Hyrum Smith’s Building of the Kirtland Temple

Craig K. Manscill

Craig K. Manscill, “Hyrum Smith's Building of the Kirtland Temple,” in An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, ed. Kenneth L. Alford and Richard E. Bennett (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, 2015), 47–67.

Craig K. Manscill was an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University when this article was written.

Hyrum SmithPortrait of Hyrum Smith, a vital contributor to the planning and constructing of the Kirtland Temple.

The Savior answers his own question when he says, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I am.” In a similar way I say, “What manner of man ought we to be? Even as Richard Cowan.” My association with Richard and Dawn Cowan over these many years has demonstrated that they are followers of Christ in not only word and deed but that the Savior’s light emanates from their countenance. Indeed, Richard’s collective body of works—books, articles, teaching, and citizenship—leaves us with a lasting legacy to read and study for many years to come. It is with this sentiment that I write and dedicate this article to the Cowans’ love of temples.

Over the years, the scholarly community has written extensively about the structure and construction of the Kirtland Temple in Ohio.[1] Together, these formative works constitute our collective knowledge of the structure and construction of the Kirtland Temple. However, these authors, for the most part, have overlooked the involvement and contributions of Hyrum Smith. Smith, the older brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was assigned to supervise construction, raise funds, and promote unity and spirituality among the Kirtland Saints in preparation for the solemn assembly to be held at the dedication of the temple. Consulting Smith’s personal diaries, letters, daybook, and account book adds important details to the collective history of the Kirtland Temple.[2] Including the Smith papers in the temple narrative from conception to the dedication will provide new information and collaborate established facts about the structure and construction of this house. Therefore, it is the intent of this paper to broaden our understanding of Hyrum Smith’s involvement and his contributions to the building of the Kirtland Temple.

Revelation to Build the House of the Lord

In February 1836, Hyrum Smith wrote to his cousin Elias Smith,[3] referring to the so-called “press of business, [and] the extreme anxiety for the building or finishing of the House of the Lord.”[4] The “House,” as called by Hyrum, had been under construction since June of 1833—the past thirty months. Hyrum’s anxieties began on May 4, 1833, when he, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter were appointed to a committee charged with raising funds to build a schoolhouse where the elders could receive instruction preparatory to commencing their proselytizing missions.[5]

Events leading to the committee’s appointment began six months earlier in December 1832, when the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation that instructed the Church to “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” (D&C 88:119). This command to build a temple and the promise that the Lord would honor them with his presence (see D&C 88:68) urged the Saints to build the house of the Lord in Kirtland at an enormous sacrifice. On January 11, 1833, only a few days after the command, Joseph Smith wrote in a letter to William W. Phelps in Missouri, “The Lord approves of us & has accepted us, & established his name in Kirtland for the salvation of the nations. . . . The Lord commanded us in Kirtland to build a house of God, & establish a school for the Prophets, this is the word of the Lord to us, & we must—yea the Lord helping us we will obey.”[6]

In addition to the command to build a house of worship, a March 8, 1833, revelation called for establishing a “school of the prophets” (D&C 90:7–8). The School of the Prophets began meeting in the N. K. Whitney & Co. store in a “school room,” but it was soon apparent that the small room was inadequate for their meetings.[7] A committee of high priests[8] from Kirtland voted unanimously to appoint Hyrum Smith, Jared Carter, and Reynolds Cahoon to collect money from members to build a dedicated structure for their meetings.[9] For the next month, little happened except clarifying that the building would serve not only as a School of the Prophets but also as a house of worship. What was soon to be apparent was that both the house for worship and the school for training missionaries were to be the same building—the Kirtland Temple—which also housed the School of the Prophets.

The busy demands of the 1832 spring in Kirtland did not relieve the Saints of their most important duty—to build. On June 1, 1833, the Lord chastened them and the building committee (see D&C 95:5–6) because they had not sufficiently addressed the commandment to commence building “the house” (D&C 95:1–3, 8). In Hyrum’s defense, neither he nor the committee members were slothful. Hyrum served a two-week mission in the month of May and had several pivotal questions that needed answers before he and the committee could proceed—not the least of these were the location and design of the “house.” At this point, the committee was building a schoolhouse that would also serve as a place of worship (see D&C 88:119).

