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‘A house of God,’ the history of the Kirtland temple

Here’s the history of the Kirtland temple, which was dedicated in 1836

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The Kirtland Temple in autumn.

The Kirtland temple with autumn leaves around it.

Kenneth Mays

With Willard Richards acting as scribe, Joseph Smith gave a revelation on Aug. 2, 1833, “And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall commence a work of laying out and preparing a beginning and foundation of the city of the stake of Zion, here in the land of Kirtland, beginning at my house.”

On June 1, 1833, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams had a vision where they saw the future building of the temple. In this vision, the Lord also told them the dimensions of the building and informed them that what the various parts of the building would be used for.

The building of the temple took about three years. Upon completion of the temple, Williams reflected back on his earlier vision and said that the constructed temple “seemed to coincide with that I there saw to a minutia.”

When was the Kirtland temple dedicated?

On March 27, 1836, Joseph Smith gave the dedicatory prayer for the temple, which he said was given to him by revelation. This dedicatory prayer is now found in D&C 109.

In this prayer, Smith said, “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.”

After he petitioned the Lord to remember his church, Smith concluded, “And help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!”

After the dedication, the Saints gave the Hosanna Shout and sung a hymn that was written by William W. Phelps especially for this temple dedication, “The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning.” Now the Hosanna Shout and singing Phelps’ hymn is standard practice at every temple dedication.

The first verse of that hymn reads: “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, And angels are coming to visit the earth.” After this dedication, Saints reported “dramatic outpourings of the Holy Spirit and remarkable spiritual events within the temple that fulfilled a promise in earlier revelations that the Lord would ‘endow’ the Saints with ‘power from on high.’”

What happened to the Kirtland temple?

After a financial crisis and threats of violence, many Latter-day Saints left Kirtland and the temple behind. Most of the Latter-day Saints who remained in Kirtland later joined the New Organization (which became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and later Community of Christ) and continued to congregate and worship in the temple.

Now the Community of Christ takes care of the Kirtland Temple. The church offers in-person tours as well as an online 3D tour.