Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
… a House of God”
The Lord commanded the Saints to build the Kirtland Temple.
The Saints were blessed for their great sacrifices in building the temple.
Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple.
The Lord accepted the Kirtland Temple, and ancient prophets restored priesthood
Temple building and temple work accelerate in our day.
A study of this lesson will help us understand the significance of temples
and encourage us to seek the blessings of the temple in our own lives.
Scripture references for study:
Doctrine and Covenants 95;
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 18 Handout (PDF)
The Kirtland Temple
On December 27, 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation
contained in D&C 88. In a letter to William W. Phelps, the Prophet
spoke of this revelation when he wrote, "I send
you the 'Olive Leaf' which we have plucked from the tree of Paradise, the
Lord's message of peace to us" (D&C Commentary, p539).
Among other things, the Saints were commanded to "Organize
yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a
house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning,
a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God" (D&C
At the time this commandment was given there were only about 100 members
of the Church living in Kirtland township. Over the next three years
the membership in Kirtland increased to about 1300.
On June 1, 1833, the Prophet received a revelation from the Lord chastising
him and the Saints for not building the House of the Lord as previously
"Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand
rebuked before my face; For ye have sinned
against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great
commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building
of mine house . . . .
Verily I say unto
you, it is my will that you should build a house. If you keep my commandments
you shall have power to build it. If you keep not
my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore
you shall walk in darkness." (D&C 95:2-3, 11-12)
Joseph was told that great blessings depended upon the completion of the
"Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a
commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design
to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high" (D&C
The membership of the Church was not wealthy. The construction of
such a building appeared to be an impossible task.
July 1833 - The foundation stone laid and construction commenced.
The Saints in Kirtland were poor and the building of the temple required
a sacrifice of money and physical effort.
John A. Widtsoe estimated that, in comparison to what the Saints possessed,
this was the most expensive religious building in American history. It was an unprecedented sacrifice. (Program of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, p260)
Sidney Rigdon often wept over the poverty of the Church and the sacrifices
the Saints made to build the temple. He pled with the Lord to support
them in their labors.
The Prophet acted as foreman in the stone quarry and frequently worked
on the construction of the temple.
Many of the enemies of the Church, learning that a temple was going to
be built, declared that it would never be finished.
At times there were three men standing guard for each one working on the
temple. Guards were also necessary at times to protect the Prophet.
Brigham Young: "We completed a temple in Kirtland
and in Nauvoo; and did not the bells of hell toll all the time we were
building them? They did, every week and every day." (JD,
Brigham Young spoke of the great sacrifice made by the Saints: " .
. . a mere handful of men, living on air, and a little hominy and milk,
and often salt or no salt, when milk could not be had; the great Prophet
Joseph, in the stone quarry, quarrying rock with his own hands; and the
few then in the Church, following his example of obedience and diligence
wherever most needed; with laborers on the walls, holding the sword in
one hand to protect themselves from the mob, while they placed the stone
and moved the trowel with the other, the Kirtland temple . . . was so far
completed as to be dedicated." (Discourses of Brigham Young,
The temple was not a large building by today's standards. It
was 80 feet by 60 feet with 50 foot high walls.
The two main rooms were 55 by 65 feet in the inner court and 22 feet in
The Lord revealed His plans for the Kirtland Temple in a vision to the
First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams).
President Frederick G. Williams said they knelt together in prayer, and
a model of the building "appeared within viewing
distance. … After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building
seemed to come right over us." (The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph
When the temple was completed, Frederick G. Williams said it looked exactly as
it had in the vision.
At the time of dedication there was still $13,000 owing on the building.
A time of preparation.
From January 21 through May 1, 1836, it is likely that more Latter-day Saints beheld
visions and received gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy
than during any other period in the history of the Church.
Orson Pratt: "God was there, his angels were there,
the Holy Ghost was in the midst of the people, the visions of the Almighty
were opened to the minds of the servants of the living God; the veil was
taken from the minds of many; they saw the heavens opened; they beheld
the angels of God; they heard the voice of the Lord; and they were filled
from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet with the power
and inspiration of the Holy Ghost . . . . In that Temple, set apart
by the servants of God, and dedicated by a prayer that was written by inspiration,
the people were blessed as they never had been blessed for generations."
The first of these great manifestations occurred on the evening of January
On this evening the Prophet met with some of the brethren in one of the
attic classrooms of the nearly completed temple. At this time the
Prophet introduced the ordinance of anointing.