The June 1 revelation (see D&C 95) was the key for Joseph, Church leaders, and the building committee to understanding that the house they were to build (see D&C 88:119) would fulfill an earlier revelation: “I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95:8). This phrase referred to the revelation given initially in December 1830 (D&C 37) and expanded on January 2, 1831, commanding the Saints to “go to the Ohio; . . . and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32).[10] This was a watershed moment for Joseph and the Kirtland Saints. This unexpected realization changed everything. Any ambiguity about the urgency of the work was eliminated.

Underlining the significance of the June 1 revelation, Hyrum and the temple committee demonstrated their urgency by dispatching a letter on the same day, calling upon the Saints to fulfill the Lord’s command (D&C 95) and to prepare a place in which to hold a solemn assembly; “make every possible exertion to aid temporally, as well as spiritually, in this great work,” they urged. They also added a caution: “Unless we fulfill this command . . . we may all despair of obtaining the great blessing that God has promised to the faithful of the Church of Christ.”[11]

One month earlier, Hyrum’s building committee had been assigned to build a schoolhouse. Now on June 1, as a result of a revelation (see D&C 95), the fund-raising committee for the schoolhouse became the building committee for the Kirtland Temple and School of the Prophets.

Joseph Smith helping install a window in the Kirtland Temple.Joseph Smith helping install a window in the Kirtland Temple. (David Lindsley.)

Supervising Construction Plans for the House of the Lord

While Hyrum and the building committee parsed two important questions—where the temple would be built and what it would look like—the purpose of a temple came clear. Temples of antiquity had been associated with Mosaic rituals, which had been satisfied by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Thus, when Joseph first received the revelation in December 1831 to “gird up [his] loins,” commanding him to go to work, for “I will suddenly come to my temple” (D&C 36:8), Joseph likely felt mystified, wondering how he should proceed and what the purpose of a temple would be. Nevertheless, Joseph understood since Moroni’s first visit, in September 1823, that his work was to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ (see D&C 2).

Though early revelations indicated that Jackson County, Missouri, was the promised land of Zion and that “a spot for the temple” lay westward (D&C 57:3), the Missouri Saints failed to become united “with one heart and with one mind” (D&C 45:65–67).[12] For a space of eighteen months from December 27, 1832, to June 22, 1834, there were two commands in play (see D&C 57:3; D&C 88:119) to build two temples—one in Independence, Missouri, and another in Kirtland, Ohio. However, with the failure of Zion’s Camp to reestablish the Church at Independence, the command to build a temple in Zion was put on hold and the Church was to “wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion” (see D&C 105:9–13). Yet it was still important, as the Lord spoke, that his people were to be prepared, taught more perfectly, and endowed with power form on high (see D&C 105:10–11). In this, the Lord would not be frustrated nor would his designs come to naught (D&C 3:1–3). All the promised blessing and events that were to occur for the Independence Temple (see D&C 95:3–11) were now shifted to the Kirtland Temple (see D&C 105:33).

The charge to build a temple then fell upon the Kirtland Saints, who decided in the winter of 1833 that the best location would be on the crest of the rise just south of the Kirtland village. The Lord had designated the site for the temple in Missouri (see D&C 57), and he did the same for the Kirtland house of the Lord. In a revelation on June 4, 1833, the Lord declared, “Therefore, let my servant Newel K. Whitney take charge of the place which is named among you, upon which I design to build mine holy house” (D&C 96:2).[13] This “place” was known as the Peter French farm, and negotiations to purchase the farm had been under way since the spring of 1833.[14] Minutes of the Kirtland High Council stated that on March 23, 1833, Ezra Thayer, an agent for the Church, reported that Peter French would be willing to sell his farm for the sum of $5,000 and that Elijah Smith would also sell his adjacent farm for the sum of $4,000. On the same day, the council voted in the affirmative to purchase both farms and asked that Ezra Thayer and Joseph Coe superintend the deals.[15]

The June 1 revelation admonished the Kirtland Saints to begin building, instructed them that this sacred structure should not be built “after the manner of the world,” and promised to reveal a pattern to three brethren whom the Saints would appoint (see D&C 95:8, 13). At a conference two days later, Hyrum proposed to the high priest committee that it was the duty of the First Presidency to obtain the design.[16] The committee appointed three brethren—Joseph Smith Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams (who then constituted the First Presidency)—“to obtain a draft or construction” of the temple.[17] The Lord then fulfilled his promise to reveal the building’s design, the interior in particular. On one occasion, when the three men were kneeling in prayer, “the building seemed to come right over us.” While speaking in the completed temple, Frederick G. Williams testified that the hall in which they were convened coincided in every detail with the vision given to the Prophet.[18] “Joseph not only received a revelation and commandment to build a Temple,” President Brigham Young affirmed, “but he received a pattern also, as did Moses for the Tabernacle, and Solomon for his Temple; for without a pattern, he could not know what was wanting, having never seen [a temple], and not having experienced its use.”[19] For Hyrum and the building committee, the two pertinent questions which had been holding the committee back from starting construction had now been answered—where to build and how to design the house.[20]

