“Chapter 43: Doctrine and Covenants 109–110,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2017)
“Chapter 43,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual
The cornerstones of the Kirtland Temple were laid on July 23, 1833. During the next three years, Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, made great sacrifices to build the temple in obedience to the Lord’s commandment (see D&C 88:119; 95:8–9). While preparing for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith, assisted by Oliver Cowdery, wrote a prayer, “given to him by revelation” (D&C 109, section heading), which he offered at the dedicatory service held on Sunday, March 27, 1836. This prayer is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 109 and contains pleas to the Lord to “accept the dedication of [the temple] unto [Him],” (D&C 109:78), to bless “all people who shall enter [it]” (D&C 109:13), and to “remember all [His] church, … that the kingdom, which [He has] set up without hands, may become a great mountain and fill the whole earth” (D&C 109:72).
On April 3, 1836, Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. The prophets Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared and restored important priesthood keys. An account of these appearances is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110.
Early June 1833
Church members began constructing the temple in Kirtland, Ohio.
March 27, 1836
The Prophet Joseph Smith read the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, later recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 109.
March 30, 1836
Jesus Christ appeared to some of those gathered in a solemn assembly meeting in the Kirtland Temple.
April 3, 1836
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw and heard Jesus Christ and received priesthood keys from Moses, Elias, and Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110.
Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, worked for about two and a half years to fulfill the Lord’s commandment to build “a house of God” (D&C 88:119). On March 26, 1836, “[the Prophet Joseph Smith], Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and [the Prophet’s] two scribes, Warren A. Cowdery and Warren Parrish, met in the president’s room on the attic floor of the temple to prepare for the dedication. Oliver Cowdery noted in his diary that at this meeting he ‘assisted in writing a prayer for the dedication of the house’” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, ed. Brent M. Rogers and others , 189). The written prayer “was given to [the Prophet Joseph Smith] by revelation” (D&C 109, section heading).
The following morning—Sunday, March 27—“a crowd of approximately one thousand people filled the [temple] to capacity.” This left hundreds of people still outside, including many who had made sacrifices to help build the temple. At the Prophet’s suggestion, “some of those unable to enter held a meeting in the adjacent schoolhouse while others returned home to await a second dedicatory event.” The dedication began with an opening prayer and hymn, after which “[Sidney] Rigdon addressed the congregation for two and a half hours on a variety of topics. [He] then presented [Joseph Smith’s] name to the congregation” for sustaining as “Prophet and Seer” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 189; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, ed. Dean C. Jessee and others , 200, 203). After a 20-minute break, the Prophet Joseph Smith briefly spoke to the congregation and called for a sustaining vote of Church leaders. The Prophet then read aloud the dedicatory prayer. The meeting concluded with the congregation giving the Hosanna Shout, which they did by loudly proclaiming, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to God and the Lamb, Amen, Amen and Amen!” three times (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 209; see also The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, 203–11.) The Kirtland Temple dedication has served as a pattern for the dedication of other temples.
In a revelation received in June 1833, the Lord chastised Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, for not having begun constructing the temple there (see D&C 95). There were only 150 Church members living in the Ohio area at the time, and none of them were qualified to manage such a project. The estimated cost of $40,000 for construction likely exceeded and stretched the resources of the Saints over the next three years. (See Lisa Olsen Tait and Brent Rogers, “A House for Our God,” in Revelations in Context, ed. Matthew McBride and James Goldberg , 169, or history.lds.org.) However, the Lord promised these Saints that if they kept His commandments, they would “have power to build [the temple]” (D&C 95:11). Church members spent nearly three years toiling and sacrificing to build the Lord’s house. In the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer, offered on March 27, 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged the sacrifices of the Saints who had generously donated their time and “substance” to build the temple, despite their “great tribulation” and “poverty” (D&C 109:5). Sister Eliza R. Snow, who lived in Kirtland when the temple was built, described the Saints’ faith and sacrifice:
“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, … an attempt towards building that Temple, under the then existing circumstances, would have been, by all concerned, pronounced preposterous. …
“With very little capital except brain, bone and sinew, combined with unwavering trust in God, men, women, and even children worked with their might; … all living abstemiously [sparingly] as possible, so that every cent might be [used for] the grand object, while their energies were stimulated by the prospect of participating in the blessing of a house built by the direction of the Most High and accepted by Him” (in Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal , 54, 57).
