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Kirtland Temple

Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space

David J. Howlett
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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    Kirtland Temple
    Book Description:

    The only temple completed by Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith Jr., the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, receives 30,000 Mormon pilgrims every year. The site's religious significance and the space itself are contested by distinct Mormon denominations: its owner, the relatively liberal Community of Christ, and the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. David J. Howlett sets the biography of Kirtland Temple against the backdrop of this religious rivalry. The two sides have long contested the temple's ownership, purpose, and significance in both the courts and Mormon literature. Yet members of each denomination have occasionally cooperated to establish periods of co-worship, host joint tours, and create friendships. Howlett uses the temple to build a model for understanding what he calls parallel pilgrimage--the set of dynamics of disagreement and alliance by religious rivals at a shared sacred site. At the same time, he illuminates social and intellectual changes in the two main branches of Mormonism since the 1830s, providing a much-needed history of the lesser-known Community of Christ.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09637-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Introduction. The Kirtland Temple as a Parallel Pilgrimage
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 2008, thirty-three thousand people from six continents visited a small, historic Mormon temple, the Kirtland Temple, near Cleveland, Ohio. “I couldn’t value anyplace more than the Kirtland Temple,” related a frequent Latter-day Saint visitor. “The feeling there is similar to what I had in Jerusalem when I visited the garden tomb and the garden of Gethsemane…. I sense that angels are not far when I enter it.”¹ This pilgrim, a member of the 14 million–strong Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, does not belong to the denomination that owns the Kirtland Temple. Instead, the 170-year-old stone and...


    • 1 A “House of the Lord” in Kirtland, 1831–1844
      (pp. 13-37)

      The seventy-year-old matriarch of Mormonism’s first family, Lucy Mack Smith, composed a now-famous family memoir in 1845, less than a year after the deaths of three of her sons, all leaders in the early Mormon church. In an early chapter, Lucy recalled a scene from the previous decade where Joseph, her middle son and founder of the movement, led a meeting of Mormon priesthood members at Kirtland, Ohio. The gathered priesthood solemnly considered “building another meeting House,” Lucy recalled, “as the first was now rather small to afford room for the increased congregation…. Some thought that it would be better...

    • 2 Splintered Saints and the Temple, 1844–1900
      (pp. 38-47)

      During the winter of 1879–80, a writer forLippincott’s Magazine, Frederic G. Mather, visited the Kirtland Temple and wrote a detailed account of the then half-century-old building. On a tour of the temple led by an RLDS member, Mather was struck by a sign prominently posted on a wall in the temple’s upper court and copied it into his notes:

      THE SALT LAKE MORMONS.—When Joseph Smith was killed on June 27, 1844, Brigham Youngassumedtheleadershipof the Church, telling the people in the winter of1846that all theGodthey wanted washim, and all...

    • 3 Reforming Identities, Reframing Pilgrimage, 1900–1965
      (pp. 48-64)

      In December 1905, a small group of LDS general authorities and their spouses embarked on a whirlwind tour of the eastern United States, including a stop to dedicate a monument at Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Vermont. On the return, the LDS party surprised the RLDS Kirtland Temple caretakers by appearing on the temple’s steps during a time of the year that had few guests touring the structure. According to one party member, Edith Ann Smith (her father a cousin to Joseph Smith Jr.), the group experienced two types of coldness in the Kirtland Temple: “One the result of the temperature...


    • 4 Creating a Cursed and Sanctified Temple, 1965–1984
      (pp. 67-95)

      On June 26, 1966, 325 people jammed the Kirtland Temple’s lower court (the first floor) to dedicate a nearby Ohio Historical Marker for the building. The Kirtland Temple, noted a Cleveland newspaper, was designated “among the finest examples of architecture in Ohio,” the fifth building in the state to earn such an honor. On hand for the ceremony was Joseph Smith’s grandson, W. Wallace Smith, the sixty-five-year-old president of the RLDS church who lived in Independence, Missouri, the denomination’s corporate headquarters. After brief remarks by various state and local historical associations, Smith rose to give the main address. “Whether you...

    • 5 The Destroyer and the Peacemakers, 1984–1990
      (pp. 96-111)

      “God is giving me a new name and a new job,” declared former Kirtland Temple guide Jeffrey Lundgren to a group of gathered Kirtland followers in 1987. “I am now to be called ‘the Destroyer.’ People will die at my hands.”¹ Lundgren did not speak in hyperbole. Just as the Kirtland Temple began to be positively reincorporated into LDS sacred space by 1984, the RLDS community was rocked by a church schism. The division complicated the church’s relationship to the temple as a singular sacred space. Tragically, the ensuing contestation was not simply verbal in its dimensions but physical, too....

    • 6 New Shrines and New Capital, 1990–2012
      (pp. 112-128)

      In the late 1980s, rumors abounded in the RLDS church that the hierarchy had placed the Kirtland Temple up for sale. The annoyed RLDS First Presidency wrote in theSaints’ Heraldthat “perhaps some have supposed that with our plans to build the Independence Temple, we would no longer need to retain the one in Kirtland.” Such a notion was misguided, they assured RLDS rank-and-file members. “Our heritage and history of ministries associated with the Kirtland Temple,” continued the First Presidency, “are such as to make it an irreplaceable and invaluable part of our inheritance as a people. The Temple...


    • 7 Staging the Temple, 1972–2012
      (pp. 131-144)

      Anthropologist Simon Coleman suggests that, at pilgrimage sites, “links to the past can be established as much by staged performance as by history or archeology.”¹ Plays performed at pilgrimage sites are among the most obvious kinds of staged performances that establish links between the past and the pilgrim. Since the late 1970s, the Kirtland Temple and its surrounding interpretative sites have served as venues for dramatic performances in which the shrine’s past is resurrected and performed on stage. Plays about the Kirtland Temple have allowed audience members and actors to relate Kirtland’s past to their present personal and institutional dilemmas...

    • 8 Tour Guiding, 1959–2012
      (pp. 145-173)

      “Good morning, folks. It certainly is nice to have you come to see us here in this lovely old Kirtland Temple, this morning,” began Ray Lloyd, a temple guide, on a 1959 tour. “You have never seen a building like this before,” he continued. It “is the only building of its kind standing in the world today, that we know of, that was built by direct command of God.”¹ Fifty years later, as a guide, I began my tours in the Kirtland Temple visitor center with these words: “Welcome to the Kirtland Temple…. [T]he Kirtland Temple is a National Historic...

    • 9 Dealing with Diversity, 1965–2012
      (pp. 174-206)

      Katya joined the Community of Christ as a young adult in a small town in Russia in 2007. Before coming to the United States for the summer, her only experience with Christianity had been with the Russian Orthodox Church or with her small Community of Christ congregation. In July of 2009, she was appointed to the tour staff at the Kirtland Temple for one month as part of an international exchange program among Community of Christ members. Before arriving in the United States that summer, she had never met an LDS person. Katya explained to me, “The most remarkable event...

  9. Conclusion. Parallel Pilgrimages, Parallel Temples
    (pp. 207-218)

    Three sets of three chimes rang through the air of a small chapel, honoring the triune God. A picture window in the chapel opened to a view of the Kirtland Temple. A candle was lit in the chapel and a reader at the front solemnly greeted a small group of worshipers:

    Welcome to the quiet of this sacred place as we gather to worship. Each day in the Independence Temple, dedicated to the pursuit of peace we pray to God for peace in our world. In addition, each day we pray for a different country. Here at the Kirtland Temple...

  10. Appendix. Theorizing Pilgrimage
    (pp. 219-220)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 221-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)