3 Nephi ch. 11 – 20 — LeGrand Baker — The Savior fulfilled the ancient Israelite temple rites and covenants

The Savior’s visit to the Nephites was the fulfillment of the rites, covenants, and ordinances of the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord we show that the Psalms were the text of the temple drama as it was performed in the time of Solomon’s Temple.{1}

The original order of the Psalms was changed after the Babylonian captivity so that one can no longer read them from beginning to end and discover the story they once told. However, when we rearranged their sequence so that it follows the configuration of the plan of salvation then the pattern of the ancient temple drama became immediately apparent. {2}

The ordinances and covenants of the ancient Israelite temple drama had to do with establishing the legitimacy of priesthood and kingship, and with the object of bringing the people back to the presence of God.

The Feast of Tabernacles temple drama may be visualized as an eight-day pageant. It began by enacting events in the Council in Heaven, then the creation and the Garden of Eden.

In the Garden, according to ancient Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve were clothed with garments of light until they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, then they lost their garments of light and became naked. But God made them coats of skins that represented— and temporarily replaced— their garments of light.

Thus clothed, in the temple pageant, they leave the Garden and go into mortality where they gain experience, and sufficient power and instruction to enable them to return to the conditions of the Garden and once more be where God is. Through the psalms that were later quoted by the gospel writers in the New Testament, they were also taught about the promised Atonement.

That much of the temple story was enacted during the first six days of Feast of Tabernacles drama. The drama lasted two more days after that. During the Savior’s two day visit to the Nephites he fulfilled the rites, ordinances, and covenants of the seventh and eighth days of the ancient Israelite temple worship services.
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The seventh day of the temple service.

On the seventh day of the temple drama, the king and Jehovah who had triumphed over all their enemies, establish a new government where the king reigns as the earthly representative of Jehovah.

They enter the Temple{3} where the king (who had been ceremonially washed before approaching) was dressed in sacred garments, anointed, crowned, given a new royal king-name, thereby adopted as a legitimate son and heir of God.

The royal robes in which the king was dressed denoted both his priesthood and kingship, and also represented a restoration of the garment of light that Adam and Eve had lost in the Garden of Eden.

After the coronation ceremonies, the king took his place on the throne in the Holy of Holies and addressed the congregation. (In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin’s lecture is an excellent example of that enthronement sermon.)
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The first day of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites

While Mormon does not give us all the details, he tells us enough that we can know that during the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, he performed— in reality— the enthronement rites that had always been performed symbolically during the last two days of the ancient temple drama.

When the Savior came to the Nephite temple, he came dressed in only “a white robe” (singular) (3 Nephi 11:8).{4}

After he arrived, Jesus established a new government with Nephi and the others of the Twelve, as presiding priests and sacral kings, and as his representatives on earth.

Then the Savior delivered a coronation lecture (the Sermon on the Mount) which includes all the necessary instructions for one to follow in order to return to his eternal presence.

After the lecture, the Savior asked the disciples to bring him bread and wine. When they brought it to him, he blessed it and gave it to the Twelve, and they in turn served it to the multitude. Like when the Savior fed the 5,000 in the New Testament, there was enough to satisfy the hunger of everyone in the entire congregation. (3 Nephi 18:1-5)
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The eighth day of the temple service.

The ancient Israelite temple drama continued for one final day after the coronation rites in the temple. The eighth day was the day of the great feast when the king celebrated his reign as a return to the conditions of the Garden of Eden.

During the previous seven days, the people had taken care of their own meals, but on the eighth day, the king provided everyone with food and drink, symbolizing a return to the Garden where the people could eat freely of the fruit of the tree of life and drink freely of the waters of life.
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The second day of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites

The second day of the Savior’s visit was like the eighth day in the temple drama. It was a day of celebration, ushering in a new age of peace and prosperity.

That day the Savior came to the Nephites as Priest and King, and was dressed accordingly in white “garments” (plural) (3 Nephi 19:25).

The sacrament service over which he presided was the fulfillment of the promises of the great feast. The Savior himself provided the food and drink, and it was important to Mormon that we understand that. He wrote:

6 Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude;
7 But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink (3 Nephi 20:6-7).

This followed the pattern of the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama. On that day the king provided the food and drink, anticipating a paradisiacal time when men and women returned to the presence of God and could eat freely of the fruit of the tree of life and drink freely of the waters of life. It also foretold the conditions of the Beautiful City described by John the Beloved. There the Savior himself will reign, and the people who reside there will have the “right to the tree of life,” and may “take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:14, 17).

The multifaceted symbolism of the sacrament teaches us all of that. The bread represents the fruit of the tree of life— which in turn represents Jesus body. And the wine represents the waters of life—
which represents the Savior’s blood.

The symbolism of the eighth day of the temple drama were made reality by the Savior in other ways as well.

On Jesus’s second day with the Nephites, their garments of light seem to have been restored to the Twelve.

25 And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof (3 Nephi 19:25).

In the Garden Adam and Eve were free from sin. Similarly, the Savior promised the Nephites,

30 And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them are lost.
31 Behold, I would that ye should understand; for I mean them who are now alive of this generation; and none of them are lost; and in them I have fulness of joy (3 Nephi 27:30-31).

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In summary:

The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama was the time of coronation and enthronement just as was the first day of the Savior’s visit to the Nephite temple.

The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles represented a return to the conditions of Garden and/or the millennial reign of the Savior. When the Savior came to the Nephites, he established a new government and a millennial-like rule of peace that lasted for centuries.

Their garments of light had been restored. They could eat freely of the fruit of the tree of life and drink freely of the waters of life, They were free from sin, and were in the presence of God.

The symbolism of the Israelite temple rites were swallowed up and fulfilled by the reality of Jesus’s visit to the Nephites.
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FOOTNOTES

{1} An account of the Savior’s coronation and his fulfillment of the rites of seventh and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacle’s temple drama is given in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord: hard back first edition pages 865-1005; paper back second edition pages 607-695.

{2} Part One of Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord uses the psalms to reconstruct the ancient temple drama. We knew from the work of other scholars that the story line would be essentially the same as the “cosmic myth” or the “hero cycle.” Part Two of the book shows that every major sermon and sacred event described in the Book of Mormon is based on the rites and covenants of that temple drama.

{3} The presence of Jehovah is represented by the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple.

{4} see 3 Nephi 11:8, 19:25-26 — LeGrand Baker — The Savior’s ‘white robe’ and ‘white garments’

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