Section 109: Kirtland Temple Dedicatory Prayer
By January 18, 1836, the Kirtland Temple was finished sufficiently that the Hebrew School and School of the Elders began meeting there, and between January 21 and March 30, church priesthood leaders and other members received washings and anointings in the temple.
The Kirtland Temple was dedicated March 27, 1836. During a fifteen-week period prior to the dedication, beginning on January 21, and extending until after the dedication to May 1, 1836, there was truly a Pentecostal outpouring of the Lord’s power such as never has occurred before or since in the history of the Church. There were visions of heavenly messengers, visions of the Lord Jesus himself, unusual spiritual manifestations, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Some saints communicated with heavenly beings, and some prophesied.
During this remarkable season, the prophet Joseph received three revelations that are included in our current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants—sections 109, 110, and 137.
When the initial command was given to build the Kirtland Temple, in December 1832 (see the commentary for section 95), there were only about 150 members (about twenty families) living in Kirtland township. These people were not only few in numbers, but, as we have discussed previously, they lacked land, money, and knowledge of architecture. Within three years, the church membership in Kirtland increased to 1,300.
As we briefly summarize this rich period of church history, we will borrow from Milton V. Backman, Jr.’s, book The Heavens Resound, chapter 16.
Many of the unusual spiritual manifestations occurred in the Kirtland Temple at meetings in which members of the priesthood were receiving, or were preparing to receive, the Kirtland Temple version of the endowment. Like many aspects of the restored gospel, the endowment ordinance has evolved over time. The temple endowment as we understand it today was never given in Kirtland, but was first given in Nauvoo. The endowment in the Kirtland Temple was a partial or preparatory endowment that consisted largely of a group of preparatory ceremonies including the washing ceremony, the ordinance of anointing, and the washing of feet.
The ordinance of washing the body was first performed at the home of Joseph Smith on January 16, 1836, when Joseph and others washed and perfumed their bodies, confessed their sins, and entered into a covenant to be faithful to God.
Some of the first reports of communion with heavenly beings in Kirtland occurred while bearers of the priesthood were participating in a second ordinance revealed through the Prophet in January 1836, the ordinance of anointing with sacred or consecrated oil. This ceremony, like the washing of the body, was designed to purify the saints in preparation for receiving the remainder of the endowment. It was performed in the temple after they had cleansed their bodies in their own homes or in other buildings in the community.
When the first group in this dispensation to receive their anointings gathered on Thursday, January 21, 1836, little did they realize that that night one of the great visions of the ages would be unfolded, and many would commune with the hosts of heaven (Section 137 was received that evening) (Journal of Edward Partridge, January 21, 1836; Autobiography of Heber C. Kimball, 33).
Other memorable meetings were held on January 22 and 28 and February 6, as Joseph met with and instructed the priesthood brethren in the ordinance of anointing with oil. Visions, prophesyings, and speaking in tongues were also reported at these meetings.
Not all the spiritual manifestations that occurred in Kirtland in 1836 followed the administration of ordinances. Some of the most memorable events occurred on Sunday, March 27, the day the temple was dedicated.
On the day preceding the dedication, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, and Warren Parrish met in the translation room on the third floor of the temple to make final preparations for the dedication to be held the following day. Oliver Cowdery reported that during this meeting he assisted the Prophet “in writing a prayer for the dedication” of the temple (Cowdery Sketch Book, March 26, 1836).
On the morning of the dedication, long before the doors of the temple were opened, a large crowd gathered. Joseph estimated that by seven o’clock a.m., more than five hundred persons were waiting near the temple doors. At eight o’clock, the temple doors were opened, and members of the First Presidency helped to seat the congregation of about eight hundred in the main hall of the temple. Many were disappointed that they could not find a seat, since all were full. Included in those turned away were many who had sacrificed much of their time and material wealth for the building of the temple. Since so many had been unable to attend the session on March 27, the service was repeated the following Thursday, March 31. The saints sat in pews on the main floor of the temple, while church leaders occupied the pulpits at the eastern and western ends of the hall. The Melchizedek Priesthood leaders sat at the east end, and the Aaronic Priesthood leaders sat on the west.
The service began at nine o’clock with President Sidney Rigdon conducting. After a hymn, President Rigdon offered the invocation. Another hymn followed, and then Sidney Rigdon spoke eloquently for two and a half hours. Sidney then called upon all present to acknowledge Joseph Smith as Prophet and Seer, which all unanimously did by standing. After a fifteen-minute intermission, Joseph spoke. He presented the names of the officers of the Church for the sustaining vote of all present. He then read the dedicatory prayer (section 109) which had been given him by revelation. Many were troubled that Joseph read the prayer rather than offering it spontaneously. This prayer set the pattern for subsequent dedicatory prayers. They are written under the spirit of revelation, and they are read at the time of dedication of a sacred edifice. Following the dedicatory prayer, the choir sang a hymn that had been written for the dedication by W.
