Sacred Space – the Kirtland Ohio Temple and the Day of Pentecost
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was originally organized in the Northeastern U.S., where Joseph Smith received his First Vision, and translated the plates containing the Book of Mormon. But the Lord had bigger plans for Joseph and the Saints, and so called them via revelation to Kirtland, Ohio, just east of Cleveland.
And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you a commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law and there you shall be endowed from on high (D&C 38:31-32).
As noted in the last discussion, God’s law was given in Kirtland in several sacred places, including the Newell K. Whitney store. However, the “endowment from on high” was to occur only in the most sacred of spaces, a temple of the Lord. In December 1832, the Lord ordered the construction of the temple:
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God (D&C 88:119).
From that moment when the revelation was received in 1832 until its dedication in March 1836, the temple was a major focus for the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph and his two counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick Williams, saw the temple in vision, prior to its construction. Nearing completion, when one of the temple carpenters asked Williams what he thought of its construction, he said,
It looks to me like the pattern precisely. Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors, Williams and 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, and the make up of this Hall seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia.
The people sacrificed to build the temple. Many were poor, but still gave a tithing of their time, spending one day out of ten to work on its construction. Finally, as the temple’s completion drew near, signs of the upcoming Pentecost began to appear. Sylvester Smith saw a pillar of fire rest upon the heads of the quorum of twelve apostles. Roger Orton saw five angels riding horses of fire encircling the temple to protect it. Zebedee Coltrin saw the Lord before him with his arms extended as if on the cross, then later crowned with glory.
Zebedee Coltrin related a vision in the temple in Kirtland after the School of the Prophets was organized. He said while sitting in council, a personage passed through the room dressed in usual clothing. Joseph said that was the Savior. Soon another personage passed through the house clothed in fire His features and feet were visible, but his body was wrapped in flames. Joseph said that was God the Father, and he said he was with Joseph and another man in the woods praying and the heavens were opened and they saw a man sitting upon a throne whose hair was white as wool and a woman sitting beside him, both dressed in white. Joseph said it was Adam and Eve (The Journal of Wilford Woodruff, October 11, 1883 ).
The temple was dedicated on March 27, 1836, with a Solemn Assembly afterward. Joseph Smith offered the dedicatory prayer (now Doctrine and Covenants, Section 109). During the Solemn Assembly, members received instruction, had their feet washed, and were washed and anointed, being pronounced clean and holy. The Assembly erupted into a Pentecost for the hundreds of men and women attending. In his autobiography, Benjamin Brown explains,
The succeeding winter, I again went up to Kirtland, to attend the dedication of the temple, and to meet with the solemn assembly that was there convened. There the Spirit of the Lord, as on the day of Pentecost, was profusely poured out. Hundreds of elders spoke in tongues, but many of them being young in the Church, and never having witnessed the manifestation of this gift before, felt a little alarmed. This caused the Prophet Joseph Smith to pray the Lord to withhold the Spirit. Joseph then instructed them on the nature of the gift of tongues, and the operation of the Spirit generally. We had a most glorious and never-to-be-forgotten time. Angels were seen by numbers present, and the first endowments were received. It was during this assembly that the Saints’ favorite hymn was given by inspiration, commencing–
The Spirit of God, like a fire, is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
The angels are coming to visit the Earth.
The beauty and applicability of this hymn will be seen by the Saints, on reading the third and fourth verses, when it is recollected that this was a solemn assembly, and that the ordinance of washing of feet, etc., was just then being attended to.”
Zebedee Coltrin noted,
In Kirtland Temple, I [Zebedee Coltrin] have seen the power of God as it was in the day of Pentecost! and cloven tongues as of fire have rested on the brethren and they have spoken with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. I saw the Lord high and lifted up and frequently throng the solemn assemblies, the angels of God rested on the temple, and we heard their voices singing heavenly music. At another time when consecrating some oil, we saw visibly the finger of God enter the mouth of the bottle. (Remarks of Zebedee Coltrin on Kirtland, Ohio History of the Church).
The members speak of angels flying in through the windows, chariots of fire and speaking in tongues. The apostle John, the beloved was seen by several. Even people outside the temple saw things happening. Some thought the temple roof was on fire, while others saw angels in white walking on the roof.
In the notes for the dedication, we read,
President Frederlck G. Williams arose and testified that while President Rigdon was making his first prayer, an angel entered the window and took his seat between Father Smith and himself and remained there during the prayer.
Edward Partridge noted,
On the first day of the dedication, President Frederick G. Williams, one of the Counselors to the Prophet, and who occupied the upper pulpit, bore testimony that the Savior, dressed in his vesture without seam, came into the stand and accepted of the dedication of the house, and that he saw him, and gave a description of his clothing and all things pertaining to it…Many individuals bore testimony that they saw angels, and David Whitmer bore testimony that he saw three angels passing up the south aisle, and there came a shock on the house like the sound of a mightily rushing wind, and almost every man in the house arose, and hundreds of them were speaking in tongues, prophesying or declaring visions, almost with one voice (Journal of Discourses 11:10).
A week after the dedication, visions were still occurring. On Sunday, April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery separated themselves behind a curtain in the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpit. As they prayed, they beheld a series of visions, now known as D&C 110.
The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber. His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah… (D&C 110:1-3).
The Lord gave them direction and accepted the House of the Lord as his own. Jesus promised to “manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house….Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house” (D&C 110:7-9).
The endowment they received is not the full endowment Mormons receive today. However, it was an endowment of power and light. As discussed previously, the sacred space is to bring people into the presence of God and his angels. We see that this did occur in the Kirtland Pentecost. With that spiritual witness, the members could go forth throughout the world, sharing the blessings they had received. But there were more blessings awaiting them. Once the vision with Jesus ended, Joseph and Oliver saw Moses appear to them. He gave them the “keys” or authority and power to gather physical and spiritual Israel. They then received a vision from an angel named Elias, who committed to them the gospel of Abraham, restoring the ancient Abrahamic covenant, blessing the faithful with a promised land and countless descendants. Finally, the Lord sent Elijah the prophet to Joseph and Oliver.
Elijah had been an important part of Mormonism from the moment Joseph met the angel Moroni. Moroni had quoted Malachi 4:5-6 on several occasions. This states that prior to the Second Coming of Christ, Elijah the prophet would come to turn the hearts of the fathers and children towards one another, otherwise the world would be smitten with a curse at Christ’s coming. This prophecy is so very important that Jews today leave open a seat at their Passover dinner for the prophet Elijah. Jewish tradition holds that once Elijah appears, the Messiah will follow just a short time after. As it happens, Elijah appeared to Joseph and Oliver during Passover, on a holiday called Bikkurim. Bikkurim falls on a Sunday during Passover week and was marked by the waving of a perfect sheaf of grain from the temple field, guaranteeing a perfect harvest for the coming year. Jesus rose on Bikkurim, guaranteeing a perfect harvest of souls to be resurrected. Elijah told them,
Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come— 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— Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors (D&C 110:14-16).
The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built in modern times. It was a sacred space designed by inspiration to be a House of God. It prepared the early Latter-day Saints to be in the presence of angels and Christ, to speak in the tongue of angels, and to prophesy of the things of God. It would prepare the way for future temples and the extended works performed in them. But the main reason for all temples, ancient and modern, are to prepare mankind to stand in the presence of God and angels with confidence.
This article was written by Gerald Smith, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.