Earlier this month, Church Newsroom announced the transfer of the responsibility and ownership of sacred sites and documents from the Community of Christ to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One of the significant sites that was included in this transfer was the Kirtland Temple located in Kirtland, Ohio.

The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built in this dispensation. The Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 1, 1833, that he would reveal the design of the Kirtland Temple to him. In the following week after this revelation was given, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were appointed to a committee to which God would show how the temple was to be built.

Shortly after the three men recorded that, they knelt in collective prayer and, in turn, had a vision of the exterior and interior elements of the future temple. This vision allowed them to draw architectural plans for the House of the Lord.

“We went upon our knees, called on the Lord, and the Building appeared within viewing distance: I being the first to discover it,” according to Frederick G. Williams. “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.”

Early Latter-day Saints hard at work constructing the very first temple in this dispensation

Early Latter-day Saints hard at work constructing the very first temple in this dispensation Photo credit: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

For three years, the early Latter-day Saints consecrated much of their time and talents to construct the Kirtland Temple.

“The Church, through our beloved Prophet Joseph, was commanded to build a temple to the Most High, in Kirtland, Ohio,” said Brigham Young, a young man working on the temple and future prophet of The Church. “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.”

The exterior of the temple resembled the New England Protestant style, but the interior introduced unique features, including the arrangement of two series of four-tiered pulpits on each end of the assembly rooms for seating the presidencies of the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthoods.

The Kirtland Ohio Temple was dedicated on March 27, 1836. W. W. Phelps wrote the hymn “The Spirit of God,” for the temple dedication. The words of this hymn were so significant that they were printed on white satin for the dedication ceremonies. The dedicatory prayer, Hosanna Shout, and Phelps’s hymn became standard elements of subsequent dedicatory proceedings of Latter-day Saint temples.

Early Latter-day Saints would meet in this room  inside of the Kirtland Ohio temple

Early Latter-day Saints would meet in this assembly hall inside of the Kirtland Ohio temple. Photo credit: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In this temple, many heavenly messengers appeared to the Prophet Joseph as well as others who were with him. On April 3, 1836, the Savior appeared and accepted the temple as a place in which He would reveal His word to His people.

Following this appearance, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received visits from Moses, Elias and Elijah. In these heavenly visits, the men were given certain priesthood keys and other important information about the building up of the kingdom of God in this last dispensation.

In this temple, Joseph Smith saw a vision of the celestial kingdom. The written account of his experience can be found today in D&C 137.

The temple sat at the center of the early Latter-day Saint worship, hosting Sabbath, prayer and fasting meetings. Church leaders and missionaries assembled to study subjects such as reading, writing, history and geography. The last session of the Kirtland School of the Prophets (also called the School of the Elders) was also held in this temple.

This temple served the Saints for two years before they had to flee Kirtland due to the persecution they faced.

In 1880, a court recognized the heirs of Joseph Smith as owners holding title to the building. Two decades later, the RLDS Church (now known as the Community of Christ) secured ownership through a legal claim of continuous use. Community of Christ has cared for the building since that time until its recent business in transferring ownership to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reopened the newly acquired Kirtland Ohio Temple, along with many other sites, on Monday for public tours at no charge.