Lesson 18: “Establish … a House of God” #DandC2017

Sorry this is a little late.

An Endowment

D&C 95:8 Yea, verily I say unto you, 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

When we hear the word “endowment” today, we generally think of the dramatic liturgy we experience in our temple. This is intensified, because we are reading a section about the “Kirtland Temple.” In both cases we are obscuring the revelation. First, they called it the Kirtland House of the Lord. Mormons didn’t refer to it as a Temple until after JS left Kirtland. But more importantly the endowment has a very different meaning here.

Jesus commanded his disciples: “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued”—or clothed—“with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The realization of this endowment was the Day of Pentecost. Earlier in the first year of the church, alluding to the resurrected Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Jerusalem, Joseph Smith revealed the voice of the Lord and dictated that in Kirtland, Ohio some were to be “endowed with power from on high.” [n1] The first endowment of power was when the first elders were ordained to the high priesthood in June 1831.

Before the House of the Lord in Kirtland was finished, Joseph Smith exhorted the recently established Quorum of the Twelve: “you need an endowment brethren in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things, and those that reject your testimony will be damned. The sick will be healed the lame made to walk the deaf to hear and the blind to see through your instrumentality; But let me tell you that you will not have power after the endowment to heal those who have not faith, nor to benifit them[.]” [n2] Despite having ecclesiastical priesthood office, JS directed the Mormon evangelists to tarry in Kirtland until they were filled with the power of God—until they were endowed. In preparation for this endowment of power, JS revealed a set of preparatory rituals administered outside of the temple. In the months before the House of the Lord was ready, church leaders washed with water, anointed with oil, and perfumed with scented alcohol all priesthood officers. [n3] In the days after the first dedication ceremonies for the House of the Lord, these officers then gathered within it for an all-night solemn assembly, where church leaders washed their feet, administered the Lord’s Supper, and experienced great outpourings of pentacostal power—prophecy, glossolalia, visions, and angelic visitation. JS’s diarist summarized these events and then declared: “it was a penticost and enduement indeed, long to be remembered.” [n4] The evangelists were thus prepared to go preach the gospel.

This is the antecedent to the Nauvoo liturgy, which is the basis for our temple practice. In Nauvoo, the liturgy required the incorporation of women, where all were to lay claim to God’s power by finding their place in the cosmic priesthood formed through sealing rituals.

What are we endowed with in the temple today?
And what are we supposed to do with it?

If you are interested in primary accounts of the Kirtland liturgy, check out the Oliver Cowdery Notebook, JS’s journal, the Edward Partridge Journal, The Kirtland EQ minutes, and for the subsequent year, Wilford Woodruff’s journal.

Also, here is a verse from The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning, that is no longer included in the hymnal:

We’ll wash and be wash’d,
and with oil be anointed
Withal not omitting the washing of feet:
For he that receiveth his penny appointed,
Must surely be clean at the harvest of wheat.

The Kirtland House of the Lord
On March 27, 1836, the temple looked a bit different than it does now:

Painted in bright colors, it was visible for miles atop its bluff. Two massive olive-green doors led into the interior. A polycrome [multi-color] tower sported a well-crafted weathervane on top of the building. Earth-red-painted shingles protected the roof; and most stunning of all were the stucco walls, tinged a light cobalt blue, sparkling with shards of glass and porcelain, and set off with dark painted lines to create the impression of cut and polished blue-grey granite. Imported panes of glass glistened in the window. [n5]

Please note that people certainly did not donate their china to be ground up into the stucco.

It was the culmination of years of effort. Several hundred men and women gathered at the Temple doors at 7:00 am, one hour before the dedicatory services were to begin. The service included the reading of psalms, preaching and singing, after which JS read the dedicatory prayer (D&C 109). The dedicatory prayer is one of the few examples of prescribed prayers in Mormonism and was written by a group of five individuals, including JS. The prayer starts in the voice of the supplicants but changes to the voice of the Lord during the course of dedication.

After reading the prayer, the Saints accepted the dedication and then ate the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Many Saints bore witness of the truthfulness of the restoration. Others claimed to have seen angels as Joseph spoke. Several participants spoke in tongues and interpreted. After recording the minutes of the day, including the earliest text of the prayer, JS’s scribes concluded the record with the following: “We then sealed the proceedings of the day by a shouting hosanah to God and the Lamb 3 times sealing it each time with Amen, Amen, and Amen.” And so we have the “Hossanah Shout.”

From D&C 109:

4 And now we ask thee, Holy Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of thy bosom…42 But deliver thou, O Jehovah, we beseech thee, thy servants from their hands, and cleanse them from their blood. 43 O Lord, we delight not in the destruction of our fellow men; their souls are precious before thee…

Who is this prayer delivered to? Why?

vs. 55: “Remember the kings, the princes, the nobles, and the great ones of the earth, and all people, and the churches, all the poor, the needy, and afflicted ones of the earth;”

Do we remember all of these in our prayers and actions?

RE: vs. 73. Note that this is a quote from the Song of Solomon, which the Lord used in previous revelations. Would you quote from the Song of Solomon?

vs. 80: “And let these, thine anointed ones, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy. Amen, and Amen.”