“In summer and fall 1835, men and women worked side by side to complete the temple. Men generally did masonry work, drove cattle, and hauled rock, while women generally spun, knit, and wove clothes for workers. … Women also worked on the veils, or curtains, that hung in the House of the Lord” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 188). “Children even helped by gathering broken dishes and glassware, which were [ground up and] added to the stucco [used to plaster the temple] to help it glisten in the sun” (Tait and Rogers, “A House for Our God,” 171, or history.lds.org). To help finance the construction of the temple, many members donated whatever of their means they could. Thus, by their combined faith and sacrifice, the Saints built a temple where the Savior could “manifest himself to his people” (D&C 109:5).
President Thomas S. Monson explained why Latter-day Saints have always been willing to sacrifice to build temples and worship the Lord in these holy buildings:
“Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance. Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God.
“Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings” (“The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 92).
Bishop H. David Burton, who served as Presiding Bishop of the Church, suggested ways Latter-day Saints today can make sacrifices so that temple work can go forward: “The season of opportunity that awaits us today, in temple service, is different from that of the past. We are not expected to pound nails, carve stone, mill lumber, pour concrete, or physically participate in the construction of temples. We are, however, extended a marvelous opportunity to faithfully pay our tithes so temple construction and the work of the Lord may go forward. We are also challenged to be worthy to offer ourselves in the service of providing sacred saving ordinances for those who have preceded us. Very simply stated, the great opportunity of Latter-day Saint families is to see that the lights of our temples burn early and late in the day. Perhaps we could create the need for them to burn all night as they do presently on weekends in several temples” (“A Season of Opportunity,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 11).
Anciently, temples were places of revelation where the Lord showed Himself to His people (see Exodus 19:10–17; 25:8, 22; 1 Kings 6:11–13). Similarly, the Lord had promised Church members in Kirtland, Ohio, that if they would “build a house unto [Him] in the name of the Lord, and … not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, [His] glory [would] rest upon it; … and [His] presence [would] be there” (D&C 97:15–16). This promise was particularly fulfilled from January to May 1836, when many significant spiritual manifestations occurred during meetings held in the Kirtland Temple. On March 30, 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith noted that “the Saviour made his appearance to some, while angels ministered unto others” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 221; spelling standardized).
The Kirtland Temple was built “that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people” (D&C 109:5). The word manifest means to reveal or make known. Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified: “It is a great promise that to the temples God will come, and that in them man shall see God. What does this promised communion mean? Does it mean that once in a while God may come into the temples, and that once in a while the pure in heart may see God there; or does it mean the larger thing, that the pure in heart who go into the temples, may, there, by the Spirit of God, always have a wonderfully rich communion with God? I think that is what it means to me and to you and to most of us. We have gone into these holy houses, with our minds freed from the ordinary earthly cares, and have literally felt the presence of God. In this way, the temples are always places where God manifests himself to man and increases his intelligence. A temple is a place of revelation” (in “Temple Worship,” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, vol. 12 [April 1921], 56).
See also the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 97:15–17 in this manual.
For an explanation of the solemn assembly referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 109:6–11, see the commentary for Doctrine and Covenants 88:70–76 in this manual.
When the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, it became “sanctified and consecrated to be holy,” a place where the Lord’s “holy presence may be continually” (D&C 109:12). In the dedicatory prayer, the Prophet Joseph Smith pleaded with the Lord that all those who entered the temple would feel His power . This requested blessing continues to be fulfilled today whenever individuals worthily participate in temple worship. President Howard W. Hunter (1907–1995) taught:
“We again emphasize the personal blessings of temple worship and the sanctity and safety that are provided within those hallowed walls. It is the house of the Lord, a place of revelation and of peace. As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience. …
“All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants” (“Follow the Son of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87–88).
During the Kirtland Temple dedication, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed to the Father that all those who worshipped in the temple would “grow up in [Him], and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 109:15). Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “In all the ordinances, especially those of the temple, we are endowed with power from on high. This ‘power of godliness’ comes in the person and by the influence of the Holy Ghost” (“The Power of Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 22). As Latter-day Saints receive the ordinances of the temple and faithfully keep their covenants, they obtain the fulness of blessings that come through the power of the Holy Ghost, including personal sanctification and godliness. Elder Christofferson further explained, “The ‘fulness of the Holy Ghost’ [D&C 109:15] includes what Jesus described as ‘the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son’ (D&C 88:4–5)” (“The Power of Covenants,” 23, note 5).
