Friday, July 25, 2008

Are Temples Obsolete?

      There are two types of Mormon houses of worship. The first are the churches or meetinghouses. They function both as houses of worship and as community centers for the congregation’s other activities. Where Mormons have no such chapel to meet in, they can use anyplace suitable. Baptisms can be performed in rivers, and Sunday worship service can be held in rented space or private homes.
      Mormon temples, however, are buildings of an entirely different nature.

They are built and dedicated specifically for the sacred ceremonies (or “ordinances”) performed there. No one may perform those ordinances anywhere else, and no one may use the temple for any other purpose. A temple is considered “The House of the Lord,” and is the most sacred of any place of worship.
      The typical criticism of Mormon temples is that they are no longer necessary because of the Atonement of Christ. The critics say that “the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). They point out that when John the Revelator saw the New Jerusalem in vision, he “saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22). They claim that the members of Christ’s church “are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16), so there is no need for an actual building.
      It is strange to argue that God used to dwell in a temple made with hands before the time of Christ, but not afterwards. Of course no earthly location was ever God’s place of residence. But God can visit holy places, and Jesus testified that God dwells in the temple (Matthew 23:21-22). In a different sense, God can “dwell” in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (4 Nephi 1:15; Doctrine and Covenants 130:22), making us “the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). But this does not mean that physical temples are no longer necessary.
      Jesus Christ did not say anything about abolishing the temple and did not consider it obsolete. He referred to the temple at Jerusalem (the Second Temple or Herod’s Temple) as “my Father’s house” (John 2:16) and made the cleansing of the temple the opening and closing acts of his ministry (John 2:13-16; Matthew 21:12-13). After Christ’s death, his apostles continued to worship and preach in the temple (Acts 2:46; 5:42), although they no longer performed sacrifice. Just as Jesus Christ replaced the Mosaic Law and animal sacrifice with a higher law (Hebrews 10; 3 Nephi 9:19-20), he fulfilled the old temple ordinances, replacing them with higher ordinances.
      Although John the Revelator said there will be no temple in the New Jerusalem, this is only true after the Second Coming, when there will be “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1). In the last days leading up to the Second Coming, the Biblical prophesies make it clear that there will be temples and temple ordinances, and that they will play an important role. In his vision, John saw the latter-day temple and was commanded to “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein” (Revelation 11:1). Malachi prophesied that when the Savior returns at the Second Coming, he will “suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1).
      Jesus Christ did not come to destroy the law, but to replace it with a higher law (Matthew 5:17-18). Nor did he come to destroy the temple, but to replace it with the pure form of the temple ordinances. He has revealed these ordinances to his modern prophets, as required by the Biblical prophecies about the last days.

In summary
Argument: Mormon temples are unnecessary, because the Atonement of Christ did away with temple worship.
Response: Jesus Christ never said that temple worship was to be abolished. He considered the temple the house of God. Biblical prophesies say that there will be temples of God in the last days.

1 comment:

Travis Brinton said...

I should correct myself before someone else does: It is not entirely correct to say that no earthly location was ever God's place of residence. Jesus Christ is God the Son, and of course he lived on earth. I should have specified that I meant God the Father.