W. Phelps, The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.
There are three corroborating accounts of the visitation of an angel at the dedication service on March 27. The Prophet Joseph wrote that “Frederick G. Williams arose and testified that while Sidney Rigdon was making his first prayer an angel entered the window and took his seat between Father Smith and himself, and remained there during the prayer” (HC, 2:427). Heber C. Kimball also recorded that “During the ceremonies of the dedication, an angel appeared and sat near President Joseph Smith, Sr., and Frederick G. Williams, so that they had a fair view of his person. He was a very tall personage, black eyes, white hair, and stoop shouldered; his garment was whole, extending to near his ankles; on his feet he had sandals. He was sent as a messenger to accept of the dedication” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City] 103). Truman O. Angell wrote that the angelic being seen by Frederick G. Williams and Joseph Smith, Sr., during Sidney Rigdon’s prayer was Simon Peter, the ancient apostle. “F. G. Williams being in the upper east stand . . . rose and testified that midway during the prayer an holy angel came and seated himself in the stand. When the afternoon meeting assembled Joseph, feeling very much elated, arose the first thing and said the personage who had appeared in the morning was the angel Peter come to accept the dedication” (Truman O. Angell, Journal, 5).
Following some closing remarks by Hyrum Smith and Sidney Rigdon and a short prayer by President Rigdon, the congregation sealed the proceedings of the meeting with the Hosanna Shout: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to God and the Lamb!” This is shouted three times with each series of hosannas sealed with three amens. After the congregation had participated in the Hosanna Shout, Brigham Young arose and spoke briefly in an unknown tongue which was interpreted by David W. Patten. At about four o’clock p.m., the seven-hour service was concluded.
During the dedicatory service there were many unusual manifestations of the Spirit reported. George A. Smith declared that during this assembly, he saw the temple filled with the hosts of heaven. He also recalled that David Whitmer reported that he saw three angels proceed along the south aisle of the temple (George A. Smith, JD, 2:215 and 11:10). Several witnesses reported they saw an unusual light on the top of the temple. Others mentioned that they heard heavenly singing coming from the roof of the building. Several saints who were in Kirtland that night observed angels hovering around the outside of the temple, and during the priesthood meeting some heard a vibrant sound, like a mighty rushing wind, that penetrated the temple (Cowdery Sketch Book, March 27, 1836).
The season of unusual spiritual manifestations continued even after the dedication service. Two days after the temple dedication, the Presidency met with the two bishops and their counselors in the temple to participate in the ordinance of washing of feet. The next morning some three hundred priesthood holders received this ordinance in the temple, and many spiritual manifestations occurred.
One of the most significant visions of the ages took place in the Kirtland Temple seven days after its dedication. On Sunday, April 3, 1836, section 110 was received during which the Savior appeared to Joseph and Oliver.
At two additional priesthood meetings held in the spring of 1836, members reported that they beheld the hosts of heaven and enjoyed various spiritual gifts. These were held on April 6 and May 1.
Not all manifestations of spiritual gifts mentioned by persons in Kirtland, in the spring of 1836, occurred within the walls of the temple. Some affirmed that they witnessed the healing power of God or experienced unusual blessings during meetings in their homes. Lorenzo Snow stated that in many instances “the sick were healed, the deaf made to hear, the blind to see, and the lame to walk” (E. R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 11). A woman named Prescindia Huntington reported that one day an excited young girl rushed to her door and in bewilderment said that a meeting was being held on top of the temple. “I went to the door,” Prescindia declared, “and there I saw on the temple angels clothed in white covering the roof from end to end. They seemed to be walking to and fro; they appeared and disappeared. This was in broad daylight, in the afternoon” (Tullidge, Women of Mormondom, 207).
D&C 109 Kirtland Temple Dedicatory Prayer
D&C 109:8 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and 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.
1 Thanks be to thy name, O Lord God of Israel, who keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants who walk uprightly before thee, with all their hearts—
verse 1 Section 109 is one of two inspired prayers included in the Doctrine and Covenants. The other is section 65 (section 65 is a modern version of the Lord’s Prayer as revealed to Joseph in October 1831 in Hiram, Ohio). This prayer in section 109 begins almost exactly as does the prayer Solomon offered at the dedication of the first Jerusalem Temple (compare 1 Kings 8:23).
2 Thou who hast commanded thy servants to build a house to thy name in this place [Kirtland].
3 And now thou beholdest, O Lord, that thy servants have done according to thy commandment.
4 And now we ask thee, Holy Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of thy bosom, in whose name alone salvation can be administered to the children of men, we ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this house, the workmanship of the hands of us, thy servants, which thou didst command us to build.
verse 4 It is interesting to note, in section 109, the person to whom Joseph is praying. Note that in verse 4 he is praying to the Father in the name of the Son. Now this we would understand to be perfectly appropriate. He also addresses the Father in several other verses—10, 14, 22, 24, 29, 47. Note, however, in verses 34, 42, 56, and 68, he addresses Jehovah. Did Joseph know who Jehovah was in 1836? Of course he did! In section 109, Joseph is praying to Deity which included the Father and the Son who are jointed in perfect unity in all things aside from their individual persons.
