“Concerning the building of mine house”

The temples of the early Latter Day Saint movement were a place where several strands of Joseph Smith’s theology and doctrine were braided together.  In the summer of 1833 (in the revelations we are studying this week for “Come, Follow Me”), we can see that braiding happening.  Referencing some major topics we’ve already discussed this year, we can see the idea of beholding the face of God, an endowment of power from on high, preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus the Christ, the Zion project, and some practical functions of the temples (in connection with building Zion).  Each of these had become a component of how the House of the Lord in Kirtland and Zion were meant to operate.

The endowment of power from on high was one area of particular concern to the early Saints.  They had been promised in early 1831 that when they relocated to Kirtland, Ohio, they would be blessed with the law and an endowment of power akin to the one that the early Christians received on the day of Pentecost.[1]  The law was given in a series of revelations that spring, but the endowment of power proved more elusive.  Ordination to the high priesthood at a conference in 1831 and the meetings of the School of the Prophets functioned as earlier endowments of power, but the Saints continued to look forward to the construction of the House of the Lord as a place where this would occur more fully.  The idea seems to have been that the Lord would bless the Saints with something—either an experience or an ability to perform miracles—that would help in missionary work.  On 1 June 1833, a revelation reiterated that it was important that the Saints build the House of the Lord so that the Lord could “prepare mine Apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time that I may bring to pass my strange act that I may pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”  The text goes on to state that: “I gave unto you a commandment that you should build an house in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high, for this is the promise of the Father unto you.”[2]  Increasingly, the House of the Lord became the focal point for receiving this endowment of power.

One understanding of this endowment of power was that it might include seeing God.  As Oliver Cowdery would later tell the freshly minted Quorum of the Twelve: “It is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. And that you have seen the face of God; that is more than the testimony of an Angel … . Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.”[3]  In a revelation on 2 August 1833 (Section 94), the Saints were promised that if the built the House of the Lord and “not suffer any unclean thing to come into it” that the Lord’s “glory shall be there and my presence shall be there.”[4]  On the same day, a separate revelation that gave directions to build a temple in Zion, Missouri (Section 97), promised that: “inas much as my people build an house unto me in the name of the Lord and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it that it be not defiled my glory shall rest upon it yea and my presence shall be therefor I will come into it and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.”[5]  For both temples in Kirtland and Zion, the expectation was that people who were pure would see God while they attended the temple.

Part of what gave the early Saints such a sense of urgency in building these houses of the Lord was that they were preparing for an imminent Second Coming of Jesus the Christ.  For example, in the 1 June 1833 revelation (Section 95), the Lord indicated that the House of the Lord was being built “for the preparation wherewith I deign to prepare mine Apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time.”[6]  Section 97 also states: “let Zion rejoice while all the wicked shall mourn for behold and lo vengence cometh speedily upon the ungodly as the whirlwind … it shall not be staid until the Lord come for the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations and all their wicked works nevertheless Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her.”[7]  Following the Lord’s command to build houses unto Him was an important part of preparing to be safe during the eschatological events that were understood to be coming soon.

In addition, the temple was not only seen as part of preparation for missionaries to preach the gospel in a last effort to bring people to Christ before His return but were also an essential part of building a New Jerusalem (aka Zion) and sanctified satellite sites (aka stakes).  In the one of the 2 August 1833 revelations (Section 97), the Lord stated that the House of the Lord should be “built unto me for the salvation of Zion for a place of thanksgiving for all saints and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry.”  The text goes on to state that: “behold if Zion do these things she shall prosper and spread herself and become very glorious very great and very tereble and the Nations of the earth shall honor her.”[8]  The House of the Lord was important for establishing Zion.  The other revelation received on the same day (Section 94) focused on the construction of the House of the Lord in Kirtland as part of commencing “a work of laying out and preparing a begining and foundation of the city of the stake of Zion.”[9]  This was a sentiment echoed from a revelation received a month earlier (Section 95), which stated that Newel K. Whitney should take charge of the land the Church owned in Kirtland, “upon which I design to build mine holy house,” so that “this stake that I have set for the strength of Zion should be made strong.”[10]  These indicate that the temples were seen as an important part of building Zion.

Part of the reason houses of the Lord were important in building Zion communities was that the temples were seen as buildings meant to serve specific functions in their communities.  The House of the Lord in Kirtland was designed to function as a schoolhouse (primarily for the School of the Prophets) and as a chapel in which to meet.  Hence it being built to “prepare mine Apostles” and functioning as a place to “call your solem assembly that your fastings and your mourning might come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”[11]  To be more specific, the revelation specified that the lower room should “be dedicated unto me for your 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,” while the upper room would be used “for the school of mine Apostles.”[12] The principal temple in Zion was intended to function similarly as “a place of thanksgiving for all saints and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry.”[13]  These temples were meant to function as school houses and chapels.

In addition to these temples, several other Houses of the Lord were planned to serve practical functions.  In Kirtland, in addition to the principal temple, a revelation indicated that they would need to build another “house unto me [the Lord] for the work of the printing of the translation of my scripturs” that would be “wholly dedecated unto the Lord from the foundation there of for the work of the printing.”[14]  The language indicates that this printing house was seen as a second temple in Kirtland.  In a plat of the City of Zion that was created around this same time (June 1833), instructions were included to have a central area in the city “for publick buildings” that were called temples, including several to function as office space for the various offices of the priesthood and “24 building to supply them [city residents] with houses of worship [and] schools,” noting that that “none of these temples are to be smaller than the one of which we send you the draft.”[15]  Temples not only would dot the earth, but would dot the city of Zion’s central area.

Thus, it was in the temples that we see several threads of Joseph Smith’s ministry braided together.  By the summer of 1833, temples were seen as places of meeting and learning in Zion and its stakes where missionaries would receive an endowment of power and behold the face of God to prepare them to preach the Gospel before the Second Coming.  More threads would continue to be braided into the functions of temples as time passed, such as the importance of ordinances or rites in receiving power from on high, but by this point, temples were increasingly becoming central to Joseph Smith’s main projects.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Revelation, 2 January 1831 [D&C 38],” p. 52, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed April 11, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-january-1831-dc-38/4

[2] “Revelation, 1 June 1833 [D&C 95],” p. 59, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-1-june-1833-dc-95/1

[3] Kirtland Council Minute Book, 1832-37, 21 February 1835.

[4] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–B [D&C 94],” p. 65, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-b-dc-94/2

[5] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–A [D&C 97],” p. 63, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-a-dc-97/3

[6] “Revelation, 1 June 1833 [D&C 95],” p. 59, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-1-june-1833-dc-95/1

[7] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–A [D&C 97],” p. 64, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-a-dc-97/4

[8] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–A [D&C 97],” p. 63, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-a-dc-97/3

[9] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–B [D&C 94],” p. 64, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-b-dc-94/1

[10] “Revelation, 4 June 1833 [D&C 96],” p. 60, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-4-june-1833-dc-96/1

[11] “Revelation, 1 June 1833 [D&C 95],” p. 59, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-1-june-1833-dc-95/1

[12] “Revelation, 1 June 1833 [D&C 95],” p. 60, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-1-june-1833-dc-95/2

[13] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–A [D&C 97],” p. 63, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 2, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-a-dc-97/3

[14] “Revelation, 2 August 1833–B [D&C 94],” p. 66, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/revelation-2-august-1833-b-dc-94/3

[15] “Plat of the City of Zion, circa Early June–25 June 1833,” p. [1], The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 3, 2021, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/plat-of-the-city-of-zion-circa-early-june-25-june-1833/1

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