“Organize yourselves . . . and establish a house, even a house . . . of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”[1] With these words pronounced in 1832, Christ commanded His poverty-stricken Saints to build the Kirtland Temple, a latter-day house of the Lord. The temple was a priority because in it, ancient priesthood ordinances would once again be performed.

Thousands of years had elapsed since the Lord first commanded His ancient people to build sanctuaries and temples. In 1841 the Savior made it clear that building temples and instituting sacred ordinances had always been important to Him. He said, “I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle . . . and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.”[2]

Anciently as the Lord commanded the children of Israel to build their holy tabernacles and sanctuaries, He directed Moses in specific architectural details for these edifices. For example, on Mt. Sinai the Lord showed Moses the pattern, content, and dimensions for the tabernacle.[3] He then cautioned Moses, “Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.”[4] In His command to erect a sanctuary, the Lord directed that it should be made “according to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle.”[5]

By revelation the Lord gave David, Solomon’s father, the pattern for building Solomon’s temple. The model was so clearly presented that David said, “The Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”[6] The Lord caused the Kirtland Temple, though different in design, to be erected in the same manner as He caused the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple to be built. He commanded the Saints, through His latter-day prophet, to build it.[7] By vision He showed the completed temple to Joseph Smith and his counselors almost three years before it was built. In a revelation, the Lord directed that three brethren be selected to build it according to the manner He would show them.[8] Truman O. Angell recorded Frederick G. Williams’s narrative about how the entire First Presidency saw the temple:

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.[9]

As He did with Moses on Mount Sinai, the Lord cautioned the Prophet, “It must be done according to the pattern which I have given unto you.”[10] In each of these three houses of the Lord—the tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, and the Kirtland Temple—the Lord demonstrated intense personal interest and involvement. With each one, He­

• Gave the initial commandment.

• Revealed the pattern.

• Specified the dimensions.

• Outlined cautions.

• Gave power for its completion.

Brigham Young illustrates that Joseph Smith’s need for instruction was similar to that of Moses, David, and Solomon. Brigham said:

The Church, through our beloved Prophet Joseph, was commanded to build a temple to the Most High, in Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph received not only revelation and commandment to build a temple but a pattern also, as did Moses for the tabernacle and Solomon for his temple; without a pattern, Joseph could not know what was wanted, having never seen a temple and having not experienced its use.[11]

Although we pay tribute to the Kirtland Saints for constructing the temple, the Lord Himself made it possible for His house to be built. For the early members of the Church, it was an unthinkable task. Consider the existing obstacles:

• Most members were poverty stricken.

• The Church had no financial reserves. (Cost of the temple would be about forty thousand dollars.)

• Few members had construction experience.

• Few members were available to contribute time and resources. (Only 175 Church members lived in the Kirtland area in 1833.)

• The Church did not own the land upon which the temple was to be built.

• Few members possessed construction tools.

• Church enemies swore to stop temple construction.

The following Kirtland Saints painted a dismal picture of their circumstances:

Eliza R. Snow: “The Saints were few in number, and most of them very poor.”[12]

Benjamin F. Johnson: “There was not a scraper (hoe) and hardly a plow that could be obtained among the Saints.”[13]

Brigham Young: “Sometimes they had shoes, and sometimes not; sometimes they would have tolerable pants, and, sometimes, very ragged ones.”[14]

Heber C. Kimball: “The church was in a state of poverty and distress . . . at the same time our enemies were raging and threatening destruction upon us.”[15]

Joseph Smith: “Our means are already exhausted, and we are deeply in debt, and know of no means whereby we shall be able to extricate ourselves.”[16]

Joel Hills Johnson: “We had but very few friends . . . while we had thousands of enemies who were holding their secret meetings to devise a plan to thwart and overthrow all our arrangements. We were obliged to keep night watchers to prevent being mobbed and our workers being overthrown.”[17]

