Kirtland Period | BYU Studies

Kirtland Period

“A Pentecost and Endowment Indeed”: Six Eyewitness Accounts of the Kirtland Temple Experience

Author Steven C. Harper,
This Bookshelf Single is an excerpt from the book Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, Second Edition. In this chapter, Steven C. Harper reproduces the richest historical documents associated with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple—the contemporary writings of eyewitnesses. They are published here together as a collective testimony of the fulfillment of divine... Read more

The Record of the Twelve, 1835: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles' Call and 1835 Mission

In 2011, the Joseph Smith Papers Project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made public a document created in 1835 by Orson Hyde and William E. McLellin. That document is presented in its entirety here with an introduction and editorial notes. Ronald Esplin and Sharon Nielsen, members of the editorial team of the Joseph Smith Papers, give historical context of the document: in... Read more

What of the Lectures on Faith?

Latter-day Saint history is replete with historical questions, some of which pertain to what are termed the Lectures on Faith. What are the Lectures on Faith? How did they originate? Why were they taken out of the Doctrine and Covenants? Who wrote and delivered them? It is the purpose of this paper to examine these questions and to supply some plausible answers. The Lectures on Faith are a series... Read more

Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight's Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding

In October 1835, Newel Knight and Lydia Bailey, two spouseless adults still in the prime of life, found themselves living in the same boardinghouse and eating at the same dining table. As lodgers with Hyrum and Jerusha Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, they had good reason to notice each other. Lydia's husband had deserted her more than three years earlier, and Newel's wife had died a year before. Romance... Read more

Joseph Smith's Performance of Marriages in Ohio

In March 1835 Presiding Judge Matthew Birchard refused a request from Sidney Rigdon for a license to perform marriages in Geauga County. While Judge Birchard's refusal of Rigdon's motion may have dissuaded LDS elders from making similar requests in Geauga County, at least one elder was not deterred from performing marriages—even without a license. County marriage records show that on November 24... Read more

Joseph Smith and the 1834 D. P. Hurlbut Case

Joseph Smith, the Latter-day Saint Prophet, was not a lawyer by training, but he became well acquainted with the court system in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois during his brief lifetime. Through his encounters with the law, he developed a distinct view of the law's prospect for delivering justice. At first, Smith had a firm belief that, through faith and God's assistance, he would find... Read more

Building the Kingdom of God: Mormon Architecture before 1847

The first seventeen years of Mormonism—from its organization in 1830 until the entrance of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847—have not received the attention they deserve in studies of Mormon architecture and planning. The period produced few "church" buildings, and the two major ecclesiastical buildings constructed during the period, the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, were... Read more

The Social Origins of the Kirtland Mormons

Early in the spring of 1831, members of a new religious movement entered Ohio's scenic Western Reserve and settled in the town of Kirtland. They came, men, women, and children, in every conceivable manner, some with horses, oxen, and vehicles rough and rude, while others had walked all or part of the distance. The future "City of the Saints" appeared like one besieged. Every available house, shop... Read more

Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace: James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39–40

Joseph Smith received two revelations in January 1831 (Doctrine and Covenants 39 and 40) directed to one "James Covill." Joseph and his scribes noted that Covill "had been a Baptist minister for about forty years." Historians discovered nothing about a Baptist minister named James Covill, but documents unearthed by the Joseph Smith Papers Project revealed that he was actually a Methodist minister... Read more

The Second American Revolution: Era of Preparation

The origins of Mormonism can be better understood by looking at its historical context. The period between 1820 and 1845 was a time of political, social, economic, and religious revolution in America and has been termed "The Second Revolution." The author examines the general, religious, and socio-economic preparations the Second Revolution made for the spread of early Mormonism. Read more

Thou Art the Man: Newel K. Whitney in Ohio

In the early 1820s, Newel K. Whitney set up his first store in Kirtland, Ohio, in a little log cabin. From such humble beginnings he created a thriving business that would later become central to the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, over time the holdings and contributions of the Whitney family in Kirtland were largely forgotten. It was in Kirtland where... Read more

The Conversion of Artemus Millet and His Call to Kirtland

A frequently told story in Church history concerns the call of Artemus Millet to work on the Kirtland Temple. With variations here and there, historians have related the story as follows: Joseph Smith, in the company of other brethren, is walking where the Kirtland Temple will be built. He wonders aloud who could superintend its construction, and Joseph Young (or Brigham Young or Lorenzo Young)... Read more

Give Up All and Follow Your Lord: Testimony and Exhortation in Early Mormon Women's Letters, 1831–1839

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. Women composed a significant portion of the early converts who would follow Joseph Smith over hundreds of miles and through the fires of persecution. Lucy Mack Smith, Rebecca Williams, Phebe Peck, and Melissa Dodge represent well the dedication and testimony of such early... Read more

