage and receive the holy endowment.
“Christ … is center of our temples, and He invites us there to learn through covenants how we may become holy, sanctified, and clean,” Sister Madsen taught. “He has always invited all of us to come to meet Him so that we can learn how to become like Him, so that we may know Him and the power He has to make us clean through His infinite Atonement.”