When Joseph presented the full pattern for the temple,[21] it delighted the brethren in general and Hyrum in particular. In fact, Hyrum could hardly contain his enthusiasm. After the meeting, Joseph took the brethren to a nearby field, the upper part of the Peter French farm, where they removed the fence and began leveling the grain. Hyrum ran to his parents’ house, grabbed a scythe, and was about to leave again when his mother stopped him and asked where he was going with the implement. “We are preparing to build a house for the Lord,” he replied, “and I am determined to be the first at the work.” Lucy later noted that when the grain was cleared, “Hyrum commenced digging a trench for the wall, he having declared that he would strike the first blow upon the house.”[22] Hyrum understood the urgency of the Lord’s command. Two months later on August 2nd, an unexpected blessing came to Hyrum and his family as well to fellow building committee members Reynolds Cahoon and Jared Carter. The three were awarded an inheritance, land—lots next the temple, “that they may do the work which I have appointed unto them” (see D&C 94:13–15).[23]

Beginning Construction of the Temple

Hyrum remained dedicated to being one of the first to volunteer his labor on the temple. Lorenzo Dow Young later recalled, “About that time [early June 1833], I took with my team Brothers Hyrum and Joseph Smith, Reynolds Cahoon and my brother Brigham, to look at a stone quarry, and see if the rock was suitable for the walls of the temple.” He recalled, “It was decided that it would do, and a part of a load was put on the wagon. We all returned to town, and the rock was unloaded on the temple ground. As near as I recollect, this was the first rock hauled for that building.”[24]

Work on the temple went forth in earnest from that point. On June 6, the high priests met again to counsel with Hyrum, Jared Carter, and Reynolds Cahoon. The council of high priests instructed the building committee to proceed immediately and to begin obtaining materials such as stone, brick, and lumber.[25] Hyrum recorded in his diary on June 7, “This day commenced making preparation for the build[ing of] the house of the Lord.”[26] The 1833 summer’s work on the “chapel house,” included the digging of trenches to lay foundational stone, the production of bricks for the exterior, and the offsite work of hewing beams for the first-level floors. Hyrum’s account book records the hiring of Christopher Crary to hew timbers for the large building: “payed C. Crary $201 for his work on the house.”[27]

From April 2 to September 25, 1833, Fredrick G. Williams supervised the production of bricks to be used on the temple. Hyrum indicates that the stone foundation “was completed in October,” but there were no usable bricks to commence the construction of the walls. Brick making had been abandoned by mid-September largely due to the inexperience of those making the bricks.[28] This must have been very discouraging for Hyrum and the building committee, especially since adequate bricks were locally available but were beyond the reach of the committee because of their lack of funds.

The material crisis was solved by a Canadian, Artemus Millet. After being baptized by Brigham Young in January 1833, Millet came from Canada to Kirtland at the request of Hyrum Smith: “Br. Hyrum Smith wrote to me that it was the will of the Lord that I should go and work on the Temple in Kirtland.”[29] Hyrum’s letter to Millet must have hit its mark; Millet was on-site in Kirtland in late October. His familiarity with building mills, chimneys, and foundations, and his experience on large-scale projects, made Millet an invaluable asset.[30] Observing the ready availability of sandstone in the local quarries, Millet suggested that rubble masonry be covered with a stucco finish for the temple walls.[31] Sustained by Kirtland High Council vote as superintendent of the construction for the walls, Millet left Jacob Bump in charge and returned to Canada. Millet’s brief consulting visit in the fall of 1833 redirected the work of Hyrum and the small band of laborers to stockpile stone of any size the remainder of the fall and to work on seasoning timbers. Millet’s reasonable solution was likely a welcome reprieve to Joseph, Hyrum, and the building committee.