After the instruction was given the Prophet testified that "the heavens
were opened upon us." He says that he "beheld the celestial
kingdom of God, and the glory thereof."
This revelation has been recorded as Section 137.
Before this remarkable series of visions ended, the high councils from
Kirtland and Missouri entered the room, received their anointings, and
were blessed with the ministering of angels.
Oliver Cowdery wrote that the "glorious scene" was "too
great to be described . . . . I only say, the heavens were opened
to many, and great and marvelous things were shown" (quoted in Studies In Scripture,
Many meetings were held to prepare the Saints for the dedication.
They were instructed that they must come in purity.
They were to prepare themselves by having studied and pondered the revelations.
The Day of Dedication - 27 March 1836
Rules drafted by the Prophet.
Old and young were to sit quietly.
No whispering, talking, laughing, or menacing gestures.
Children were not allowed to play in the building.
The people were in their seats at 7:00 AM.
According to George A. Smith, 960 people were seated, and others standing
swelled the congregation to a little over a thousand.
The Prophet suggested that those children that had a desire to attend,
that were willing to be orderly, could sit on their parent's laps.
The Prophet found when arriving for the service that there were two persons
in each seat.
About 800 eager Saints were turned away. The Prophet promised a repeat
of the dedication on March 31.
One Frazier Eaton had paid $700 towards the building of the temple, but
arriving late he was not admitted. He sullenly departed and eventually
Donations were accepted at the door to help pay the $13,000 deficit. $963
The meeting began at 9:00 AM and lasted until 4:00 PM with only a 20 minute
The Morning Session.
Sidney Rigdon conducted.
He began by reading Psalms 96 and 24.
A hymn written by Parley P. Pratt was sung (Ere The Veil Rent In Twain).
Sidney gave the opening prayer.
A hymn written by W.W. Phelps (Waymouth) was sung by the congregation and
a small choir.
Sidney Rigdon then gave a two and a half hour sermon based on Matthew 8:20,
where it says, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but
the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."
He said that this house is to become the house of the Lord.
The morning session concluded with the singing of "Now Let Us Rejoice."
The Afternoon Session.
A brief intermission - 15-20 minutes.
Enough time for a few of the sisters to take care of their children.
Few left the temple after the morning session.
The Prophet gave a brief address and presented the priesthood authorities
of the Church for the sustaining vote of the Church.
The Prophet then read the dedicatory prayer.
This prayer was revealed by the Lord and is recorded as
This has been the pattern for all subsequent dedicatory prayers.
Following the dedicatory prayer the choir arose and sang "The Spirit
of God Like a Fire Is Burning."
William W. Phelps wrote this hymn especially for this occasion.
The Prophet then took a sustaining vote from each of the priesthood quorums
to accept the dedication. The vote was unanimous.
The sacrament of the Lord's supper was administered to the congregation.
The Prophet then testified of his divine mission and the ministration of
Don Carlos Smith bore his testimony.
Oliver Cowdery testified of the truth of the Book of Mormon and the latter-day
According to the Prophet, President Frederick G. Williams then arose and
"testified that while President Rigdon was making his first prayer,
an angel entered the window and took his seat between Father Smith and
himself, and remained there during the prayer" (HC, 2:427).
Hyrum Smith spoke and congratulated those who had endured so many toils
and privations to build the temple.
President Rigdon made a few closing comments and gave a short prayer.
The proceedings of the day were sealed by the hosanna shout:
Done with a shout and a raising of the arms.
The following was shouted 3 times:
"Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb. Amen. Amen.
Dictionary Definition of hosanna.
Hosanna = save now. The word is taken from Psalms 118:25, one of
the Psalms of the Hallel. The chanting of this psalm was connected
at the Feast of Tabernacles with the waving of palm branches; hence the
use of the word by the multitudes at our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem
(Matthew. 21:9, 15; Mark 11:9, 10; John 12:13).
It was a plea that the Lord enter, accept, and visit this Holy House.
Father Smith welcomed a woman with a very small child. She had been turned
away by others who felt that the child could not endure the service.
Father Smith promised the woman that all would be well.
When the mother arose to join in the Hosanna shout, the two month old baby
pushed back his coverlet and joined in the shout.
Brigham Young then arose to speak - the Spirit descended on Brigham and
he began to speak in tongues.
David W. Patten arose to interpret.
Is was a message of admonition and divine approval.