The Old Testament Psalmist declared:
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?
“He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3–4).
The same standard is maintained in the latter days with God’s “house” (D&C 109:20). President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified:
“Inscribed on each temple are the words ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ That statement designates both the temple and its purposes as holy. Those who enter the temple are also to bear the attributes of holiness. …
“… Our Redeemer requires that His temples be protected from desecration. No unclean thing may enter His hallowed house [see D&C 109:20; see also Isaiah 52:11; Alma 11:37; 3 Nephi 27:19]. Yet anyone is welcome who prepares well” (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 2001, 32–33).
In the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed that the Lord would be merciful to His people, so that when they “transgress, … they may speedily repent and return unto [Him], and find favor in [His] sight, and be restored to the blessings” of the temple (D&C 109:21). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered the following invitation: “If you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor” (“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 33).
One of the blessings requested by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer was that those who participated in temple worship would be “armed with [God’s] power” as they spread the truth of the gospel “unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 109:22–23). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “In the house of the Lord, faithful Church members can be endowed ‘with power from on high’ [D&C 95:8], power that will enable us to resist temptation, honor covenants, obey the Lord’s commandments, and bear fervent, fearless testimony of the gospel to family, friends, and neighbors” (“Cultivating Divine Attributes,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 27).
While anyone can receive power and protection through temple ordinances and temple worship, the requested blessings recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 109:22–23 are meant specifically for those who “go forth” from the temple to declare the “exceedingly great and glorious tidings” of the restored gospel. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that called missionaries “can be armed with power [see D&C 109:22] through the covenants and ordinances of the holy temple. Going to the temple and having the spirit of the temple go through you precedes effective service as a full-time missionary” (“Called to the Work,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 70).
When followers of Jesus Christ enter into a covenant to take upon them His name, they are identified as His (see D&C 18:21–24). The Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired prayer for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple indicates that the process of taking upon oneself the name of Jesus Christ is associated with temple worship (see D&C 109:22, 26). Elder David A. Bednar taught:
“In modern revelations the Lord refers to temples as houses ‘built unto my name’ (D&C 105:33; see also D&C 109:2–5; 124:39). In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith petitioned the Father ‘that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them’ (D&C 109:22). He also asked for a blessing ‘over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house’ (v. 26). And as the Lord appeared in and accepted the Kirtland Temple as His house, He declared, ‘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’ (D&C 110:7).
“These scriptures help us understand that the process of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ that is commenced in the waters of baptism is continued and enlarged in the house of the Lord. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ordinances of the holy temple we more completely and fully take upon us the name of Jesus Christ” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 98).
Regarding the blessings requested by the Prophet Joseph Smith that are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 109:24–28, Elder Bednar explained:
“Please consider these verses in light of the current raging of the adversary and … our willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and the blessing of protection promised to those who honorably hold a name and standing in the holy temple. Significantly, these covenant blessings are to all generations and for all eternity. I invite you to study repeatedly and ponder prayerfully the implications of these scriptures in your life and for your family.
“We should not be surprised by Satan’s efforts to thwart or discredit temple worship and work. The devil despises the purity in and the power of the Lord’s house. And the protection available to each of us in and through temple ordinances and covenants stands as a great obstacle to the evil designs of Lucifer. …
“We do now and will yet face great challenges to the work of the Lord. But like the pioneers who found the place which God for them prepared, so we will fresh courage take, knowing our God will never us forsake (see ‘Come, Come, Ye Saints,’ Hymns, no. 30). Today temples dot the earth as sacred places of ordinances and covenants, of edification, and of refuge from the storm” (“Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” 99–100).
“As part of the law of Moses, the Feast of Pentecost or Firstfruits was held fifty days after the Feast of the Passover (Lev. 23:16). Pentecost was to celebrate the harvest, and in the Old Testament it is called the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. It is this feast that was being celebrated when the Apostles in Jerusalem were filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues (Acts 2; D&C 109:36–37)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Pentecost,” scriptures.lds.org).