Millet returned in April 1834 only to find Kirtland in turmoil in the preparation for the departure of Zion’s Camp. Hyrum was engaged in recruitment missions for personnel to join in the march to Missouri, and would eventually lead a division out of Michigan. Little (if any) work had been completed on the temple. At the time of mustering out of the camp, approximately 130 men were pulled from the ranks of Kirtland. Heber C. Kimball later told of the effect of Zion’s Camp during the summer of 1834: “Brother, Cahoon and Br. Cutler can tell you how many hands worked upon that Temple at one time; I think there were not more than five or six. Father Cutler and Elder Cahoon can tell you that there was no one left in Kirtland more than ten or fifteen men, when we left with camp to go to Zion, to Jackson County.”[32] Whether by design or not, two of the few left behind were Jacob Bump, who was Millet’s right-hand man, and Sidney Rigdon, who could answer questions about the design.

When Hyrum returned to Kirtland from Zion’s Camp near the beginning of August 1834, Millet and his crew had the walls up to the four-foot level, but a great deal of work remained to be done. “Very great exertions have been made to finish the House of the Lord this winter [1834–35],” wrote William W. Phelps, who estimated a workforce of nearly fifty craftsmen, including carpenters, joiners, and masons.[33] Soon the walls were “up to the square,” and the roof was under construction.[34]

On one occasion, in order to move the work along on the temple, Hyrum gave a blessing of healing. As the weather grew colder, Lorenzo Dow Young, the brother of Brigham, labored to finish plastering the temple exterior as he grew increasingly ill. Doctors who examined him expressed little hope for his recovery. “Mr. Young,” said one to Lorenzo’s father, “unless the Lord makes your son a new pair of lungs, there is no hope for him!” Mr. Young went to the Prophet for help, who said, “Go and get my brother Hyrum.” Joseph gave specific instructions about how Hyrum, accompanied by several brethren, should administer to Lorenzo.

Following Joseph’s instructions, the elders took turns administering to their ailing friend. “Brother Hyrum Smith led,” remembered Lorenzo. “The Spirit rested mightily upon him. He was full of blessing and prophecy. Among other things, he said that I should live to go with the Saints into the bosom of the Rocky Mountains,[35] to build up a place there, and that my cellar should overflow with wine and fatness.”[36] The blessing had the desired effect—Lorenzo was restored to health.

Hyrum also managed the temple store from his home in Kirtland. The mercantile store served the purposes of the temple-building committee to supply goods for services rendered on temple construction. Hyrum’s account book records payment in kind for those who worked on the interior and exterior of the temple. At least two supply trips were made by Hyrum and Newel K. Whitney to Buffalo, New York, to supply the store.

From the fall of 1834 through the year of 1835, Hyrum’s account book is replete with entries of payments for work on the temple, indicating that a large number of laborers worked on the temple. With Reynolds Cahoon, Artemus Millet, and Jacob Bump providing valuable supervision of the chapel house construction, Hyrum was allowed to turn his attention to raising funds and spiritually preparing the Kirtland saints for the outpouring of numerous spiritual manifestations to come.

Busts of Joseph Smith and Hyrum SmithBusts of Joseph Smith (left) and Hyrum Smith (right). The brothers worked together to build the Lord's house.

Preparing the Saints for the Temple

The Lord promised the Kirtland Saints, “If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build [the temple]” (D&C 95:11). Obedience, unity, and spiritual purity were the principal emphases of Hyrum’s sermons during the construction of the house of the Lord. As a member of the building committee, Hyrum did not want to repeat the mistakes of Missouri and bring condemnation upon the project in Kirtland (see D&C 105:2–10).

As a matter of fact, Hyrum and Orson Hyde wrote an earlier letter[37] to the Missouri leaders that explained, “If the people of Zion did not repent, the Lord would seek another place and another people. Zion is the place where the temple will be built, and the people gathered, but all people upon that holy land being under condemnation, the Lord will cut off, if they repent not, and bring another race upon it that will serve Him. The Lord will seek another place to bring forth and prepare his word to go forth to the nations.”[38] Hyrum and Orson’s words were fulfilled within six months, when mob violence broke out in July 1833, interrupting the printing of the Book of Commandments and ultimately disrupting the building of the Jackson County Temple. While Missouri was still designated as the place of gathering and of a future temple (see D&C 105), Missouri leadership was notified that the Kirtland Saints were to build a house of God and establish a school of the prophets.

