On March 27, 1836, Joseph Smith dedicated a temple in Kirtland, Ohio, the first built in the latter days. “I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here,”1 the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed in a vision to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery2 just a week later, on April 3. Not since ancient times had God commanded his people to build a temple. He promised the Saints that in His holy house they would be “endowed with power” and “taught from on high.”3 Thus the prophecy of Malachi4 was partially fulfilled that in the last days the Lord would “suddenly come to his temple” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:2).
At great personal sacrifice, the early Saints gathered5 to build temples to God. Today more than 120 temples across the world stand as sentinels of “the power of godliness”6 and as sanctuaries from the storms of life.
In the temple, the faithful can receive ordinances7 of salvation for themselves and act as proxies for their families, learn eternal truths, and feel the peace of the Lord.
Joseph Smith Quotes
“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).
“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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 307–8; paragraph divisions altered).
“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. Jesus said, ‘There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you’ [see John 14:1–2]. House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law too” (History of the Church, 6:184).
Eliza R. Snow, General Relief Society President, 1866–1887
“Not only did the Almighty manifest his acceptance of that house [Kirtland Temple], at its dedication, but an abiding holy heavenly influence was realized; and many extraordinary manifestations of his power were experienced on subsequent occasions. Not only were angels seen within, but a pillar of light was several times seen resting down upon the roof” (Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow (1957), 59).
Richard G. Scott, Apostle, 1988–2015
“The prophet Elijah committed the keys for vicarious work [ordinances for the dead] to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 110:13–16) to fulfill the Lord’s promise that ‘he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers’ (D&C 2:2). . . .
“. . . Every prophet since Joseph Smith has emphasized the imperative need to provide all ordinances for ourselves and our deceased ancestors” (“Redemption: The Harvest of Love,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 5).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“We will keep on working to bring the temples to the people, making it more convenient for Latter-day Saints everywhere to receive the blessings which can only be had in these holy houses.
“I have said before that the blessings of the temple represent that fulness of the priesthood of which the Lord spoke when He revealed His will unto the Prophet Joseph Smith” (“The Work Goes On,” Ensign, May 2001, 5).
Were temples built in other dispensations?
The tabernacle erected by Moses served as a portable temple for the Israelites in the wilderness. Later, Solomon constructed a more permanent edifice (see 2 Chronicles 2–5). The Book of Mormon also notes the building of temples (see 2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 1:18; 3 Nephi 11:1). Joseph Smith selected and dedicated sites for temples in Kirtland, Ohio; Independence and Far West, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois. Only the Kirtland Temple was completed during Joseph’s lifetime.
How did Joseph Smith know what to build?
Like ancient prophets, Joseph Smith knew by revelation the form the temple should take. While some proposed a log or frame construction, Joseph said: “I have a better plan than that. I have a plan of the house of the Lord, given by himself” (in Lucy Mack Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph , 204). Brigham Young testified that Joseph “received a pattern also, as did Moses for the Tabernacle, and Solomon for his Temple; for without a pattern he could not know what was wanting, having never seen one, and not having experienced its use” (Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1853, 42).
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
“Prayer of Dedication for the Kirtland Temple”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2001), 270–274
“Glorious Days in Kirtland, 1834–36”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 153–68
“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 Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover”—Stephen D. Ricks, BYU Studies, vol. 23, no. 4 (1983), 483–86
Meeting of Jewish expectation and Latter-day Saint tradition concerning the appearance of Elijah.
“Oliver Cowdery’s Kirtland, Ohio, ‘Sketch Book’”—Leonard J. Arrington, BYU Studies, vol. 12, no. 4 (1972), 410–26
Events leading up to the Kirtland Temple dedication.