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THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE
Probably no spot is more deeply enshrined in the hearts of Latter Day Saints than Kirtland Temple. Standing, as it does on a hilltop, the Temple may be seen for miles around, gleaming white in the sunshine, a monument to the faith, courage, sacrifice, and devotion of the men and women who lived long ago. Some architects may find it faulty,1 and time may lay its hand heavily there, but to the true Latter Day Saint there comes the feeling that here he should take off his shoes, for the place whereon he stands is holy.
At a time when they were few in number and poor, at a time when the leaders were straining every nerve to find the means to buy land for a community experiment which threatened to outgrow their meager resources, these people built this great testimony of their faith. It was their tribute of love to their Maker, and they called it "The House of the Lord."
In June, 1833, the Presidency: Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, were appointed to draft plans, while Reynolds Cahoon, Jared Carter, and Hyrum Smith were to oversee the actual building operations. By the 25th of June, the Presidency in their letter to Edward Partridge in Zion could report: "We have commenced building the house of the Lord in this place, and it goes on rapidly."
On the 23d of July, while a mob bearing a red flag was advancing upon the Saints in Zion, and six brave men, John Corrill, John Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, Sidney Gilbert, Edward Partridge, and Isaac Morley, were offering themselves a ransom for the rest of their brethren, the Saints back in Kirtland, knowing nothing of what had befallen their brethren in the West, were laying the cornerstone of the Temple in that place.
Almost from the very hour of the commencement of the building, the Saints looked forward to a glorious spiritual endowment. Interrupted only by the cold weather of that winter, the work proceeded steadily. Spring came, and with it Zion's Camp left for the West, taking away most of the men from Kirtland, but with Sidney Rigdon left in charge, the work went on with the few who remained.
Heber C. Kimball, who had been with Zion's Camp, returned to find his wife, Vilate, busily engaged at the spinning wheel, for she had taken a hundred pounds of wool to spin on shares that summer. The half she earned by the products of her toil, she used to make clothing for the workmen on the Temple. She did not keep out enough wool "for even one pair of stockings" for herself, but with the assistance of one girl, spun, wove, dressed the cloth, cut it, and made it up into garments for the workers on the Temple. Nearly all the sisters in Kirtland were similarly employed in spinning, knitting, weaving, and sewing.
The walls of the building were partly up when the brethren left for Missouri, on July 26, 1834. "Brother Rigdon," says Heber C. Kimball, "looking at the poverty and sufferings of the church, frequently went upon the walls of the building, both by night and day, and wept, crying aloud to the Almighty to send means," that the building might be completed. The Saints of old time took their religious life seriously.
After we returned from our journey to the West the whole church united in this great undertaking [says Kimball], and every man lent a helping hand. Those who had not teams went to work in the stone quarry and prepared the stones for drawing to the house.
The Prophet, being our foreman, would put on his tow frock and tow pantaloons and go into the quarry, the Presidency, high priests, and elders all alike assisting. Those who had teams assisted in drawing the stone to the house. These all laboring one day in the week, brought as many stones to the house as supplied the masons through the whole week. We continued in this manner until the walls of the house were reared. The committee who were appointed by revelation . . . used every exertion in their power to forward the work.2
Missionaries coming in from their missionary field worked on the Temple while they waited to go out again.
Thursday, November 19, 1835, Joseph Smith records in his journal: "Went in company with Doctor Williams and my scribe to see how the workmen prospered in finishing the house. The masons on the inside had commenced putting on the finishing coat of plastering."
January 8, 1836, he again reports progress: "The plastering and hard finishing on the outside of the Lord's House was commenced on the 2d of November, 1835, and finished this day. The job was let to Artemas Millet and Lorenzo Young, at one thousand dollars. Jacob Bump took the job of plastering the inside of the house throughout at fifteen hundred dollars, and commenced the same on the 9th of November last. He is still continuing the work, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather."
On the 13th of the month a council was held at Kirtland, composed of the First Presidency, of the church, the presidents of the high council in Zion, the presidency of the high council, the twelve apostles, the seventy, and many of the elders. Vacancies were filled in the high councils occasioned by some of the members having been ordained to the office of twelve or seventy. Then a doorkeeper was appointed for the House of the Lord--Thomas Carrico. A committee, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, W. W. Phelps, David Whitmer, and Hyrum Smith, were chosen to draft regulations to govern the House of the Lord. A resolution was also passed:
The unanimous voice of the whole assembly, motioned, seconded and carried unanimously, that no whispering shall be allowed in our councils or assemblies, nor anyone allowed (except he is called upon, or asks permission) to speak aloud, upon any consideration whatever; and no man shall be interrupted while speaking, unless he is speaking out of place; and every man shall be allowed to speak in his turn.3
That night Joseph recorded his impressions of the day's events:
This has been one of the best days that I ever spent; there has been an entire union of feeling expressed, in all our proceedings this day; and the Spirit of the God of Israel has rested upon us in mighty power, and it has been good for us to be here in this heavenly place in Christ Jesus; and although much fatigued with the labors of the day, yet my spiritual reward has been very great indeed.4
Sunday, March 27, 1836, was the time set apart for the dedication of the Temple. It was a time of rejoicing for all. It has been said that the women brought their jewelry and gave it to be sold for the building of this Temple, that their best china and glass were crushed and added to the mortar that covered the outside of the building. The historic building stands on a hill south of the east fork of the Chagrin River, about three miles southeast of Willoughby, Ohio, and about nine miles southwest of Painesville, about six in direct line from Lake Erie. It is visited by many tourists every year.