Maintaining physical and moral purity among the temple workers was a priority for Hyrum. During construction, Joseph and Hyrum helped the Saints to understand and obey the revealed truths that would eventually become standards for temple worship. One Sunday in July, they both addressed the Saints regarding the Word of Wisdom. As Joel H. Johnson later recalled, Joseph explained that “hot drinks” as referred to in this revelation meant tea and coffee (D&C 89:9). Sustaining and reemphasizing Joseph’s message, “Brother Hyrum Smith spoke to the same effect.”[39] This address may have been the first of many discourses Hyrum would give on the Word of Wisdom.

Compliance with the Word of Wisdom soon became a requirement for participation in the School of the Prophets, and those attending it accepted a commitment “not to willfully divulge that which was discussed.”[40] The school was a forerunner to temple worship, so only the worthy were allowed to attend: “He that is found unworthy . . . shall not have place among you; for ye shall not suffer that mine house shall be polluted by him” (D&C 88:70, 134). Subsequent revelations would use almost identical language concerning who should or should not be permitted to enter the temple.[41]

Additionally, Hyrum was part of the committee that framed various rules for appropriate conduct in the temple. In order to set an atmosphere of reverence and respect for the temple and bring the Spirit of the Lord, whispering, laughing, menacing gestures, and disorderly conduct were not allowed, and insults directed toward an elder would be considered as insults toward the Church as a whole. Vandalism was forbidden, and proper supervision of children was enjoined.[42]

Assessing the Costs of the House of the Lord

Such a magnificent building project, which relied so heavily on donations of its members, was liable to incur debt for the Church. Although the preferred route was to avoid debt, according to revelation, debt was permissible when it became necessary to carry out the will of the Lord (see D&C 64:27–30), and the house of the Lord in Kirtland was approximately 15,000 square feet in floor space and represented the very best consecrated efforts the Saints could muster for a nineteenth-century structure.[43] Since most of the labor was donated, the cost of the materials and paid labor for the temple is difficult to determine. When Ira Ames took over the books[44] of the building committee, he found that they were in “complete confusions” and it would be impossible to determine an accurate appraisal of the cost of the building. Robinson’s and Staker’s cost estimates range between $30,000 and $100,000, with the actual cost probably likely just over $40,000.[45]

In addition to the monetary cost of the temple, members also paid high costs in terms of effort and sacrifice. Many had departed with “even the necessities of life” to see the Lord’s house built. John Taylor wrote in 1855: “It cost the martyred Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, and their revered and honored father and hundreds of the dead and living Saints, many many days of toil, labor and anxiety who labored on the walls in the midst of poverty reproach and almost the lack of everything. . . . Stalwart men labor’d on that Temple with nothing but mush and milk to live upon and in many instances, barely bread & water until their knees trembled with weakness.”[46]

Raising Funds for the House of the Lord

As a member of the temple committee, Hyrum responded to the pressing financial demands of the project. He launched a campaign of trips in several directions and with various traveling companions.[47] Hyrum donated most of his time, but some of his temple-related travels were compensated at approximately one dollar per day from temple funds.[48]

Hyrum’s fund-raising tours began as early as February 1835 and continued after the dedication of the temple, even as late as September 1836.[49] On one such trip to saints in the nearby states of Massachusetts and Connecticut, Hyrum noted, with some apparent sense of accomplishment, that he and traveling companion Jared Carter “performed the whole route in 8 days by traveling night and day, 500 miles.”[50] The two held a meeting at the home of a Brother Moses on Sunday, June 7, and Hyrum recorded that Esther Moses consecrated one dollar. If others made similar gestures, they were not recorded, so that dollar was the only contribution recorded the entire trip. Hyrum and Jared left for home on June 11 and arrived on June 19.[51] Hyrum’s modest success at raising funds did not deter him from his task. The day after arriving home, he and Jared were off again, this time on a day trip to Fairport.[52] It appears that they may have made a similar trip to Michigan, but details are not available.[53] Hyrum also noted “going to Brother Burnett’s to get assistance for the House of the Lord.”[54]

Besides his travels to aid the work, Hyrum also provided lodging for some who labored on the temple. Elias Hart commenced working on the temple and boarding at Hyrum’s house on June 30. Despite his charitable nature, necessity obligated that Hyrum support his family, and it appears that he was compensated from the temple funds for at least some of the boarding he provided to temple workers. A few days after Elias Hart’s departure on July 18, the Chapel House account compensated Hyrum for fifteen days of Hart’s board.[55]

