Schooling period escalates as prophet settles in Ohio

It was a cold winter day when Joseph Smith; his wife, Emma; Sidney Rigdon; and Edward Partridge arrived by sleigh in front of the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, Ohio.

Alighting from the sleigh, the athletic figure of Joseph bounded into the store and extended his hand to the owner. He exclaimed, "Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man!" Seeing Newel so confused at being known by a stranger, Joseph assured and amazed Newel with his reply: "I am Joseph, the Prophet...You've prayed me here; now what do you want of me?"1Thinking back to a particularly ardent prayer that he and his wife, Elisabeth, had uttered in their home some time before, Newel was now witness to the literal fulfillment of the promised prayer. How he must have been amazed at the seership of the prophet of God then standing before him. How did Joseph know? How could he possibly know what Newel and his beloved Elizabeth had prayed for that night? It was on this sacred occasion that the Holy Spirit descended upon them and a cloud overshadowed their house. From out of the cloud a voice proclaimed, "Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming." 2

How often before had Joseph Smith astonished others with his seeric vision and how many times in the future would he do the same? A grandson of Brother Whitney later related in general conference his feelings about this event: "By what power did this remarkable man, Joseph Smith, recognize one whom he had never before seen in the flesh? Why did not Newel K. Whitney recognize him? It was because Joseph Smith was a seer, a choice seer; he had actually seen Newel K. Whitney upon his knees, hundreds of miles away, praying for his coming to Kirtland. Marvelous-- but true!" 3

Six months pregnant with her second child, Emma was glad to be able to rest after a long and tiresome journey. The few weeks spent in the Whitney home must have been a comfort to her, and she must also have been pleased with the announcement that in fulfillment of the Lord's injunction (see D&C 41:7), the newly baptized Saints were to construct a home for her and the Prophet on the Issac Morely farm just one mile northeast of the Whitney home and store.

Their experience at this farm brought both much joy and much sadness to them. They joy came when Emma gave birth to twins, who, they hoped, would replace the loss of their first son, Alvin; but this was quickly followed by sadness when the twins died a short time after birth. The sadness was partially compensated in the news of the opportunity to adopt the twins of John and Julia Murdock, born the day after. Whereas Joseph and Emma lost their twins, John lost his wife in childbirth. It was with some reluctance but also a sense of gratification that John Murdock consented to the request of the Prophet to let him and Emma adopt the twins and provide for them a home. They were named Joseph, after the Prophet, and Julia, after their biological mother. Now Joseph and Emma's longing for children was partially satisfied.

Kirtland was the schooling period for Joseph Smith as New York had been the foundation for him. Probably no period of training and instruction of the Prophet was more intense than that which occurred in Ohio. It was here that the Lord taught him the basic doctrines of the Restoration. Here, he received more revelations than at any other time in his life, such as revelations on the priesthood and the organization of the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood quorums. Here occurred the organization of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve and the Seventies, as well as where the first stake presidency, high council and all other priesthood quorums were organized. The first patriarch was also called in Kirtland. Here the first temple was constructed, and here Joseph Smith received those keys that fulfill the mission of the Church: missionary work, family history and temple work, and the perfecting of the Saints.

Some of the greatest outpourings of the Spirit occurred while the Prophet resided in Ohio. In New York the Prophet had received the First Vision and visitations from Moroni, but in Ohio he was privileged to see the Father and the Son on several occasions and to enjoy many visits from the Savior.

In Ohio, Joseph Smith produced under the inspiration of the Lord a number of important additions to our scriptural library. A special conference in Hiram voted to publish the revelations given to the Prophet. The attempt to accomplish this in Jackson County, Mo., was thwarted by a mob, which destroyed the press and most of the copies of the Book of Commandments. The revelations came to light for the first time in complete form in the Doctrine and Covenants, which was published in Kirtland in 1835.

Michael Chandler sold to Joseph Smith the papyri from which the book of Abraham was translated and here the translation was begun. Much of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible was also completed in Ohio. A second edition of the Book of Mormon was published. Emma Smith compiled and the Church published the first hymnal of the Church.

The Prophet greatly expanded missionary work while he resided in Kirtland. With renewed energy, missionaries again took the gospel outside the United States into Canada, some of the missions being personally undertaken by the Prophet during his most active missionary period. The missionary work became truly worldwide when he called Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde and others to serve a mission to the British Isles.

