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Construction on the Kirtland Temple was started in 1833 and completed in 1836. It was the first place of temple worship built by the Latter-day Saints.
The Kirtland Temple was dedicated on Sunday, March 27, 1836. Although the temple could hold almost a thousand people, not everyone that wanted to attend was able to fit inside the temple, so the dedicatory services were repeated on the following Thursday.
At the time that the temple was completed it was one of the largest buildings in Northern Ohio. It was also one of the more beautiful buildings in the area. Two sets of pulpits were put in on the ground floor, and the benches were made so that they could be turned to face either the front or back pulpit. Building the Kirtland temple was a huge sacrifice for the Latter-day Saints, but as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 88:119, in December, 1832, the Saints were commanded by God to build the temple. The members of the Church were poor though, and did not start work on the temple until six months after the commandment was given. The members of the Church were also instructed on how to build the temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 95:15). The members sacrificed much to build the temple. Men gave up working to earn money to work on the temple and women spent days sewing curtains, and making carpets for the temple. One member Daniel Tyler wrote in his journal:
- How often have I seen those humble, faithful servants of the Lord, after toiling all day in the quarry, or on the building, when the walls were in [the] course of erection, weary and faint, yet with cheerful countenances, retiring to their homes with a few pounds of corn meal that had been donated. And, in the case of those who lacked a cow to give a little milk, the corn meal was sometimes, for days together, all that they and their families had to subsist upon. When a little flour, butter or meat came in, they were luxuries. Sometimes a little ... molasses ... would be donated, but oftener the hands had to seek a job elsewhere to get a gallon or so, and then return to the labor on the temple (quoted in Karl Ricks Anderson, "Joseph Smith’s Kirtland: Eyewitness Accounts," p. 161).
The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built in the "Last Dispensation of Time." A profound outpouring of the Spirit was manifest at the dedication and surrounding events:
- The dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March of 1836 represented the greatest spiritual outpouring in modern Church history. Joseph wrote that, shortly after the dedicatory prayer was offered, “Frederick G. Williams arose and testified that [during the prayer] an angel entered the window and took his seat between Father Smith and himself. David Whitmer also saw angels in the house.”
- Later, “Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when 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; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; … and I beheld that the Temple was filled with angels. … The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple,) and were astonished at what was taking place.”
- Of one of the concluding meetings, Joseph wrote, “The Savior made his appearance to some, while angels ministered to others, and 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 occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history, to all generations.” (History of the Church, 2:427–33, as described by Bruce C. Hafen, “When Do the Angels Come?,” Ensign, Apr 1992, 12.)
Uses of the Temple
The temple was not used as LDS temples are used today. The Kirtland Temple was used for numerous Church purposes. The main floor was used for Sabbath day and other worship services, the second floor was used as a school to teach people about doctrine, and the third floor was used as a school during the day and as a place for quorum meetings in the evening. It was also a sacred building—nearly half of all the sections (chapters) of the Doctrine and Covenants were received in Kirtland.
By 1838, there were disagreements and misunderstandings between Church members and residents of Kirtland. Members were eventually forced to leave Kirtland and the temple. The Kirtland Temple is owned today by The Community of Christ Church (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), a group that broke away from the LDS Church when Brigham Young was named the president and prophet of the Church after Joseph Smith was martyred. The Community of Christ runs daily tours of the Kirtland Temple. To find out when a tour can be taken visit the website: www.kirtlandtemple.org.
- To watch a video of Elder Boyd K. Packer inside the Kirtland Temple, click here.