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Question 2
Nephite Temple


How could Nephi and just a small handful of men build a temple like Solomon's when it took Solomon 7 years using more than 180,000 workers to complete the temple in Jerusalem?  According to 2 Nephi chapter 5, the Nephites completed their temple in less than 20 years!  In addition, were precious ores such as Solomon used available to Nephi or not?  Verse 15 says that they were in great abundance, but the very next verse (5:16) says that they were not to be found upon the land!  (Walter Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, Rev. & Enlarged Ed., [Regal Books, Ventura, CA:1978], P. 313.)


Response by Stanley D. Barker


A Temple After The Manner of Solomon's

The Size of the Temple

Nephi stated:

And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple.  But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.1

Some have misconstrued this to mean the Nephites built their temple to be the same size as Solomon's and that it had the same kind of ornamentation.  Nephi's statement, however, that they built their temple "after the manner of" Solomon's temple, does not mean it was built the same size or with the exact same ornaments, but rather that it was arranged in the same fashion.  One individual has suggested that if he were to build a 1/44th scale model of the temple, it could still be said to be built "after the manner of" Solomon's Temple.  B. H. Roberts explained:

Since this temple [of the Nephites] was built about thirty years after the colony departed from Jerusalem, the Nephite division of it could not have included more than one hundred adults . . . . Nephi's description of his temple . . . does not warrant the conclusion that Nephi's temple was a duplicate of Solomon's except as to the 'manner of construction,' from which it is to be inferred that the general plan of the structure followed that of Solomon's, but it does not follow that it was anything like Solomon's in the extent or largeness of it; but in the arrangement of its courts; its several divisions and subdivisions were built "after the manner" and for the purposes for which Solomon's temple was constructed.  It was only like unto Solomon's temple in its arrangement and uses, but doubtless by this colony was regarded as a very great achievement . . . .2

Abundant "Precious Ores"

Nephi also stated that he taught his people "to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance."3  Undoubtedly the temple was constructed of the same materials and ores that were used in constructing other buildings, for those materials "were in great abundance."  Nephi makes it clear, however, that the temple was not built with all the "precious things" which Solomon used in his temple, for at least some of them "were not to be found upon the land."

Since Nephi lived near Jerusalem prior to his exodus, he knew of Solomon's temple, and was probably aware of the construction of that temple since the brass plates contained the five books of Moses and "a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah."4

As shown in the discussion above, it is clear that the author of this question has misread conflict into these two verses where none exists.  Nephi made a clear distinction between the precious ores which were in great abundance and those precious things which were not (mentioned in verse 15).


Earliest known discussion:

B.H. Roberts, 1909.


Notes:

1.  The Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981).  Hereafter cited as BoM. 2 Nephi 5:16.

2.  B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, (Salt Lake City, The Deseret News, 1951) III:523.

3.  BoM, 2 Nephi 5:15.

4.  BoM, 1 Nephi 5:11-12.