Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 44: “Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh”

How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 44: “Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 07, 2010

Lesson 44 focuses on the “healing, life-giving” powers of the temple. This lesson from 1982 covers virtually identical ground using the same scripture passages, but suggests interesting questions in addition to the more catechistic approach of the current manual.

The Latter-day Temple

Ezekiel 40-48


Study Ezekiel chapters 40-48 and ponder Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple, which described the holy sanctuary where God will come to dwell among a priesthood and a people cleansed from sin.

Suggested Lesson Development


On 28 April 573 B.C. (Ezekiel 40:1), the prophet Ezekiel was transported in the spirit from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem, where he saw in vision the latter-day temple of his people. Although his description is minutely detailed and makes for somewhat laborious reading, it serves as a fitting climax to his writings, for it describes the temple where God will come to dwell among a priesthood and a people cleansed from sin.

Ezekiel’s Description of the Temple

Display the drawing of the temple Ezekiel describes. The prophet’s description of the temple is so vivid and detailed that artists have made drawings from it. He tells of a “man” who appeared with a line and a measuring reed in his hands, who led him throughout the entire structure, measuring as he went.

Have a class member read Ezekiel 40:4.

What did the man say to Ezekiel? (Take seriously what you see and hear, and then tell it to the house of Israel.)

How did this temple differ from our present-day temples? (It contained no baptismal font; the chambers described do not seem to lend themselves to present-day ordinances. There were places for offering sacrifices [Ezekiel 40:38-43], for eating and offering holy things [Ezekiel 42;13]/)

There were also dressing rooms for changing temple clothes (Ezekiel 42:14), apparently for the priests. However, we are not sure of all the functions of the temple. (See “The Function of the Temple” in Resource Material.)

The Returning of the Glory of God

Following the long, detailed description of the temple and its courts, is Ezekiel’s account of the wonder of seeing the glory of God, as he had seen it earlier (Ezekiel 1), this time near the eastern gate (Ezekiel 43:2). Transported by the Spirit to the inner court of the temple, Ezekiel heard the voice of the Lord.

Have a class member read Ezekiel 43:7-10.

Thus Ezekiel knew, and later told his people, that in the latter day they would put aside their uncleanness and the Lord would dwell in their midst.

The Lord then described in detail the ordinances, the sacrifices, and the laws of the temple, and the duties of the priests. Once again he spoke of the “prince” who would come to reign over the people, the prince who would “eat before the Lord” in the eastern gate, who would be called David (Ezekiel 44:2-03; see 34:23-24). This David is Christ (see Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pp. 193-95).

Why were the sons of Zadok to be the only Levites who could “enter into my [the Lord’s] sanctuary, … come near to my table, to minister unto me, … and keep my charge” (Ezekiel 44:16)? (The other Levites had gone astray after idols [Ezekiel 44:10-13] and were given lesser assignments. The sons of Zadok “kept the charge of [the Lord’s] sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from [him.]” [Ezekiel 44:15].)

The Lord commanded that the land be divided by lot, with that immediately surrounding the temple to be given to the sons of Zadok, a choice plot for the prince and one for the lesser priesthood functionaries. After that, the land would be divided among the people by tribes.

Read Ezekiel 45:7-89 to provide an example of how the people shall be governed in those days.

The Life-giving Waters

Was it real water Ezekiel saw or only a figurative description of the blessings that the Lord’s presence would cause to flow across the land from the temple? (Ezekiel saw real water. He waded in it and saw it become too deep to cross. Whatever additional figurative message the water may have indicated, it was real water.)

Have a class member read Ezekiel 47:7-9.

Here Ezekiel is told how the water would heal and refresh the land and other waters, even the Dead Sea. (See “Water Issuing frm the Temple,” in Resource Material.)

The City and the Dividing of the Land

The land was to be divided into strips running between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Dead Sea and the Jordan River on the east, and given to the twelve tribes with a strip out of the middle for the prince, the city, and the priests. Part of the division is described in Ezekiel 45:1-8 and the rest in Ezekiel 47:13-48:29.

Note You may want to enlarge the sketch “Division of Land” (Resource Material) to give the class an idea of the layout. (See also “An Inheritance of Joseph” in Resource Material.)

How many gates will the city have, and who will these gates be for? (Twelve gates, one for each tribe, including Levi and combining Ephraim and Manasseh under Joseph. The gates on the north will be for Reuben, Judah, and Levi. The gates on the east will be for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. The gates on the south will be for Simeon, Issachar,and Zebulun. The gates on the west will be for Gad, Asher, and Naphtali.)

Instead of Jerusalem, the city will be called “the Lord Is There” (Jehovah-shammah). Thus the tribes of Israel will gather there, and the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision will have a central location and function in that gathering.