5 For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people.
verse 5 “out of our poverty we have given of our substance” When the Ohio saints were first commanded to build the temple in 1833, only about 150 members lived in Kirtland. Of that number, only ten owned sufficient property even to be taxed by the city. The total of properties owned by Latter-day Saints was 189 acres, of which 184 acres made up the two church farms in the area. According to Benjamin F. Johnson: “There were but few saints in Kirtland, and those all of the poorer class . . . such was the poverty of the people at the time of breaking ground for its foundation, that there was not a scraper and hardly a plow that could be obtained among the saints” (My Life’s Review, 15-16). Brigham Young remembered that the members were “too few in numbers, too weak in faith, and too poor in purse, to attempt such a mighty enterprise.” They were “a mere handful of men, living on air, and a little hominy and milk, and often salt or no salt when milk could not be had; the great Prophet Joseph, in the stone quarry, quarrying rock with his own hands; and the few then in the Church, following his example of obedience and diligence wherever most needed” (JD, 2:31). Two and a half years later, the Kirtland Temple was finished, a magnificent stone and plaster building costing as much as $60,000, and Kirtland had a Latter-day Saint population of around 1,300.
“the Son of Man” “‘Man of Holiness’ is the name of God the Father in the Adamic language. The ‘name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time’ (Moses 6:57). Son of Man (with a capital M) is Jesus Christ and is a shortened version of Son of Man of Holiness” (Ludlow, Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:273).
“might have a place to manifest himself to his people” A dedicated temple creates a space consecrated to God, reclaimed from the power of Babylon, and unpolluted by fallen, worldly influences. If such sacred space is kept holy, it symbolizes or represents a part of the celestial kingdom upon the earth, and communion between the saints and their God can take place on a grander scale there than on unhallowed ground. In a structure consecrated for this purpose—and kept holy by the saints— Jesus Christ himself can more readily appear to those who are worthy.
6 And as thou hast said in a revelation, given to us, calling us thy friends, saying—Call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you;
verse 6 “as thou hast said in a revelation” Beginning in this verse and through verse 9, Joseph quotes from D&C 88:117-120.
“Call your solemn assembly” A solemn assembly is described by the prophet Joel as a special meeting at the temple to which the leaders and members of the house of Israel would come fasting, after sanctifying themselves, to worship and receive sacred instructions on issues that concerned the whole people. Joel further prophesies that after such an assembly, the Spirit of God will be poured out upon the saints and the gifts of the Spirit will be manifest (Joel 1:14; 2:15-18, 27-29). The solemn assembly referred to here was actually a series of events beginning in January 1836 and lasting through May of that year, including meetings of the School of the Elders, the organization of the priesthood quorums, the dedication of the temple, and the anointing and blessing of most of the priesthood holders in Kirtland who labored on the temple.
7 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;
8 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and 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;
9 That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High—
10 And now, Holy Father, we ask thee to assist us, thy people, with thy grace, in calling our solemn assembly, that it may be done to thine honor and to thy divine acceptance;
11 And in a manner that we may be found worthy, in thy sight, to secure a fulfilment of the promises which thou hast made unto us, thy people, in the revelations given unto us;
verse 11 “a fulfilment of the promises” Some of these promises can be found in D&C 38:32; 76:116-18; 88:68; 93:19-20; 97:14, 16; 105:11-12, 18.
12 That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house;
verse 12 “that thy holy presence may be continually in this house” Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in his book The Mortal Messiah, asked and then answered a question: “What is a temple? It is a house of the Lord; a house for Deity that is built on earth; a house prepared by the saints as a dwelling place for the Most High, in the most literal sense of the word; a house where a personal God personally comes. It is a holy sanctuary, set apart from the world, wherein the saints of God prepare to meet their Lord; where the pure in heart shall see God according to the promises; where those teachings are given and those ordinances performed which prepare the saints for that eternal life which consists of dwelling with the Father and being like him and his Son” (1:98).
13 And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.
verse 13 “that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power” If God indeed accepts and sanctifies the temple, and if his presence is truly there, then all who enter with righteous motives will feel the power and presence of the Lord.
14 And do thou grant, Holy Father, that all those who shall worship in this house may be taught words of wisdom out of the best books, and that they may seek learning even by study, and also by faith, as thou hast said;
verse 14 “taught words of wisdom out of the best books” Keep in mind that the Kirtland Temple also served as a school. It housed the School of the Elders, the School of the Prophets, and the Hebrew School. The Kirtland High School also met in the temple attic. The passage alluded to here is found in D&C 88:118.
15 And that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing;
16 And that this house may be a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of glory and of God, even thy house;
verses 17-19 These verses are taken from D&C 88:120.
17 That all the incomings of thy people, into this house, may be in the name of the Lord;
18 That all their outgoings from this house may be in the name of the Lord;
19 And that all their salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with holy hands, uplifted to the Most High;
20 And that no unclean thing shall be permitted to come into thy house to pollute it;
verse 20 “no unclean thing shall be permitted” The responsibility for maintaining the sanctity of the temple lies not upon the Lord, but upon the saints themselves. For this reason, it is necessary for the Church, through appointed leaders, to inquire into the life and habits of those wishing to attend the temple. By complying with this requirement, both those who seek recommends and those who grant them participated in a process designed to keep the temple holy, which is the obligation laid upon the saints. The personal desires of those who might want to attend the temple but who will not keep the covenants set forth in the temple cannot be allowed to prevail over the strict command of the Lord. Otherwise, “my glory shall [not] rest upon it” (D&C 97:15), and the very purposes of temple attendance will be lost to all. The equality of this system is that any member may repent and receive a recommend, but the decision not to repent is also a decision not to attend the temple.