To prepare missionaries for this widely expanded proselyting effort, the Lord instructed Joseph to begin the School of the Prophets. The school was held during several winter months, beginning in the winter of 1832-33.

Here the "first laborers" in the kingdom were tutored by the Prophet. Great outpourings of the Spirit attended this first school. It was her on March 18, 1833, that Joseph Smith gave the keys of the kingdom to Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams as had been pledged by the Lord in D&C 90:6. The Prophet promised on this occasion "that the pure in heart should see a heavenly vision; and after remaining a short time in secret prayer, the promise was verified; for many present had the eyes of their understanding opened by the Spirit of God, so as to behold many things...Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior, and concourses of angels, and many other things, of which each one has a record of what he saw." 4

The Word of Wisdom was received here and implemented among the leaders of the Church. This revelation promised "great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" and further declared that "the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them." (D&C 89:19,21.) Few things about the Church are better known in the world today than the principles of the Word of Wisdom, and especially the low death rate it brings to Latter-day Saints.

There was probably no greater training of future leaders of the Church than that which came during this Ohio period. The Saints began to understand and comprehend a little better the life and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The School of the Prophets began this process and was enhanced when many future leaders marched in Zion's Camp from Ohio and Michigan to redeem the Saints in Missouri. What invaluable training these men received during this time of close, around-the-clock contact with the Prophet. The marchers saw his seership firsthand.

Joseph was told to intensify the translation of the Bible until it was finished. (See D&C 73:3-4.) With the continuation of this work they were now ready to receive the "great things" (D&C 45:62) the Lord had promised.

Joseph and Sidney had arrived at John 5:29 in their translation of the Bible. As they worked on this verse, they marveled at the new information the Lord revealed to them. Meditating upon what they had learned, "The Lord touched the eyes of

theirT understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about." (D&C 76:19.)

Then unfolded one of the great visions of all time. Truly this was a "transcript from the records of the eternal world."5 Herein were revealed the eternal possibilities for God's children. In this vision the Prophet saw the Father and the Son and Joseph and Sidney received of the Lord's fulness. So moved were they by this experience that they bore this powerful witness: "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God." (D&C 76:22-23.)

Philo Dibble, who was present on this glorious occasion, recorded what took place. Although the 12 or so other people in the room at the time did not see the same visions, they "saw the glory and felt the power" present on that occasion. Periodically during this experience, which lasted around an hour, Joseph would say, "What do I see?" and then relate what he had seen and was looking at. Sidney would then remark, "I see the same." Then Sidney would ask the same question, describing what he was seeing; Joseph would reply in the same manner as Sidney, "I see the same."

Philo said in review of this glorious experience:

"This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by another person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision, Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which Joseph remarked, smilingly, `Sidney is not used to it as I am.' "6

This vision was further expanded and clarified in another vision received in the Kirtland Temple before its dedication. On the evening of Jan. 21, 1836, the First Presidency met in the west room of the attic of the temple for the purpose of administering the ordinance of anointing. After Joseph received a blessing under the hands of the rest of the First Presidency, the heavens were opened, and once again he saw the Father and the Son, as well as past prophets, his parents, and his brother Alvin, all in the celestial kingdom.

From this vision he learned that "all who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God." (D&C 137:7.) He further learned, "All children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven." (D&C 137:10.) This knowledge was a precursor of the greater knowledge he would receive in Nauvoo: the reason those who die without a knowledge of the gospel can be heirs to the celestial kingdom is the principle of vicarious work for the dead. (See D&C 124:128.)

But the climax of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit in Ohio was the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. An estimated 1,000 people attended the dedication on March 27, 1836. It was a time of great rejoicing. Dedicatory anthems were sung, including "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning," which was written for the occasion. The sacrament was administered. The inspired dedicatory prayer became the pattern for all subsequent temple dedications. In it, the Prophet pleaded with the Lord for the visible manifestation of His divine presence as in the Tabernacle of Moses, at Solomon's temple, and on the day of Pentecost, "And let thy house be filled as with a rushing mighty wind, with thy glory." (D&C 109:37; compare Ex. 29:43; 33:9-10; 2 Chr. 7:1-3; Acts 2:1-4.)

