Kirtland Ohio


Kirtland Ohio Temple Wiki


The Kirtland Temple is a National Historic Landmark in Kirtland, Ohio, USA. It is currently owned and operated by the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)). This was the first temple to the Latter-day saints. The design mixes Federal, Greek Revival and Gothic Revival architectural elements.

Each year tens of thousands take tours of the temple. The Community of Christ allows various denominations to hold 50 to 60 worship services and educational events each year. There are also  community Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Holy Week services that are held at the temple each year.

The first structure of its kind to be built by the Saints, the Kirtland Temple is similar in purpose from the Nauvoo temple built in the 1840s. Both Kirtland and Nauvoo had 2 large assembly halls, while only Nauvoo would have a font, and only Nauvoo would use the Attic space for the endowment. (Neither proxy baptism or the endowment had been instituted by the time the Saints moved from Kirtland. It is different in both design and purpose from the temples built by the Church today. St. George Temple was initially built similar with 2 assembly halls. It has since been remodeled to match modern temple use.

The lower inner court is still used primarily for various worship services. It has two sets of pulpits, one set on either end, and the pews featured an adjustable design which allowed the audience to face either end. The second floor was designed for education, and was to house a school for church leaders known as the “School of Mine Apostles” (School of the Prophets). Use of the third floor alternated between general academic classes during the day, Church quorum meetings in the evenings, the Kirtland Theological Institution, the School of the Elders (possibly an enlargement of the school of the prophets, and may have been destined to become the school of mine apostles), Church offices, including that of Joseph, were also located on the third floor.



Beginning in 1831, members of the Church began to gather in the Kirtland area.


December Joseph Smith received a revelation that called for the construction of a  house of worship, education, and order:

“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;”[1]

1833 Announcement

11 January  Joseph smith, in speaking to W. W. Phelps, states that:

“The Lord commanded us in Kirtland to build an house of God.”[2]

1 June, Joseph received section 95, wherein the Saints were chastised for not having already commenced the construction of the temple.[3]

3-4 JuneA Conference is held  to discuss the temple construction. Joseph and his counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Fredric G. Williams, are appointed “to obtain a draft or construction of the inner court.” Later in June Joseph, and his councilors were given a vision of what the temple should look like, as described by Fredrick G. Williams:

“Joseph received the word of the Lord for him to take his two counselors, Frederick G. Williams and Sidney Rigdon, and come before the Lord and He would show them the plan or model of the house to be built. We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance. I being the first to discover it. Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the makeup of this hall seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia.”[4]

Later that same day a call was put forward by the Temple Building Committee, comprised of Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Calhoon, and Jared Carter, for a contributions of funds for the building of the Temple. ”

Construction began on the Kirtland Temple that day as well with Hyrum Smith, being “determined to be the first at the work” begins to clear ground.

5-6 June On or around the 6th Hyrum and Reynolds Callhoun began to dig a trench for the foundation. Meanwhile Stone for the Temple was located 3 miles away and under the direction of  George A. Smith quarry work began that day and the first load of Berea sandstone was hauled from the base of Gildersleeve Mountain. [5] [6]


July 23 The cornerstones for the Kirtland Temple are laid after the order of the Holy Priesthood, starting with the southeast corner, Then Working around clockwise. In the modern era of temple building, the cornerstone is the last, rather than the first, item placed within the temple. It is still, however, placed on the south east most corner most of the time.[7][8]


2 August Joseph received a revelation from God, directing members of the church to commence laying out a city and to construct A house to god:

“And let the first lot on the south be consecrated unto me for the building of a house for the presidency, for the work of the presidency, in obtaining revelations; and for the work of the ministry of the presidency, in all things pertaining to the church and kingdom.”

