“Solemn Assemblies,” Church History Topics
The term solemn assembly was used in the Old Testament to describe important gatherings of the people during Passover and the Feast of the Tabernacles.1 Because the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Solomon took place at the time of a solemn assembly, the term also had an ancient connection with temple dedication.
Latter-day Saints had anticipated building a temple for over a year when the Lord commanded them in 1831 to sanctify themselves and call a solemn assembly some months after the Church moved from New York to Kirtland, Ohio.2 When little progress was made on the construction over the next year and a half, two other revelations to Joseph Smith reiterated the commandment. The Lord told the Saints they could not delay building the house of the Lord because they needed the solemn assembly, by which the Lord intended to prepare His Apostles “to prune my vineyard for the last time.”3
By early 1836, the Saints had finished work on the Kirtland Temple, and Joseph Smith had organized priesthood quorums for deacons, teachers, priests, elders, high priests, the Seventy, Twelve Apostles, and First Presidency.4 Joseph Smith called together the Saints in a solemn assembly on March 27, and during the proceedings, the various priesthood quorums and the general membership sustained the leadership of the Church in turn, and Joseph delivered the dedicatory prayer of the temple. In the prayer, Joseph acknowledged how the Saints had heeded the commandment to convene in a solemn assembly, and he asked the Lord to let His glory “rest down upon thy people” as a blessing for their obedience.5 The Saints attending the solemn assembly experienced an outpouring of spiritual manifestations.6 The dedication proceedings on this occasion would set a precedent for later solemn assemblies.
Solemn assemblies continued after the Kirtland Temple dedication, often as dedication ceremonies but also on other significant occasions, such as the sustaining of a new Church President or to accept additional revelations into the scriptural canon.7 Church leaders have also called for solemn assemblies on other sacred occasions, including the dedication of the Conference Center in 2000.8 Some other special meetings, both local and general, have been regarded as solemn assemblies, and a few temples have solemn assembly rooms designed for such gatherings.