There are 23 thoughts on ““In the Mount of the Lord It Shall Be Seen” and “Provided”: Theophany and Sacrifice as the Etiological Foundation of the Temple in Israelite and Latter-day Saint Tradition”.

  1. Thanks for your great work. This article has broadened my thoughts about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Especially ‘Seeing with an eye of faith’ stood out to me. Although I know that every single point of the gospel symbolizes something about Christ and his atoning sacrifice, I have never thought of that the temple is the Savior’s Atonement. Thanks for sharing this great work again. I am sure that next time when I go to temple, I will be more prepared to see and learn our promised redemption and rejoice with purer eyes.

  2. Thank you for the article, sir, I enjoyed it. A few brief points:

    It is the fourth verse, not the fifth, of Deuteronomy 29 which contains the “eyes to see and ears to hear” quote. A very minor quibble, but it momentarily confused me when I checked the reference.

    I found your comment on the Masoretic vowelling of the phrases “appear before the Lord” and “see the Lord’s face” to be very interesting. I feel like this is actually a very important distinction because, within the Orthodox Jewish tradition, the concept of seeing and hearing God face-to-face is a privilege granted to only to Moses, and Moses alone. And yet in Genesis 32:30 Jacob also refers to having seen God’s face after wrestling with an angel. Then there is the verse of 1 John 4:12 which says “no one has ever seen God at any time.” I don’t have an opinion on any of this, mind you, only questions and confusion.

    Finally, I appreciated all of your exegesis presented here, as it pertains to Scripture in its original language, and I am familiar with but not fluent in any of the BIblical languages. I wonder if you are familiar with Nehemia Gordon and his theories on the Book of Matthew and its Hebrew version? The 14th-century Hebrew translation by ibn Shaprut has long been thought to be derived from the Greek but Gordon claims there is strong evidence that the book was originally written in Hebrew.

    Thanks again.

    • Thank you, Bryan, for your kind comments and thank you for noting the Deuteronomy 29:5 / Deuteronomy 29:4 erratum.

      The taboo against seeing the face of God seems strongest in the Deuteronomistic tradition. Deuteronomy 34:10 is the source of the notion that Moses had a special privilege in “knowing” the Lord “face to face.” This particular statement was arguably authored and appended to Deuteronomy during the Babylonian exile, a time when Israel had lost the “presence” of God in the sense of losing its land of promise. Deuteronomy 5 reports Moses recounting to Israel how the Lord had “talked” with them “face to face” and in Deuteronomy 5:24 he indicates that God had “shown” the Israelites (i.e., “caused” them “to see”) his glory and that they had “heard” his voice and lived (cf. Exodus 24:9-11). Deuteronomy 5:24 is particularly interesting because it stresses not only the magnitude of seeing and hearing God (as an event), but also that it is possible to see/hear God and live, i.e., that Israel could (in theory) have a more direct relationship with God without prophetic intermediaries (cf. Numbers 11:29). This text reminds me of D&C 84:19-25: Moses wants Israel to “behold the face of God” but they cannot “endure his presence” (“face” and “presence” or the same word in Hebrew). When Isaiah sees the Lord sitting upon his throne in the temple (Isaiah 6:1), he is terrified that he is going to die for having “seen … the Lord” (Isaiah 6:5) on account of his unworthiness. He is subsequently given an assurance that his sin is “atoned” (Isaiah 6:7, note the sacrifice-imagery of the altar, fire, and coal) and in the very next verse (Isaiah 6:8) we find him participating in the divine council as one of its members. It would seem that “transfiguration” or “partak[ing] of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) involves a similar reassurance that the theophany will not be fatal (cf. Judges 6:23). Moses 1:2 states that God’s “glory” was the very thing that enabled Moses to “endure” God’s “presence,” i.e., be “transfigured before him” (Moses 1:11; cf. especially Moses 1:14).

      Regarding an originally Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, I have seen all kinds of arguments for and against it. One thing is for certain: there are plenty of Hebraisms and Semitisms evident in the Koine Greek that the NT writers used.

      Thank you again,


  3. Just for your information, the audio version of the article repeats itself in large segments, at least in the first 20 minutes. It’s like the reader did it over, but forgot to take out the first one.

  4. Theodore, thank you for your response! I had not thought to connect the name “Moriah” with “Cumorah.” It is interesting to me that it is often assumed that “Ramah” is the Jaredite name of Cumorah, when it is perfectly good Hebrew, meaning, “height,” “high point,” which lends credence to what you are suggesting about the place as a strategic military “high ground.” One thing is for sure: the hills “Shim” and “Ramah”/”Cumorah” held sacred significance for the Nephites, and the former is connected by Moroni (at least in passing) with a theophany seen or dreamt by the Jaredite king Omer. Definitely food for much thought. Thank you!