Specifications were given as to the size of the interior spaces, the number of floors, and the purpose of the building with a promise given that the Lord’s “glory shall be there, and [his] presence shall be  there.”[9]

A second building of similar size and proportion was instructed to be built on the adjoining lot for the printing and translating of scripture.[10]

August also saw the commencement of the manufacturing of bricks for the temple foundation by Joel Hills Johnson.[11]

September William Burgess, Chief Carpenter, records that the walls reached 4 feet above the ground.[12]

October Construction on the temple halts for the winter and the walls are covered to winterize them.[13] From now into late winter Men will stand guard at night to protect the walls from destruction by mobs of opposition.[14][11]


April The basement walls are uncovered, and the members commit at April Conference to finish the temple walls within the season.[15]

7 May  Zions Camp departs for Missouri, a few men are left behind in Kirtland to watch over property and continue work on the temple.[16]

1 September Zion’s Camp Returns, and work on the temple ramps up.[17]


February Walls of the temple are “up to the square,” (Indicating they are finished and ready for the roof to be built.)[18]

July Roof is finished. [19]

19-20 July Spire under construction. [20]

2 November Exterior plastering of the Kirtland Temple commences.  Under the direction of master builder Artemus Millet, crushed china and glassware are mixed with the plaster to make the walls glisten.[21] While the story is usually told that the saints sacrificed their own china for this purpose, most scholars and historical records agree that broken glass and china was scavenged from trash heaps of local communities.

9 November Interior plaster work commences.[5]


8 January Exterior Plastering completed.[22]

22-24 February The interior of the Kirtland Temple was completed under the direction of Brigham Young.  Curtains and carpets are made by the sisters.


The temple was dedicated in an eight-hour service on March 27, 1836. A reported “one thousand persons” attended the gathering. President Sidney Rigdon spoke for two and a half hours in the Kirtland Temple, declaring that it is unique among all the buildings of the world because it has been built by divine revelation.  There is a brief intermission and then the officers of the Church are sustained. The Kirtland Temple wass dedicated by Joseph Smith, giving a prayer that becomes Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants and a pattern for future dedicatory prayers.[23]which he indicated was given to him by revelation.[24] Two other church leaders, Brigham Young and David W. Patten, were reported to have been inspired to speak in tongues following the prayer (Messenger and Advocate (March 1836)).

The choir sings “The Spirit of God”, a new hymn that has been written especially for the occasion by William W. Phelps.  The sacrament is administered to the congregation and the Hosanna Shout is rendered

Truman O. Angell recorded in his journal the following account:

“When about midway during the prayer, there was a glorious sensation passed through the house [Kirtland Temple]; and we, having our heads bowed in prayer, felt a sensation very elevating to the soul. At the close of the prayer, F. G. Williams being in the upper east stand- -Joseph being in the speaking stand next below–rose and testified that midway during the prayer an holy angel came and seated himself in the stand. When the afternoon meeting assembled, Joseph, feeling very much elated, arose the first thing and said the personage who had appeared in the morning was the Angel Peter come to accept the dedication.”

That evening, over four hundred priesthood bearers meet in the Kirtland Temple.  While George A. Smith is speaking, a noise is heard like rushing wind and all the congregation simultaneously arises.  Many members see angels and speak in tongues, and others in the neighborhood see a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the temple.  It is compared to the day of Pentecost.

On March 31 The Kirtland Temple’s dedicatory service is held a second time for the benefit of the many members who could not fit in the temple the first time.

The Temple was not originally white on the exterior as it is today. The original exterior was a bluish-gray according to Truman Coe, a minister in the 1830s.[25] Early photos of the temple show that plaster was not bright white as it is now, instead indicating that it was as dark, or nearly as dark, as the corner stones. While the walls were sparkling due to the presence of porcelain and glass in the mix, the plaster was still a rather dark gray or blue gray. Additionally, historic photos show that there were mortar lines painted onto the surface of the plaster in order to give the appearance of brick work. These lines were most likely a blue color.[21] The roof is believed to have been red, or had a red tint Each shingle would have been painted with cheap and common red lead pigment mixed into linseed oil before being installed.[21] Depending on what else was mixed into the paint, the roof could have been a bright orange red color. However, it is known that dark maroon colored roofs were popular in this area of Ohio, so it is likely something would have been mixed with the paint to darken it down.[26] The front doors of the temple were reported to be olive green. Presently, only the doors are the original color.

