Kirtland Temple

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The Kirtland Temple is a registered National Historic Landmark in Kirtland, Ohio, USA, on the eastern edge of the Cleveland metropolitan area. Owned and operated by the Community of Christ, the house of worship was the first temple to be built by the Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism).


Joseph Smith Jr., founder and prophet/president of the early Church of Jesus Christ, was directed by revelation to build a house of the Lord in Kirtland in 1833. At great hardship and cost, this substantial structure was built by church members and was dedicated March 27, 1836. Latter Day Saints reported a great outpouring of spiritual experiences, including visitations by angels and holy messengers during the dedication. The temple was used as a meeting place for the Latter Day Saint worship, as a school and included offices for church leaders on the third story attic.

Smith's time in Kirtland after the temple came into use was limited. In 1837, he became involved with the foundation of a bank known as the Kirtland Safety Society. The failure of this bank was a factor that caused a schism among Latter Day Saints in Kirtland. The dissenters were led by Warren Parrish, Smith's former secretary, and included Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Parrish's group took control of the temple and other church property. By the beginning of 1838, Smith was forced to flee the state, relocating to Far West, Missouri with hundreds of loyalists. Parrish's group dissolved and by 1841 the remaining Latter Day Saints in Kirtland had come back into communion with the main body of the church, which had subsequently relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois.

A period of confusion followed the assassination of Smith in 1844 as rival leaders and factions vied for control of the temple. In 1845, the Kirtland Latter Day Saints under the leadership of S. B. Stoddard, Leonard Rich and Jacob Bump organized their own Mormon church (in opposition to Brigham Young, James J. Strang and other leaders). This group later merged with a faction led by William E. McLellin whose president was David Whitmer, another of the Three Witnesses.

By 1848, another Latter Day Saint faction led by James Collin Brewster was organized in Kirtland and maintained control of the temple. This faction also dissolved and most of the members who were in Kirtland eventually joined the Reorganization and the church now known as the Community of Christ.

In 1880, Community of Christ (then known as the RLDS church) took part in the Kirtland Temple Suit in an attempt to gain clear title to the temple. As a result of the case, an Ohio court ruled that the Community of Christ was the lawful successor of the original church. Title to the temple, however, was only secured via a ruling of adverse possession.

The Community of Christ have been faithful stewards to the temple, seeing to its maintainence and opening it to Latter Day Saints of all denominations and other visitors. The Kirtland Temple continues to be used as a place of worship and education.


Roger Launius, The Kirtland Temple: A Historical Narrative. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1986.

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