Power from on high

On Sunday, March 27, 1836, 416 saints pressed into the temple at Kirtland. President Rigdon read the 96th and 24th Psalms after which a choir sang. President Rigdon spoke on revelation and the power to seal. The choir sang again and Joseph Smith was sustained as a Prophet, Seer and Revelator by the various quorums and then the saints together.

After more singing and a twenty minute intermission Joseph spoke and then asked for a sustaining of the entire presidency as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators then the Quorum of the Twelve as such. He asked for the Seventies to be sustained:

I next called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the presidents of Seventies, who act as their representatives, as Apostles and special witnesses to the nations, to assist the Twelve in opening the Gospel kingdom among all people, and to uphold them by their prayers, which they did by rising. (HC 2:418)

Joseph continued the sustaining of the various quorums down to the Deacons. After a few more words of prophecy, Joseph read the dedicatory prayer, now contained in Section 109 of our Doctrine and Covenants. This is one of the few prayers received by revelation; moreover a group of five, including the First Presidency, helped receive it. It switches from the voice of the supplicants to the voice of the Lord and is one of the greatest models for our communal aspirations:

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;

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;

Further they prayed, seeking the endowment from on high:

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;

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.

We know their prayer was answered:

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.

35 Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high.

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.

37 And let thy house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory.

After reading this, Joseph asked the saints if they accepted the dedication, which they did. They partook of the bread and wine, which was blessed by Don Carlos, and they bore testimony. They witnessed of seeing angels as Joseph spoke. Brigham spoke in tongues and Elder Patten interpreted. Joseph recorded:

Brother George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place. This continued until the meeting closed at eleven p. m. (HC 2:428

In the days after, Joseph administered what we have come to call the Kirtland endowment — washing, anointing and the washing of the feet.


  1. Sounds like quite a meeting. Would have been nice to be there, but perhaps this is as close as I can come to being there. Thanks for the review.

  2. I find it amazing that within 1 year after these events, as Samuel Taylor put it, this “spiritual ecstacy had curdled.”

    Wile the collapse of the Kirtland bank was looming, Joseph was out of town on business. Emma and the children attended a meeting in the temple’s main hall, accompanied by John Taylor. As the meeting was about to begin, Warren Parrish and John Boynton, both now against Joseph Smith, whispered with other discontents in the pews. When Joseph Smith, Sr., began speaking to the crowd, accusing certain members of lack of faith, Parrish and Boynton shouted back. David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, sitting in the pulpit, also began attacking Joseph, David complaining that Joseph had revised D&C passages without the use of the seer stone, Oliver complaining about Joseph’s relationship with Fannie Alger. Voices from the congregation then threatened David and Oliver.

    Suddenly Parrish physically attacked Joseph Sr. and they fought hand-to-hand. Joseph Sr., now weakened with age, called on Oliver to assist him, but Oliver refused. William Smith sprang to his father’s defense. Then Boynton unsheathed his sword and threatened to run William through. Confusion erupted in the main hall of the temple as bowie knives flashed and pistols were drawn.

    Taylor led Emma and the children away from the violence while others were running around frantically, screaming and jumping out of windows to escape the riot. A stove pipe was knocked over, soot and smoke filling the hall. Taylor kicked a pistol from a man’s hand and grabbed another’s holding a knife to subdue him.

    The fight was soon over and Parrish and Boynton kicked out. The windows and doors were opened to clear the air and the meeting began again.

    This is the story as reported in a fabulous book: The Last Pioneer: John Taylor, A Mormon Prophet, by Samuel Taylor (Signature Books, 30-31). Whether Samuel Taylor uses too many tools of fiction in his historical works is at issue, but you can’t find a better read.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Ed, I had similar thoughts come to mind, and I find it of little coincidence that some of the most destructive and frightening moments of our history come on the heels of some of the most enlightened.

  4. J.,

    Sharp post, as always. (If I didn’t have photographic evidence to the contrary, I would be starting to wonder if you’re Justin Butterfield.)


    I think you’re exactly right, and the pattern is actually kind of scary. More so, as I read your comment it occurs to me that the trend is not just historical, it’s personal. Some of the most problematic moments in my own life seem to follow immediately after some of the most uplifting – and I’ve known other people who seem to follow the same pattern.

  5. Kaimi, & Steve, same with me.

    J., I was baptized in the Kirtland stake, and consequently have spent a lot of time in and around the temple and other historical sites, and so I’ve thought a lot about this great pentacostal period. (I decided to be baptized at the John Johnson Home & was baptized in the river where Joseph baptized when he lived there.) We now, so far removed from such wonders by time, scratch our heads and ask how anyone, after witnessing such great and marvellous things could fall away.

    Everyone, in the right circumstances, will rewrite their understanding, reframing their entire experience of a person or an event to better fit their current world view. We choose how we remember any given experience. It’s up to us how we decide to take it. Thus, experience can be written off with little more than some quick editing. What was once sure and sweet stirrings of truth become ‘getting caught up in a moment,’ and such.

    Remember that experiencing these amazing events would have been *out there* to say the least. When was the last time you happened to see a spiritual manifestation? A visitation? Rushing winds and pillars of fire? I can totally see why this great outpouring would freak people out, even the people who were there and part of it. We are weak creatures. Maybe the supernatural qualities of their experience scared them.

    There is also the distinct correlation between great progress in the Lord’s work and great effort to counteract it by the adversary. Maybe he used those human fears; maybe he exploited the tendency to reframe.

    As for the endowment. I’ve been through the top floor of the Kirtland temple several times, and yeah, suffice it to say that there’s five rooms with two doors in the walls between each. Of course, nothing bugs the CoC tour guides more than the word “endowment.” Hahaha!

  6. One other bit: D&C 109 has some odd rhetorical aspects, based upon modern day assumptions. You’ll note that “Holy Father” is addressed in prayer followed by “Jehovah.”

    This is an apparent early statement of loose Deity designations that occurred the Widtsoe/Talmage/Roberts reworking of LDS doctrines when several aspects of Deity were later harmonized.

  7. Last post is missing “occurred before.”

  8. Thanks Naiah, for some contemporary connection to the place.

    Ed, you point out some very interesting aspects of that period. Just about everything in that meeting doesn’t fit with with the modern Mormon world-view. I love these little pieces, Jehova/Father as the recipient of the prayer. Seventies as Apostles. Speaking in tongues.

    And your account of the latter meeting is tragic and poignant. Also something foreign to the modern world view. Thanks.

  9. I grew up outside Kirtland and as a youth, enjoyed watching the ‘devolution’ of the RLDS/CoC temple tours. I remember a guide once saying, “that’s where we think he saw Alvin when he received this revelation”. Now they’re trying to hide the BoM.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    J., at the end of your post I think you meant “Kirtland” in lieu of the Freudian slip of “Nauvoo.” Interesting post, as always.

  11. Woops, thanks for that. It is now fixed.