And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship was exceedingly fine. (2 Ne. 5:16.)
About the time the Nephites were building their first temple in the Western Hemisphere, the temple of Solomon in the Eastern Hemisphere was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in about 587 B.C.
Solomon's temple was replaced by the temple of Zerubbel (circa 515 B.C.), which later was added to and improved upon by Herod, who became king of Judea in 37 B.C. The Temple of Herod, after 40 years of construction, still was not completed by Jesus' day. The temple was destroyed in about A.D. 70 by the Romans.
"The Temple of Herod was the last temple reared on the eastern Hemisphere," wrote Elder James E. Talmage in The House of the Lord. "From the destruction of that great edifice onward to the time of the re-establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ in the nineteenth century, our only record of temple bulding is such mention as is found in Nephite chronicles."
By Nephi's own account, the Nephite temple did not match the splendor and magnificence of Solomon's temple. Solomon had at his disposal the labor of tens of thousands of workmen (1 Kings 5:13-18) and could draw upon the wealth of many nations for building materials and furnishings. (2 Chron. 2.)
Nephi did not have at his disposal the skill and strength of such a number of workmen, nor the wealth of nations. However, he did have "all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance." (2 Ne. 5:15.)