Heber C. Kimball: “We were persecuted . . . there were mobs gathering all around us to destroy us, and prevent us from building the Temple. . . we took our firelocks, to reinstate our brethren, and in the night we layed upon the floor . . . so as to be ready to keep our enemies at bay.”[18]

Brigham Young: “[we were] a mere handful of men, living on air, and a little hominy (ground com) and milk . . . holding the sword in one hand to protect themselves from the mob, while they placed the stone and moved the trowel with the other.”[19]

In spite of these staggering realities, the Lord reassured the Saints by promising them, “It is my will that you should build a house. . . you shall have power to build it.”[20] The Lord, true to His promise, provided help to the Saints so that the Temple could be built. For example, He answered prayers for financial assistance by providing members who contributed much-needed funds at critical times.

The most dramatic example of the Lord’s intervention occurred when He inspired John Tanner to come to Kirtland. John came as a direct result of Joseph Smith praying for two thousand dollars to pay off a mortgage on the temple property. John’s timely financial assistance prevented a foreclosure as described in the following account:

About the middle of December he received an impression by dream or vision of the night, that he was needed and must go immediately to [Kirtland]. . . . His neighbors . . . tried their utmost to dissuade him; but he knew the will of God in the present crisis and nothing could deter him from doing it.

On Christmas day he commenced his journey with all his earthly effects, and in the dead of Winter traveled the distance of five hundred miles, to Kirtland. . . .

On his arrival in Kirtland, he learned that at the time he received the impression . . . the Prophet Joseph and some of the brethren had met in prayer-meeting and asked the Lord to send them a brother or some brethren with means to assist them. . . .

. . . He loaned the prophet two thousand dollars.[21]

The Lord also provided manpower. He moved upon experienced craftsmen to accept the gospel and move to Kirtland. Men of great faith like Brigham Young, Joseph Young, Lorenzo Young, Artemus Millett, and Truman O. Angel assumed major roles in constructing the temple. Few workers initially resided near Kirtland, but the Lord eventually sent sufficient manpower to complete the work. While the temple was being built, Joseph Smith bestowed formal blessings on 119 men who had helped build it.

Finally, the Lord answered prayers for protection from menacing mobs. Joel Johnson said, “We were warned of all the devices of our enemies in time to elude them until the temple was completed.”[22] Unseen forces also protected the Saints. In January 1836, just before the completion of the temple, Joseph Smith reported, “Eld. Roger Orton saw a . . . <mighty> Angel riding upon a horse of fire with a flaming sword in his hand followed by five others—encircle the house & protect the saints.”[23]

Because of their implicit faith that the Lord had spoken and promised them power to build the temple, early members were resolute. Their determination is memorialized by Joseph Smith’s statement to one of the faithful, William W. Phelps. He declared: “The Lord commanded us in Kirtland to build an house of God . . . this is the word of the Lord to us, & we must—yea the Lord helping us we will obey.” Joseph was also given another promise from the Lord. He said, “On conditions of our obedience, he has promised <us> great things, yea <even> a visit from the heavens to honor us with his own presence.”[24]

After a nearly three-year seemingly impossible feat to build the Kirtland Temple, it was ready to dedicate to the Lord. The long-awaited day of dedication—Sunday, March 27, 1836—burst upon a city bulging with visitors. Not even a seven-hour dedication service would deter Saints who had labored and sacrificed all they possessed for this Christ-inspired temple. Personal comforts were discarded as brotherly love dictated occupying every possible space. One thousand Saints squeezed together into a space that accommodates barely four hundred today.

The joy and gratitude of the Kirtland Saints were unrestrained. The Lord had kept His promises and given them ability and power sufficient to complete the temple. He had also kept His promise to visit and honor them with His presence. He rewarded their sacrifices and efforts by endowing them with long-promised sacred ordinances. He showered them with unparalleled spiritual manifestations. The Saints sang glorious hymns of praise and thanks to the Lord. Their voices ascended to heaven in refrains from joyful songs such as “Now Let Us Rejoice.” Their voices were joined by heavenly choirs that also celebrated this long-awaited day. In fact, choirs of angels were frequently heard singing in the Kirtland Temple during this period. At the conclusion of the dedicatory prayer, the choir sang:

We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven—

Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!

