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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Kirtland Temple: A short ecclesiastical history

As today, 27 March, is the day upon which the first House of the Lord built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was dedicated, The Mormon Eagle shall give some short ecclesiastical history of the building, from its visionary beginnings until today.

The Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, Ohio
Concerning the floor plan and layout of the Temple, the Lord showed the First Presidency in vision how it was to look.  Frederick G. Williams, then a counselor in the First Presidency, recalled,

Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors, Williams and Rigdon, and come before the Lord, and He would show them the plan or model of the house to be built.  We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance: I being the first to discover it.  Then all of us viewed it together.  After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us; and the make-up of this hall seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia (in Marvin E. Smith, “The Builder,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1942, 630).

West (Melchizedek) Pulpits, Lower Court, of the Kirtland Temple
Construction on the Temple began in June 1833.  President Hyrum Smith, that dutiful servant of the Lord, had such a desire to build the Lord's House.  Hyrum Smith was so eager to build the Temple that on the first day of construction, he, with scythe in hand, dashed outdoors, exclaiming, "We are preparing to build a house for the Lord, and I am determined to be the first at the work" (“The History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet,” 1844–45 manuscript, book 14, pp. 1–2, Church Archives).

Even before the House was dedicated, the Lord showed marvelous visions within its walls.  The vision now known as D&C 137 is only a partial account of it.  Immediately after the end of what is now D&C 137, the vision continues on:

I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him.  The Savior looked upon them and wept.

I also beheld William E. M'Lellin [sic] in the south, standing upon a hill, surrounded by a vast multitude, preaching to them, and a lame man standing before him supported by his crutches; he threw them down at his word and leaped as a hart, by the mighty power of God.  Also, I saw Elder Brigham Young standing in a strange land, in the far south and west, in a desert place, upon a rock in the midst of about a dozen people of color, who appeared hostile.  He was preaching to them in their own tongue, and the angel of God standing above his head, with a drawn sword in his hand, protecting him, but he did not see it.  And I finally saw the Twelve in the celestial kingdom of God.  I also beheld the redemption of Zion, and many things which the tongue of man cannot describe in full (History of the Church, 2:381).

After the dedication of the House of the Lord, Brother Truman O. Angell, later the chief architect for the Salt Lake Temple, recorded that he and Elder Brigham Young were walking by the Temple one night, at which time other Brethren inside were engaged in prayer.  Angell wrote, 

We walked out towards the [Kirtland] Temple, approaching the building on the side which was used for the Prophet Joseph and his counselors, a portion of the attic on the east being especially appropriated to their use.  In the said attic, and right over the stand where the brethren were praying in the hall below were two windows in the gable end to help give light to his compartment or room, the windows being 12 or 14 feet apart, and unusually high from the floor; being nearly 4 feet to the bottom of the lower sash.

When about ten rods distant we looked up and saw two personages; before each window, leaving and approaching each other like guards would do.  This continued until quite dark.  As they were walking back and forth, one turned his face to me for an instant; but while they walked to and fro, only a side view was visible.  I have no doubt that the house was guarded, as I have had no other way to account for it (quoted in Hawkins, Chad S., Holy Places: True Stories of Faith and Miracles From Latter-day Temples, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company, 2006, 23)

Unfortunately, the Saints were driven out by apostates in 1838.  During his mission to the East in 1844, President Brigham Young wrote in his journal for Sunday 9 June 1844, "I preached in the temple in the morning, and Brother F[ranklin] D. Richards in the afternoon.  I lectured in the evening on the subject of the location of Nauvoo; the Saints were dead and cold to the things of God" (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968).   

An apostate group (the Community of Christ) now owns the building, which is no longer a House of the Lord, but an unholy building, as per President Brigham Young's statement, which states, "The Temple at Kirtland [has] fallen into the hands of wicked men, and by them been polluted, . . . and consequently it [is] disowned by the Father and the Son" (Journal of Discourses 2:32).  Notwithstanding the fact that the Community of Christ is in possession of the building, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in possession of the Priesthood Keys, the which Keys and Priesthood no other religion possesses.  I hope that one day, the Kirtland Temple will be back in the hands of the Latter-day Saints.  God only knows the time and season.

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