Going on with LDS Church History and our super awesome road trip, we ventured to Kirtland, Ohio—the first real headquarters of the Mormon Church. As the Church expanded, God guided His members through the Prophet, Joseph Smith, from New York to Kirtland. Though only there from 1831 to 1838, many important restorative events occurred in Kirtland: the School of the Prophets, revelations, the establishment of the Bishops' storehouse, and the building of the first temple in these days, and much more.

Now in order to explain all that, let’s start with a story or two. Our characters: Newel K Whitney and his wife Ann. So the Whitneys. The Whitneys owned the main general store in Kirtland. The store was popular, and they consequentially did very well well.

So, the story: “In February 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith entered Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland, Ohio, and exclaimed to the startled proprietor, ‘Thou art the man!’ Newel protested that he did not know this stranger, then heard life-changing words: ‘I am the Prophet. You prayed me here; now what do you want of me?’” (source)

Well, turns out Newel had indeed prayed him there. Newel and his wife, Elizabeth, had in fact long been searching for a Church to join. But not just any church. No, they sought a true church; the truest church. And so they read the Bible and prayed, but they struggled to discern what church truly contained the fullness of Christ’s gospel; such religious confusion was common in the early 1800s. In their pursuit, they eventually joined what is now the Disciples of Christ for a time; their particular congregation was led by Sidney Rigdon who also later converted to the Church. Then in the fall of 1830, missionaries brought the Book of Mormon—another testament of Jesus Christ and companion to the Bible—to the Whitney family and quickly joined. It was then just three months after they were converted to the Church that Joseph Smith arrived at their home. Neat story no? Kirtland is rich with such stories.

As for the Whitneys, they were truly remarkable people. When Joseph Smith first arrived, not only did they welcome the Smiths with open arms but they insisted they reside with them in their adorable home.

 Eventually, the Whitneys even gave the Smith family the upper floor of their store for some time so they could have more privacy.

This “home” above the Whitney’s store proved very influential aside from providing the Smith’s with a place to live and raise their family. It was in this “home” above the store that Joseph received numerous revelations—or heavenly insights and information—from God on how to direct and organize Christ’s Church. Many of these revelations have since been published in a book titled, Doctrine and Covenants which is considered scripture amongst members of the LDS Church. It was also above this store that Joseph initiated and held what was known as the School of the Prophets. This “school” functioned as a place for religious education and enlightenment, particularly for Church leaders and preparing missionaries. The room was holy and set apart and provided a sacred place in which heavenly visitors could visit to teach and restore lost keys and knowledge.

Elizabeth Ann Whitney wrote of the happenings in the store and “house” above, “I remarked to my husband that this was the fulfillment of the vision we had seen of a cloud as of glory resting upon our house.” (source)

As for the store, it too played an important role in the restoring of Christ’s Church. The same year the prophet Joseph arrived, he announced that Newel K. Whitney was called to be bishop over the members or Saints in Ohio. Humble Newel K Whitney felt unqualified for the calling and so Joseph advised him to seek his own confirmation for God. It is written, “Praying alone in his room, Newel K. Whitney heard a voice that said: ‘Thy strength is in me.’ His self-doubt gone, Brother Whitney accepted the calling he had previously feared.” (source) From Whitney’s calling as Bishop came the development of what is now called the Bishops’ storehouse. Bishops’ storehouses are for the purpose of distributing food, clothing, and other needs to the poor and the needy. When persons are in need they go through their Bishop in order to receive access to such commodities. Just as Christ administered to the sick and the needy in times of old, we believe we are to administer to those in need today.

Anyway, you see what I mean about the Whitneys being truly remarkable people! For more on their history, extraordinary service, and lives see here.

Of all the significant events that occurred in Kirtland, however, perhaps the most important was the building of a temple. The Kirtland Temple was the first temple—the place where heaven and earth combine—built in these modern times marking it a sacred monument in the restoration of Christ’s Church. It is in temples that, “Church members participate in ordinances designed to unite their families together forever and help them return to God” (source).

Isn’t it beautiful? The Kirtland temple is special in that Christ, himself, appeared and accepted the temple. Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared and restored heavenly knowledge. 

Today there are more than 100 LDS temples in use worldwide. And although the Kirtland Temple is now owned by the Community of Christ, it too stands as a witness to the restoration of Christ’s Church. It serves as a beacon of light and indicator that the heavens are, indeed, open. Though no longer used for its original purpose, the Kirtland Temple points to Christ and our Father in Heaven. I am so grateful to have temples on earth again. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be closer to Heaven.

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