According to Leonard Arrington’s economic history of the Latter Day Saint movement, Great Basin Kingdom, the completed temple had cost $40,000.

Visions and miracles

On January 21, 1836, before the temple was completed, Joseph reported the first of several visions received at the temple. As he and his associates performed a feet washing and anointing ritual, he saw “the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof… [and] the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.” Joseph also reported seeing Adam, Abraham, and three family members, only one of which had previously died; this experience of Joseph’s was canonized by the LDS Church as revelation and published as section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants for the first time in 1981.

Not long after the dedication, several more visions were reported. On April 3, Joseph had his scribe, Warren Cowdery,[27] write down in his personal journal an account of a spiritual experience Joseph and Oliver Cowdery had while praying in the pulpits. In this experience Joseph states that he and Oliver saw Jesus Christ “standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit.” According to Smith’s account, Christ accepted the church’s dedication of the temple, and promised blessings according to their obedience. Following the conclusion of this vision of Christ, the account goes on to tell of Joseph and Oliver Cowdery then receiving visions of Moses, Elias and Elijah. The account in Smith’s journal is the only known telling of this occurrence during Smith’s lifetime. The LDS Church canonized it as section 110 of their Doctrine and Covenants in 1876.

Shifting ownership

Smith’s time in Kirtland after the temple came into use was limited. In 1837, he became involved with the foundation of a bank known as the Kirtland Safety Society. The failure of this bank was a factor that caused a schism among Latter Day Saints in Kirtland. The dissenters were led by Warren Parrish, Smith’s former secretary, and included Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Parrish’s group took control of the temple and other church property. By the beginning of 1838, Joseph was forced to flee the state, relocating to Far West, Missouri with hundreds of loyalists. After the Mormons moved west in 1838, the Temple was used by the Western Reserve Teacher’s Seminary. Parrish’s group dissolved and by 1841 the remaining Latter Day Saints in Kirtland had come back into communion with the main body of the church, which had subsequently relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois.

A period of confusion followed the assassination of Joseph in 1844 as rival leaders and factions vied for control of the temple. In 1845, the Kirtland Latter Day Saints under the leadership of S. B. Stoddard, Leonard Rich and Jacob Bump organized their own church in opposition to those of Brigham Young, James J. Strang and other leaders. This group later merged with a faction led by William E. McLellin whose president was David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses.

By 1848, another Latter Day Saint faction led by Hazen Aldrich and James Collin Brewster was organized in Kirtland and maintained control of the temple. This faction also dissolved and most of the members who were in Kirtland eventually joined the Community of Christ (then known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, adding the word Reorganized to their name in 1872) led by Joseph Smith III. In 1860, a probate court in Ohio sold the Kirtland Temple as a means of paying off some debts owned by Joseph Smith’s estate.[28] Joseph Smith III and Mark Hill Forscutt purchased a quitclaim deed to the temple in 1874.[28]

In 1880, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began the Kirtland Temple Suit, in an attempt to gain clear legal title to the temple. The court opinion stated that the RLDS Church was the lawful successor of the original church, but ultimately dismissed the case.[29] Although the case had no legal bearing, the Community of Christ secured ownership of the temple through adverse possession by at least 1901.[29]

The local RLDS congregation met in the building on a regular basis for Sunday worship until the 1950s. Due to preservation concerns, a new church was built across the street for the congregation. The temple saw more direct management and funding from the world church. Today, the building is used for approximately 50 to 60 worship services, classes, retreats and other special events throughout the year. These services are usually for various denominations that split from the Church.

Unlike the later built Nauvoo Temple, the Kirtland Temple was never destroyed or burned down. The same stones from the original construction are still in place today.

