Church History Lesson 19 (D&C 95; 109; 110)
A temple is a house of the Lord—a place of revelation where we learn the ways of God, a building wherein sacred ordinances are performed. The purpose of the ordinances of the temple are to prepare us to live the kind of life God lives and to become like him. We cannot become like God without going to the temple because eternal marriage and other sacred ordinances required for both the living and the dead are found only in temples.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The question is frequently asked, ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all these ordinances?’ I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. . . . Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too.”1
— This pertains to all accountable people, both living and dead. Whereas the living who have the opportunity can comply with their own ordinance requirements, the dead cannot. This is one of the reasons we build temples.
— Temple building has been expanded greatly in our generation. We have the tremendous task of providing temple blessings for the entire human family. We need many unpolluted sanctuaries in this increasingly polluted world.
THE COMMANDMENT TO BUILD A TEMPLE
“Establish a House . . . of God”
● In December 1832, the Lord commanded the Saints to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio (D&C 88:119; D&C 95:8). On 23 March 1833 a committee was appointed to purchase land in Kirtland upon which to build a stake of Zion. Some large farms were purchased. The Kirtland Temple was later built on a part of the Peter French farm.
● In May and June of 1833, the Lord gave further instruction regarding the building of this house of the Lord, the first temple to be built in the last dispensation (D&C 94–96).
● In D&C 94, the Lord. . . .
— Underscores the importance of the house of God as the center of the city of the stake of Zion, here in the land of Kirtland (vv. 1–2).
— Gives instructions concerning two other special houses or Church buildings, including a house for the presidency (vv. 3–7).
— Says no unclean thing should come into dedicated buildings, including the temple, so that the Lord’s house will not be defiled and the outpouring of the Lord’s Spirit will not be inhibited or restrained (vv. 8–9).
— Commands that a house for printing to be built on lots adjacent to the lot on which the temple was to be built (vv. 10–12).
— Assigns lots near the temple site to Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter—the building committee appointed to build the houses that the Lord wanted built (vv. 13–17).
Chastisement for Delays in Building the Temple
● Chastening from the Lord is a sign of love (D&C 95:1–2; D&C 101:4–5).
● The Saints were chastened for their failure to begin building the House of the Lord (D&C 95:3–6).
● The Lord desired to use his house to “endow” his people with power from on high (D&C 95:7–9). An “endowment” is a significant gift. Among Latter-day Saints receiving an endowment means obtaining special knowledge and priesthood blessings which are usually only given in temples dedicated unto God.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In the revelation given on Fishing River (D&C 105) the Lord had said the elders must be endowed with power from on high before they would be fully prepared to go forth to build up the Church and “prune” his vineyard.”2
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, [The endowment spoken of here was only] “a partial endowment, the full ordinance being reserved for a future performance when a temple designed for ordinance work itself should be built [at Nauvoo].”3
● The first complete endowment in this dispensation was given by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo on 4 May 1842.
● The endowment received in Kirtland included washings and anointings, as well as the washing of feet for official priesthood brethren. The Lord also poured out his Spirit— that is, endowed them with spiritual power, and many received revelations that were also part of the promised endowment.
● Adding to the “grievous sin” of failing to commence the temple as commanded, the Lord named another serious sin: contention in the School of the Prophets (D&C 95:10).
BUILDING THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE
Sacrificing to Build the Kirtland Temple
The Lord promised that if they would keep the commandments they would have power to build the temple (D&C 95:11). Given the difficult circumstances under which the temple was built, this provided great comfort to the Saints.
Eliza R. Snow said, “At that time . . . the Saints were few in number, and most of them very poor; and, had it not been for the assurance that God had spoken, and had commanded that a house should be built to his name, of which he not only revealed the form, but also designated the dimensions, an attempt towards building that Temple, under the then existing circumstances, would have been, by all concerned, pronounced preposterous.”4
● The cost of the building, estimated at about $40,000, was a staggering sum for the 1830s. Relative to the meager resources of the Saints at the time, the Kirtland Temple is probably the most costly temple ever constructed by the Church.
● The Saints also faced great opposition from the community. Townspeople thought it foolhardy for them to build such a structure; some vowed “that the walls should never be erected.”
