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Why would Joseph Smith risk mentioning the building of temples outside of Jerusalem before the discovery of the Jewish community at Elephantine?

In 2 Nephi 5:16, Nephi builds a temple in the New World:

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.

This is curious because it has traditionally been believed that Jews would not build a temple outside of Jerusalem. 

Jeff Lindsay explains why this thinking was wrong:

In 1925, a group of ancient papyrus documents were discovered on the island of Yeb (also called Elephantine) near the first cataract of the Nile. These documents provided numerous insights into the ancient Jewish community that had thrived there in ancient Egypt. Their history also provides some insight into the Book of Mormon.

The Jews at Elephantine built a temple to Yahweh. Through documents discovered in 1925 (the Elephantine Papyri), we can see that they were in contact with the Jews in Jerusalem, and did not seem to be in trouble for having their temple. In fact, after their temple was destroyed by enemies, they made a formal petition to the governor of Judah in 407 B.C. to rebuild the temple, and this petition appears to have been granted, though I understand that they were only to offer plant sacrifices (not animal sacrifices) in the rebuilt temple. An excellent online resource is the “Petition to Authorize Elephantine Temple Reconstruction” from K. C. Hanson’s Collection of West Semitic Documents, available at, which shows the transliterated Aramaic as well as the English translation. (See also “A Passover Letter” from the Jewish official Hananiah at Jerusalem addressed to Yedaniah and the Judahite garrison at Yeb (Elephantine), giving some directions for practicing Passover, and provides no hint of concern about the existence of a Jewish temple at Elephantine.)

Jeff Lindsay – Lessons from the Elephantine Papyri Regarding Book of Mormon Names and Nephi’s Temple

What are the odds that Joseph Smith would go against traditional thinking and be correct? 


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