21 And when thy people transgress, any of them, they may speedily repent and return unto thee, and find favor in thy sight, and be restored to the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house.
verse 21 “And when thy people transgress” Note a parallel here to the dedicatory prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:30, 35-36. Note also that it is not if thy people transgress, but when they transgress, for “all men sin” (verse 34). Nevertheless, saints are not to wallow in their sins or even to become comfortable with them, but rather, as soon as they realize they are sinning, they should begin to repent and return to the Lord. This part of the dedicatory prayer, the prayer for forgiveness, was answered specifically for Joseph and Oliver the following week when the Savior appeared in the temple, saying “Behold, your sins are forgiven you” (D&C 110:5).
22 And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them;
verse 22 “that thy servants may go forth” This verse summarizes some of the reasons that missionaries receive their temple endowments before entering the mission field. It is so that they can have “the blessings which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house.” Some of these blessings include: being “armed with thy power” (D&C 38:32); having “thy name upon them” (D&C 20:77, 79); being “filled with the glory of the Lord . . . in the Lord’s house” (D&C 84:32); and having “mine angels round about you to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
“and thine angels have charge over them” Do we believe in guardian angels in the Church? Is there any official church doctrine on this? We certainly do believe there are angels doing the bidding of God here on earth, including providing protection at times to us mortals. We do not necessarily believe, however, that at birth each of us is assigned one specific guardian angel to watch over us throughout our lives.
23 And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfil that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days.
24 We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity;
verse 24 “to establish the people that shall worship” To “establish” means more than just to create or build. It also means to make stable or secure. This prayer pleads for a firm and sure foundation forever for those who worship in the temple.
25 That no weapon formed against them shall prosper; that he who diggeth a pit for them shall fall into the same himself;
verse 25 “no weapon formed against them shall prosper” This promise is a repeat of that given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in D&C 71:9 and applies to all who have worshiped in the temple. Those who dig a pit for the saints will eventually fall in it themselves (1 Nephi 22:14). Though evil may seem to prosper in the immediate present, in time it will fail and its designs will be thwarted.
26 That no combination of wickedness shall have power to rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house;
verse 26 “upon whom thy name shall be put in this house” Although it is true that members take the name of Christ upon them at the time of their baptism and subsequently each time they partake of the sacrament, this verse clarified that there is a further sense of receiving “the name” specifically linked to the temple (compare D&C 110:7). Those who take upon themselves God’s name are empowered to act “in the name” of God.
27 And if any people shall rise against this people, that thine anger be kindled against them;
28 And if they shall smite this people thou wilt smite them; thou wilt fight for thy people as thou didst in the day of battle, that they may be delivered from the hands of all their enemies.
verses 27-28 Note the parallel to Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:44-45.
29 We ask thee, Holy Father, to confound, and astonish, and to bring to shame and confusion, all those who have spread lying reports abroad, over the world, against thy servant or servants, if they will not repent, when the everlasting gospel shall be proclaimed in their ears;
verse 29 “confound . . all those who have spread lying reports abroad” The proportion of any population that actually hears the real truth and then hates the truth is usually fairly small. Satan, who has been “a liar from the beginning” (D&C 93:25), must therefore misrepresent the truth about the Church and the gospel to create the kind of universal hatred that brings persecution. Jesus explained to his New Testament followers that “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). They will be wrong, of course, but they will think that in opposing the Church, they are fighting a great evil. Because of those who “spread lying reports,” Jesus, the one sinless human being who ever lived, was crucified as a vile criminal. Because of lying reports, the early Christians were persecuted and martyred in the Roman world. And because of lying reports, the modern Church has suffered unjust opposition from the moment of the restoration until the present time.
One also sees in this verse and in the four following verses, a specific plea for protection of the Church from the mobs in Missouri (verse 47) and Ohio. The saints had been driven out of Jackson County and were already having a hard time with the Missourians in Clay, Ray, and Caldwell Counties. Things will get worse before they get better, for the saints will be driven out of Kirtland and out of Missouri and eventually even out of Nauvoo, Illinois. When a majority of the nation chooses to ignore its own laws out of hatred for the saints because of lying reports, Joseph Smith warned that those enemies would “be oppressed as they have oppressed us, not by ‘Mormons,’ but by others in power. They shall drink a drink offering, the bitterest dregs, not from the ‘Mormons,’ but from a meaner source than themselves. God shall curse them” (HC, 6:95).
30 And that all their works may be brought to naught, and be swept away by the hail, and by the judgments which thou wilt send upon them in thine anger, that there may be an end to lyings and slanders against thy people.
31 For thou knowest, O Lord, that thy servants have been innocent before thee in bearing record of thy name, for which they have suffered these things.