E. Cecil McGavin claims the temple was used as a barn for their animals. “The … beneficiaries of the Mormon exodus from Ohio did not need a house of worship as large as the temple, so they used it as a barn. They made a sloping driveway into the basement, using that large room as a shelter for the milch cows of the community during the winter months”, “while they filled the ground floor room with sheep”[30]

Sources and Links for the Kirtland Temple

Additional Articles


  1. [1]Joseph Smith, “Doctrine and Covenants 88:119,” Kirtland, Ohio, 27-28 December 1832.
  2. [2]Dean C /Jesse, (Comp and Edit,) “The Personal Writing of Joseph Smith.” Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984, p. 263
  3. [3]Joseph Smith Jr., “Doctrine and Covenants 95,” Kirtland, Ohio, 2 August 1833.
  4. [4]“Autobiography of Truman O. Angell, 1810-1887” Book of Abraham Project.
  5. [5]Lorenzo Young, “Narrative, p. 42.
  6. [6]George Smith, “Memoirs,” p. 10
  7. [7]Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:400.
  8. [8]“An Explanation of the Plat of the City of Zion”, 25 June, 1833.”
  9. [9]Joseph Smith Jr., “Doctrine and Covenants 94:1-12,” Kirtland, Ohio, 2 August 1833.
  10. [10]Joseph Smith Jr., “Doctrine and Covenants 94:1-12, 16,” Kirtland, Ohio, 2 August 1833.
  11. [11]Joel Johnson. Autobiography, 5.
  12. [12]William Burgess, Autobiography
  13. [13]Williams to Saints in Missouri, in History of the Church, 1:148.
  14. [14]History of the Church, 2:2
  15. [15]William Draper, Autobiography,p. 2.
  16. [16]History of the Church, 2:64.
  17. [17]History of the Church, 2:161
  18. [18]Joseph Young to Harvey, 16 November 1880, p. 6.
  19. [19]“House of God,” p. 147
  20. [20]W.W Phelps to Sally Phelps, via Van Orden, “Writing to Zion,” 555.
  21. [21]Elwin C. Robison, “The First Mormon Temple,” Brigham Young University Press, 1997
  22. [22]History of the Church, 2:363.
  23. [23]Oliver Cowdery’s Kirtland, Ohio Sketch Book” as reprinted in BYU Studies 12:4 (1972). [Saturday, March 26, 1836] “This day our school did not keep, we prepared for the dedication of the Lord’s house. I met in the president’s room, pres. J. Smith, jr. S. Rigdon, my brother W. A. Cowdery & Elder W. Parrish, and assisted in writing a prayer for the dedication of the house.”
  24. [24]History of the Church, 2:420.
  25. [25]Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary, 25 August 1834, p. 4.
  26. [26]Elwin C. Robison, Private Email, October 2017.
  27. [27]Faulring, Scott H., ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 156 footnotes
  28. [28]Roger D. Launius, “Joseph Smith III and the Kirtland Temple Suit”BYU Studies 25:110–116 (Summer 1985).
  29. [29]Kim L. Loving, “Ownership of the Kirtland Temple: Legends, Lies, and Misunderstandings”, Journal of Mormon History (Fall 2004), 1-80.
  30. [30]E. Cecil McGavin. The Nauvoo Temple. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986.


This post currently has 2 responses

  • Beautiful. Fascinating

    At what point do you become THEEE authority on all things temple construction? By the powers vested in me, I ,herefore, dub thee that.

    All of your research and imagery would not even fit into a book and I see that’s why you’ve organized it into an online wiki.
    Your body of work deserves major recognition.
    May your wiki be backed-up 10x with copies stored on several different servers and one in the granite mountain vaults, ensuring it is never lost or goes offline.
    I hope you have thoughtfully considered what will become of your life’s work long-term. It is extremely valuable.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence… But I know a few people more knowledgeable about the temples than myself! Most of them work for the Church History Library, or the Special Projects Department (the group that builds and maintains temples,) but still, there are a fair few of them!

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