Throughout the history of the Lord’s people, temple-building has been of major importance. As it was in Ezekiel’s day, so is it today: Temple-building is directly related to gathering. Ezekiel saw the gathering of the repentant Jews in Jerusalem, surrounding their temple, blessed by its ordinances, by God’s glory in it. Latter-day Saints share the same reference for temples, a feature identifying God’s people in all ages, as well as the gathering always associated with them.

In the latter days, the Saints gathered for many years to the valleys of the mountains in the western United States. Now, people are gathered to the stakes of Zion throughout the world. Similarly, the building of temples has spread worldwide, to bless faithful Saints wherever they are.

Ezekiel’s vision of the temple, not yet built, brings to mind latter-day events in and around Jerusalem: The dedication of the land by Orson Hyde in 1841; the Jewish Zionist Movement, with the return of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Palestine; the rise of the Israeli nation and its struggle to maintain itself. The Israelis are not yet a Zion people, but we welcome news of missionary stirrings there, of many Saints who visit there, of the recently dedicated Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens. We look to the day when the Jews, and all descendants of Abraham, will accept the Savior as their Messiah and join the Church in large numbers.

Challenge the class to accept their part in the Church’s responsibility to hasten that day in whatever way is possible. It is our privilege as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a part of the efforts that will bring about the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the temple at Jerusalem – with all that it implies for the children of Israel everywhere.

Resource Material


The Function of the Temple

“What is the main function of this temple? Are endowments of a nature similar to those given in modern Latter-day Saint temples to be offered in this sacred house? It would appear to me … that no provision is made in it for any but the most simple rites, and these are not those of the sacred endowments as we know them. … The temple will be built as a symbol to Israel in Palestine that God is with his people ([Ezekiel] 48:35), and also as a place where the sons of Levi may offer a proper sacrificial offering (Cf. D&C 84;31; 124:39) … Even a cursory examination of Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and its workings would seem clearly to indicate that the priests and the Levites who officiate in the structure will be performing ordinances similar to those which were performed under the law of Moses.” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 231-32. See also Ezekiel 40:45, 46; 43:18-27; 44:10, 15, 29-31; cf Exodus 13:2; 22:209; Leviticus 6:14, 17, 18, 25, 29; 7:1, 6; 22:8; 27:21, 28; Numbers 15:20, 21. Also compare 1 Kings 8:62-66 for Solomon’s temple.)


Although there is no full description in Ezekiel’s writings of the ordinances in the temple he saw in vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith pointed out certain principles that give an indication of the kinds of things that will be done there:

“It is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the prophets.

“The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood, and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation. We frequently have mention made of the offering of sacrifice by the servants of the Most High in ancient days, prior to the law of Moses; which ordinances will be continued when the Priesthood is restored with all its authority, power and blessings. …

“It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely, sacrifice, will be continued.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 172, 173.)

Temples and Gathering

“What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world? …

“The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.

“It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. … Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 307-8.)

Baptism for the Dead

See Doctrine and Covenants 124:26-30, 36-39.

Water Issuing from the Temple

“Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, etc.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 286.)

An Inheritance of Joseph

“Of interest to the Latter-day Saints is the fact that provision is made for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is quite evident from Ezekiel’s vision that not all of Joseph’s descendants are to have their inheritance on the American continent, as some of our people have supposed. We may be justified in believing, however, that most of Joseph’s seed will be provided for on this land (see Ether 13:5-120, but Ezekiel very obviously implies that some of Joseph’s descendants will dwell in Palestine.” (Sperry, Voice, pp. 236-37.)

Things to Note

Ezekiel 40:2. Compare with Revelation 21:10.

Ezekiel 40:3. Compare with Revelation 11:1. Ezekiel’s guide is never called an angel but must have been one.

Ezekiel 40:4. Here, and again in Ezekiel 43;10 and 44:4-9, Ezekiel is told the reason for his vision.

Ezekiel 40:5. Compare with Revelation 21:16. Ezekiel used a long cubit, about 20.4 inches.

Ezekiel 42:14. Note the similarity between the idea of priests changing from their holy temple clothing before going about their regular business with the people, and the practice in temples today.

Ezekiel 43:2-5. See 3 Nephi 24:1; Doctrine and Covenants 110:2-3; Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11.

Ezekiel 43:7. Whoredom was a favorite prophetic figure for idolatry (spiritual infidelity).

Ezekiel 44:15. Zadok was made priest by Solomon when Abiathar was deposed (1 Kings 2:26-27, 35).

Ezekiel 44:20-31. See “the Function of the Temple” (Resource Material) for comparison with some similar earlier laws.

Ezekiel 44:23. The basic teaching will concern how to know good from evil.

Ezekiel 47:8l. The desert is the south Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.

Ezekiel 47:10. Engedi and Eneglaim are places on the shores of the Dead Sea; the exact location of Eneglaim is not known.

Ezekiel 47:22. This verse has particular interest today concerning who the strangers will be.

Ezekiel 48:30-35. Compare with Revelation 21:12-13, 16.


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