32 Therefore we plead before thee for a full and complete deliverance from under this yoke;
verse 32 “deliverance from under this yoke” A yoke, of course, is the bar laid across the necks of animals or slaves by means of which they are controlled or compelled.
33 Break it off, O Lord; break it off from the necks of thy servants, by thy power, that we may rise up in the midst of this generation and do thy work.
34 O Jehovah, have mercy upon this people, and as all men sin forgive the transgressions of thy people, and let them be blotted out forever.
verse 34 “O Jehovah” See the commentary for verse 4. It is not automatically incorrect in praying to “God” to address the Son as well as the Father. The Jews, of course, prayed directly to Jehovah from the time of Moses. Under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the Nephites prayed directly to Jesus when he appeared to them after his resurrection, even after being instructed twice to pray to the Father in the name of the Son (3 Nephi 18:19; 19:6; see also 20:31; 27:7). Alma the Younger appealed directly to Jesus for deliverance from the pains of hell (Alma 36:18), and God heard and answered his prayer. While it is important always to maintain the separate persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and it is important to pray to the Father in the name of the Son, as we have been instructed, it would be foolish to be scandalized should an inspired prayer to “God” include God the Son as well as God the Father. One must not forget that in several senses of the word, Jesus is also the Father.
Though we call upon the Father in the name of the Son, it should not be assumed that God the Son or God the Holy Ghost are therefore excluded from our prayers. Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave this additional insight: “We pray to the Father, and . . . our answers come from Jehovah” (Promised Messiah, 337).
35 Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high.
verse 35 “Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed” The prayer here is that those who had received, or who soon would receive, the washings and anointings in the temple will enjoy a direct outpouring of power from the heavens through the Spirit as a consequence of the holy ordinances they had received.
36 Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof.
verse 36 “as upon those on the day of Pentecost” The day of Pentecost (from the Greek pentecostos, meaning “fiftieth”) was a Jewish festival held fifty days after Passover. On the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of the Savior, the early Christian Church received a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a public manifestation of his gifts (Acts 2:1-12). A similar outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit at Kirtland would complete the endowment of power promised the saints if they would build there a temple to the Lord (D&C 38:32; 95:8). We have documented previously, in this commentary, how these gifts of the Spirit were, indeed, abundantly poured out upon the saints of that day.
“cloven tongues as of fire” At an evening meeting of the priesthood quorums on the day of the temple dedication, the prophet Joseph called on those in attendance to speak from their hearts. George A. Smith was the first to do so. As he spoke, a noise like a mighty wind was heard to fill the temple, and many congregation spoke in tongues while others interpreted. Some saw visions, and the Prophet himself saw a bright light like a pillar of fire rest on the temple (HC, 2:428).
37 And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory.
38 Put upon thy servants the testimony of the covenant, that when they go out and proclaim thy word they may seal up the law, and prepare the hearts of thy saints for all those judgments thou art about to send, in thy wrath, upon the inhabitants of the earth, because of their transgressions, that thy people may not faint in the day of trouble.
verse 38 “the testimony of the covenant” Before the judgments of the end can befall the world, authorized witnesses must be sent to testify of the truth of the gospel covenant and to raise a voice of warning to all people (verse 40; D&C 1:2-26). That testimony of the truth and the authority to bear it to the nations, and, thus, to seal up the law (see verse 46), are part of the endowment of power prayed for and received in the Kirtland Temple.
39 And whatsoever city thy servants shall enter, and the people of that city receive their testimony, let thy peace and thy salvation be upon that city; that they may gather out of that city the righteous, that they may come forth to Zion, or to her stakes, the places of thine appointment, with songs of everlasting joy;
verse 39 “come forth to Zion, or to her stakes” Note that the gathering of the saints in the latter days need not be to the center place of Zion but will also be to the stakes of Zion wherever they may be located (compare verse 59).
40 And until this be accomplished, let not thy judgments fall upon that city.
41 And whatsoever city thy servants shall enter, and the people of that city receive not the testimony of thy servants, and thy servants warn them to save themselves from this untoward generation, let it be upon that city according to that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of thy prophets.
verse 41 “untoward generation” Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines untoward as “froward [willfully contrary], perverse, refractory; not easily guided or taught.”
42 But deliver thou, O Jehovah, we beseech thee, thy servants from their hands, and cleanse them from their blood.
verse 42 “cleanse them from their blood” It is possible for those who know the gospel and who are aware of the coming judgments of God to be guilty of negligence—negligence of their obligation to warn the ignorant and the wicked. This failure to warn those in danger amounts to a sort of spiritually negligent homicide. In order to escape implication in the sins of the wicked and in the judgments they will incur, the saints must attempt to warn the wicked of their peril and lead them to the safety of the gospel covenant. Only if they have met this obligation to warn their neighbors can the righteous be cleansed of the blood of a wicked generation when the prophesied judgments come.
43 O Lord, we delight not in the destruction of our fellow men; their souls are precious before thee;
44 But thy word must be fulfilled. Help thy servants to say, with thy grace assisting them: Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours.
