The year 1836 saw the completion and preparation for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, it was a time of overwhelming spiritual manifestations and restoration of divine keys of authority. Pentecostal events of that year, when the heavens were opened to the Saints, followed a sequential pattern. These sacred manifestations came after disciplined schooling, methodical organization, and difficult trials. The Saints met the prerequisites necessary for their spiritual rewards by consecrating their worldly goods and their efforts to the Lord’s work.

In addition to the physical preparation and sacrifices for the temple, the Prophet also prepared the Saints spiritually. He told the Twelve Apostles, “Great blessings await us at this time, and will soon be poured out upon us, if we are faithful in all things.” Therefore, he said, “Be prepared in your hearts, be faithful in all things. . . We must be clean every whit.”[1]

Church leaders prepared the Saints to expect heavenly manifestations. Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, and Oliver Cowdery, in a letter to John A. Boynton, declared: “Within that house God will pour out his spirit in great majesty and glory and encircle his people with fire more gloriously and marvelously than at Pentecost because the work to be performed in the last days is greater than was in that day.”[2]

Thus prepared for their “endowment from on high,” which the Lord had promised by revelation (D&C 105:33), these modern disciples experienced visions and other spiritual manifestations. As attested in journals, letters, and histories, their experiences, similar to those of ancient prophets, enhanced their faith and gave them great joy and gratitude.

Joseph Smith called this period “a pentecost . . . a year of jubilee, and time of rejoicing.”[3] Daniel Tyler testified, “All felt that they had a foretaste of heaven . . . and we wondered whether the millenium had commenced.”[4] Orson Pratt declared that “the people were blessed as they never had been blessed for generations and generations.”[5] Commemorating these spiritual experiences, William W. Phelps wrote the words to a song, “We’ll sing & we’ll shout with the armies of heaven: Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!”[6]

Lorenzo Snow enumerated blessings received in the temple during this Pentecostal period: “There we had the gift of prophecy—the gift of tongues—the interpretation of tongues—visions and marvelous dreams were related—the singing of heavenly choirs was heard, and wonderful manifestations of the healing power, through the administrations of the Elders, were witnessed. The sick were healed—the deaf made to hear—the blind to see and the lame to walk, in very many instances. It was plainly manifest that a sacred and divine influence—a spiritual atmosphere pervaded that holy edifice.”[7]

The Savior appeared in five different meetings held in the temple. Visions, including a vision of the Father and Son, were beheld at eight meetings, and the congregation saw heavenly beings or angels in nine meetings. In other sessions many Saints reported that they experienced such manifestations as the gift of tongues, the sounds of a mighty wind, a pillar of fire resting down upon the temple roof, prophesying, and the voices of angels. Over one thousand people attended these meetings, many of whom testified to having had sacred experiences and put their observations and feelings in letters and journals.

The Savior himself spoke of the far-reaching implications of these blessings when he appeared and accepted the temple in April 1836. He told Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery: “Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house. And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people.” (D&C 110:9-10.)

The magnitude of these manifestations compelled Joseph Smith to record: “It was a Pentecost and an endowment indeed, long to be remembered, for the sound shall go forth from this place into all the world, and the occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history, to all generations; as the day of Pentecost, so shall this day be numbered and celebrated as a year of jubilee, and time of rejoicing to the Saints of the Most High God.”[8]

The Pentecostal experiences in the temple commenced with an overpowering vision of Deity accompanied by the ministering of angels, communion with heavenly beings, and glorious visions given to key priesthood leaders. On January 21, 1836, Joseph Smith and others experienced a vision of the Father and Son at a meeting on the west end of the temple’s upper story. Those present included Joseph Smith Sr., the First Presidency, the presidency of the Church in Missouri, the bishoprics in Kirtland and Missouri, and the Prophet’s scribe, Warren Parrish, who recorded the event in Joseph Smith’s diary. Section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains an account of this vision:

The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out I cannot tell. I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son. I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.

I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept; and marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; for I, the Lord, will judge men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (D&C 137.)

