“Kirtland, Ohio,” Church History Topics
Kirtland, Ohio, was the site of many significant events in the early history of the Church. While living in and around Kirtland, Joseph Smith received dozens of revelations conveying important instructions essential for establishing the Church. In Kirtland, Joseph Smith organized the offices and quorums of the priesthood, and the Saints built the first temple.
In December 1830, a revelation to Joseph Smith identified “the Ohio” as the first gathering place for the Saints.1 Earlier that year, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, and others baptized many who belonged to congregations led by Sidney Rigdon near Kirtland. These early conversions increased the size of the Church substantially and included men and women who would play significant roles in Church history.2
Kirtland, Ohio, was one of two gathering places for the Saints during the 1830s. Many Saints also gathered to Missouri, but because Joseph Smith and his family lived in Ohio for much of the decade, Kirtland functioned as the headquarters of the Church. Most of the revelations received in Kirtland were given in the homes where the Smith family lived at the time.3 Many of these revelations were first published in Kirtland along with the first hymnal and portions of Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of the Bible now found in the Pearl of Great Price.4
When announcing that Kirtland would be a place of gathering, the Lord promised he would bless the Kirtland Saints with His “law” and endow them with “power from on high.”5 Once in Kirtland, the Lord revealed the law of consecration—an economic principle in which participants deeded their property to the Church, received a stewardship for their own support, and donated the surplus to support the poor.6 This law helped purify the hearts and minds of the Saints in preparation for the promised endowment of power.
Lucy Mack Smith recalled that even during its construction, the Kirtland Temple was the “main spring to all our thoughts.”7 The Saints gave their time and resources to the building of the temple. Men labored to construct the temple walls, and women organized into groups to sew clothing for the men working on the temple.8 Children also participated in the work by gathering discarded shards of china and crockery for the stucco finish on the temple’s exterior.9
The construction of the temple was matched by continuing spiritual preparation. Joseph Smith organized the School for the Elders to instruct men and to prepare them for the ministry.10 Men and women also donated their time and resources in a variety of charitable efforts.11
As the temple neared completion, Joseph received revealed instructions outlining priesthood organization and worked to formally organize the offices and quorums of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Important milestones included the organization of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.12
The completion and dedication of the temple in early 1836 was accompanied by an unparalleled outpouring of the Spirit. In the days following the dedication, the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Moses, Elijah, and Elias also appeared and delivered divine keys essential to gathering Israel and sealing God’s family together. 13 In these meetings, the Saints, including those called to take the gospel to all the world, received the endowment of spiritual power they had been promised.14
The spectacular high point of the dedication was followed by economic difficulty and apostasy the following year. The Kirtland Safety Society, a financial institution established by Church leaders including Joseph Smith, collapsed in 1837 as part of a national financial crisis known as the Panic of 1837. As a result of the economic hardships that followed, some investors, including Church leaders, questioned the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.15 A few even threatened Joseph Smith’s life. In the early months of 1838, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders escaped Kirtland and traveled to Far West, Missouri.
Many of the Saints living in Kirtland eventually joined the main body of Saints in Missouri and Nauvoo, leaving behind their property. Several of the buildings central to the Saints’ Kirtland experience, including the temple, have survived to today. Community of Christ owns and preserves the Kirtland Temple, which is open to the public for tours.16 Other buildings, including the restored Newel K. Whitney home and store as well as the reconstructed sawmill and ashery, are maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are also open to the public for tours.
Related Topics: Kirtland Temple