The Temple Mount and the Third Temple
- "As the navel is set in the centre of the human body,
- so is the land of Israel the navel of the world...
- situated in the centre of the world,
- and Jerusalem in the centre of the land of Israel,
- and the sanctuary in the centre of Jerusalem,
- and the holy place in the centre of the sanctuary,
- and the ark in the centre of the holy place,
- and the foundation stone before the holy place,
- because from it the world was founded."
- Midrash Tanchuma, Qedoshim.
The Temple Sanctuary
The center of Jewish worship has always been the temple. But before the temple was the center of Jewish worship, it was the center of Israelite worship. The temple has always been the central focus of God’s chosen people. God chose Israel to be His “firstborn among the nations,” whose responsibility it was to be the salt of the earth – to take godliness, law, and ethics to the world. The tribe of Levi was designated by God as the firstborn of Israel, those who would serve in the temples, houses of God. The Aaron was appointed as the “firstborn” of the Levites, through whose line (through Zadok) would be the high priests of the Aaronic priesthood, those who would officiate in the Lord’s sanctuary. Likewise, the temple sanctuary had a number of courts, from the outer to the inner, growing closer and closer to the holy center, the “Holy of Holies,” where resided the Ark of the Covenant.
Although we naturally equate animal sacrifice with Israelite temple worship, animal sacrifice is not necessary for temple worship. It was a feature of the school-master Mosaic Law, meant to bring the children of Jacob to Christ. Symbolism employed in animal sacrifice, such as the laying on of hands upon the sacrificial animal, the transferring of one’s sins onto the animal, and the shedding of the animal’s blood all typified the Savior’s atonement for us.
Although there actually were Jewish temples in other locations (Elephantine, Egypt, to name one, and in the Americas as recorded in the Book of Mormon [2 Nephi 5:16]) most of us assume that there could only be one temple for Israel, the one in Jerusalem, and certainly, as time has gone on, Jerusalem has been the only focus in looking forward to a “third temple” for the children of Israel.
- “King Solomon, according to the Bible, built the First Temple of the Jews on this mountaintop circa 1000 B.C., only to have it torn down 400 years later by troops commanded by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who sent many Jews into exile. In the first century B.C., Herod expanded and refurbished a Second Temple built by Jews who had returned after their banishment. It is here that, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ lashed out against the money changers (and was later crucified a few hundred yards away). The Roman general Titus exacted revenge against Jewish rebels, sacking and burning the Temple in A.D. 70.” 
Herod had enlarged the temple mount and had enhanced the second temple and built other eminent and remarkable buildings as part of the temple complex, including the Antonia Fortress. A 100-foot-tall retaining wall supported the mount, made of huge limestone blocks carved from nearby quarries. “When the Romans destroyed Herod’s temple in A.D. 70, they knocked the retaining wall down piece by piece. But the stones from the top tumbled down and formed a protective barrier that preserved the wall’s lower portions.” 
The Temple Mount
The remaining western retaining wall of the mount attracts tourists and worshipers from all over the world. At the present time, although the temple mount is politically in Israel’s hands, a Palestinian “Waqf” organization oversees the entire top of the mount, and Islamic mosques are the most prominent features there.
- The mosque called the Dome of the Rock—which was built during the same period as the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the south, between A.D. 685 and 715— is built on top of the Foundation Stone, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. According to Jewish tradition, the stone is the “navel of the Earth”—the place where creation began, and the site where Abraham was poised to sacrifice Isaac. For Muslims, the stone marks the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the Divine Presence [in a dream—Mohammed was never in Jerusalem].
Jews rarely mount the long walkway from the plaza of the Western Wall to the top of the mount. Researchers have not yet determined exactly where on the mount the holy temple stood, and where the Holy of Holies would have thus been situated. To step on the spot where the Holy of Holies was located would be a sacrilege. Any sort of digging or visiting or religious worship anywhere on or around the mount can inflame the passions of those who revere the place.
Every activity related to the Temple Mount causes controversy so strong it sometimes leads to violence. Indeed, a visit by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount ignited a Palestinian uprising that lasted for years and claimed over 6,000 lives. Arab and Israeli archaeologists are suspicious of each others’ temple mount research, because anything found might enhance the claims of one or the other to this precious piece of ground. While Moslems continue to consider the Dome of the Rock their third holiest site, Jews count the Temple Mount as their most holy site.
Groups of devout Jews are even now preparing for the “third temple” promised in the Bible, when Jerusalem will be a holy city:
- And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel—(Book of Mormon, Ether 13:5).
- It will be such an exciting day when, G-d willing very soon, the people of Israel will come back to the Temple Mount, purify it from foreign worship, and start to build the Third Temple. The door in the cave [Cave of the Spirits—through which a breeze kept the temple altar fire ever burning], and others, will be opened and the Ark of the Covenant and other very holy vessels will be discovered and again placed in the Holy of Holies and the Temple. This will happen in our lifetime. G-d is ready. Now it depends on us. Let us show Him that we are ready and determined and with devotion to act for this. 
A group called the Temple Institute seeks to bring about the construction of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, first by educating and raising awareness and last by getting the construction done. In the meantime…
- …the Institute has begun to restore and construct the sacred vessels for the service of the Holy Temple. These vessels, which G-d commanded Israel to create, can be seen today at our exhibition in Jerusalem's Old City Jewish Quarter. They are made according to the exact specifications of the Bible, and have been constructed from the original source materials, such as gold, copper, silver and wood. These are authentic, accurate vessels, not merely replicas or models. All of these items are fit and ready for use in the service of the Holy Temple. 
Another group called the Temple Mount Faithful has the same goal: — first to clear the Temple Mount of “pagan structures;” then to consecrate the Temple Mount as Jewish holy ground; then to rebuild the temple; then to reinstate the three Jewish pilgrimage holidays (Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles); then to make Jerusalem the real capital of Israel; then to take Israel to the extent of its borders prophesied in the Bible. 
The Temple Mount in Mormon Belief
Mormons believe in the Holy Bible and accept all the Old and New Testament prophecies of the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, wherein the temple will be rebuilt and Jerusalem become sanctified, a holy city. The Book of Mormon validates these prophecies, including the physical and spiritual regathering of Israel.
- And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham (Book of Mormon, Ether 13:11).
- And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 24:3,4).