President Brigham Young said, “The Church members were too few in numbers, too weak in faith, and too poor in purse, to attempt such a mighty enterprise. But by means of all these stimulants, a mere handful of men, living on air, and a little hominy and milk . . . 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.”5
The Heavenly Design of the Kirtland Temple
● The Lord gave further specifications for the construction and use of the temple (D&C 95:13–17). He promised to show to three persons appointed by the conference the manner after which the temple should be built. Those three persons were the First Presidency.
● Frederick G. Williams said, [We 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.” When the temple was completed, it looked exactly as it had in the vision.6
● Still today, the First Presidency, through revelation, determines when, where, and how to build our temples.
Construction of the Kirtland Temple Begins
● The chastisement given in D&C 95 had the intended effect.
— On June 5, 1833, “four days after the Lord had rebuked the brethren for their neglect, without waiting for subscriptions, the brethren went to work on the Temple. Elder George A. Smith, a recent convert, hauled the first load of stone for the Temple. Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls, and . . . finished the same with their own hands.”7
— On July 23, 1833, the cornerstone of the temple was laid.
— In Spring 1834, progress slowed down when Zion’s Camp took approximately 100 men away from the temple construction. President Sidney Rigdon then coordinated the efforts of very young and old men, and of the sisters.
— In January 1836, plastering of the outside of the temple commenced. Many of the sisters donated their glassware to be worked into the coating to make the temple exterior glisten.
DEDICATING THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE
Circumstances at the Dedication Service
● In March 1836, the temple as a whole was completed and ready for dedication. The weeks surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple represented the high point in the seven-year Kirtland period and one of the greatest occasions for rejoicing and spiritual outpouring in Church history.
● On March 27, 1836, the long-awaited day of dedication arrived.
—Not even a seven-hour dedication service deterred Saints who had sacrificed for this temple.
—By 7:00 A.M. in the morning, 1,000 persons waited near the temple doors.
—At 8:00 A.M. the temple doors opened, and 1,000 people flowed into the main hall—a space that accommodates barely four hundred today.
—Hundreds could not enter the building, causing some hard feelings.
—To somewhat accommodate the masses of Saints, Joseph Smith directed that a meeting be held in the schoolhouse west of the temple.
—After the schoolroom was filled to capacity, many still remained outside, so the brethren opened the temple windows to allow those outside to participate in the meeting.
—To accommodate the Saints, the Prophet scheduled a repeat dedication service for the following Thursday.
—The dedicatory service began at 9:00 A.M. After prayers, songs, a two-and-one-half-hour sermon by Sidney Rigdon, the sustaining of officers, and an intermission of twenty minutes, the Prophet Joseph Smith then stood and read the dedicatory prayer.
The Dedicatory Prayer
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The Prophet then arose and presented the prayer of dedication. This prayer was given previously by revelation and is found in [D&C 109]. Naturally this is a comprehensive prayer that can be studied with great profit. It gives reference to the commandment that the temple should be built and speaks of the purpose for which it was built.”8
● The Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer—the only one recorded in latter-day scripture — inaugurated temple worship in general in the Church and has served as a model for all temple dedications.
— The Prophet asked the Lord to accept the Saints’ great sacrifice in building the temple (D&C 109:1–5). The Lord did “accept of this house” as is evident from the manifestations that followed its dedication and the glorious vision in D&C 110, which took place shortly thereafter.
— The responsibilities we have as we enter the temple (D&C 109:7–9, 13–21; D&C 110:8).
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Holy temples may . . . be defiled and desecrated by members of the Church who go into the temple and make covenants unworthily or which they are not prepared or willing to accept and carry forward. When people go to the temple and then make light of its sacred principles, they are defiling it. When unrepentant people accept the holy ordinances without full determination to prove worthy of them, they are helping to violate the sacredness of the holy temple and they are desecrating holy places.”9
— One important guideline is that we do all things in the name of the Lord (D&C 109:9, 17–18).
— The Prophet asked the Lord to sanctify the temple and also his Saints (D&C 109:12–13). To be “sanctified” means to be cleansed from our sins and to be made holy.
— We are to seek knowledge by learning and also by faith (D&C 109:14–15). This illustrates the importance of the Holy Ghost in all learning, even of secular things (Moroni 10:5).
— The responsibilities and blessings of those endowed in the temple (D&C 109:22–23).
— No weapon formed against the Church will ultimately prosper (D&C 109:24–30).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, t it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”10
— The Prophet prayed for justice for the Missouri Saints (D&C 109:47–53).
