“Come brethren,” Joseph would say when he was foreman of the quarry in Kirtland, “let us go into the stone-quarry and work for the Lord.” “The Prophet went himself,” remembered Heber C. Kimball, “and worked at quarrying stone like the rest of us.”1
Franklin D. Richards observed of the Prophet, "When the spirit2 prompted him that his life’s work was drawing to a close, and when he saw that his earthly days might be ended before the completion of the temple—he called a chosen few, and conferred upon them the ordinances3 of the holy endowments,4 so that the divine treasures of his mind might not perish from the world with his death."5
The Prophet dedicated four temple sites during his lifetime—in Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; Far West, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois. Of these temples two were completed—Kirtland in 1836 and Nauvoo in 1847. As Joseph explained, “We need the temple more than anything else.”6
Joseph Smith Quotes
“What was the object of gathering the . . . people of God in any age of the world? . . . The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose” (History of the Church, 5:423; paragraph divisions altered).
“The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be, until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood” (History of the Church, 4:603).
“That they may build a house which shall be accepted by the Almighty, and in which His power and glory shall be manifested[,] . . . let those who can freely make a sacrifice of their time, their talents, and their property . . . unite with us in the great work of the last days, and share in the tribulation, that they may ultimately share in the glory and triumph” (History of the Church, 4:273).
Eliza R. Snow, General Relief Society President, 1866–1887
“[President Joseph] Smith . . . beautifully and in a most powerful manner, illustrated the necessity of the gathering and the building of the Temple that those ordinances may be administered which are necessary preparations for the world to come: he exhorted the people in impressive terms to be diligent—to be up and doing lest the tabernacle pass over to another people and we lose the blessings” (Eliza R. Snow diary, June 13, 1843, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).
Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, Early Member of the Church
“Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing he would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark” (Sarah Rich autobiography, typescript, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 42-43).
Why did Joseph emphasize so strongly the building of temples?
Joseph Smith’s commitment to build temples was his response to a divine mandate: “Establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119). His personal testimony about temple work is apparent in his last general conference address. “Every man who wishes to save his father, mother, brothers, sisters and friends,” he testified, “must go through all the ordinances for each one of them separately, the same as for himself, from baptism to ordination, washings and anointings, and receive all the keys and powers of the Priesthood, the same as for himself” (History of the Church, 6:319).
Has the Church continued to focus on temple building?
According to Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Smith gave the following prophecy in 1834: “This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build Temples to the Most High” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 57). Subsequent Presidents of the Church saw the fulfillment of that prophecy and extended the work around the world. As the number of temples worldwide approached 100, President Gordon B. Hinckley reaffirmed: "This is a great era of temple-building. We are reaching out everywhere that we can go to build the House of the Lord" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 641).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“The Kirtland Temple”—in “Building the Kingdom in Kirtland, Ohio,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 33–36
“The Nauvoo Temple”—in “Sacrifice and Blessings in Nauvoo,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 58–61
“Glorious Days in Kirtland, 1834–36”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 153–68
“Doctrinal Developments in Nauvoo”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 251–62
“The Saints Were Commanded to Build a Temple”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 11–12
“Miraculous Manifestations Accompanied the Building and Dedication of the Kirtland Temple”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 12–13
Online Resources at BYU
“The Conversion of Artemus Millet and His Call to Kirtland”—Keith A. Erekson and Lloyd D. Newell, BYU Studies, vol. 41, no. 2 (2002), 76–115
Documents the story of Millet’s conversion and subsequent contributions to building the Kirtland Temple.