Ezekiel 47:1 the waters came down from under... the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar
The diagram and model represented at the beginning of the lesson make it easy to see where living water flows. It comes from under the threshold of the building labeled "H" in the diagram and travels on the south side of the altar, exiting the temple on the south side of the east gate (v. 2). As the waters travel eastward, they get progressively deeper and deeper. Every 1000 cubits away from the temple, the Prophet records a new depth until he could no longer reach the bottom.
The waters are "living waters" in every sense of the term. They are a source of life for the varied fish, for the vegetation, for the animals and for man. All of the sudden, the Master's response to the Samaritan woman takes on a very literal and added significance, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (John 4:10)
Ezekiel 47:4-5 the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and... the waters were to the loins
"In his vision, Ezekiel is instructed to wade into the river and measure its depth. The first time he enters it, 'the waters were to the ankles.' Now, an ankle-deep river is nothing to get excited about, but Ezekiel is instructed to walk down the bank a little farther and wade in again. This time 'the waters were to the knees.' He is told to continue down the bank and measure the depth again. 'The waters were to the loins.'
"Ezekiel's last description of the river's depth contains a beautifully symbolic truth of what the temple can become for all of us if we wade into its waters again and again. 'It was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.' (Ezekiel 47:3-5.) The water is now over his head, and he can immerse himself in its cool freshness.
"The first time we enter a temple, we barely get our feet wet. We are barely introduced to the Lord's light and love. What a tragedy it is when members of the Church judge the temple to be shallow or not deeply refreshing based on that first experience. Yet all of us know that on a hot summer day, wading even ankle deep in a cool stream brings instant refreshment and a hesitancy to leave the flowing water to return to our shoes. In light of this, it is not difficult to feel Moses' sense of wonder when he was told to 'put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' (Exodus 3:5.) Elder Widtsoe cautioned that it is not fair 'to pass opinion on temple worship after one day's participation followed by an absence of many years. The work should be repeated several times in quick succession, so that the lessons of the temple may be fastened upon the mind.' ("Temple Worship," p. 64.) Little do the casual waders know that down the river, if they will patiently persist, are life-giving, healing 'waters to swim in.' For the water rises each time we wade. Little do they realize the power of those waters to heal the disharmony of our lives, our families, and eventually the world.
"If we understand little or feel little the first time we enter the temple, at all cost let us not abandon the river. We must continue down the bank and wade in again and again. If we do that, we will feel the waters rise until they are over our heads, and we can plunge deeply into the refreshing, life-giving, healing waters of God's love and light. As we continue to wade in again and again, our understanding of the Lord's great plan of mercy and happiness as taught through the temple symbols will rise also. If you feel you are understanding the temple ceremonies at an ankle-deep level, do not despair. Wade in again and again and again. In time you will feel the water rise and your understanding deepen. When talking with children about the temple, I often tell them about Ezekiel's river. Their eyes are full of wonder, delight and anticipation at the thought that one day they too will be able to swim in Heavenly Father's river. We, who are older, can learn a great deal from their eagerness." (S. Michael Wilcox, House of Glory: Finding Personal Meaning in the Temple [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 41 - 43)
Ezekiel 47:8 the waters [of the Dead Sea] shall be healed
What Ezekiel means by the waters being healed is that the salt water of the Dead Sea will become fresh water. Whereas before it was a symbol of death and lifelessness, the new sea will be a symbol of life and vigor.
Spencer J. Condie
Of all the places on earth, the Dead Sea is one of the most inhospitable to life. Even burning deserts of sand provide a home for hardy insects and reptiles and for certain plants with extremely deep roots. Concrete sidewalks and asphalt tennis courts sometimes crack, allowing a brave weed or two to survive above the surface. But the Dead Sea, because of its extreme salinity, harbors no life of any kind.
Thus, using the example of the Dead Sea, the Lord's prophets have chosen the worst possible case to illustrate the power of the living waters to heal that which is dead. The living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His atonement can heal dead marriages, dead relationships between parents and children, dead friendships between business partners and neighbors, and spiritual death from years of alienation from the Church. His promise is sure: "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me" (D&C 19:23).
Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c.; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. (History of the Church, 5:336-37)
Ezekiel 47:9 every thing... whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live
"My favorite scripture on the temple is in Ezek. 47. Ezekiel sees in vision the temple that will one day be built in Jerusalem. When it's all finished, he is brought around to the east doors (because the temple faces the east). The first verse says, 'He brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar' (v. 1). A spring of water bubbles up right at the east doors of the temple. We have water in front of many of our temples-reflecting pools. Every time you see that water, please think of Ezek. 47.
"The water in Ezekiel's vision of the temple forms a river that flows down eastward into the Judean wilderness. Ezekiel returns to the bank of the river and finds 'very many trees on the one side and on the other' (Ezek. 47:7). The water goes into the Judean wilderness and then empties into the Dead Sea. Everywhere the water flows in the Judean wilderness, it cuts a swath of green through the desert. Everywhere water flows, life springs up. He says in verses 8 and 9: 'These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.'