Let glory to them in the highest be given,

Henceforth and forever: amen and amen![25]

W. W. Phelps wrote this stirring anthem, “The Spirit of God,” for the dedication of the temple. The words of this hymn were so significant that they were printed on white satin for the dedication ceremonies.[26] Following this hymn, the Savior’s ultimate sacrifice was commemorated as the Saints partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Then, after concluding remarks, they “sealed the proceedings of the day by . . . shouting hosanna,
hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, three times, sealing it each time with amen, amen, and amen.”[27] The shout expressed the Saints’ gratitude toward and praise of Deity. Joseph Smith wrote, “Many arose and spoke, testifying that they were filled with the Holy Ghost, which was like fire in their bones, so that they could not hold their peace, but were constrained to cry hosanna to God and the Lamb, and glory in the highest.”[28]

Erastus Snow recalled the celestial spirit and angelic messengers that accompanied the Hosanna Shout. He said, “Angels came and worshipped with us and some saw them, yea even twelve legions of them, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof.”[29]

Benjamin Brown chronicled the miracle of a baby participating in the Hosanna Shout. He wrote:

One woman . . . brought her child about 2 months old . . . the woman & child entered and the child did not cry a word from 8 till 4 in the after noon. But when the saints all shouted Hosana the child was nursing But let go & shouted also when the saints paused it paused when they shouted it shouted for three times when they shouted amen it shouted also for three times then it resumed its nursing without any alarm.[30]

The Lord has directed the building of His temples from the beginning. The patterns have always been His, as have the proceedings and ordinances performed within these sacred structures. How comforting to note that whatever confusion rages in the world, the Lord is always the same, and His Houses will always be sanctuaries to bless His children.

[1] Doctrine & Covenants 88:119.

[2] Doctrine & Covenants 124:38.

[3] Exodus 25–27.

[4] Exodus 25:40.

[5] Exodus 25:9.

[6] 1 Chronicles 28:19.

[7] Doctrine & Covenants 88:119.

[8] Doctrine & Covenants 95:14.

[9] Truman O. Angell, Journal, 4, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

[10] Doctrine & Covenants94:2.

[11] Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998), 415.

[12] Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow, ed. Nicholas G. Morgan Sr. (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan Sr. Foundation, 1957), 54.

[13] Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review (Independence, Mo.: Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947), 15–16.

[14] In Andrew Karl Larson, Erastus Snow: The Life of a Missionary and Pioneer for the Early Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1971), 466.

[15] Times and Seasons 6 (January 15, 1845): 771.

[16] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2d ed. rev. 1:450.

[17] Joel Hills Johnson, Excerpts from Autobiography (1802–1868), typescript, 5, BYU Special Collections; Church History Library

[18] Times and Seasons 6 (July 15, 1845): 972.

[19] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 2:31.

[20] Doctrine & Covenants 95:11.

[21] “Sketch of an Elder’s Life,” in Scraps of Biography in Classic Experiences and Adventures (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 12.

[22] Johnson, Excerpts from Autobiography, 5; Doctrine & Covenants 64:21.

[23] History of the Church, 2:386–87;

[24] Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed.Dean C. Jessee, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 293.

[25] History of the Church, 2:427

[26] Susa Young Gates, “Our Hymn Book,” Relief Society Magazine 9, no. 7 (July 1922): 352.

[27] History of the Church, 2:427–28

[28] History of the Church, 2:392

[29] Erastus Snow, “A Journal or Sketch of the Life of Erastus Snow,” typescript, 6, BYU Special Collections.

[30] Benjamin Brown, Steven C. Harper, “A Pentecost and Endowment Indeed”: Six Eyewitness Accounts of the Kirtland Temple Experience,” in Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, ed. John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2005, and Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 336.