3 Nephi 11:1– LeGrand Baker — ‘changes’ at the temple
1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
Earlier, when the Savior spoke out of the darkness of the storm, he gave this command to the Nephites:
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 9:19-20)
.Sacrifice does not mean to give something up, it means to make something sacred. Lundquist observed that, “the purpose of the sacrifice is to seal and to sanctify the covenant. ( Lundquist, “Temple, Covenant, and Law,” 300) The Savior’s atoning sacrifice had sealed and sanctified the covenant of his Father (Moroni 10:32-33).
What remained–indeed, what always remains–were the sealing and sanctifying of the covenant on the part of the people. The sacrificing of animals had symbolized the Savior’s act of ratification. Now that act was accomplished, no such symbolism was required. However, the act of ratification on the part of the people remained. That ratification, too, had to be sealed and sanctified by sacrifice–in a manner similar to the way the Savior’s was–with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
For the Saints in the New World, if sacrifices and burnt offerings were to be done away, then that would require that they make significant changes in their temple and the temple grounds. The great sacrificial altar that no doubt dominated the courtyard of the temple had to be dismantled and removed. The temple would have to be cleaned because blood would no longer be sprinkled in the temple and the Holy of Holies, and incense would no longer be burned since those practices were a part of the sacrificial ceremonies. The barns to hold the sacrificial animals would have to be removed, and many of the tools and implements that had been used in the services would have to be put away. If those Saints were like modern-day Saints, they would not have just torn down the old structures, and left the empty places. Rather, they might plant flowers in their place, refurbish the temple, and beautify its grounds.
The second instruction the Savior gave when he spoke in the darkness had to do with making changes in the temple drama. The Feast of Tabernacles temple drama took eight days to complete. Those days were filled with ceremonies and sacrifices. With the animal sacrifices eliminated, it would have required revelation from the Lord for the people to know what changes were to be made and how the ceremonies were to be performed. Then, like now, the temple would have been closed while these changes were made.
In all, it took a full year to make the preparations to open the temple again. Mormon is careful to tell us that. He reports, “in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land” (3 Nephi 8:5). Later, Mormon is just as specific when he tells us that the people gathered at the temple “in the ending of the thirty and fourth year”(3 Nephi 10:18). H writes:
1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place” (3 Nephi 10:18, 11:1).
The remodeling of the temple and temple grounds in Bountiful would have required a rededication. If such were to occur it should have happened at the juncture of the end of one year and the beginning of the next, because that is when temples were dedicated. It would have been during the next New Year’s festival because that was the occasion of the dedication of Solomon’s temple. (2 Chronicles 7:8-10) About that, Snaith claims that “Solomon would have no choice as to the date when the Temple should be dedicated. He was bound to wait until the next annual feast after the completion of the building operations. It was in the proper month and at the proper full moon that the people would appear with their gifts.” (Norman H. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival, 53). An important part of the temple drama of the new year festival was to reestablish the legitimacy of the reign of the king, so that would also have been the appropriate time for the Savior to establish the theocracy of 4 Nephi.
When Mormon reports the gathering of the people at the temple, he does not tell us whether the “changes” had to do with the adaptations in the temple drama, or the refurbishing of the building and grounds. Dil Rust wrote an excellent essay a few weeks ago saying he believes it was the former. I think Dil is correct, but I also think that it would probably be safe to believe that both kinds of changes were made.
(Much of the above was quoted or paraphrased from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord)