Endowment and Eucharist Part II

This is the second part in JKC’s guest series discussing his perspective on the Endowment. Part I is here.

In the last Part, I explained that there was an endowment in Kirtland, but that to find it, we may need to be prepared to look for something that does not necessarily resemble the ceremony that we know today as the endowment. This Part is my attempt to find the principles of the endowment in the Kirtland revelations.

II: Finding the endowment in the Kirtland revelations.

Jesus’s statement that the saints were endowed when the Kirtland temple was dedicated (Doctrine and Covenants 110:9) is not the first time that the word endowment was used in connection with the Kirtland temple. In fact, the endowment of power was anticipated almost from the moment that the church was organized, and was a major focus of the revelations between 1830 and 1837.

Within only about nine months after the church was formally organized in April of 1830, the revelations were already speaking of the endowment that would be given in Kirtland. In December 1830, a revelation directed the saints to gather in Ohio (Doctrine and Covenants 37). A few days later, Jan. 2, 1831, the command to gather was explained in more detail. In particular, the revelation explained that the saints were to gather in Ohio for a specific purpose: for the Lord to reveal his law to the saints, and for the saints to be “endowed with power from on high” (Doctrine & Covenants 38:32).

Accordingly, when Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, the saints in Kirtland were almost immediately directed to assemble themselves together to receive the law, which, they had been promised, would prepare them to be “endowed from on high” (Doctrine & Covenants 41:1-3). In these early revelations, the promise of the Lord’s presence was also closely connected with the promise of the law and the promised endowment (Doctrine & Covenants 38:22; Doctrine & Covenants 41:4).

A few days later, in February 1831, the law was given to the saints in Kirtland as the first part of what is now section 42. It would be reiterated and supplemented a few weeks later, in what is now the latter portion of section 42. What is now section 59 was given to the saints in Zion, Missouri, later that year, in August, and, I believe, functions as the law that was given to the saints in Zion in the same way as the law (section 42) given to the saints in Kirtland.[1]

This law was supposed to prepare the saints for the endowment. The revelation rebuking Hiram Page for his purporting to receive revelation for the church succinctly sums up the importance of the law and the anticipated endowment. Referring to the law, the revelation said: “thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.” The revelation continued “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be endowed with power” (Doctrine & Covenants 43:9, 16). References like this to the law, binding oneself to act according to the law, becoming sanctified by receiving the law, and the endowment of power, are riddled through the Kirtland revelations. (See, e.g., Doctrine and Covenants 38:22, 32, 38; 41:3-5; 42:2; 43:9, 16; 88:34; 95:8; 105:11-12, 18, 33.)

So what did the law entail? Among other things, these Kirtland-era revelations refer repeatedly to the principles of, among other things, obedience (Doctrine & Covenants 42:2; 59:3), sacrifice (Doctrine & Covenants 59:8; 84:31), chastity (Doctrine & Covenants 42:22-26, 75-81; 59:6), purity, holiness, and refraining from speaking evil of fellow saints (Doctrine & Covenants 42: 40-41; 88-92; 59:9; 88:68-69, 121, ), refraining from excessive laughter (Doctrine & Covenants 59:15; 88:69), and consecration of money and property to the poor (Doctrine & Covenants 42:30-39; 72:9-12). But the law was not an end unto itself. Rather, the point of the law was that by receiving it and binding themselves to obey it, the saints would become sanctified and be ready to receive an endowment of power and the presence of God. (E.g., Doctrine & Covenants 88:34.)[2]

Anyway, these references seem to appear with increasing detail and increasing urgency, culminating in the “Olive leaf” (now section 88), which also introduced ordinances of washing, as a symbol of the saints becoming sanctified and “clean from the blood of this wicked generation” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:21, 74-75, 138-39).