    • Matt, you wrote:
      “Sacrifice on mountains…is equally important to what ancient Israelites saw as the raison d’etre for the temple. The connection between mountains and sacrifice in ancient Israel is evident in the practice of sacrificing at “high places” (bāmôt), i.e., sacrificing at an elevated place.”

      Perhaps Ramah, as you pointed out in Hebrew means “height,” “high point,” is also referring to place of sacrifice, rather than a military implication?

      • It is difficult to say. It is interesting that the Rameumptom in Alma 31:21 is glossed as “holy stand.” This name includes the element “ram”- “high.” Part of Mormon’s point is that the Zoramites equated “height”/”elevation” with “holiness.” It is interesting to consider the shape and architecture of sacred structures in Mesoamerica where (human) sacrifices were offered.

    • It would appear that the names “Cumorah” and “Ramah” both combine to indicate that the location may have been a Temple site prior to the time of the Jaredites.

      • The text hints at the site’s sacredness, but it is hard to say more than that. The name “Ramah” may itself suggest cultic activity (see Alma 31:21), but does not necessarily imply any particulars.

        • If the name “Ramah” was all we had to go on I would agree that we could not surmise more. However, we know it was a repository of sacred records, and it is doubtful that the Lord would direct King Omer to simply a place of “cultic activity,” or that Mormon would gather his people around a place of just “cultic activity” for their advantage in an existential war. Cumorah had more significance than that.

    • For what it is worth, I really like the concept which William Dever uses (apparently he is quoting someone else because the phrase is set in quotation marks), in reference to the “bamah” at Tel Dan, where several were apparently built one upon another. Dever says this is a “well-known phenomenon of ‘continuity of sacred space’ in the ancient Near East, the “bamah” continued in use into the Hellenistic period….” [See Dever, “Did God Have a Wife?”, p. 139.] We seem to see the “continuity of sacred space” reflected in the Book of Mormon as indicated by these passages and possible connections.

      • Hi Dan. Yes, there does seem to be a fair amount of evidence for the reuse/continuity of sacred space in the Book of Mormon. Somebody should write a paper on this subject, if it has not been written about already.

  5. Matthew,

    Perhaps there is a similar Temple link in the Hebrew-derived word Cumorah? The similarities between Moriah and Cumorah appear obvious to one who is not a Hebraist. Perhaps Cumorah was also an ancient Temple site which preceded the Jaredites and the Nephites? The Jaredites called it Ramah, presumably in the Adamic Tongue, which still sounds similar. We know that Cumorah was a repository for sacred records as Mormon hid all the sacred Nephite records there (Mormon 6:6). Ether hid out in a cave in the area of Cumorah as he observed the final gathering and final battle of the Jaredites, and it was where he completed his record (Ether 15:11-13). It was probably the same cave where Mormon hid the Nephite records. Oliver Cowdery reported to Brigham Young that there were many wagon loads of plates in the cave in Cumorah (JD 19:38). This would seem like more plates than Mormon and Ether together would have moved there, so it suggests that Cumorah was a repository of sacred records prior to the flood. For some reason, the Lord directed Omer (3rd great-grandson of Jared) to go to Cumorah (Ether 9:3). He was probably the first person to visit Cumorah since the “waters had receded from off the face of this land” (Ether 13:2). From there he journeyed to the east sea. Why did Coriantumr, after he had begun to repent of his evils, spend four years gathering his people to Ramah (Cumorah) for a final defense? (Ether 15:3, 11-14). Why did Mormon gather his people to Cumorah for their final defense? (Mormon 6:2). A hill of that size does offer some military advantage of the “high ground” but there are many mountains and hills that would have greater strategic value. It must be that they thought the sacredness of the place would help protect them. Macaulay expresses a common sentiment in his poem Horatius:

    And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his Gods.

    The last known righteous areas prior to the flood were Enoch’s native land of Cainan, which was a journey from the sea east (Moses 6:41-42), and the City of Zion that Enoch created. Perhaps they were the same place, as Enoch surely included his righteous extended family in his city of Zion. Because of the ancient records there, both the Jaredites and the Nephites must have known more about Cumorah than we do. It must have been a sacred place and probably the site of an ancient Temple.

    Melchizedek built a Temple on Moriah (Flavius Josephus, Wars Of The Jews 6.10.1), and then he and his people were translated into Heaven. Perhaps Enoch built a Temple on Cumorah before he and his people were translated?

  6. This article is a wonderful example of how the Restoration scriptures produce a more unified, complete picture of the spiritual realities behind the Bible. Just as in science, the explanatory power of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Book of Abraham and Book of Moses is strong evidence of their authenticity as narratives from and about God.

  7. I so enjoyed your article. I have been deeply studying everything I can get my hands on regarding Temples. This was a terrific summary of Theophy and Sacrifice in old and modern LDS Temples. Bringing in the Abraham aspects made the article very powerful.

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