Kirkland temple in the fall

Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Temple

When God called Joseph Smith and the early Church members to build the Kirtland Temple, they obeyed and left us a legacy of temple work. 

We are the heirs of Joseph's legacy. Let us spend our lives gathering, endowing, and sealing the living and the dead.

Joseph Smith knelt down in prayer when he was only a 14-year-old farm boy, hoping to receive forgiveness for personal sins and to receive some direction for his life. He didn’t expect to see God and Jesus Christ, and he certainly didn’t expect to be visited by an angel later on—but that’s exactly what happened. Not only did the angel Moroni appear to 17-year-old Joseph, but he also instructed Joseph and taught him from the scriptures.

In one of his visits to Joseph, Moroni quoted Malachi 4:5–6, which talks about the priesthood and the prophet Elijah. Moroni stressed the point that without temple blessings “the whole earth would be utterly wasted at [the Lord’s] coming” (D&C 2:1–3). In an article published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center, titled “Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Temple, 1836,” Steven C. Harper, a BYU professor and an editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, explains how important this particular verse would be in Joseph’s life because he would later receive priesthood keys from Elijah the prophet.

Receiving priesthood keys meant that many important ordinances, or covenants and performances of devotion, would be restored and performed once again. In a revelation received by Joseph in 1832 (D&C 88), some of these ordinances are mentioned. In this revelation, the Lord commanded Joseph to build the first temple of this dispensation. This commandment was also directed to the Saints, and through their efforts the Kirtland Temple was built.

Beginning with the construction and dedication of the temple, more revelations regarding God’s plan for us have been revealed. These revelations can be fully understood and appreciated only by performing temple work.

An important and marvelous work has started in these last days before Christ’s Second Coming. It was not easy for the Saints to build the temple, but Joseph made sure to complete all that God asked him to do. Harper concludes his article with these encouraging words: “We are the heirs of Joseph’s legacy. Let us spend our lives gathering, endowing, and sealing the living and the dead.” As Joseph once said, “Shall we not go on in so great a cause?” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:22).

Read Steven Harper’s article, “Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Temple, 1836.”

Source: BYU Religious Studies Center
—Annalisa Olivieri, Mormon Insights

Find more insights 

Watch this video on the sealing power of the priesthood.

Watch this video of President Monson talking about temples and their importance in our lives. 

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