Mormons believe that Jesus Christ, before He was born onto the earth, was the God of the Old Testament. His name, anglicized to “Jehovah” was too holy to pronounce, so He is called LORD in the Old Testament. It was He who directed the Israelites to build a tabernacle, and once they attained the Promised Land, a temple. It was He who instituted the symbolic rituals and sacrifices of temple worship. All the symbolism looked forward to His ministry, teachings, and ultimately, His atonement.
By the time Jesus was born, the temple had been corrupted. Roman soldiers guarded the courts, and money changers set up shop there. Even so, Jesus spent time there teaching, reading the law, and cleansing the temple. At the moment of Christ’s crucifixion, the veil of the Holy of Holies was rent, and the Lord’s spirit withdrew from the Jews’ central place of worship. In 70 A.D. the temple was completely destroyed.
As recorded in the New Testament, Jesus Christ restored and taught the gospel. He called apostles and gave them priesthood authority to preach the gospel and, most importantly, perform saving ordinances like baptism. However, Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of men. His apostles were rejected and killed, and without revelation through a prophet, the doctrine of Christ, and the ordinances he taught, were changed. This falling away, or apostasy from the original gospel Jesus Christ taught was prophesied by the very apostles he chose. In 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-3 it states:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
- That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Jesus Christ is at hand,
- Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come [the second coming of Jesus Christ] except there be a falling away first…
This falling away was the result of the philosophies of men being mingled with and corrupting true doctrine. Mormons call this falling away the Great Apostasy. It was a time of religious confusion, intellectualizing, and superstition.
As the history books reveal, there was a period of religious reformation in the 1600-1700’s, followed in the United States by a time known as the Great Awakening. It was during this time that a young boy named Joseph Smith was searching for Christ’s church. There was so much confusion between the different churches regarding doctrine that Joseph, like many of us, was unsure if the truth was even discoverable. However, he prayed in faith to know what to do, and in answer he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He was called to be a prophet, and it is through revelation, and a restoration of the gospel again through one having authority that we have temples on the earth today.
The sacrifice one brings to the Christian temple is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The temples are buildings of light and peace. There, one is protected from outside strife and temptation, for once a temple is dedicated to God, no unclean spirit can enter. There, one can receive saving ordinances and knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. One can be sealed for eternity to family members who have passed on. One can sit in peace and receive inspiration to guide him. The Christian temple is a place where one can know Christ.