The Prophet concluded the session with a blessing to the congregation in
the name of the Lord.
The assembly dispersed a little past 4:00 PM.
Eliza R. Snow wrote: "No mortal language can describe
the sweet spirit of love and union. No language can describe the heavenly
manifestations of that memorable day. A sense of divine presence was realized
by all. Each heart was filled with joy inexpressible." (quoted in
Studies in Scripture, 1:421-422)
The Dedication Prayer - Section 109.
The prayer begins and concludes by asking the Lord to accept the temple.
" . . . we ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this
house, the workmanship of the hands of us, thy servants, which thou didst
command us to build. For thou knowest that we have done this work
through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our
substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have
a place to manifest himself to his people" (v4-5).
D&C 109:10-13. Call for the glory of the Lord to
rest upon the Saints.
What great promises!
WHAT MUST WE DO TO QUALIFY TO HAVE THE GLORY OF THE LORD REST UPON US?
D&C 109:20-21. No unclean thing to enter the House
of the Lord.
WHY MUST WE BE WORTHY WHEN WE ENTER THE TEMPLE?
"And inasmuch as my people build a house unto
me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come
into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; Yea,
and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure
in heart that shall come into it shall see God. But if it be defiled
I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not
come into unholy temples." (D&C 97:15-17)
WHAT BLESSINGS MAY WE RECEIVE AS WE ATTEND THE TEMPLE WORTHILY?
Verses 13-19 list several blessings:
We may feel the power of the Lord (v13).
Learn words of wisdom (v14).
Receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost (v15).
We will be organized according to the laws of God (v15).
We will be prepared to obtain every needful thing (v15).
President Ezra Taft Benson: "When you attend the
temple and perform the ordinances that pertain to the House of the Lord,
certain blessings will come to you:
"You will receive the spirit
of Elijah, which will turn your hearts to your spouse, to your children,
and to your forebears.
"You will love your family
with a deeper love than you have loved before.
"You will be endowed with
power from on high as the Lord has promised.
"You will receive the key
of the knowledge of God. (See D&C 84:19) You will learn how you can
be like Him. Even the power of godliness will be manifest to you. (See
"You will be doing a great
service to those who have passed to the other side of the veil in order
that they might be 'judged according to men in the flesh, but live according
to God in the spirit.' (D&C 138:34)
"Such are the blessings
of the temple and the blessings of frequently attending the temple."
(Ensign, Aug 1985, p10)
D&C 109:22. Go from the temple armed with power.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LEAVE THE TEMPLE ARMED WITH THE POWER OF GOD?
"We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people
that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy
house, to all generations and for eternity; That no weapon formed against
them shall prosper; that he who diggeth a pit for them shall fall into
the same himself; That no combination of wickedness shall have power to
rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in
this house" (v24-26).
Brigham Young: "Much has been said about
the power of the Latter-day Saints. Is it the people called Latter-day
Saints that have this power, or is it the Priesthood? It is the Priesthood;
and if they live according to that Priesthood, they can commence their
work here and gain many victories, and be prepared to receive glory, immortality,
and eternal life, that when they go into the spirit-world their work will
far surpass that of any other man or being that has not been blessed with
the keys of the Priesthood here." (JD, 7:288-289)
So vital was the endowment that in the last days of Nauvoo the temple was
kept busy night and day in order for the Saints to receive their endowments before
the trek west.
It has been said that the Saints could not endure the trials ahead without
the strength and power of the endowment received in the House of the Lord.
HOW HAS TEMPLE ATTENDANCE STRENGTHENED YOU AGAINST TEMPTATION?
We will be prepared for the calamities of the last days if we are diligent
in serving the Lord. Temple attendance is one of the most significant
things we can do to deliver ourselves from the calamity of the wicked.
"Have mercy, O Lord, upon the wicked mob, who
have driven thy people, that they may cease to spoil, that they may repent
of their sins if repentance is to be found" (v50).
HOW DO YOU THINK THE SAINTS FELT ABOUT PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO DROVE THEM
FROM THEIR HOMES?
WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM PRAYING FOR OUR ENEMIES?
" . . . have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may
those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the
Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever"
WHAT DOES THIS TELL US ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION?
That its principles should continue to govern our land.
- This might well be part of our daily prayer.
This is a prayer that continues to be answered again and again.
It is a prayer that we should continue to offer.
"We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the
children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed;
And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David;
And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst
give to Abraham, their father." (v62-64).