45 We know that thou hast spoken by the mouth of thy prophets terrible things concerning the wicked, in the last days—that thou wilt pour out thy judgments, without measure;
46 Therefore, O Lord, deliver thy people from the calamity of the wicked; enable thy servants to seal up the law, and bind up the testimony, that they may be prepared against the day of burning.
verse 46 “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony” The phrase “seal up the law, and bind up the testimony” in this verse is found in other scriptures. Isaiah used this phrase but in reverse order: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law” (Isaiah 8:16). Two other revelations from the Doctrine and Covenants transpose the verbs seal and bind to read: “to bind up the law and seal up the testimony” (D&C 88:84; see also 133:72). According to this passage of scripture, these actions of binding and sealing the testimony and the law fit into a divine sequence: the saints must first receive their temple endowments, then they warn the world’s inhabitants of God’s coming judgments; this is followed by the binding up of the testimony and the sealing of the law; finally the judgments of God will come (D&C 88:84; 109:38, 46; 133:72). After the Lord’s servants have testified to and warned the nations, they will figuratively “bind,” “tie up,” “shut up” or close their testimonies and “affix [a] seal” to the law of God (the prophetic word). In effect, we may say that the Lord’s servants “close the file” or even pronounce “case closed.” Joseph Smith explained these things to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on November 12, 1835: “But when you are endowed and prepared to preach the Gospel to all nations, kindreds, and tongues, in their own languages, you must faithfully warn all, and bind up the testimony, and seal up the law, and the destroying angel will follow . . . upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes” (TPJS, 92). In summary, then, God’s judgments follow the Saints’ warning voice to the world.
47 We ask thee, Holy Father, to remember those who have been driven by the inhabitants of Jackson county, Missouri, from the lands of their inheritance, and break off, O Lord, this yoke of affliction that has been put upon them.
48 Thou knowest, O Lord, that they have been greatly oppressed and afflicted by wicked men; and our hearts flow out with sorrow because of their grievous burdens.
49 O Lord, how long wilt thou suffer this people to bear this affliction, and the cries of their innocent ones to ascend up in thine ears, and their blood come up in testimony before thee, and not make a display of thy testimony in their behalf?
verse 49 “not make a display of thy testimony in their behalf” Joseph asks the Lord how long he will listen to the saints’ cries before he exercises his power on their behalf—before he will intercede. Some early manuscripts and printed copies of the dedicatory prayer read “make a display of thy power in their behalf.”
50 Have mercy, O Lord, upon the wicked mob, who have driven thy people, that they may cease to spoil, that they may repent of their sins if repentance is to be found;
verse 50 “that they may cease to spoil” That they may cease to plunder or rob.
51 But if they will not, make bare thine arm, O Lord, and redeem that which thou didst appoint a Zion unto thy people.
verse 51 “make bare thine arm” Show thy power.
52 And if it cannot be otherwise, that the cause of thy people may not fail before thee may thine anger be kindled, and thine indignation fall upon them, that they may be wasted away, both root and branch, from under heaven;
53 But inasmuch as they will repent, thou art gracious and merciful, and wilt turn away thy wrath when thou lookest upon the face of thine Anointed.
verse 53 “the face of thine Anointed” The “a” in anointed was first capitalized in the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The capitalization clarifies that Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Hebrew, “anointed one”), is meant here rather than the saints who are anointed in the temple (see verse 80). It is Jesus’s atoning sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God from those who repent (compare D&C 45:4-5).
54 Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.
verse 54 It is understandable that those whose constitutional rights had been so violated in Missouri and Ohio would pray for the eternal establishment of the principles upon which those rights were founded.
55 Remember the kings, the princes, the nobles, and the great ones of the earth, and all people, and the churches, all the poor, the needy, and afflicted ones of the earth;
verse 55 “Remember . . . the churches” This injunction refers not to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (compare verse 56) but to the other churches and denominations of the world that their hearts might be softened to hear and accept the truth of the restoration of the gospel.
56 That their hearts may be softened when thy servants shall go out from thy house, O Jehovah, to bear testimony of thy name; that their prejudices may give way before the truth, and thy people may obtain favor in the sight of all;
57 That all the ends of the earth may know that we, thy servants, have heard thy voice, and that thou hast sent us;
58 That from among all these, thy servants, the sons of Jacob, may gather out the righteous to build a holy city to thy name, as thou hast commanded them.
verse 58 “to build a holy city to thy name” The holy city, of course, is Zion. The prayer is for additional stakes of Zion to be established so that the work of the gathering might be accomplished more quickly.
59 We ask thee to appoint unto Zion other stakes besides this one which thou hast appointed, that the gathering of thy people may roll on in great power and majesty, that thy work may be cut short in righteousness.
60 Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.
verse 60 “us, who are identified with the Gentiles” Joseph Smith and the rest of the Latter-day Saints are identified with the Gentiles. The title page of the Book of Mormon states that that inspired record would “come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.” The prophet Nephi also foretold that “other books” would come forth in the latter days “from the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:38-39). Nephi later clarified for his brothers that “the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah [shall] come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed” (1 Nephi 15:13).
