This is the second Nephite temple mentioned in the Book of Mormon. “Nephi, did build a temple … 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” (2 Nephi 5:16). We assume the temple in Zarahemla was built after the same manner, but we have no record of it’s being built.
The gathering to the temple in Zarahemla was literally to the temple grounds as indicated by their pitching “their tents round about the temple” (Mosiah 2:6). Jacob’s coming “up into the temple” in the land of Nephi to “declare unto you the word of God” (Jacob 2:2), was also suggested to be the temple grounds, but King Benjamin “could not teach them all within the walls of the temple” (Mosiah 2:7). It was a special gathering, not a regularly scheduled event, to which they had been summoned. It would be similar to a solemn assembly, one of the purposes of temples given in modern revelation (see D&C 124:39). As with Jacob in the land of Nephi, the families assembled, but with King Benjamin it was the extended family suggesting again a patriarchal order (Mosiah 2:5). Jacob mentions “your wives and your children” (Jacob 2:7), but says nothing of the family unit. In this writer’s opinion, to attempt to associate it with a specific Jewish festival, as some writers do, is without sufficient foundation. If it had been a regular festival, it seems it would have been mentioned. While “sacrifices and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses” were made (Mosiah 2:3), they were made on a daily basis (Mosiah 13:30, discussed later). They were “a type and a shadow of things [of Christ] which are to come” (Mosiah 13:10, also discussed later), and also of thanksgiving for their blessings (Mosiah 2:4, compare Leviticus 7:12). It should also be mentioned that the Nephites operated under the Melchizedek priesthood for “the law hath become dead” unto them. Nevertheless, they kept it until Christ had fulfilled the law (2 Nephi 25:24–25 and discussed more fully in chapter 10). The building of the tower and the writing of the king’s words (Mosiah 2:7–8) were previously commented on in the “Introduction” of the “Notes and Commentary.”