The English word "temple" comes from the Latin templum. the equivalent Hebrew term is Beth Elohim, which literally means "the House of the Lord."
As a boy and young man, Nephi had lived in Jerusalem where Solomon's Temple, built more than 300 years before (about 952 B.C.), had a vital role in daily worship and had been a center of teaching and exhortation.Prophets often went to the temple to prophesy. Among prophets in Jerusalem during Nephi's youth was his father, Lehi, a contemporary of Jeremiah.
The Prophet Jeremiah had been commanded to "stand in the gate of the Lord's house" (Jer. 7:2) to proclaim Jehovah's word.
Perhaps Lehi also went to the temple - or at least was in close proximity to it - when he "began to prophesy and to declare unto them [the people] concerning the things which he had both seen and heard . . ." (1 Ne. 1:18-19.)
During their wilderness travels and the early years in their new land, Lehi and his people were unable to enjoy the presence of a temple. While the Old Testament has numerous references to Lehi's Israelite ancestors have the Tabernacle, or a portable sanctuary, the Book of Mormon makes no mention of such a temporary substitute for a temple in the New World.
An interesting observation is that the Israelites, soon upon their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and during their wilderness wandering, prepared a sanctuary wherein the Lord would manifest His presence and make known His will as their accepted Lord and King.
Likewise, within a few years of their arrival in the land of promise after their own wilderness experience, the children of Lehi - or, in this case, the Nephites - erected a temple in the new hemisphere for the same purpose.