Traditionally temples are positioned in a specific manner. In a vertical sense they are considered as the navel of the earth, the link between heaven and earth. But there is also a horizontal orientation whereby temples function as a crossroad of the four cardinal points. Therefore, the doorway of the The Hague Temple is customary found on the eastside of the structure.
Symbol of the garden of Eden
This traditional arrangement has its origin in the garden of Eden that serves as a prototype of temples. In his inspired standard work of the temple Elder James E. Talmage explained: “In the more extended application of the term, the Garden in Eden was the first sanctuary of earth, for therein did the Lord first speak unto man and make known the Divine law” (The House of the Lord, p. 17).
In relation to the positioning of the garden of Eden three scriptural references explicitly point to the east. In Genesis we read: “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8).
The second indication of the east concerns the four streams that emerged from Eden. Even though all four are mentioned by name, only with one river a direction is mentioned, namely that it went “toward the east of Assyria” (Genesis 2:14).
Finally we read in the creation record that Adam, after his fall, was expelled from the garden. Subsequently the Lord placed “east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Apparently the garden only had one entrance, on the east side. The Lord also used the same classification in the tabernacle of Moses and the temples of Solomon and Herod.
Symbol of the coming of the Lord
Another obvious reason for this kind of positioning lies in the fact that Christ’s second coming will be from the east (Matthew 24:27; Ezechiel 43:2). To subsequently set up the doorway of the house of the Lord on the eastside is self-evident. But at His first advent the east also played a role. The wise men asked: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
Symbol of a compass
All these Scriptural references to the fixed positioning of the temple also serve another specific purpose. In the words of Dr. Hugh W. Nibley of the Brigham Young University: “The temple is a point of reference, a place where you take your bearings on the universe” (Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], p. 141). By taking the temple as a starting point church members are able to define their eternal course and keep their celestial destination in mind.