Since at least the period of 732 to 722 BC, when the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, the blood of Israel has been scattered among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. For almost three thousand years, they and their descendants have intermarried and mixed their blood with that of the Gentiles. Given these facts, it would seem to be a difficult task to find anyone today, anywhere on earth, who does not have a single Israelite ancestor somewhere in the last 150 or so generations of his or her family tree. It would be similarly difficult to find any descendant of the lost ten tribes who does not also have the blood of the Gentile in his veins. Thus, Israelite bloodlines have been preserved among the Gentile nations, and most Gentiles have some Israelite ancestry in their genealogy. For this reason, the scriptures sometimes refer to the modern Church as Israel and sometimes, as here, as “the Gentiles.” Church members are Israelites by virtue of descent from one or more ancient Israelite ancestor, through whom they are also heirs of the promises made to the Patriarchs, and they are Gentiles by virtue of their culture and ethnicity and probably by the vast majority of their ancestors.
President Joseph Fielding Smith stated: “Let us also remember that we are of the Gentiles! By this I mean that the Latter-day Saints have come to their blessings through the Gentile nations. President Brigham Young . . . said that Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite. This is true; yet Joseph Smith came also of Gentile lineage. So do most all members of the Church. We may boast of our lineage, and rejoice in the fact that patriarchs have declared us to be of Ephraim, but at the same time let us not despise the Gentiles, for we are also of them. If it were not so the scriptures would not be fulfilled” (Way to Perfection, 140).
61 But thou knowest that thou hast a great love for the children of Jacob, who have been scattered upon the mountains for a long time, in a cloudy and dark day.
verse 61 “the children of Jacob, who have been scattered” Jacob is Israel, and his children are the children of Israel in all twelve tribes. The modern restoration of the gospel must ultimately bring about the restoration of Israel, and so Joseph prays, in ascending order, for Jerusalem (verse 62), for “the house of David” (verse 63), for the tribe of Judah (verse 64), and for “all the scattered remnants of Israel” (verse 67). This part of the inspired prayer was answered within the week, when Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the temple on April 3, 1836, and delivered to them the keys of the gathering of Israel.
62 We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed;
63 And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David;
64 And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father.
verses 62-64 In all of these verses, Joseph prays for the descendants of Judah (“Jerusalem,” “the house of David,” and “the children of Judah”).
65 And cause that the remnants of Jacob, who have been cursed and smitten because of their transgression, be converted from their wild and savage condition to the fulness of the everlasting gospel;
verses 62-65 We believe in the gathering of Israel. There are two gathering places. Most of Israel will gather in Zion, the New Jerusalem, on the American continent, but the tribe of Judah will gather in old Jerusalem. There they will eventually receive the gospel.
66 That they may lay down their weapons of bloodshed, and cease their rebellions.
67 And may all the scattered remnants of Israel, who have been driven to the ends of the earth, come to a knowledge of the truth, believe in the Messiah, and be redeemed from oppression, and rejoice before thee.
verses 68-76 This portion of the dedicatory prayer petitions God for the welfare of Joseph and his family (verses 68-70), for the leaders of the Church and their families (verse 71), and for the members of the Church and their families, particularly the poor, the sick, and the needy (verses 72-76).
68 O Lord, remember thy servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., and all his afflictions and persecutions—how he has covenanted with Jehovah, and vowed to thee, O Mighty God of Jacob—and the commandments which thou hast given unto him, and that he hath sincerely striven to do thy will.
69 Have mercy, O Lord, upon his wife and children, that they may be exalted in thy presence, and preserved by thy fostering hand.
70 Have mercy upon all their immediate connections, that their prejudices may be broken up and swept away as with a flood; that they may be converted and redeemed with Israel, and know that thou art God.
verse 70 “all their immediate connections” This phrase refers to the immediate circle of Joseph’s friends and relatives.
71 Remember, O Lord, the presidents, even all the presidents of thy church, that thy right hand may exalt them, with all their families, and their immediate connections, that their names may be perpetuated and had in everlasting remembrance from generation to generation.
verse 71 “even all the presidents of thy church” The prayer is for all those who hold leadership positions, that is, for those who preside in the Church. This petition would include everyone from general authorities to local leaders, and priesthood quorum leaders, at all levels of administration.
72 Remember all thy church, O Lord, with all their families, and all their immediate connections, with all their sick and afflicted ones, with all the poor and meek of the earth; that the kingdom, which thou hast set up without hands, may become a great mountain and fill the whole earth;
verse 72 Joseph’s next several requests refer to the fulfillment of specific scriptures concerning the Church in the latter days. Verse 72 prays for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel concerning the latter-day kingdom (Daniel 2:44-45; see also D&C 35:27; 65:2). Verse 73 refers to the fulfillment of several scriptures which prophesy that the Church will “come forth out of the wilderness.” These prophecies may be found in JST-Revelation 12:5-7; D&C 5:14; Song of Solomon 6:10; D&C 33:5; and D&C 105:31. Verse 74 refers to Revelation 21:2; Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 64:1; D&C 133:40, 44; Isaiah 40:4-5. Verse 75 refers to 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Verse 76 refers to 2 Corinthians 5:2-4; Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 7:9; 19:8; 1 Peter 5:4; JST-Hebrews 11:40; and D&C 58:4.
