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Brigham Young University Studies Vol. 23 (1983)
Ancient world civilizations believed that the perceived order of territorial environment, in its “natural” and built-up features, revealed the structure of a sacred universe. The epitome of this symbolic order was a capital city or ceremonial center. “In those religions which held that human order was brought into being at the creation of the world there was a pervasive tendency to dramatize the cosmogony by constructing on earth a reduced version of the cosmos, usually in the form of a state capital.” Characteristic of complex societies throughout the ancient world, this phenomenon is referred to as cosmic urban symbolism. The principles of cosmic urban symbolism account for many ideas and events in the Book of Mormon which are otherwise unexplained within a nineteenth-century American context.
A brief note in the History of the Church under the date of Sunday, 3 April 1836, records the appearance of the Lord, Moses, Elias, and Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. Subsequent writers have noted that this date corresponds to the Jewish Passover, during which the arrival of Elijah is traditionally awaited. A parenthetical note in the Missionary Training Manual: For Use in the Jewish Proselyting Program states the correlation of the two events emphatically. There we are informed that Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple “at about the same hour that the Jewish families in that time zone would have been preparing to begin their feast of the Passover.” These statements, although correct in their identification of the Jewish Passover with the ritual expectation of Elijah and in their connecting the time of the appearance of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple with the Passover season, warrant further elucidation and modest chronological correction.