The saints were repeatedly promised that as they became sanctified through the law, they would receive an endowment from on high and that, together with that endowment, they would also receive the Lord’s presence. For example, in a June 1833 revelation rebuking the saints in Zion for failing to build the temple as they had been directed to do (see Doctrine & Covenants 57), the church leadership was commanded instead to build the temple in Kirtland (see Doctrine and Covenants 95). Again, the Lord reiterates that the purpose of building the temple was to have a place where the Lord would endow his saints with power from on high. (Doctrine & Covenants 95:8; see also Doctrine & Covenants 97:15-16 (reiterating that the Lord’s presence would be revealed in the temple)).

And after the crisis in Missouri, the saints were told that they could not possess the promised land until they had first become sanctified and endowed with power from on high (Doctrine & Covenants 105). It is significant, I think, that the revelations attribute the disaster in Missouri to the failure to first obtain the endowment of power. I think that helps illustrate how significant the anticipated endowment was to the church in the early 1830s, or at least, how significant it was supposed to be, had they taken it more seriously. Becoming sanctified and receiving the endowment was a major focus of the revelations in the early to mid 1830s, and arguably Joseph Smith’s major project from just after the church was organized until the temple was dedicated.

The temple was not finally finished until March 1836. Given that the purpose of the temple was to be a place where the Lord would be revealed, and the endowment of power would come, it is not surprising that in the prayer dedicating the temple, Joseph Smith asked the Lord, among other things, to fulfill his promise to endow the saints with power, culminating with the plea, repeated three times, that the Lord hear the saint’s petitions: “O hear, O hear, O hear us, O Lord! And answer these petitions” (Doctrine & Covenants 109:78).

And what was it that they were petitioning for? To be given the promised endowment: that the saints, the “anointed ones” would be “clothed with salvation” (Doctrine & Covenants 109:80). Given that the word “endued,” which was often used interchangeably with “endowed” is a synonym with “clothed,” and in light of the way the endowment had been anticipated over the 5 previous years, I think it is fair to read this final plea of the dedicatory prayer as a plea for the promised endowment of power from on high. In making this petition, I think Joseph and the Kirtland saints were not expecting it to be answered with a new ceremony, but with a pentecostal manifestation. Because of our experiences with the modern endowment liturgy, we often think of the endowment in terms of a highly ceremonial combination of ordinances. But I think it is fair to say that the early saints, who lacked experience with such a ceremony, probably expected the promised endowment more in terms of the New Testament day of pentecost (cf. Luke 24:49).

Stories of the pentecostal outpouring that followed the temple dedication have become famous in Mormon history. Many saints regarded those manifestations as the fulfilment of the promise of an endowment from on high — illustrating that they thought of the endowment in terms of the New Testament pentecost, not in terms of the temple liturgy that we call the endowment. And Jesus seems to confirms this idea when he himself says after the dedication that his saints had been endowed in the Kirtland temple (Doctrine & Covenants 110:9).[3] So the endowment itself is not (just) the temple liturgy; rather, the temple liturgy is the ceremonial form that the endowment takes now, but the endowment itself is the outpouring of the Holy Ghost that ceremony is supposed to trigger–perhaps it could be considered a furthering of the instruction given in the ordinance of the laying on of hands: “receive the Holy Ghost.”

So yes, it is true that the liturgy that we know today as the endowment ceremony was not developed until several years later, in Nauvoo. But the essential the principles of the endowment (becoming clean and sanctified before God, receiving principles of obedience, sacrifice, holiness, chastity, and consecration, binding ourselves to act according to those principles, and receiving God’s presence) were all present in Kirtland, even if they did not yet take the liturgical form that they would later take in Nauvoo.

Next Part: a new perspective on the endowment.


[1] The “law” states that if the saints observed the laws that they had received, they would “hereafter receive church covenants, such as shall be sufficient to establish you, both here and in the New Jerusalem” (Doctrine & Covenants 42:67). I believe that this indicates that the revelation of the “law” was perhaps largely symbolic, and that the “law” that would sanctify the saints and prepare them for the endowment was not contained in that initial revelation of the law, but that it would be supplemented both in other revelations to the saints in Kirtland, such as the latter portion of section 42, section 88, and others, and also in revelations to the saints in Zion, such as section 59.

