Kirtland Temple—A Continuing Inspiration
By Elbert A. Smith
Thy Templed Hills
This painting depicts the the Kirtland Temple as seen from the Chagrin River. It evokes consideration of the Kirtland Temple as a continuing source of inspiration for the Saints.
Kirtland Temple was the first building of any magnitude undertaken by the Church. It remains yet our most historic and in many ways our most significant and interesting building. In fact, it is unique in all the world, being the only temple in existence built by direct commandment from heaven. We are fortunate in having preserved our just rights of possession in this building. In 1880 the Ohio courts gave us possession, declaring the Reorganized Church to be the lawful continuation of and successor to the Church organized in 1830 “and entitled in law to all its rights and property.”
The interior is impressive; finished in pure white, the woodwork, the pillars, the pulpits exquisitely carved by hand, the stained glass window of beautiful design, the fine lines of the stairways—all are lovely and inspiring. But probably the most impressive sight is that of the majestic pulpits rising one above another in four tiers, and high above and back of them the beautifully arched windows arranged in symbolical designs. Professor Thomas O’Donnel, A.I.A., of the University of Illinois, writing in Architecture, August, 1924, said:
Religious zeal and inspiration, no doubt, were largely responsible for the fine result. . . . The most distinctive feature of the temple is the plan, the number and the arrangement of the pulpits being unique in every respect. It is here that this . . . temple differed from all other religious edifices in the world. . . . The names of the designer and the craftsmen who executed the beautiful interior work of the temple will probably never be known. Of this we may be sure: they were not only craftsmen of unusual skill, but were inspired artisans working in the same spirit as did the builders of the great cathedrals in medieval times.
The commandment to build came in 1833. The Church was only three years old and the people poor and few in number, but the building was completed and dedicated March 27, 1836. It represented great toil and sacrifice. Its purposes were to furnish a place of worship more sacred than the ordinary church edifice; a place for blessings and ordinations; a place for “the school of the prophets” where the ministry could study the many subjects assigned them in Doctrine and Covenants 85:21; a place where they might receive an endowment of spiritual power; “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 85:36).
Here on the day of dedication the entire assembly of the people enjoyed a veritable day of Pentecost. Here the ministry in particular received the promised endowment of power and moved out into their missions to convert a hundred thousand people in the space of a few short years. The whole world was stirred by the story they told and the power that accompanied the telling.
During the days when the Church was scattered, the temple stood open and deserted. Sheep used the lower court for a fold. Vagabonds caroused in the upper court. But it was preserved by an unseen hand against fire and storm and lightning bolts that oft were hurled upon it by the powers of darkness and tempest, and it has come back to us cleansed and rededicated by many a pentecostal meeting. It is an assurance of divine favor and a promise of further endowments of power and grace to the ministry and members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
(Vision—A Magazine for Youth, published by the RLDS Church in April 1929).
Prints of this painting are available in various sizes for purchase at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.