"The Scriptures Is a Fulfilling": Sally Parker's Weave

Sally Bradford Parker is not a name most LDS Church members recognize, but her faith, exemplified through the letter featured below, weaves an important fabric distinctive to early Latter-day Saint women. The limited number of known early Mormon women's voices, especially prior to the organization of the Relief Society in 1842, makes this document particularly valuable. As Sally shares her... Read more

The Wealth of Knowledge, Excerpts from the Writing of Brigham Young

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Wilford Woodruff and Zion's Camp: Baptism by Fire and the Spiritual Confirmation of a Future Prophet

During his youth in Connecticut, Wilford Woodruff, who in 1889 became the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, turned his feet to the path that led to religious conversion. His journey eventually led to his baptism into the Mormon Church in 1833. The following year he accepted a call to march with Zion's Camp. Wilford Woodruff was rebaptized by the fires of that... Read more

We Also Marched: The Women and Children of Zion's Camp, 1834

Much like the women of the Mormon Battalion and other military expeditions, the Zion's Camp women contributed in various ways to the overall character of the group and its success and helped prepare for later mass migrations to the West. The women helped with the traditional domestic duties of cooking and laundering and caring for children. They also provided a civilizing influence on the camp. Read more

Sweet Counsel and Seas of Tribulation: The Religious Life of the Women in Kirtland

The Mormons fused their church leadership, developed their strong sense of community, and organized their unique ecclesiastical structure while they lived in Kirtland, Ohio, from 1831 to 1838. The women worked beside the men as they struggled with preparation for Zion's Camp, built the temple, and experimented unsteadily with securing financial stability. At the same time as the temporal building... Read more

The Medical Practice of Dr. Frederick G. Williams

Frederick Granger Williams (1787-1842) was a leader in the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also served as a justice of the peace, scribe, editor, and medical practitioner. In the early nineteenth century, the medical profession was in its infancy, beginning a slow shift from barbaric practices (generally bleeding and calomel) to herbal treatments that were at... Read more

An Introduction to the Kirtland Flats Ashery

Reflecting a recent resurgence of interest in one of its most important historic spaces, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is currently restoring a number of historic structures in Kirtland, Ohio, including buildings in the lowland area known as Kirtland Flats. These buildings are part of a major restoration plan designed to significantly increase the quantity and quality of... Read more

Journal of the Branch of the Church of Christ in Pontiac, . . . 1834: Hyrum Smith's Division of Zion's Camp

On April 21, 1834, Hyrum Smith and Lyman Wight set out from Kirtland, Ohio, for Pontiac, Michigan, to recruit volunteers for the march of Zion's Camp. Their objective was to lead their recruits on a six-hundred-mile march to a prearranged rendezvous with Joseph Smith's Kirtland division in Missouri. Typically, scholarly treatments have overlooked the Hyrum Smith-Lyman Wight division of Zion's... Read more

Frederick Granger Williams of the First Presidency of the Church

Frederick Granger Williams was second counselor in the original First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He played an important role in the establishment of the kingdom of God and for many years was Joseph Smith's physician, scribe, sermon writer, and closest friend. Like most early leaders of the Church, Frederick was from New England, born at Suffield, Hartford... Read more

Preview on A Study of the Social and Geographical Origins of Early Mormon Converts, 1830-1845

Mormon historical scholarship has not yet provided answers to some questions regarding Mormonism's origins. Such information would give us clues regarding the real appeal of the Mormon message to prospective converts. This article reviews data from a few publications which are essential to the understanding of this topic. Further, a preview of research on the backgrounds of the early rank-and-... Read more

A Non-Mormon View of the Birth of Mormonism in Ohio

Josiah Jones, a resident of Kirtland at the time of the introduction of Mormonism in Ohio, wrote in 1831 one of the earliest accounts of the rise of the Restored Church in the Western Reserve. This account was published in The Evangelist (June 1841), a Disciple publication edited by Walter Scott. According to Scott, Jones "was one of the faithful few belonging to the church in Kirtland, who... Read more

The Chronology of the Ohio Revelations

Close to one-half of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants were given in Ohio. Many of these contained fundamental doctrines and principles which were of major importance in the development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its formative years. This article presents a table containing chronological information and detailed data on the Ohio revelations, as well as sections... Read more

The Quest for a Restoration: The Birth of Mormonism in Ohio

After learning of the significant increase in Church membership in Ohio during the winter of 1830–1831, many ask why the conversions were so numerous in that section of America. Why was the Western Reserve such a fruitful field ready to harvest at the beginning of the 1830s? An examination of the religious conditions in Kirtland and vicinity in 1830 provides one key describing the fertile... Read more