The building is of stone, plastered outside and in, and is three stories high, exclusive of basement. The first and second floors are auditoriums and very much alike, each fifty-five by sixty-five feet on the inside, exclusive of the vestibule on the east end, through which is the entrance to the building and in which are the stairways. The lower room was to be dedicated for "sacrament offering, and for your preaching; and your fasting, and your praying, and the offering up your most holy desires unto me, saith your Lord."5 The second room was to be used for the school of the apostles. There are eight pulpits in each of these two rooms, four in each end. Those in the west end are for the use of the Melchisedec priesthood and those in the east for the Aaronic. The third story is divided into small rooms, intended as class rooms, as the Saints, especially the priesthood, were engaged almost continually in some kind of schoolwork.
On the long-expected day, the crowd began to arrive before eight o'clock and thronged the doors, until at nine the "presidents" of the church, who were seating the crowd, were reluctantly compelled to close the doors. It is estimated that over a thousand were present, every seat and aisle filled. There was a choir under the leadership of M. C. Davis. Lucy Cowdery,6 Oliver Cowdery's half-sister, later the wife of Phineas Young, tells in a letter she wrote young Joseph Smith, many years after, of the wonderful experience she had in singing in the choir on this day. No one who took part ever forgot. Even the children remembered. The attendance of children on these important occasions in the life of adults is often underestimated.
One of my earliest recollections [says Sylvia Cutler Webb]7 was the dedication of the Temple. [She was six years old.] My father took us up on his lap and told us why we were going and what it meant to dedicate a house of God. And although so very young at that time, I clearly remember the occasion.
I can look back through the lapse of years and see, as I saw then, Joseph the Prophet standing with his hands raised toward heaven, his face ashy pale, the tears running down his cheeks as he spoke on that memorable day. Almost all seemed to be in tears. The house was so crowded the children were mostly sitting on older people's laps; my sister sat on father's, I on mother's lap. I can even remember the dresses we wore. My mind was too young at that time to grasp the full significance of it all, but as time passed, it dawned more and more upon me, and I am very grateful that I was privileged to be there.8
It is said that the word was given out that babies in arms were not to be admitted because of possible disturbance, but that one mother concealed her babe under her shawl, and that the child who had not yet spoken shouted, "Hosanna to God!"9 The long dedicatory was offered by Sidney Rigdon. At the conclusion of the discourse, Sidney Rigdon presented Joseph Smith as their seer, and he was accepted by rising vote, first by the "presidents," then by the quorums in turn, and then by the congregation. The closing hymn was one we still sing in Latter Day Saint congregations, "Now Let Us Rejoice in the Day of Salvation." And the congregation sat without moving through all the three or four hours of that session. A short intermission was granted for women who had young children to leave for a few moments to care for them. The services were continued in the afternoon, and many wonderful things are related of the spiritual blessings that came to the congregation on that day. In all, the services continued over eight hours. The Saints and friends are praised for their "quiet demeanor" through the exercises. No passing of a collection plate marred the solemnity of that occasion, but a man stood at each door to receive voluntary donations as the people entered. The entire amount of the money gift on this day was nine hundred and sixty-three dollars.
In the days that followed, the people received a spiritual endowment in this Temple which was never forgotten. They went out to the world with new strength, a strength of which they were to stand sorely in need in the trying days that were before them.
1 In fact, architects praise it. See Architecture, August, 1924, pages
265-269. The Architectural Forum, March, 1936, pages 178-183.
2 Heber C. Kimball's Journal, pages 81, 82.
3 Millennial Star, Volume 15, page 582.
5 Church History, Volume 2, page 33.
6 Lucy (Cowdery) Young was admitted to the Reorganized Church on her original baptism in 1879. She says she knew Emma Smith first in 1829.
7 Sylvia Webb, daughter of Thaddeus, and granddaughter of Alpheus Cutler.
8 Saints' Herald, March 24, 1915, page 289.
9 Journal of History, Volume 2, page 420.
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