At the Kirtland Temple dedication, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed that the Lord would “let it be fulfilled upon [the Saints there], as upon those on the day of Pentecost” (D&C 109:36). On that New Testament day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost was manifested to the Savior’s disciples by the appearance of “cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:3–4). The house where they were gathered was filled with “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2). That sacred experience helped prepare the early disciples to “be witnesses unto [Jesus Christ] … unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Prophet Joseph Smith later recorded that powerful manifestations of God’s love and power were evident during the Kirtland Temple dedication and in many other meetings held in the temple during that period of time: “It was a Pentecost and [an endowment] indeed, long to be remembered for the sound shall go forth from this place into all the world, and the occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history to all generations, as the day of Pentecost, so shall this day be numbered and celebrated as a year of Jubilee and time of rejoicing to the Saints of the Most High God” (in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 221; spelling and capitalization standardized).
Other Church members recorded some of the spiritual manifestations that occurred during meetings at the temple. One participant wrote, “Angels of God came into the room, cloven tongues rested upon some of the servants of the Lord like unto fire, [and] they spake with tongues and prophesied,” and another wrote that “one saw a pillar or cloud rest down upon the house bright as when the sun shines on a cloud like as gold, two others saw three personages … in the room with bright keys in their hands.” Oliver Cowdery recorded: “The spirit was poured out—I saw the glory of God, like a great cloud, come down and rest upon the house, and fill the same like a mighty rushing wind.” (In The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 190–91.)
One of the purposes of the Kirtland Temple was to prepare the Lord’s servants to proclaim the message of the gospel to all the earth, including to “all the scattered remnants of [the house of] Israel” (D&C 109:67). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844), along with his counselors in the First Presidency, declared:
“The work of the Lord in these last days, is one of vast magnitude and almost beyond the comprehension of mortals. Its glories are past description, and its grandeur unsurpassable. It is the theme which has animated the bosom of prophets and righteous men from the creation of the world down through every succeeding generation to the present time; and it is truly the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things which are in Christ Jesus, whether in heaven or on the earth, shall be gathered together in Him, and when all things shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began; for in it will take place the glorious fulfilment of the promises made to the fathers, while the manifestations of the power of the Most High will be great, glorious, and sublime. …
“… The work which has to be accomplished in the last days is one of vast importance, and will call into action the energy, skill, talent, and ability of the Saints, so that it may roll forth with that glory and majesty described by the prophet [see Daniel 2:34–35, 44–45]; and will consequently require the concentration of the Saints, to accomplish works of such magnitude and grandeur.
“The work of the gathering spoken of in the Scriptures will be necessary to bring about the glories of the last dispensation (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 512–13).
The Prophet Joseph Smith also taught: “We are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory, … when the Saints of God will be gathered in one from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue, when the Jews will be gathered together into one, the wicked will also be gathered together to be destroyed, as spoken of by the prophets; the Spirit of God will also dwell with His people, and be withdrawn from the rest of the nations, and all things whether in heaven or on earth will be in one, even in Christ” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 513–14).
In the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer, the Prophet Joseph Smith used Bible imagery to prophesy of the Church’s latter-day purpose (for example, compare D&C 109:72 with Daniel 2:44–45; D&C 109:74 with Isaiah 40:4–5; D&C 109:75 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
Referring to the imagery in Doctrine and Covenants 109:72–73, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught:
“We are witnessing the answer to that remarkable pleading. Increasingly the Church is being recognized at home and abroad for what it truly is. There are still those, not a few, who criticize and rebel, who apostatize and lift their voices against this work. We have always had them. They speak their piece as they walk across the stage of life, and then they are soon forgotten. I suppose we always will have them as long as we are trying to do the work of the Lord. The honest in heart will detect that which is true and that which is false. We go forward, marching as an army with banners emblazoned with the everlasting truth. We are a cause that is militant for truth and goodness. We are a body of Christian soldiers ‘marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before’ (‘Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ Hymns, no. 246).
“Everywhere we go we see great vitality in this work. There is enthusiasm wherever it is organized. It is the work of the Redeemer. It is the gospel of good news. It is something to be happy and excited about” (“Remember … Thy Church, O Lord,” Ensign, May 1996, 83).