"When I read those words, the Spirit whispers this thought: 'That which will one day be temporally true of my house in Jerusalem, is spiritually true now of all my temples.' Out from the east doors of the Jordan River Temple, where I go most frequently, is a river of water. It is not a river you see with the eyes, but it is there nonetheless. It will do two things: give life and heal everything it touches-our families, our friendships, our bruised and broken hearts battered by the trials of life. Nephi tells us that the fountain of living water is the love of God (see 1 Ne. 11:25). The river that flows from the temple is a river of light, truth, and power, but primarily it is a river of love; it will heal and give life to everything." (S. Michael Wilcox, Every Good Thing: Talks from the 1997 BYU Women's Conference, ed. by Dawn Anderson, Dlora Dalton, and Susette Green, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 296 - 297)
"From the temples of God, in all dispensations, 'living water;' that is, spiritual force, has always flowed from the sacred services, influencing the civilization of man, as no other force in the world." (J. M. Sjodahl, "Ancient Temples a Brief Review," Improvement Era, 1936, Vol. Xxxix. April, 1936. No. 4)
Ezekiel 47:10 the fishers... shall... spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds
In Utah, every ward has a member who loves to fish and hunt. Not uncommonly, they will say something like, "Well, if there isn't any hunting or fishing in the Millennium, then count me out!" Ezekiel has an answer for the fisher-hunter types. He clearly explains that there will be great fishing in the Millennium. Plain as day, Ezekiel declares nets will be used to catch all kinds of fish in the living waters which issue from the threshold of the Temple. That solves it then; there is fishing in the Millennium!
What about hunting? Again, Ezekiel gives us a clue where the other prophets are silent. The hunters may be disappointed, for Ezekiel said that the "evil beasts... shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods" (Ezek. 34:25). The implication is that the big game aren't too concerned about becoming trophy material. This is consistent with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Once, while on the journey with Zion's camp, the Prophet counseled the Brethren not to kill rattlesnakes for sport.
Let them alone-don't hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the suckling child can play with the serpent in safety. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 3: 29 - 30)
Addendum: Millennial Temple in the New Jerusalem
"Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that this temple to be built in Jackson County would actually be a complex of twelve temples, two of which would be for the lesser, or Aaronic, Priesthood. (See HC, 1:357-58.) Under this arrangement, President Joseph Fielding Smith suggested that 'provision will be made for some ceremonies and ordinances which may be performed by the Aaronic Priesthood and a place provided where the sons of Levi may offer their offering in righteousness. This will have to be the case because all things are to be restored.' (DS, 3:93.)
"Elder Orson Pratt gave a further description of this temple complex:
There will be 24 different compartments in the Temple that will be built in Jackson County. The names of these compartments were given to us some . . . years ago; the names we still have, and when we build these 24 rooms, in a circular form and arched over the centre, we shall give the names to all these different compartments just as the Lord specified through Joseph Smith. . . . Perhaps you may ask for what purpose these 24 compartments are to be built. I answer not to assemble . . . the Saints all in one place, but these buildings will be built with a special view to the different orders, or in other words the different quorums or councils of the two Priesthoods that God has ordained on the earth. That is the object of having 24 rooms so that each of these different quorums, whether they be High Priests or Seventies, or Elders, or Bishops, or lesser Priesthood, or Teachers, or Deacons, or Patriarchs, or Apostles, or High Councils, or whatever may be the duties that are assigned to them, they will have rooms in the Temple of the Most High God, adapted, set apart, constructed, and dedicated for this special purpose. Now, I have not only told you that we shall have these rooms, but I have told you the object of these rooms in short, not in full. But will there be any other buildings excepting those 24 rooms that are all joined together in a circular form and arched over the center-are there any other rooms that will be built-detached from the Temple? Yes. There will be tabernacles, there will be meeting houses for the assembling of the people on the Sabbath day. There will be various places of meeting so that the people may gather together; but the Temple will be dedicated to the Priesthood of the Most High God, and for most sacred and holy purposes. (JD, 24:24-25.)
"Elder Pratt noted that the Latter-day Saints would 'build it after the pattern that the Lord gave to his servant Joseph, the Prophet, and also according to the pattern that he shall hereafter show, if the pattern is not already given in full.' (JD, 21:330).
"In a continuing description of this magnificent edifice, Elder Pratt said that 'a cloud of glory [would] rest upon that temple by day. . . . [and] a flaming fire will rest upon the temple by night.' There will be 'no need of any artificial light,' continued Elder Pratt, 'for the Lord God will be the light thereof.' (Ibid., 330-31.)
"In 1878 Elder Wilford Woodruff, who was destined to become the fourth President of the Church, described a remarkable dream in which he saw the temple being built: 'I saw myriads of angels . . . and above their heads there was a pillar-like cloud. . . . I saw people coming from the river and from distant places to help build the Temple. It seemed as though there were hosts of angels helping to bring material for the construction of that building. Some were in Temple robes, and the pillar-like cloud continued to hover over the spot.' (WW, p. 505)" (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Behold, I Come Quickly: The Last Days and Beyond [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 119-120)