In his journal, after describing others whom he saw in his vision, including members of the Twelve, Joseph concluded: “Many of my brethren who received the ordinance with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself, and the power of the Highest rested upon us, the house was filled with the glory of God, and we shouted Hosanna to God and the Lamb.”[9]

On April 3, 1836, Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith saw and received priesthood keys from ancient prophets who held those keys: Moses, Elias, and Elijah. This restoration of keys and authority was so significant the ancient prophet Malachi had prophesied of it. (See Malachi 4:5-6.)

It was necessary that these Old Testament prophets bestow power and authority upon the Church so the kingdom of God could once again be established upon the earth. The Prophet explained how the heavens opened to Oliver Cowdery and him:

Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us, for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (D&C 110:11-16.)

Joseph Smith later emphasized the importance of Malachi’s prophecy by saying that the word turn in the prophecy should be translated “bind, or seal.” He said that the objective of Elijah’s visit was to deliver the binding or sealing keys or authority so that members of the Church could receive “all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations, and sealing powers . . . in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead.” Emphasizing their eternal stewardship, he counseled the Saints “to save their dead, seal their posterity.” Joseph boldly underscored Elijah’s mission and the purpose of temples when he stated, “The question is frequently asked ‘Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances, &c.?’ I would answer, No, not the fullness of salvation.”[10] The three prophets bestowed on Joseph Smith and the latter-day apostles the same authority held by the apostles in the time the Savior was on the earth. This authority, direct from God through his prophets, set the restored church apart from all other churches. It was not a new man-made church but a church with original, divine, eternal authority, restored from the original church in Jerusalem by Jesus Christ himself.

Many journals of the Saints testify that the year 1836 was indeed the “year of jubilee,” a “time of rejoicing,” when communication with the heavens was constant and real.

Zebedee Coltrin testified: “In the Kirtland Temple I have seen the power of God as it was on the day of Pentecost, and cloven tongues of fire have rested on the brethren, and they have spoken in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. I saw the Lord high and lifted up. The angels of God rested upon the Temple and we heard their voices singing heavenly music.”[11]

Orson Pratt, called to the temple with missionaries and leaders from all over the country, said that in “that sacred edifice,

God was there, his angels were there, the Holy Ghost was in the midst of the people, the visions of the Almighty were opened to the minds of the servants of the living God; the v[e]il was taken off from the minds of many; they saw the heavens opened; they beheld the angels of God; they heard the voice of the Lord; and they were filled from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet with the power and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and uttered forth prophecies in the midst of that congregation, which have been fulfilling from that day to the present time.[12]

One particularly overpowering meeting in the temple was held on January 28, 1836, when Joseph Smith organized and anointed the high priests, elders, and seventies quorums. He recorded: “Elder Roger Orton saw a mighty angel riding upon a horse of fire. . . . President William Smith, one of the Twelve, saw the heavens opened, and the Lord’s host protecting the Lord’s anointed. . . . I retired to my home, filled with the Spirit, and my soul cried hosanna to God and the Lamb, through the silent watches of the night; and while my eyes were closed in sleep, the visions of the Lord were sweet unto me, and His glory was round about me.”[13]

Apparently speaking of this same meeting, Harrison Burgess testified: The Lord blessed His people abundantly in that Temple with the Spirit of prophecy, the ministering of angels, visions, etc. I will here relate a vision which was shown to me. It was near the close of the endowments. I was in a meeting for instruction in the upper part of the Temple, with about a hundred of the High Priests, Seventies and Elders. The Saints felt to shout “Hosannah!” and the Spirit of God rested upon me in mighty power and I beheld the room lighted up with a peculiar light such as I had never seen before. It was soft and clear and the room looked to me as though it had neither roof nor floor to the building and I beheld the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Roger Orton enveloped in the light: Joseph exclaimed aloud, “I behold the Savior, the Son of God.” Hyrum said, “I behold the angels of heaven.” Brother Orton exclaimed, “I behold the chariots of Israel.” All who were in the room felt the power of God to that degree that many prophesied, and the power of God was made manifest, the remembrance of which will remain with me while I live upon the earth.[14]

