Chapter 5 Section B
The dedication of the Kirtland Temple occurred on Sunday, March 27, 1836. The early hour of 8 a.m. had been set as the time for opening the doors; but so intense was the interest and so eager the expectation, that long before the time hundreds had gathered about the doors. Between nine hundred and a thousand people attended the services. The congregation was seated in solemn assembly, each of the organized bodies of Priesthood with its presiding officers being in its appointed place. Singing, scripture reading, and supplication for Divine grace, were followed by brief addresses; after which the authorities of the Church as then constituted were presented to the people for acceptance or rejection, and a rising vote pledged unanimous support in every instance. The authorities of the Priesthood so sustained comprised all presiding officers from the First Presidency down to the presidency of the deacons. The dedicatory prayer was then offered by Joseph Smith, who affirms that the prayer was given to him by revelation.
The question as to whether the House of the Lord was accepted as duly dedicated was put to the quorums of the Priesthood separately and to the congregation as a whole; the vote in the affirmative was unanimous. The Lord’s Supper was then administered, and many of the elders bore solemn testimony to the divinity of the Gospel as restored. The prophet’s journal continues:
“President Frederick G. Williams 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. President David Whitmer also saw angels in the house. President Hyrum Smith made some appropriate remarks congratulating those who had endured so many toils and privations to build the house. President Rigdon then made a few appropriate closing remarks, and a short prayer, at the close of which we sealed the proceedings of the day by shouting ‘Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God and the Lamb,’ three times, sealing it each time with ‘Amen, Amen, and Amen.”’
In the evening of the day of dedication another meeting was held; this, however, was attended by officers of the Church only. The record as written by the prophet reads:
“I met the quorums in the evening and instructed them respecting the ordinance of washing of feet, which they were to attend to on Wednesday following; and gave them instructions in relation to the spirit of prophecy.
“Brother 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 11 p.m.”
On the Thursday following that eventful Sabbath, another solemn assembly convened in the Temple, including as before the general authorities of the Church, and in addition such members as had not been able to secure admission on the earlier day. The services were in a measure a repetition of the proceedings on the first occasion; the dedicatory prayer was read, appropriate music was rendered and addresses were delivered.
That the building was in truth a Temple, a holy structure accepted by Him to whose name it had been reared, that it was veritably a House of the Lord, had been attested by the visitation of heavenly beings, and by Divine manifestations surpassing all expectation, as witnessed on the evening of the dedication day. On the next Sabbath, April 3, 1836, visitations and manifestations of yet greater import were received. At the afternoon service the Lord’s Supper was administered, after which, the prophet and his counselor, Oliver Cowdery, retired to the stand reserved for the presiding officers of the Melchisedek Priesthood,-which was enclosed by the curtains or veils lowered for the occasion. They solemnly testify that then and there did the Lord Jesus Christ reveal Himself. Afterward, other heavenly personages ministered unto them, each delivering or bestowing the particular authority with which he was specially invested. The testimony of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is as follows:
“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
“We saw the Lord standing upon the breast-work of the pulpit, before us, and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold in color like amber.
“His eyes were as a flame of fire, the hair of his head was white like the pure snow, his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying-
“I am the first and the last, I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain, I am your advocate with the Father.
“Behold, your sins are forgiven you, you are clean before me, therefore lift up your heads and rejoice,
“Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name,
“For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here, and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house,
“Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.
“Yea, the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house;
“And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands, and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.
“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us, and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
“After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying, that in us, and our seed, all generations after us should be blessed.
“After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us, for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said-
“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi, testifying that he (Elijah) should be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come,
“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse.
“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.”
The erection of the Temple at Kirtland seemed to increase the hostile opposition to which the Church had been subjected since its organization; and persecution soon became so violent that all of the Saints who could dispose of their property and leave did so and joined their fellow religionists in Missouri. Within two years following the dedication, a general exodus of the Saints had taken place, and the Temple soon fell into the hands of the persecutors. The building is yet standing, and serves the purposes of an ordinary meeting-house for an obscure sect that manifests no visible activity in temple building, nor apparent belief in the sacred ordinances for which temples are erected. The people whose sacrifice and suffering reared the structure no longer assert claims of ownership. What was once the Temple of God, in which the Lord Jesus appeared in person, has become but a house,-a building whose sole claim to distinction among the innumerable structures built by man, lies in its wondrous past.
Temple Site At Far West Missouri
From Ohio the Church migrated westward, and gathering-centers were established in Missouri, principally in Jackson, Clay, and Caldwell counties. No time was lost in useless grieving over the enforced abandonment of the Temple at Kirtland. Even at that early day, but seven years after the organization of the Church, the people had come to regard persecution as an inevitable incident of their religion, and spoliation as their heritage. Resolutely they went to work in preparation for another temple, and a site was chosen at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. On the 5th of August, 1837, “the Presidency, High Council, and all the authorities of the Church in Missouri, assembled in council at Far West, and unanimously resolved to go on moderately and build a house unto the name of the Lord in Far West, as they had means.” On the 26th of April, 1838, a revelation was received directing the time and manner of beginning the work:
“Let the city, Far West, be a holy and consecrated land unto me, and it shall be called most holy, for the ground upon which thou standest is holy; therefore I command you to build an house unto me, for the gathering together of my Saints, that they may worship me; and let there be a beginning of this work, and a foundation, and a preparatory work, this following summer; and let the beginning be made on the fourth day of July next, and from that time forth let my people labor diligently to build an house unto my name, and in one year from this day let them re-commence laying the foundation of my house.”
On the fourth day of July, 1838, the corner stones were laid to the accompaniment of military parade and solemn procession. It is plain from the revelation of April 26, 1838, that even the laying of the foundation of this proposed temple would not proceed uninterruptedly. The corner stones were placed on July 4th as had been commanded, and on the 8th another mention of the site is made with a specific requirement respecting the future work of the apostles. “Let them take leave of my Saints in the city of Far West, on the 26th day of April next, on the building spot of my house, saith the Lord.” The months following were marked by persecution and violence; hostile opponents declared that the commission should never be fulfilled. History attests, however, that on the 26th day of April, 1839, the apostles, several other officers of the Church, and a number of the members, assembled in the early hours of the morning, sang their hymns, delivered their exhortations, and began the work of laying the foundation stones. On the occasion two vacancies in the Council of the Twelve were filled by the ordination of Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith, whose nominations had previously been voted upon. The apostles then took leave of the others present and proceeded on their missions. Almost immediately after the events last recorded, the Saints were forced to abandon their homes in Missouri.
The Latter-day Saints regard the long delay in the erection of temples on the dedicated sites in Missouri as largely the result of their own defection, neglect, and disobedience to the word of the Lord, in consequence of which their enemies were permitted to prevail. When, in 1834, the Saints in Missouri were subject to cruel persecution, their fellow religionists in the eastern branches of the Church were directed to go to their aid, and to send men with money to purchase the lands adjacent to the chosen sites, and moreover to consecrate their possessions to the redemption of Zion. To these requirements there was unsatisfactory response; and even in Zion’s Camp, as the body of between one hundred and fifty and two hundred men who set out from Ohio for Missouri as directed, was called, there was much disaffection, murmuring, and lack of faith. On June 22, 1834, the Lord said through Joseph, the prophet:
“Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the Church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.”
Thus, through their own transgressions the Saints were hindered in the work required at their hands, and the harvest of blessings predicated upon this specific labor, has not yet ripened.