This was the beginning of the blessing

This was the beginning of the blessing May 1, 2024


The Kirtland Temple belongs to the Church formerly known as RLDS
The first Latter-day Saint temple was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836, but the Church was driven from the area shortly thereafter and only recovered ownership of it less than two months ago.  ( public domain photo)

We drove today from Rochester, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, stopping off to gawk for a while at Niagara Falls.  In Kirtland, we drove immediately to the onetime Kirtland home of Joseph and Emma Smith.  It was acquired some years ago by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Community of Christ, and it has finally been restored to its original dimensions and more or less original decor and opened to visitors.  We were taken through it and then over to the Kirtland Temple itself, which, as everybody reading this well knows, was very recently transferred from the former Reorganized Church to its much larger cousin, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

This is the first time that I’ve been on a tour of the Kirtland Temple with Latter-day Saint guides, and I have to say, without meaning to denigrate our separated brothers and sisters, that the experience was distinctly different and, to me, vastly more satisfying than ever before.

The Kirtland Temple isn’t significant for its architecture, interesting though its architecture is.  It is profoundly significant for what occurred within it.

For example, Section 137 0f the Doctrine and Covenants provides an account of a vision given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in an upper room at the west end of the Kirtland Temple on 21 January 1836. The occasion was the administration of ordinances in preparation for the temple’s dedication.  It is one of the greatest revelations given in this dispensation:

1 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.

2 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;

3 Also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son.

4 I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.

5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept;

6 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.

7 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;

8 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;

9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

10 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.

And we were in that very room earlier this evening.

The temple was dedicated on Sunday, 27 March 1836.  Those present sang a new hymn, written by W. W. Phelps, that has become a traditional part of every temple dedication since that date:  “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning.”  The chorus runs as follows:

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!

The so-called “Hosanna Shout” was also given, and continues to be given at temple dedications, as each member of the assembled congregation waves a white handkerchief over his or her head:  “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to God and the Lamb,” repeated three times, followed by “Amen, Amen, and Amen.”

And yet it was only this afternoon, thanks to the presentation given to us in the Kirtland Temple by the senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Dickson, that I realized that the day on which the temple was dedicated in 1836 was Palm Sunday, which makes Brother Phelps’s hymn and the Hosanna Shout magnificently appropriate.  Somewhat unusually, descriptions of Palm Sunday occur in all four of the canonical gospels, in John as well as in the synoptics:

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  (Matthew 21)

36 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. 37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.  (Luke 19)

12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.  (John 12)

And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:  10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.  11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple.  (Mark 11)

Every time that we dedicate a new temple, every time since that first temple dedication in Kirtland, Ohio, we are, in a sense, repeating the hosannas of Palm Sunday, when Jesus made his royal procession toward the temple of Jerusalem.

And, of course, we spent time in the assembly room on the temple’s first floor, where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received a grand Christophany that was followed by pivotally important appearances of Moses, Elias, and Elijah:

1 The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

2 We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

3 His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying . . .

7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.

8 Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.

9 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.

10 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.  (Doctrine and Covenants

Although it must have seemed quite unlikely on the early-nineteenth-century American frontier, the fame of the Kirtland Temple has, indeed, spread to foreign lands.  The blessings that were received there have been taken around the globe, in and beyond the temples that increasingly dot our world.  I am grateful beyond measure for what was given to us in the Kirtland Temple, and, although I feel the sorrow of those in the Community of Christ who have cared for it over the better part of two centuries, I am deeply happy that this sacred building is once again under the stewardship of those who hold the keys that were restored within its walls.

Posted from Willoughby, Ohio

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