John M. Lundquist summarized an intensive study of temple
worship in the ancient Near East with the observation that there was a
universal "ritual language and practice" among the ancients in their
systems of temple worship ("Lundquist, John M. "The Common Temple
Ideology of the Ancient Near East." In The
Latter-day revelation enables us to trace these similarities to an earlier common ground. In the book of Abraham we learn of rituals commonly associated with the gospel and which were had by Adam even before the Fall and were known to all the ancients who held the priesthood. Hugh Nibley describes these similarities as "diffusion and usurpation." In fact, it is simply a matter of apostasy. Anciently, as today, the world was full of copies of the original. The problem is that people become so used to bad copies that they fail to recognize the original.
Among those things common to virtually all temples of the ancient Near East as noted by Lundquist in his summary were the following:
1. The temple is the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain.
2. The temple is often associated with the waters of life, which will often flow from a spring within the building itself, apparently a symbol of the waters of creation.
3. The place upon which the temple is built is regarded as sacred.
4. The temple is associated with the tree of life.
5. The temple is oriented toward the four world regions or cardinal directions, and toward various celestial bodies such as the polar star.
6. The structural design of the temple expresses the idea of successive ascension toward heaven.
7. The plan and measurements of the temple are given by revelation.
8. The temple is the central, organizing, and unifying institution of the society.
9. The temple is associated with abundance and prosperity.
10. The destruction or loss of the temple foreshadows the death of the community. Such destruction is the result of disobedience to the laws of God.
11. Within the temple, kings, priests, and worshippers are washed, anointed, clothed in temple robes, fed sacramental meals, enthroned and symbolically initiated into the presence of their deity, where they would enjoy eternal life. Annual rites introducing the new year are also held, with the reading of texts and the dramatic portrayal of a pre-earth war in heaven. The forces of good prevail, led by a chief deity. Sacred marriages are also carried out at this time. 128
13. Sacral or communal meals are eaten, often as part of covenant ceremonies.
14. God's word is revealed in the temple, usually in the Holy of Holies, to priests, priestesses, or prophets.
15. The building or restoration of a temple is a time of covenant making, a time of renewal, a time to reorder society.
16. The temple is a place of sacrifice.
17. The temple and its rituals are enshrouded in secrecy.