— He also prayed for the gathering of the scattered tribes of Israel (D&C 109:54–67).
— The Prophet also prayed for himself in this solemn setting (D&C 109:68).
— The Prophet finished his prayer with a petition for the ultimate triumph of the Church and its mission.
President Brigham Young said, “We never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring. . . . I want to hear them ring again. All the tribes of hell will be on the move, if we uncover the walls of this [the Salt Lake] temple.”11
Other Special Parts of the Dedication
● A new hymn composed by W W. Phelps:”The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” was sung at the dedication and is sung at every temple dedication today.
● The Hosanna Shout was instituted as part of the dedicatory ceremonies, and this has also been done for every temple dedication since that day.
GLORIOUS MANIFESTATIONS IN THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE
Manifestations During the Dedication Services
As the house was being dedicated, the Lord’s acceptance was gloriously manifested in divine endowments of “power from on high.” Hundreds spoke in tongues, prophesied, or saw visions.
Benjamin Brown said, “There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. . . .We had a most glorious and never-to-be-forgotten time. Angels were seen by numbers present.”12 A heavenly messenger, identified by Joseph Smith as Peter, the ancient Apostle, was seen entering the temple and sat near Frederick G. Williams and Joseph Smith Sr.
Manifestations Following the Dedication
After the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, council and spiritual meetings were held almost daily. On the evening of the day of dedication (27 March 1836) Joseph Smith and over four hundred priesthood bearers met in the temple to instruct and be instructed in the ordinances of the priesthood.
Ivan J. Barrett said, “After giving instructions on the spirit of prophecy to those assembled, Joseph called upon them to prophesy good concerning the Saints; he promised that the first one to speak would be filled with the spirit of prophecy. George A. Smith stood upon his feet and began to prophesy. Immediately the room was filled with the sound of a violent motion of wind, and the vibration seemed to lift the men simultaneously to their feet. Men old and young began to speak in tongues and to prophesy and to see visions. The Prophet beheld the temple filled with angels and informed the brethren of what he saw.”13
William Draper Jr., a counselor in one of the Aaronic priesthood quorums, said, [The outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord was so immense] “that my pen is inadequate to write it in full or my tongue to express it. But I will here say that the spirit was poured out and came like a mighty rushing wind and filled the house, that many that were present spoke in tongues and had visions and saw angels and prophesied; and had a general time of rejoicing such as had not been known in this generation.”14
The Appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ
Sunday, April 3, 1836, was one of the most eventful days in the history of the Church. In the afternoon, following a sacrament service, the Prophet “retired to the pulpit, the veils being dropped, and bowed myself, with Oliver Cowdery, in solemn and silent prayer. After rising from prayer, the following vision was opened to both of us [D&C 110].”15
● The Lord appeared in glory and accepted the Kirtland Temple as his house (D&C 110:1–10). The Lord promised to appear and speak to his people in the temple so long as His people kept His commandments and did not pollute the temple by attending it unworthily.
The Restoration of Priesthood Keys
● Moses appeared and restored the keys of the gathering of Israel (D&C 110:11).
● Elias appeared and restored “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (D&C 110:12; Abraham 2:9–11).
● Elijah appeared and restored the keys of sealing for time and eternity (D&C 110:13–16; Malachi 4:5). These keys are particularly important for temple work; they make it possible for every sacred ordinance, including marriage, performed by the Saints in the temples to be in force in heaven—for the living or for the dead.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Elijah was the last Prophet that held the keys of the priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and deliver the keys of the priesthood . . . Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood; and without the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.”16
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 331.
2. Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. , 161.
3. “A New Commandment: Save Thyself and Thy Kindred!” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 10.
4. Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow, 54.
5. In Journal of Discourses, 2:31.
6. Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 198.
7. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [1946–1949], 1:407.
8. Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [1946–1949], 3:75.
9. Ensign, Jan. 1977, 6–7.
10. The Wentworth Letter, March 1, 1842.
11. Discourses of President Brigham Young, sel. Elder John A. Widtsoe , 410.
12. “Testimonies for the Truth,” Gems for the Young Folks, 32.
13. Joseph Smith and the Restoration, 324.
14. “A Biographical Sketch of the Life and Travels of William Draper,” 2–3.
15. History of the Church, 2:434–435.
16. History of the Church, 4:211.