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Picturing history: Preaching in Philadelphia

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During the early years of the Church of Christ, now The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith would address the Saints in homes or outdoors. After its completion, he utilized the Kirtland Temple.

The Kesher Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia, Pa., where Joseph Smith preached in 1840.

The Kesher Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia, Pa., where Joseph Smith preached in 1840.

Kenneth Mays

But in less than two years, he had moved to Missouri and then on to Illinois where there were no public buildings used exclusively for worship and ecclesiastical purposes.

While on trip to the east in January 1840, the Prophet addressed a large congregation in Philadelphia in a building owned by another faith. According to Parley P. Pratt, Joseph Smith spoke following a sermon given by Sidney Rigdon.

Elder Pratt recalled: “Brother Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God.” Elder Pratt continued noting that “The entire congregation were astounded; electrified, as it were, and overwhelmed with the sense of the truth and power by which he spoke and the wonders which he related” ("Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt," by Parley P. Pratt, page 260).

At that time, the building in which Joseph spoke was utilized by the First Independent Church of Christ. According to local historian Charles Muldowney, the building was constructed as a Universalist Church in 1796 and was John Adams’ house of worship.

The extant structure is now the Kesher Israel Synagogue of the Jewish tradition. It is located at 412 Lombard St. in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from Independence Hall.