[2] As a side note, there are parallels to Moses here, which are fairly obvious (the church being called out into the wilderness to be sanctified and receive the divine law from a prophet), but perhaps less obviously, by calling to mind Moses, these revelations might also call to mind Paul’s interpretation of Moses. If I am right that the law was not an end unto itself, but rather a tool towards sanctification, I see a possible parallel to Paul’s reading of Moses that the law was a “schoolmaster” to bring the saints to Christ (cf. Galatians 3:24).

[3] Some have characterized the introduction of the washing ordinances in the School of the Prophets as an endowment which preceded the Kirtland endowment in 1836, and some have made similar arguments about the ordination of high priests in 1831. I don’t wholly disagree, but I think rather than separate endowments, these events make more sense as part of a whole endowment experience that began in late 1830 but was not complete until the 1836 temple dedication. I think this makes sense given the statements in section 105 that the church had failed to obtain the endowment and in 110 that the endowment had been poured out “in this house.”


  1. I didn’t expect to feel affection for the temple again any time soon. I have a lot of love for these people seeking the Lord, and trying to figure out the form their spiritual experiences would take. Thanks so much, JKC, keep ’em coming.

  2. I know I may be annoying on this point, but I think that that the June 1831 conference with the revelation of the High Priesthood was understood at the time be a fulfillment of the earlier promises.

  3. Not annoying, J. Stapely.

    Anyway, I think you’re right that the 1831 high priesthood ordinations were seen at the time by some as a fulfillment of at least the early mentions of the promised endowment, I’m not sure how widespread that view was at the time, but it was the view of at least some. But you probably know the history better than I do.

    So maybe the 1831 high priesthood ordinations, the 1833 school of the prophets, and the 1836 temple dedication were separate successive endowments, or maybe they were intermediate steps toward an endowment that was not completed until 1836. I favor the latter view, only because the revelations after the high priesthood ordinations continued to speak of the endowment as something that had not happened yet, and continued speaking of it that way until section 110, when it is referred to as something that had happened. Or maybe they were seen as separate when they happened, but in 1836, in hindsight, they were seen as part of an integrated whole.

    But I don’t think I have to be dogmatic on that point, either. And really, maybe the difference isn’t much more than semantic. While I think we have to think about how the saints at the time saw it, my point is not just to think about how the saints saw it at the time, but to look at how the revelations treated it. The first question can help answer the second, but they may not always be the same.

  4. Clark Goble says:

    I think the place of D&C 88 is extremely important in all this. It’s kind of central for the evolution from Kirtland to Nauvoo. It’s also interestingly one of the more fascinating ties that tie all this back to the Book of Mormon as well.

  5. I concur with Clark. I view 88 as the re-framing of expectations – redefining pentecostal endowment by adding a structural overlay of stratified heavenly kingdoms, and connecting those kingdoms to sanctification in the Lord’s house.

    Great series. Thank you for your efforts.

  6. oleablossom, If these two posts have kindled or rekindled affection towards the temple or the early saints, I’m calling them a success. :)

    thor and Clark, I agree section 88 is important. But if it’s going to be the transition between Kirtland and Nauvoo, isn’t a bit weird that it comes three years before the 1836 temple dedication when the Kirtland endowment is complete, rather than after it? Maybe the point is that JS was already thinking several steps ahead and the already moving on to the next phase before the church had even caught up with his vision. Or maybe it’s just that it held seeds that would germinate into a transition later (much like Clark’s comments about Alma 12-13 as touching on themes that would only be fully developed much later).

  7. I’m really loving this series. Keep ’em coming.

  8. This should be the temple prep class. Much to think about.

  9. I like it. Good stuff.

  10. Clark Goble says:

    Yeah the question about timing is something I haven’t a clue on – especially since the differences in Kirtland weren’t that great from what I could see between the first and last endowments. I think it’s a necessary expansion opening up the cosmology. What’s seen primarily as priestly in Kirtland becomes cosmological in Nauvoo. D&C 88 ends up introducing that cosmology which Nauvoo and the Book of Abraham fill in.

  11. This is really good stuff. Keep up this brilliant, thoughtful work.

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