LDS service held in Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple - scene of several divine manifestations to Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders - was the location Nov. 6 for an LDS Church worship meeting, believed to be the first in the temple in 140 years.

The service was in connection with an annual priesthood leadership training meeting and mission presidents seminar in the Church's North America Northeast Area. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which owns and operates the temple, granted permission to the area presidency to hold the worship service in the temple.Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve presided at the service, and Elder Cree-L Kofford of the Seventy conducted. Speakers included Elder Kofford, area president; and his first counselor, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy. The second counselor, Elder Vaughn J Featherstone of the Seventy, also attended but left the area training meeting to conduct a stake conference in the Syracuse New York Stake.

Also speaking at the service were Elder Rex D. Pinegar and Elder Joe J. Christensen, both of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, president of the New York Rochester Mission.

Elder Ballard, the concluding speaker, commended the RLDS leaders for their willingness to share the temple and cited the warm relationship between the two churches. He also paid tribute to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, whose efforts largely resulted in the building of the temple. Elder Ballard is a descendant of Hyrum Smith who was chairman of the Kirtland Temple building committee and older brother of the Prophet Joseph.

The meeting, Elder Ballard noted, represented a major step by the RLDS Church to reach out to other groups and share the building for worship and inspiration.

The service in the temple was a highlight for the 150 leaders attending the area training meeting. Many expressed that the intensity of the Spirit must have been reminiscent of meetings held in the temple a century and a half ago. Leaders at the area training meeting included regional representatives, temple presidents, mission presidents, and stake and district presidents from 108 stakes and districts and 24 missions in the North America Northeast Area.

The area training meeting was held Nov. 5-6. One mission presidents seminar was held Nov. 7-9 and another Nov. 10-12.

Meetings for the mission presidents were held at the Kirtland Stake Center. Afterward, the presidents assembled at the Isaac Morley farm in Kirtland, where Sections 45-48; 52-56; and 63-64 of the Doctrine and Covenants were received. At the farm some of those revelations were read and some of the major events that occurred on the farm were reviewed. The events include a vision to Joseph Smith and two others of the Father and Son in 1831.

Other sites visited during the area training meetings included the Newel K. Whitney Store, which served as Church headquarters for about a year and a half in 1832-33; and the John Johnson home, where Joseph Smith Sr. was called as the first patriarch and where the Evening and Morning Star was published after the destruction of the printing office in Missouri. Tours of the facilities were directed by Karl Anderson, a resident of Cleveland and a long-time student of Kirtland.

Elder Ballard later reflected: "This was a great opportunity for General Authorities to carry the message from the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve to all the regional representatives, mission presidents and temple presidents in the Northeast Area.

"Deep spiritual feelings were felt by everyone as we read from the Doctrine and Covenants at various sites. We felt deeply what the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced as the Church was restored through him."

Elder Kofford pointed out that since the Saints left Kirtland in the 1840s there has not been a meeting in the temple presided over by LDS Church priesthood leaders, and that made for a "tremendous spiritual experience."

"I think even greater than that," he added, "was the opportunity to be in the temple under the direction of the priesthood and partake of the sacrament, which was an almost overwhelmingly spiritual experience."

The sacrament portion of the service was also a highlight for Elder Kikuchi, who noted that Elder Ballard, an apostle of the Lord, blessed the sacrament in the temple as his ancestor Hyrum Smith had done.

Elder Kikuchi, who helped pass the sacrament, said, "We sat, possibly, right beneath the spot where the Savior appeared to Joseph and Oliver."

Significant for him as a convert to the Church born in Japan, he said, was Elder Ballard's reading of D&C 110, particularly verse 9, which states: "And the fame of this house [meaning the templeT shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people."

Elder Christensen noted, "Visiting the Kirtland Temple and surrounding significant Church history sites expanded my appreciation and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and what the members of the Church accomplished there against great odds."

Elder Pinegar said, "Being there in that sacred place under the authority of Elder Ballard as apostle brought a feeling of spirit and authenticity to all that has been recorded in the scriptures regarding that temple and its dedication." The emotional impact was so strong, he said, "We were almost unable to speak or sing, although that opportunity was afforded us."

Elder Pinegar said a particularly touching moment came when Elder Ballard, in front of the congregation, embraced Lachlan MacKay, a direct descendant of Joseph Smith and director of the Kirtland Temple for the RLDS Church who attended the service. Thus, descendants of the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum, were united in the sacred temple setting.

The Kirtland Temple is significant in Church history as the place where, wrote the Prophet, "I beheld . . . the throne of God whereon was seated the Father and the Son." During the week of Jan. 21-28, 1836, part of the temple endowment was introduced to key leaders and to Melchizedek Priesthood quorums in an unparalleled Pentecostal outpouring. On March 30 of that year, while approximately 300 Church leaders and stake members were in the temple, the Savior appeared to some while angels ministered to others, the Prophet wrote. On April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery "saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit," on the occasion of the temple dedication.

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