Prescindia Huntington’s records tell of Pentecostal events in two temple meetings:

I was in the temple with my sister Zina. The whole of the congregation were on their knees, praying vocally, for such was the custom at the close of these meetings when Father Smith presided; yet there was no confusion; the voices of the congregation mingled softly together. While the congregation was thus praying, we both heard, from one corner of the room above our heads, a choir of angels singing most beautifully. They were invisible to us, but myriads of angelic voices seemed to be united in singing some song of Zion, and their sweet harmony filled the temple of God.

We were also in the temple at the pentecost. In the morning Father Smith prayed for a pentecost, in opening the meeting. That day the power of God rested mightily upon the saints. There was poured out upon us abundantly the spirit of revelation, prophe[c]y and tongues. The Holy Ghost filled the house; and along in the afternoon a noise was heard. It was the sound of a mighty rushing wind.[15]

Eliza R. Snow also described a meeting in which Joseph Smith Sr. prayed for “a pentecost.” She describes his strict preparation for a fast and the fulfillment of his prayer:

On fast days, Father Smith’s constant practice was to repair to the temple very early, and offer up his prayers before sunrise, and there await the coming of the people; and so strictly disciplined himself in the observance of fasting, as not even to wet his lips with water until after the dismissal of the meeting at four P.M. One morning, when he opened meeting, he prayed fervently that the spirit of the Most High might be poured out as it was at Jerusalem, on the day of pentecost—that it might come “like a mighty rushing wind.” It was not long before it did come, to the astonishment of all, and filled the house. It appeared as though the old gentleman had forgotten what he had prayed for. When it came, he was greatly surprised, and exclaimed, “What! is the house on fire?”[16]

Prescindia Huntington described one other experience that occurred during a meeting she had not attended:

A little girl came to my door and in wonder called me out, exclaiming, “The meeting is on the top of the meeting house!” I went to the door, and there I saw on the temple angels clothed in white covering the roof from end to end. They seemed to be walking to and fro; they appeared and disappeared. The third time they appeared and disappeared before I realized that they were not mortal men. Each time in a moment they vanished, and their reappearance was the same. This was in broad daylight, in the afternoon. A number of the children in Kirtland saw the same.

When the brethren and sisters came home in the evening, they told of the power of God manifested in the temple that day, and of the prophesying and speaking in tongues. It was also said, in the interpretation of tongues, “That the angels were resting down upon the house.”[17]

As the church studies this glorious Pentecostal “time of rejoicing” in “Come Follow Me” this year, it is fitting that the Prophet Joseph’s prophesy be remembered. “The occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history, to all generations.” Certainly, the Lord desires that current generations know how He showered unparalleled Pentecostal manifestations and authority upon those suffering Saints who gave of their “substance” to build His first Latter-day House “through great tribulation; and out of [their] poverty.” (D&C 109:5.)

[1] History of the Church 2:309.

[2] Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, and Oliver Cowdery to John A. Boynton, Kirtland, Ohio, May 6, 1834, Huntington Library.

[3] History of the Church 2:432-33.

[4] Tyler, “Incidents of Experience,” 32.

[5] Journal of Discourses 18:132.

[6] William W. Phelps, “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning,” Messenger and Advocate 2 (March 1836): 280-81.

[7] Eliza R. Snow, Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 11.

[8] History of the Church 2:432-33.

[9] History of the Church 2:381.

[10] History of the Church 6:184.

[11] Minutes of the Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, October 10-11, 1883, as cited in Hyrum L. and Helen Mae Andrus, They Knew the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974), 29.

[12] Journal of Discourses 18:132.

[13] History of the Church 2:386-87.

[14] Burgess, “Sketch of a Well-Spent Life,” 67.

[15] Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, 207-8.

[16] Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, 101.

[17] Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, 207.