The Kirtland Temple

As the centerpiece of a new Jerusalem, Joseph Smith envisioned temples being raised on American soil, the first beginning construction in Kirtland in 1833. The temples Smith planned for Ohio and Missouri numbered over two dozen and were designated for a variety of religious and secular purposes such as church offices and headquarters, meeting and worship spaces, schools of learning, cultural halls, social gatherings, storehouses, etc. Of the many planned, only the temple in Kirtland was completed. This three-story building included general meeting and worship space; classrooms where religious lectures, grammar, and Hebrew were taught; and offices for the church’s presiding authorities. Tremendous sacrifice from the Mormons went into securing the materials needed and building of the temple, particularly for those impoverished converts who followed Sydney Rigdon into Mormonism. Stories of sacrifice for the building of the temple, some exaggerated, became important to the emerging Mormon identity.

Like most evangelicals, a strong desire existed among early Mormons to recreate a New Testament experience, with attendant spiritual manifestations, healings, prophesying, and liturgical practices. In the Kirtland temple, the Mormons practiced foot washing and sacramental communion. Men called as missionaries received an “endowment of power” by being ritually washed prior to entering the temple and then anointed with oil as an act of being “sealed up to the heavens” and blessed prior to their journey. The temple was dedicated during Pentecost week in 1836. Numerous Mormon accounts testified to an outpouring of charismatic manifestations during its dedication, such as speaking in tongues, angelic visions, prophesying, and even visitations by the resurrected Lord and prominent Biblical prophets, although some later accounts denied these claims and even claimed that intoxication played a role. These types of evangelical outpourings were far from distinct to the Mormons. Camp revival meetings, such as the famous Cane Ridge Revival early in the Second Great Awakening period, likewise received similar reports.