On Easter Sunday, April 3, 1836, one week after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated, approximately 1,000 people gathered in the temple to worship. During the morning meeting they were instructed by Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten, who were the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That afternoon the Prophet Joseph Smith assisted members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the administration of the sacrament to the congregation (see The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, 219). Later in the meeting, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went to the elevated pulpits on the west end of the lower court of the temple and lowered the “veils,” or canvas curtains, that surrounded the pulpits (see The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, 225). After they prayed, the Prophet and Oliver had a vision of the glorified Jesus Christ, who spoke to them. That visitation was followed by the appearance of Moses, Elias, and Elijah, who committed priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. An account of that sacred experience was recorded in the Prophet’s journal and was later published as Doctrine and Covenants 110.
The appearance of heavenly beings—especially of Jesus Christ Himself—witnessed by participants in the Restoration reaffirms the truthfulness of the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants explains how these heavenly visitations were made possible: “No man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God” (D&C 67:11). Thus, a mortal person must be transfigured—or temporarily lifted to a higher spiritual level—in order to endure the presence of a glorified being (see Moses 1:11). The Prophet Joseph Smith also explained that during a vision that he and Oliver Cowdery had of the Savior, the “eyes of [their] understanding were opened”—meaning that through the aid of the Holy Ghost, unseen spiritual things became visible (see D&C 110:1).
The appearance of the resurrected Savior to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple fulfilled the promise He had given that “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, … my presence shall be there, for I will come into it” (D&C 97:15–16).
During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith pled with the Lord “to accept of this house, … which thou didst command us to build” (D&C 109:4; see also D&C 109:78). One week later Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and said: “Let the hearts of all my people rejoice. … For behold, I have accepted this house” (Doctrine and Covenants 110:6–7).
When Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, He declared the far-reaching impact that the endowment of power and the bestowal of priesthood keys would have in the lives of “thousands and tens of thousands” (see D&C 110:9, 16). President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “[In 1836] the Lord prophesied that the ‘fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands.’ (D&C 110:10.) That, under the circumstances then existing, was at best improbable. The Church members were but a handful of Saints living and scattered in the rural areas of a new land. But despite the persecution and struggles and trials of those early days, there are congregations now spread literally across the world, and tens of thousands of missionaries bear witness at every door where they are welcome” (The Holy Temple , 135).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained how the Kirtland Temple differed from temples built afterward:
“The Kirtland Temple holds a peculiar place in the annals of temple building. It is not like other temples. It was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority. In the receiving of these keys the fulness of the gospel ordinances is revealed. …
“In the Kirtland Temple there was no provision made for the salvation of the dead. It had no baptismal font, for it was only a preparatory temple. It had no provision for the endowment ordinances which were later revealed. It was a temple, however, and fully answered the purpose of its creation.
“The Kirtland Temple filled its mission shortly after the time of its dedication” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 2:242).
Following the vision of Jesus Christ in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were visited by three ancient prophets—Moses, Elias, and Elijah—who committed specific priesthood keys to them. President Russell M. Nelson explained that these keys were committed to Joseph and Oliver as part of “the restoration of all things” (D&C 27:6) in the dispensation of the fulness of times:
“Priesthood authority has existed in many dispensations, such as those of Adam, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, the meridian of time, the Jaredites, the Nephites, and others. All previous dispensations were limited in time, as each ended in apostasy. They were also limited to small segments of planet Earth. In contrast, our dispensation—the dispensation of the fulness of times—will not be limited in time or place. Globally, it will host a whole, complete, and perfect union, welding together dispensations, keys, powers, and glories from the days of Adam even to the present time [see D&C 128:18].
“The Aaronic Priesthood was restored May 15, 1829, by John the Baptist; the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored shortly thereafter by Peter, James, and John [see Joseph Smith—History 1:72; D&C 27:8, 12]. Other heavenly messengers conveyed specific keys of the priesthood. Moroni held the keys of the Book of Mormon [see D&C 27:5]. Moses brought keys of the gathering of Israel and the leading of the ten tribes [see D&C 110:11]. Elias conveyed keys of the restoration of all things [see D&C 27:6], including the Abrahamic covenant [see D&C 110:12]. And Elijah conferred keys of the sealing authority [see D&C 27:9; 110:13–16].