Relentless in his efforts, Hyrum took a short trip to the south of Kirtland in mid-July[56] and left on another five-week mission the following month. On August 4, he and his new companion, David Whitmer, received $34.75 for their expenses and left the following day, heading east.[57] Hyrum described his errand as “a tour [of] the eastern country for the purpose of collecting some moneys for the painting of the Lord’s house in Kirtland.”[58] Hyrum wrote that the dusty roads and stifling heat made travel slow. They visited Hyrum’s Aunt Susannah (Joseph Sr.’s younger sister) there that evening and spent the night and the following day with his Aunt Fanny (Frances Wilcox Smith, widow of Hyrum’s deceased uncle, Samuel). Hyrum then went to visit his uncles: Silas, Asael, and Jesse Smith.[59]

Before winter, Hyrum took at least one more temple-related trip. Noah Packard, whom Hyrum and Parley P. Pratt had taught and baptized in June 1832,[60] visited Joseph on September 23 and loaned the temple committee $1,000 to assist the effort. This generous act sustained the work for a time and allowed Hyrum and Bishop Newel K. Whitney to take a ten-day trip to Buffalo, purchase supplies, and replenish the temple committee’s store. When they boarded a stage on October 7, the Prophet bid them farewell and blessed them to return in health and safety to the bosom of their families.[61] As a temple committee member, Hyrum kept the account book and received compensation for this journey.[62]

The temple was now completed and accepted of the Lord, but Hyrum’s temple work continued. He authorized the continued collection of money to offset the debt incurred by construction,[63] and he soon went to Salem, Massachusetts, with Joseph in an effort to secure additional needed funds.[64]

Map of Hyrum Smith's fund-raising tripHyrum Smith's fund-raising trip, August 5 to mid-September, 1835.


Buildings are always more than physical constructions: their history is interwoven with the struggles and motivations of their builders. Hyrum Smith’s contributions and experiences with planning and constructing the Kirtland Temple were characterized by incidents of unusual faith and determination. The uncommon sacrifices of the Latter-day Saints were preludes to a powerful Pentecostal season. During an era in which the heavens resounded, some of the greatest visions in the history of the world occurred within the walls of this sacred edifice.

The completion of the Kirtland Temple was but the beginning of Hyrum’s vision regarding the blessings of temples—a vision that extended through the remainder of his life. “Thy calling is to . . . strengthen the church continually,” the Lord said to Hyrum (D&C 23:3). When the Saints broke ground for the Kirtland Temple in June 1833, Hyrum determined he would strike the first blow.[65] “I think this people is abundantly able to build this temple,” he later told a congregation of 8,000 Saints who were erecting another temple in Nauvoo in 1844. As the Assistant President and Patriarch of the Church and a member of that temple committee, Hyrum added, “Much depends upon it for our endowments and sealing powers; and many blessings depend upon it.”[66]

After the daylong dedicatory proceedings culminated with the sacred Hosanna Shout,[67] Hyrum could breathe a sigh of relief from what he called “the press of business, [and] the extreme anxiety for the building or finishing of the House of the Lord.”[68]

Kirtland TemplePhotograph of the Kirtland Temple. (George Edward Anderson, Church History Library.)


[1] See Milton V. Backman’s book The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–38; Roger D. Launius’s The Kirtland Temple: A Historical Narrative; Elwin C. Robison’s The First Mormon Temple: Design, Construction, and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple; and Mark L. Staker’s Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations (both the Mormon History Association and the David Whitmer Society awarded Hearken, O Ye People the book of the year award for 2011). These works have given contextual and historical relevance to the erection of this significant nineteenth-century building. Additionally, the 1978 article by Roger D. Launius, “The Latter-day Saints and the ‘House of the Lord’ at Kirtland, Ohio,” and the 1990 article by Richard O. Cowan, “The House of the Lord in Kirtland: A Preliminary Temple,” add recent insights and newly researched material.

[2] Hyrum Smith’s papers are in the Joseph Smith Sr. Collection in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

[3] Elias Smith (1804–88) was baptized by Hyrum on August 27, 1835. Elias led members of his family from New York to Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1836. Among the party was Hyrum’s grandmother, Mary Duty Smith. Elias and Mary took a steamer from Buffalo and landed at Fairport, not far from Kirtland, on May 16, where they were met later that evening by Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Mary Duty Smith died in Kirtland eleven days later.

[4] Elias Smith letter, February 27, 1836.

[5] History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), 1:342–43.

[6] Joseph Smith to William W. Phelps, January 11, 1833, Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, 18–20, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, UT (hereafter CHL).