Consider the history of the modern nation of Israel that has stemmed from
the time of this dedication.
On the evening of the day of dedication, 416 bearers of the priesthood
gathered in the temple to be instructed by the Prophet about the ordinance
of washing of feet.
After instructing them on this ordinance, the Prophet gave them instructions
in relation to the spirit of prophecy and called upon the congregation
The Prophet said: "Do not quench the Spirit, for
the first one that opens his mouth shall receive the Spirit of prophecy."
The Prophet wrote: "George A. Smith arose
and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing
mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously
arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues
and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was
filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people
of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within,
and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple),
and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the
meeting closed at eleven p.m." (HC, 2:428)
The Keys of the Priesthood Restored
Great spiritual meetings were held in the temple in the weeks that followed
Meetings would often last throughout the night, no one tiring, no one falling
They were feasting on what the Prophet called the "fat things of the Spirit,"
The Prophet says that on Tuesday, March 29, he met at 11:00 AM with Frederick
G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery.
Later, other brethren were added to the meeting.
The Prophet received word that those who had entered this holy place were
not to leave until morning.
The brethren in attendance were to cleanse their feet and partake of the
Sacrament that they might be made holy before the Lord.
Wrote the Prophet: "The Holy Spirit rested down upon us, and we continued
in the Lord's House all night, prophesying and giving glory to God."
In a meeting with the elders on March 30, the Prophet declared the organization
of the Church complete; they should go forth now and build up the kingdom
So great was the feeling of spirituality and unity that it continued for
days and weeks after the meeting.
Some had thought that the millennium had come, as there seemed to be no
There was no desire to sin.
The Prophet warned them that this was all from the Spirit and that
the great temptations would return.
In some cases, what happened seemed to be more or less than what some had
expected. As a consequence these few soon left the Church.
On Sunday, April 3, one week following the dedication, Thomas B. Marsh
and David W. Patten spoke to the Saints in a morning meeting.
That afternoon the Presidency and the apostles participated in administering
and passing the sacrament.
After this Joseph and Oliver retired to the pulpit, where the veils were
dropped and they commenced in prayer.
It was at this time that the visions recorded in Section 110 was received.
D&C 110:1-10. Appearance of the Lord.
Next appeared Moses (v11).
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS VISIT?
The President of the Church was given the keys to gather modern Israel
- both a spiritual and temporal gathering.
Bruce R. McConkie: "These keys empower those
who hold them to lead all Israel, the ten tribes included, from all the
nations of the earth, coming as the prophetic word affirms, one by one
and two by two, to the mountains of the Lord's houses, there to be endowed
with power from on high." (Ensign, May 1983, p22)
Next appeared Elias (v12).
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS VISIT?
Elias restored the keys necessary to establish the ancient patriarchal
order, making all those who receive celestial marriage through the temple,
heirs of the blessings and "promises of the fathers" (Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob) including eternal increase.
According to Joseph Fielding Smith, Elias is Noah. (Answers to Gospel Questions,
Finally appeared Elijah (v13-16).
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS VISIT?
Elijah restored the keys whereby families - organized in the patriarchal
order through the keys delivered by Elias - could be bound and sealed for
Joseph Smith: "The spirit, power, and calling
of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances,
oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood
and of the kingdom of God on the earth." (Discourses of the
Prophet Joseph Smith, p60)
Because Elijah came, all other ordinances for the living and the dead have
real meaning and are in force in the eternities.
"Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are
committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful
day of the Lord is near, even at the doors" (v16).
President Howard W. Hunter
"Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten
to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances
allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for
the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which
is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is
a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace.
It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy
unto us." (Ensign, Oct 1994, p5)
For additional historical background on this lesson see
A School and an Endowment and
for Our God at LDS.org.
Photographs of the Kirtland Temple from LDS.org
Photographs of the Kirtland Temple from my visit in 2010
The temple was undergoing restoration work at the time of my
A view of the windows on the first floor
A view of a section of the quarry near Kirtland where rock was
taken for the temple
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.
How has the temple been a blessing in your life?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Answers to Gospel Questions, Volume 3, by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Discourses of Brigham Young.
Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Alma P. Burton.
Doctrine & Covenants Commentary by Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl.
History of the Church (HC).
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by John A. Widtsoe.
Studies In Scripture, Volume 1, edited by Robert L. Millet
and Kent P. Jackson.
The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Lyndon W. Cook.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
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