73 That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;
74 And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens, and cause the mountains to flow down at thy presence, and the valleys to be exalted, the rough places made smooth; that thy glory may fill the earth;
75 That when the trump shall sound for the dead, we shall be caught up in the cloud to meet thee, that we may ever be with the Lord;
76 That our garments may be pure, that we may be clothed upon with robes of righteousness, with palms in our hands, and crowns of glory upon our heads, and reap eternal joy for all our sufferings.
77 O Lord God Almighty, hear us in these our petitions, and answer us from heaven, thy holy habitation, where thou sittest enthroned, with glory, honor, power, majesty, might, dominion, truth, justice, judgment, mercy, and an infinity of fulness, from everlasting to everlasting.
verse 77 “O Lord God Almighty, hear us” This verse and the next mark the climax of the prayer, in which God is asked to accept the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. This part of the prayer was answered on April 3, 1836, when the Savior appeared to Joseph and Oliver in the temple and accepted its dedication (D&C 110:7).
78 O hear, O hear, O hear us, O Lord! And answer these petitions, and accept the dedication of this house unto thee, the work of our hands, which we have built unto thy name;
verse 78 “O hear, O hear, O hear us, O Lord!” The threefold “O hear, O hear, O hear,” is reminiscent of the threefold “Holy, holy, holy,” called the trishagion, with which the seraphim and other heavenly beings praise God (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). This connection is likely intended because the saints are associated with the praise of the seraphim in the following verse (verse 79). The threefold address may be linked symbolically to the threefold nature of the Godhead.
79 And also this church, to put upon it thy name. And help us by the power of thy Spirit, that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!
verse 79 “And also this church, to put upon it thy name.” The dedicatory prayer presented not only the Kirtland Temple to the Lord for his acceptance and approval but also the Church itself. Both the building and its builders sought to have the name of the Lord, symbolizing his ownership and his authority or power placed upon them. The Lord’s acceptance of this house (D&C 110:6-7) of necessity also implied the acceptance, collectively speaking, of those who sacrificed to build it.
“those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne” Apparently there are animal-like creatures that reside in God’s presence called seraphs or seraphim (Isaiah 6:6). The singular form is seraph. Seraphim are apparently a high order of animals that serve the Lord in his heavenly court. Their name comes from the Hebrew root sarap, which means “to burn.” The name seraphim is plural and therefore means “the burning ones” or “bright, shiny ones” which likely refers to their glory.
Many animals and plants live in God’s presence, and it is likely that we have never heard of or seen many of them. John the Revelator saw and heard such animals in God’s presence (Revelation 5:8-14), and Joseph Smith recorded how these animals praised and glorified God (TPJS, 291-92).
In D&C 109:79, Joseph Smith describes Seraphs in God’s presence. Joseph refers to them as “bright, shining seraphs.” Joseph also taught that God dwells in “everlasting burnings” and that righteous beings (human and animal) dwell with him in a state of continual burning or glory (TPJS, 372-73, 347, 361).
Another type of winged heavenly creature that deserves mention is the cherub (singular) or cherubim (plural). Ezekiel teaches that cherubim also have hands and faces (Ezekiel 10:7, 14). Mesopotamian tradition and art represent them as winged bulls with human faces, but this need not necessarily correspond with the truth.
An alternate explanation of seraphim and cherubim is that they are angels in the celestial presence of God who belong to the human family. Based on the evidence contained in this verse, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God. . . . It is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear” (Mormon Doctrine, 70203).
“Hosanna to God and the Lamb” The word “Hosanna” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that literally means “save now.” Its meaning might be extended to something like “grant us salvation.” It is often associated with the arrival of the Lord at his temple, whether Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem to visit the temple there, or the arrival of the divine presence at a temple dedication in the modern Church. We might also shout “Hosannah” whenever the word, Spirit, or presence of God is manifested among us. This line may be most readily recognized from the chorus of W.
W. Phelps’s hymn “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning,” which was composed specifically for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple and which has been sung at every temple dedication since that time.
80 And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy. Amen, and Amen.
verse 80 “these, thine anointed ones” That is, the saints who had received and would yet receive their initiatory ordinances in the Kirtland Temple.
The temple was a magnificent structure of stone, timber, and plaster which so far exceeded what the saints had thought possible that its completion was deemed a miracle of God. The temple seated about 1,000 persons on its ground floor, which the Kirtland Saints used as a meetinghouse, much like a modern chapel. The upper story was very similar to the ground floor and was used by the School of the Prophets and the School of the Elders and for priesthood quorum meetings. An attic story of the temple provided administrative space and offices for the First Presidency and other general authorities. It as in one of these spaces, for example, that the Egyptian mummies and papyrus rolls were kept after the temple was completed.
Brief Historical Setting
Seven days after the dedication on Sunday, April 3, after a large priesthood meeting that included instruction and administration of the sacrament, Joseph and Oliver retired near one of the pulpits behind a curtained partition to kneel in prayer. As they did so, a glorious vision was granted to them. They were visited not only by three messengers who restored vital priesthood keys, but also by the Lord Jesus Christ himself who stood upon the breastwork of the pulpit [D&C 110 -Restoration of Keys of the Priesthood].
- Michael J. Preece