[7] Kirtland High Council Minutes, March 12, 1833, CHL.

[8] This group of high priests was first organized by Joseph Smith on the Isaac Morley farm on June 4, 1831, and became a council that assisted Joseph in making important decisions concerning Church matters. This council of high priests was replaced on February 17, 1834, by the Kirtland Stake High Council.

[9] Kirtland High Council Minutes, May 4, 1833.

[10] On June 4, 1831, during the third general conference of the Church on the Isaac Morley Farm, Joseph Smith Jr. gave the office of high priest to several men present. The bestowal of this office was accompanied with spiritual gifts outlined in revelation (see D&C 35:9). The meeting minutes recount the demonstration of evil spirits possessed by several and the casting out of Satan. Others beheld many manifestation of the Spirit, some beheld the Savior, and many others demonstrated gifts of the Spirit. Taken together, these manifestations constituted in Joseph’s mind an answer to the previous revelation that the Saints would be “endow[ed] with power from on high” (D&C 38:32), when, in fact, this was only the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The second part would be fulfilled with the building of the “house of the Lord” in Kirtland, Ohio.

[11] History of the Church, 1:349–50.

[12] See also D&C 38:27; 105:2–10.

[13] Newel K. Whitney was the bishop of the Church in Kirtland. In this revelation, Whitney was designated as the executor of the Peter French farm. The price for the land was $5,000 for fifty-one acres. The small community of Saints in Kirtland did not have the necessary funds to purchase the land. Instead they arranged to mortgage the property on April 10, 1833. The Church was to pay $2,000 down and pay the outstanding balance of $3,000 in two installments due in April 1834 and April 1835. This parcel of farm land also included a brick kiln and a large three-story brick tavern or inn. The kiln was anticipated to provide bricks for the building.

[14] Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 414. On June 17, 1833, Whitney & Co. became the owner of the fifty-one-acre French farm in behalf of the Church.

[15] Kirtland High Council Minutes, March 23, 1833, 12.

[16] Hyrum Smith Account Book, 7, Joseph Smith Sr. Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections.

[17] History of the Church, 1:352.

[18] Truman O. Angell, Autobiographical Sketch, MS, Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Brigham Young University, 3; cited in Marvin E. Smith, “The Builder,” Improvement Era, October 1942, 630.

[19] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 2:31.

[20] See D&C 95:14–17; 96:2.

[21] Lavina Fielding Anderson, Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001), 580–81. Lucy Mack recalled in 1845 that Joseph Smith asked for the views of the brethren about the design of the house. The consensus was to build a house of logs, which Joseph disabused. Mark L. Staker notes that the design for the Missouri temple had been worked out three weeks later by June 24, 1833, as suggested by the Kirtland High Council. Hearken, O Ye People, 432.

[22] Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches, 202–3, CHL. From loose pages of preliminary manuscript. Lucy indicated that these events took place on a Saturday night and that further construction proceeded beginning on Monday. As June 4, 1833, was a Tuesday, Lucy is either mistaken on her days of the week or is referring to a different meeting.

[23] For a map of the area, see Brandon S. Plewe and others, eds., Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 2012), 31; Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 424.

[24] Lorenzo Dow Young, “Lorenzo Dow Young’s Narrative,” 42. The Young account disagrees with a later reminiscence about George A. Smith, stating that George A. Smith hauled the first full load of stone for the temple on June 5 and that Hyrum and Reynolds “commenced digging the trench for the walls” that same day, a labor in which they persisted until completing the task. This reminiscence regarding the first load of stone is attributed to George A. Smith, but the account in the Manuscript History of the Church is an undated entry in the handwriting of Willard Richards, thus dating the entry from the Nauvoo period. There is no clear indication as to why it was placed on June 5, 1833. See History of the Church, 1:353.

[25] History of the Church, 1:353–54.

[26] Hyrum Smith diary, 1832–33, 14.

[27] Hyrum Smith Account Book, 22.

[28] Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 422.

[29] Artemus Millet Reminiscences, 4, CHL. Most history books report that Brigham Young asked Millet to come to Kirtland, but the Hyrum Smith papers state otherwise. See also Church History in the Fulness of Times, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), 164.

[30] Elwin C. Robinson, The First Mormon Temple: Design, Construction, and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 1997), 33.

[31] Robinson, The First Mormon Temple, 33.

[32] Heber C. Kimball, “Speech Delivered,” Times and Seasons 6, no. 13 (July 15, 1845), 972.

