Kirtland Temple (Kirtland, Ohio)
I have some lovely friends in Cleveland, Ohio who I recently stayed with. Kirtland, Ohio – home of the first Latter Day Saints temple – happens to be just to the east. I’ve been interested in going to a LDS temple since last year, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the first one. On June 13th, I made a quick trip out there.
Although the LDS movement organized in New York, it quickly outgrew the space and moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Here, they set up their own community. The LDS members here were impoverished, and most of their wealth went towards supplies for building the temple. It was completed in 1834 and dedicated by Joseph Smith – the leader of the LDS movement – in 1836.
House of the Lord
Built by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. A.D. 1834
Nowadays, the temple is owned by the Community of Christ, a smaller offshoot of Joseph Smith’s movement. Because the Community of Christ doesn’t follow similar temple uses as mainstream Mormons, the temple is available for all to visit. The temple is no longer in active use, although services are occasionally held for special events (like Easter), and can also be requested for weddings. Although the Community of Christ owns and operates the temple, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also has a visitor’s center in the area and maintains some of the other historical buildings, such as the community’s inn, schoolhouse, and sawmill. You’ll also notice that the Kirtland Temple lacks many of the facilities discussed earlier as being common to LDS temples. This is because the theology associated with those ordinances hadn’t been revealed at the time the Kirtland Temple was constructed.
One of my favorite parts of this temple is the symmetry. I have a thing for it, and so it’s my photographic joy to take pictures of beautiful, simple, symmetric buildings.
Heading towards the back of the temple, you’ll end up in a small garden area that’s pushed right up against the back of the temple. You can also get a look at some of the larger windows that provided a good deal of sunlight for the meeting rooms.
Photography isn’t allowed inside of the temple, so several of the following pictures are scanned postcards I purchased afterwards. These were all taken by Val Brinkerhoff and have her copyright. Apologies in advance for the grainy quality.
You can see below that the temple is fairly tall – 3 stories, with the top story akin to a finished attic space.
When you enter the front of the building (the only entrance), you end up in a foyer area. The picture below is taken on the second floor, but you can see that the large arched window illuminates both floors.
Starting up in the attic, there are a series of rooms that were used for schooling the children. This last room pictured below was also sometimes used for smaller meetings with some of the community leaders.
The next two floors are meeting rooms used by everyone. They’re practically identical (except for a few features), so I’ll talk about them together.
Both meeting rooms have the same layout: pulpits for the Aaronic Priesthood on the west side (the front of the building), pulpits for the Melchizedek Priesthood on the east side (the back of the building), choir lofts flanking the pulpits on either side, and pews in-between.
I talked a little about these two LDS priesthoods earlier, but the main point to keep in mind for this temple is that the Aaronic Priesthood is made up of people who teach the faith, and the Melchizedek Priesthood is made up of those who lead in the faith. As you can see in the above picture, the pews are built a bit like boxes. There’s a bench inside each one which is unattached from the floor. So, during times of worship, everyone can move their benches against the west wall to face the Melchizedek Priesthood, and against the east wall for teaching by the Aaronic Priesthood.
One particular about the second floor is the addition of desks that run the length of the pew. They are only on the west side of the pews, and can be flipped up or down. This way, when the people are learning from the Aaronic Priesthood, they have a writing surface, but the ability to flip them down later on means they won’t get in the way when facing the Melchizedek Priesthood.
It’s a bit subtle in the above pictures, but the boxes of pews are roughly divided into four quadrants. Although it was never completed, the architects of the Kirtland Temple had installed the beginnings of a divider system. Using pulleys in the support columns, a curtain could be moved to separate the pews into halves, or even further into quarters, in case the room needed to be used for multiple purposes simultaneously.
Speaking of the columns, the ones here have all of their detailing done by hand out of small pieces of wood, a long affair. The result is beautiful though.
A full tour of the site includes a self-guided museum (15-30 minutes), a movie about LDS history (20 minutes) and a tour of the temple (30 minutes). I had some time constraints, so one of the guides graciously offered to just give me a tour of the temple by myself. This was great, because then I could ask all of my nerdy questions without feeling bad for the rest of the group! There’s a $3 preservation fee to visit the temple, but it’s well worth it – they’ve done a great job keeping it up. Be sure to check out their website if you plan on visiting for their times throughout the year – they change based on the month.