“Lesson 16 Class Preparation Material: The Kirtland Temple and Priesthood Keys,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 16 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
In a revelation received on December 27 and 28, 1832, the Lord commanded the Saints to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio.
Referring to this commandment, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “This is the word of the Lord to us, and we must, yea, the Lord helping us, we will obey: as on conditions of our obedience He has promised us great things; yea, even a visit from the heavens to honor us with His own presence” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 415).
Eliza R. Snow, who lived in Kirtland while the temple was being built, recalled:
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; … 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)
Another challenge also slowed the progress of the temple construction:
The spring and summer of 1834 were difficult seasons for construction on the temple because most of the men in the community went with Joseph Smith to Missouri in the Camp of Israel. … With the men gone, women carried on the labor. Some did masonry, others drove cattle and hauled rock, and still others sewed, spun, and knit to make clothing for workers. (Lisa Olsen Tait and Brent Rogers, “A House for Our God,” Revelations in Context , 170)
To assist the Saints in their efforts to build a temple, the Lord revealed to “Joseph Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency a remarkable vision in which they saw detailed plans for the temple. Frederick G. Williams, the Second Counselor in the First Presidency, later recalled:
Joseph [Smith] received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors, [Frederick G.] Williams and [Sidney] Rigdon, and come before the Lord, and He would show them the plan or model of the house to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance, I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us. (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 271)
One of those who sacrificed a great deal to build the Kirtland Temple was a convert named John Tanner:
[John] “received an impression by dream or vision of the night, that he … must go immediately to the Church” in Kirtland. He disposed of his property—several flourishing farms, a hotel, and orchards—loaded his numerous family and several neighbors into wagons on Christmas morning, and traversed the five hundred mile distance to arrive in Kirtland on a Sunday, January 1835.
He had indeed been needed. A mortgage on the temple site was falling due and, according to some accounts, the impoverished Prophet Joseph and some of the brethren had been praying for assistance.
John Tanner did not hesitate. He loaned the Prophet two thousand dollars and took his note, loaned the temple committee thirteen thousand dollars, signed a note for thirty thousand dollars with the Prophet and others for goods purchased in New York, and made “liberal donations” toward the building of the temple. (Leonard J. Arrington, “The John Tanner Family,” Ensign, Mar. 1979, 46)
President Thomas S. Monson explained why Latter-day Saints have 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. (Thomas S. Monson, “The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 92)
God rewarded the Saints’ sacrifice to build the Kirtland Temple with an outpouring of spiritual manifestations on the days before and after the dedication (see Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 , 232–35, 237–39).
Many Saints testified that heavenly beings were present during the dedication services.
Eliza R. Snow recalled: “The ceremonies of that dedication may be rehearsed, but no mortal language can describe the heavenly manifestations of that memorable day. Angels appeared to some, while a sense of divine presence was realized by all present, and each heart was filled with ‘joy inexpressible and full of glory’” [see 1 Peter 1:8].
That evening, as the Prophet gathered with about 400 priesthood bearers in the temple, “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.” According to the Prophet, “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” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 307–8).
The most significant spiritual manifestations occurred on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1836, one week after the temple had been dedicated. While they were praying in the temple, a vision opened to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared. He declared that He accepted the temple and promised to pour out blessings on the Saints (see Doctrine and Covenants 110:1–10).
That visit was followed by the appearance of heavenly messengers who committed priesthood keys necessary to accomplish God’s work in the last days. You might mark in the following passages who appeared to Joseph and Oliver and what keys they committed into the Church leaders’ hands:
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. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation , 2:48)
“A man called Elias apparently lived in mortality in the days of Abraham, who committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. … We have no specific information as to the details of his mortal life or ministry” (Bible Dictionary, “Elias”).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained why Elias 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. (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Keys of the Kingdom,” Ensign, May 1983, 22)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
This sealing power bestowed upon Elijah, is the power which binds husbands and wives, and children to parents for time and eternity. It is the binding power existing in every Gospel ordinance. … It is by this power that all the ordinances pertaining to salvation are bound, or sealed, and it was the mission of Elijah to come, and restore it. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Elijah the Prophet and His Mission , 5)
The appearance of the Old Testament prophet Elijah fulfilled promises made by the Lord through the prophet Malachi and reiterated to the Prophet Joseph Smith by Moroni when he first appeared in Joseph’s bedroom on September 21, 1823.