[33] William W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, September 11, 1835, as cited in Clarence L. Fields, History of the Kirtland Temple, 22. The author was unable to locate the original letter despite reviewing numerous letters from William to his wife, including one dated September 11, 1835.

[34] Joseph Young to Lewis Harvey, November 16–18, 1880, CHL.

[35] Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901–36), 4:724. The Lord honored Hyrum’s inspired blessing. In 1847, Lorenzo Young journeyed west, taking with him one of the few milk cows to arrive in Utah that year. According to one biographer, Lorenzo was the first person to cultivate flowers in the Salt Lake Valley. He lived to the ripe age of eighty-eight.

[36] Hyrum Smith account book, 7. He paid $10. Hyrum may have taken a second, four-day trip to Buffalo. Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 13.

[37] Joseph Smith also sent a letter to the Missouri leadership, William W. Phelps, along with a copy of the revelations in D&C 88.

[38]“History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons 5, no. 22 (December 1, 1844): 722.

[39] Joel Hills Johnson, Voice from the Mountains (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor, 1881), 12. Johnson indicated that this happened in the July following the reception of the February 1833 revelation. He also speaks of Joseph and Hyrum coming to “the stand.” If Johnson’s dates are correct, his reference to a stand may indicate a temporary bowery constructed for Church gatherings.

[40] Orlen C. Peterson, “A History of the School and Educational Programs of the Church . . . in Ohio and Missouri, 1831–1839” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972), 24.

[41] See D&C 97:15–17.

[42] Kirtland High Council Minutes, January 15, 1836; Smith, The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2: Journal, 1832–1842, ed. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 2:140–42. The Kirtland High Council Minutes do not mention Hyrum’s participation in these callings, but Joseph Smith’s record does. The History of the Church accords with Joseph’s diary. See History of the Church, 2:368–71.

[43] It should be noted that when the Lord commanded a temple to be constructed in Far West, Missouri, in 1838 that neither Hyrum or members of the First Presidency were to “get in debt any more for the building of a house unto my name” (D&C 115:13).

[44] Besides the building committee’s records, Hyrum had his own account book, which he maintained.

[45] Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Ohio Observer, August 11, 1836, 4. Coe was a contemporary observer; John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints . . . with Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church (St. Louis: n.p., 1839), 21; Elwin C. Robinson, “The Cost of the Kirtland Temple” (paper presented at the Mormon History Association, 2003), 6.

[46] John Taylor to Christopher Dixon, April 27, 1855, CHL.

[47] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 5–22; Hyrum Smith account book, 5–7; Hyrum Smith record book, 5–18. Some of these entries are fragmentary and difficult to date precisely, but when considered together a picture of Hyrum’s activities emerges.

[48] For example, Hyrum was paid $19 for a nineteen-day trip to Connecticut and $30 for a thirty-day trip to New York. See Hyrum Smith account book, 5–7.

[49] Hyrum’s diaries and account books are the best sources for details about his travels. Some of the excursions’ entries were rather brief and at times cryptic, giving only a glimpse into his travels. Other entries were more comprehensive with details about travel, people, subscriptions, and companions.

[50] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 5–7.

[51] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 7–12.

[52] Hyrum Smith account book, 6. A reference with an uncertain date on the previous page may refer to the same trip.

[53] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 12, 17.

[54] Hyrum Smith account book, 5. This seems to have been in May.

[55] Hyrum Smith account book, 6–7.

[56] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 18; Hyrum Smith account book, 6. Hyrum received $2.00 “to go to the south” on July 14 and “started for the south part of Ohio” the same day. He received an additional $3.50 when he returned from his three-day trip on July 17.

[57] Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 22.

[58] Hyrum Smith record book, 11.

[59] Hyrum Smith record book, 13–14.

[60] Noah Packard, “A Synopsis of the Life and Travels of Noah Packard,” 3, CHL.

[61] History of the Church, 2:288.

[62] Hyrum Smith account book, 7. He was paid $10. Hyrum may have taken a second, four-day trip to Buffalo to purchase supplies for the store. Hyrum Smith diary, 1835, 13.

[63] Church History in the Fulness of Times, 164.

[64] History of the Church, 2:463–66; Ebenezer Robinson, “Item of Personal History of the Editor,” 105–6.

[65] Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches, 203.

[66] History of the Church, 6:237.

[67] Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:202–3.

[68] Hyrum Smith to Elias Smith, February 27, 1836.