The Kirtland Diary of Wilford Woodruff

The diary of Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the significant documents of Mormon history. Covering the years from his acceptance of the faith in 1833 until his death in 1898, President Woodruff's diary offers a keenly perceptive view of life in the early Church from the perspective of a leading official. Joining the Church during... Read more

The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics

January 1838, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, leaders of the Mormon church, used the cover of darkness to flee Kirtland, Ohio, with an angry mob at their heels. Behind them were disgruntled creditors, disillusioned Church members, and civil authorities who denounced them and sought to bring them to court. What had been a seemingly prosperous community made up largely of optimistic Mormons less... Read more

The Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple stands to this day as a physical link with the Church's beginnings—the first of first temples. It became a place of revelation, communion, inspired learning—a place of awe and joy. Today millions revere it as a place of sacred awakening, and above all, a House of God. As a prelude to endowment, the Kirtland Temple served as a place to receive those keys necessary for these... Read more

The "New Translation" of the Bible, 1830-1833: Doctrinal Development During the Kirtland Era

This article will attempt to look at the Church in the early 1830s and, so far as it is possible, will trace the introduction of several important doctrinal concepts into the Church during that time. In this context we will discuss the role of new translation of the Bible in the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation. When speaking of the "development" of the Church doctrine, we do not... Read more

Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland, Ohio, "Sketch Book"

As a witness of significant events in the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oliver Cowdery's importance is superseded only by that of the Prophet Joseph Smith. With the exception of Joseph's First Vision and the appearances of Moroni, Cowdery participated with the Prophet in the key events of the Restoration. The scope of his experiences include the translation of the Book... Read more

Kirtland: A Perspective on Time and Place

In a sense Kirtland, Ohio, 1831 to 1838 is a single tree in a forest of places and events. It is well to study the tree, or even to spend time in analysis of one leaf on one branch of the tree, but neither the tree nor a single leaf thereon can really be understood without reference to the entire forest. Each event in time is unique in its relationship to other events. Each place is unique in its... Read more

The Kirtland Safety Society: The Stock Ledger Book and the Bank Failure

A previously unreported stock ledger book of the Kirtland Safety Society was recently discovered among the papers in the Mormon collection of the Chicago Historical Society. The ledger, which contains an alphabetical index of names and 287 account pages, is unquestionably authentic and carries the accounts of 205 members of the Church at Kirtland, including most of the Church's leaders. Whether... Read more

The Failure of the Kirtland Safety Society

The argument over the Kirtland Safety Society is typical of historical discussions in which much is made about the "facts" of a situation. It is as if the truth were somewhere "out there" and if we could somehow manage to separate fact from opinion, we would know what really happened. This idea neglects to consider the point that the facts of history seldom come to us in pure form, since they are... Read more

The Waning of Mormon Kirtland

On the night of 12 January 1838, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon made their escape from Kirtland, riding sixty miles on swift horses before stopping to rest. The collapse of the bank, desertion by trusted friends, angry denunciations and threats, a relentless buildup of lawsuits—all this seemed to leave the Prophet little choice but to leave Kirtland to its own fate. Many of his followers had... Read more

Chartering the Kirtland Bank

Few events have rocked the LDS Church more severely than the failure of the Kirtland Bank in 1837. In less than a year the acrimony caused by this affair split Church leadership and fragmented the Mormon community in Kirtland. Explanations for the bank's collapse range from condemning to absolving those involved; critics often change speculation and fraud, while apologists stress prudence and... Read more

The Mormons and the Bible in the 1830s

One does not long study Mormon beginnings without realizing that the Bible held a special place in the hearts of the early Saints. Latter-day Saints use of its accounts and teachings greatly influenced the formulation of Mormon theology, and, in addition, helped the Saints find their personal and group identity in God's Kingdom. The deep commitment of early Mormon intellectuals to the ancient... Read more

The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio

Specific plans to preach the restored gospel in the west matured during the second conference after Church organization, held late September, 1830. The missionary theme was prominent during the three-day duration of this conference. The official minutes summarize what was probably the first missionary farewell in LDS history: "Singing and prayer in behalf of Brother Oliver Cowdery and Peter... Read more

The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover

A brief note in the History of the Church under the date of Sunday, 3 April 1836, records the appearance of the Lord, Moses, Elias, and Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. Subsequent writers have noted that this date corresponds to the Jewish Passover, during which the arrival of Elijah is traditionally awaited. A parenthetical note in the Missionary Training Manual... Read more

Mormon Political Involvement in Ohio

The Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio, like the saints in other Mormon centers during the formative years, were involved in politics. The Latter-day Saints in Ohio were neither reduses waiting for the millennium nor passivists ignoring political and social problems. Active Mormon political participation commenced in Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio, as early as 1834. There the saints, who had strong... Read more