Mormons like to claim that their temples are a restoration of the temples that were built in Old Testament times. That claim collapses if one compares the Jewish temple with the modern Mormon temples.
There were three successive temples built on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Although built over a period of centuries, they did not differ essentially from each other in basic design, and all had the same rituals and purpose. All the Mormon temples (except the first two, in Kirtland and Nauvoo) resemble each other in design and use. But the Mormon temples are fundamentally different from the ancient temples in Jerusalem, as the following table shows.
Jerusalem Temple Mormon Temples Only one temple at any one time Over 120, more added each year Headed by the High Priest Headed by a Temple President Officiators (priests) were hereditary, full-time, supported by temple offerings Officiators are lay volunteers, part-time, unpaid Rituals described in detail in the Old Testament Ritual details (except for baptism) secret Rituals only for the living Rituals for both living and dead; mostly for dead No oaths required of worshipers Secret oaths required of participants in the endowment No marriages performed Marriage (sealing) "for eternity" must be performed in the temple "Holy of Holies" was empty (the first temple [Solomon's] contained the Ark) "Holy of Holies" contains an altar Only priests entered the actual temple building; all others remained in the appropriate courtyard (Court of Israel for men, Court of the Women for Israelite women, or Court of the Gentiles) All worshipers enter into the temple building Altars were used only for offering sacrifices of food and animals Altars are used only for kneeling in prayer and for sealing ceremonies Main altar stood outside the temple building, before the door All altars are inside the temple Principal function was offering sacrifices, which included the slaughter of animal victims Principal functions are baptizing for the dead by proxy, "sealing" and the secret "endowment" ceremony, which includes instruction in secret signs, handshakes, and taking of secret oaths, mostly performed as proxy for dead persons The veil of the temple separated the Holy Place (the Sanctuary) from the Holy of Holies The veil of the temple separates the Celestial Room from the previous Endowment room; no veil at the entrance to the Holy of Holies Only the high priest passed throuogh the veil of the temple All participants in the endowment pass through the veil Only the priests wore special robes All participants (including women) wear special "robes of the holy priesthood" in the endowment ritual; officiators wear plain white clothing High priest's robes were colored, richly decorated and jewelled (Ex 28-29) Robes are all white (except for a green apron) All Israelites could worship at the temple, without regard to their righteousness Only Mormons who have demonstrated their righteousness are admitted to the temple Fire descended from heaven and filled the house when Solomon's temple was dedicated (2 Chron 7:1-3) No fire has descended from heaven at the dedication of any Mormon temple Any man "with a blemish" was barred from the temple; blemishes are listed at Lev 21:17-23 - blind, lame, flat nose, brokenfooted, brokenhanded, crookbacked, dwarf, eye blemish, or "broken" testicles Men with facial hair are barred from officiating in the temple; no physical problem or "blemish" is a bar to entering
(But having undergone a gender-change operation is a bar)
Primary purpose of temple worship was to obey the law. No notion of "salvation" or idea of rewards in the afterlife Baptisms, endowments and sealings are primarily to secure blessings in the afterlife - "exaltation" in the highest degree of heaven
Is there nothing the two kinds of temple have in common? Yes, but not much:
- Both are considered sacred places and referred to as "the house of the Lord"
- Both are buildings
- .... with limited admission
- Ritual plays the primary role in both
...and that's about all they have in common.
This brief comparison shows that there is practically no material similarity between the ancient Jewish temples and the modern Mormon temples. Any claims to similarity merely indicate either a gross ignorance by Mormons of what the Jerusalem temples were like and what they were used for, or a deliberate attempt to deceive prospective converts into accepting the Mormon claim that Mormonism is a "restoration of all things."