So who are the Lord’s anointed?

Section 110, The Kirtland Vision
Be sure to check out the earliest version of this vision at the JSPP. Note the line in JS’s journal right before this test: “After rising from prayer the following vision was opened to both of them.” See also vss. 11, 13.

Does it matter that it is referred to as a vision?

When Elias is mentioned in the NT, it is Greek for Elijah, yet Elijah is mentioned separately in the next verse. Note that the Bible Dictionary entry for “Elias” is mistaken about the JST of Mark 9:3. The JST does indicate that Elias on the Mount of Transfiguration was John the Baptist (JS vision is, I think best understood in parallel with the Mount). To quote our friend Kevin Barney: “Why would John the Baptist commit the gospel of Abraham to Joseph? Not because he lived in the time of Abraham, obviously, but because he was the last great prophet of the old covenant preceding the time of Christ.” The best discussion of Elias is by Samuel Brown, “The Prophet Elias Puzzle,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 39 (Fall 2006): 1-17.

vss. 13-16. This is generally viewed as being the moment when temple sealings were bestowed on JS. Note however that High Priests had been sealing people up into eternal life since 1831. So what is diffent?

vs. 15. “Turn.” Note that after JS studied some more Hebrew and received more revelation he publically pronounced that this word should be translated as “bind.” What does the use of turn here tell us about inerrancy?


  1. Revelation January 2, 1831, and Revelation, February 1831–A, in JSP D1, 232–233 and 258 [D&C 38:32, 38 and D&C 43:16].
  2. JSP J1, 98 [November 12, 1835].
  3. Samuel M. Brown, In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 157–162.
  4. JSP J1, 215–16 [March 30, 1836]
  5. Staker, Hearken O Ye People, 437.


  1. J.

    Wondering why earlier designated sites get called temple, (see below) then Kirkland is called House of the Lord, Nauvoo as well. Then gets referred to as temple.

    Was there to be a functional difference?

    spot for temple is west of Independence, D&C 57:3.
    spot for temple to be consecrated by Sidney Rigdon, D&C 58:57.
    temple to be built at Zion, Jackson County, D&C 59: Intro.
    temple lot dedicated by Joseph Smith, D&C 84:3.
    temple to be built in New Jerusalem, D&C 84:4.
    temple to be built in this generation, D&C 84:4–5, 31.
    glory of the Lord to rest on temple, D&C 84:5.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    My sense is that the temple in New Jerusalem is eschatologically situated in the early revelations that make it distinct to the Mormons in those first years in ways that were no longer relevant after D&C 124. I think this is evidenced by the way many of the temples in Zion were to be called “Houses of the Lord” in distinction from the center temple.

  3. P. Harbon says:

    If you do a word search of ‘temple’ on the JSP of Joseph’s 1835-36 journal transcript you will find 25 references. What’s your source of it not being called a temple in Kirtland?

  4. P. Harbon says:

    On the washing it is interesting what David Howlett has to say ‘The Kirtland washings and anointing were less structured. Here they were washing feet, and they were washing their bodies with whiskey mixed with cinnamon, to give some aromatic scent to it, and the feel of the whiskey evaporating from the body produced a bodily sensation, too. The Holy Spirit was in that way felt, experienced, and ritually mimicked. Mormons felt they were re-living the ancient order of things, so they were trying to re-create priestly anointings described in the book of Exodus.’

    Click to access Dialogue_V47N01_310.pdf

  5. Also that’s my favorite verse of one of my favorite Phelps tunes; glad you posted it.

    Even though we don’t see eye to eye 100% of the time, you’re my top 1 or 2 posters on the whole ‘nacle.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    P. Harbon, if you do a word search of the 1835-36 journal, you will find almost all of those are references in footnotes. I did a quick look and there are 3 or 4 examples written by JS’s scribes. I think the JSP glossary entry is a concise explanation:


    There are some examples of referring to the Kirtland House of the Lord as a temple, but they are rare. The Historical Introduction of the those journals is a pretty useful place to look at how the JSPP editors use “the House of the Lord.”

  7. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks, jpv!

  8. J. Stapley says:

    P. Harbon, that is right, I think. It is also useful to think of washings and perfuming in the context of the times, when the winter bath hadn’t even been invented yet. The people participating in these rituals hadn’t bathed for months. That is a dramatic cleansing.

  9. P. Harbon says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I teach this class today in Sunday school. The BCC write up is usually my first point of call in preparation, so really appreciate the perspectives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcUTiHRCkoU After showing this short video I intend to talk about the Kirtland temple experience and how it was different from how we see the temple now. I find it fascinating how Joseph Smith’s temple theology evolved and the various influences on this ideas, masonry etc…

  10. Nice work, J. Enjoyed the extra verse. Wish they would put it back.

  11. Thanks for this, J. Really great, practical, and worthwhile questions you’re asking here.

  12. So…what we today consider the temple rite was actually something they did prior to going into the temple, where they then received spiritual revelation, which was the actual “endowment”, not so much the physical activity we do today? Maybe that’s a dumb question- I’m just trying to understand this both in context for the time, and how it relates to today.

  13. Mike W. says:

    you’re falling behind, I have a lesson to prepare…

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