“You know something about keys. In your pocket there might be a key to your home or car. Priesthood keys, on the other hand, are intangible and invisible. They ‘switch on’ the authority of the priesthood. Some keys even convey power to bind in heaven as well as on earth [see Matthew 16:19; 18:18; D&C 124:93; 127:7; 128:8, 10; 132:46].
“Joseph Smith conferred priesthood keys upon all of the Twelve. Those keys have been transferred to successive leaders. Today [the President of the Church] holds authority for every restored key held by ‘all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation’ [D&C 112:31; see also D&C 128:18]” (“Personal Priesthood Responsibility,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 45–46).
The prophet Moses committed the keys of the gathering of Israel to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 110:11). The Prophet had been told earlier that he was “appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church” and “to preside over the whole Church, and to be like unto Moses” (D&C 28:2; 107:91). He was to “lead [the Church members] like as Moses led the children of Israel” (D&C 103:16). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “Moses held the keys of the gathering of Israel. He led Israel out of Egypt into the land of Canaan. It was his appointment in this dispensation to come and restore those keys for the modern gathering” (Church History and Modern Revelation , 2:48). Not long after Moses committed the keys of the gathering of Israel to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet began exercising these keys as he sent missionaries out into the world to assist in the gathering. These missionaries included Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and others, who traveled to England in 1837 and baptized nearly 2,000 people.
During their visions in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were also visited by Elias, who committed priesthood keys associated with “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (D&C 110:12). The title Elias can designate one who is a forerunner—sent to prepare the way—and one who is sent to be a restorer (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Elias,” scriptures.lds.org).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) explained the mission of the Elias who appeared in the Kirtland Temple: “The man Elias brings back ‘the gospel of Abraham,’ the great Abrahamic covenant whereby the faithful receive promises of eternal increase, promises that through celestial marriage their eternal posterity shall be as numerous as the sands upon the seashore or as the stars in heaven for multitude. Elias gives the promise—received of old by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that in modern men and in their seed all generations shall be blessed. And we are now offering the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to all who will receive them” (“The Keys of the Kingdom,” Ensign, May 1983, 22).
The Old Testament prophecy that the prophet Elijah would return to the earth to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (see Malachi 4:5–6) was fulfilled by his appearance in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency taught:
“In the great vision in the Kirtland Temple, Elijah the prophet appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and committed the keys of temple work and the sealing power into Joseph Smith’s hands [see D&C 110:13–14, 16]. This fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would be sent ‘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’ [see D&C 110:14–15].
“So what does this mean? To turn our hearts to our fathers is to search out the names of our deceased ancestors and to perform the saving ordinances in the temple for them. This will forge a continuous chain between us and our forefathers eventually all the way back to Father Adam and Mother Eve. …
“The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that the celestial family organization will be ‘one that is complete,’ that is, ‘an organization linked from father and mother and children of one generation, to the father and mother and children of the next generation, thus expanding and spreading out down to the end of time’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 2:175)” (“The Phenomenon That Is You,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 55).
President Russell M. Nelson explained:
“Elijah came to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to the fathers.
“With that, natural affection between generations began to be enriched. This restoration was accompanied by what is sometimes called the Spirit of Elijah—a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34).
As our hearts turn to our ancestors, we desire to find necessary information to perform saving ordinances on their behalf and to be sealed to them. By doing so, we become saviors on Mount Zion, as the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:
“What is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion [see Obadiah 1:21].
“But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 472–73).
We can choose to become instruments in the Lord’s hands in performing the work of salvation for our ancestors and for others who have died. Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited each of us to consider what we can do to participate in the work of redeeming the dead:
“I testify that the Spirit of Elijah is touching the hearts of many of Father’s children throughout the world, causing the work for the dead to accelerate at an unprecedented pace.
“But what about you? Have you prayed about your own ancestors’ work? Set aside those things in your life that don’t really matter. Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences. Perhaps you have been prompted to look for ancestors but feel you are not a genealogist. Can you see that you don’t have to be anymore? It all begins with love and a sincere desire to help those beyond the veil who can’t help themselves. Check around. There will be someone in your area who can help you have success.
“This work is a spiritual work, a monumental effort of cooperation on both sides of the veil, where help is given in both directions. Anywhere you are in the world, with prayer, faith, determination, diligence, and some sacrifice, you can make a powerful contribution. Begin now. I promise you that the Lord will help you find a way. And it will make you feel wonderful” (“The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 95).