Many recorded the fulfillment of that prayer. Eliza R. Snow wrote: "The ceremonies of that dedication may be rehearsed, but no mortal language can describe the heavenly manifestations of that memorable day. Angels appeared to some, while a sense of divine presence was realized by all present, and each heart was filled with joy inexpressible and full of glory."7 After the prayer, the entire congregation rose and, with hands uplifted, shouted hosannas.

The climax of the spiritual outpouring occurred on April 3, 1836, when the Savior appeared in the Kirtland Temple to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and said, "For behold I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house" (D&C 110:7).Then three other personages of former dispensations came and restored keys of the priesthood: Moses bestowed the keys of the gathering of Israel, Elias brought back the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham or the keys of celestial marriage, and Elijah restored the keys of sealing.

Without the keys delivered in the Kirtland Temple, the Latter-day Saints would not have authority to perform the ordinances in their many temples. Washings and anointings had been given in January 1836. After attending to the washing of feet, Joseph assured the quorums that he "had given them all the instruction they needed" to go forth and build up the kingdom of God, having passed through all the necessary ceremonies."8 These ceremonies were a partial endowment and preliminary to the fullness of the ordinances and the temple endowment later administered in the Nauvoo Temple.

But with all the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit that occured in Kirtland there was a forewarning of Joseph's coming marytrdom in 1844. Did the Prophet have a premonition of this when the Lord gave him a revelation following the exile of the Saints from Jackson County in 1833? "And whoso layeth down his life, in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even life eternal. Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy." (D&C 98:13-14.)

It appears that even earlier he had some understanding that one day he might have to sacrifice his life for the Saints he loved. At the great conference of June 1831, when the first high priests were ordained, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him in an unusual manner, and he arose in great majesty and power, prophesying that John the Revelator was at that time working with the ten tribes of Israel, preparing them for their return from their long dispersion.

With foreboding he said some of the Saints would have to die for their testimony of the work, sealing their testimony of Jesus Christ with their blood. The Prophet concluded with this testimony: "I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now."9' Thirteen years later proved the truth of that statement.

Keith W. Perkins, a professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, is president of the Orem Utah Stake.


1Orson F. Whitney, "Newel K. Whitney," Contributor, vol. 6, no, 4 (Jan. 1885), p. 125.

2Elizabeth Ann Whitney, in Edward W. Tullidge, Women of Mormondom (New York, 1877), pp. 41-42.

3Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, April 1912, p. 50.

4Joseph Smith, History of the Church, ed. B. H. Roberts, 1:334-335.

5Ibid, 1-252.

6Philo Dibble, Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27, no. 10 (15 May 1892), pp. 303-4.

7Women of Mormondom, p. 95.

8Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 1 10.

9Journal of Levi W. Hancock, n.p., n.d., p. 33. HIGHLIGHTS IN LIFE OF JOSEPH SMITH:


Jan. 25, 1832, Joseph Smith is sustained as president of the high priesthood at a conference in Amherst, Ohio.

Feb. 16, 1832, the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon receive vision of the three degrees of glory. (See D&C 76.)

Dec. 27, 1832, revelation known as the "Olive Leaf" is received. (See D&C 88.) Included were instructions for the School of the Prophets.

Feb. 27, 1833, the Prophet receives revelation on Word of Wisdom in Kirtland. (See D&C 89.)

March 18, 1833, First Presidency is organized.

May 6, 1833, Saints commanded to build temple in Kirtland. (See D&C 94.) Further instructions were given June 1. (See D&C 95.)

July 2, 1833, the Prophet finished the translation of the Bible.

May 3, 1834, Church named "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

May 8, 1834, Zion's Camp commences from New Portage, Ohio, to Clay County, Mo., to assist exiled Saints. Camp dispersed June 30.

1835, collection of hymns and sacred songs selected by Emma Smith published.

Feb. 14, 1835, Quorum of the Twelve is organized.

Feb. 28, 1835, First Quorum of the Seventy organized.

July 3, 1835, Michael H. Chandler arrives in Kirtland with exhibit of Egyptian mummies and scrolls. The Prophet's work on the latter resulted in Book of Abraham.

Aug 17, 1835, general assembly of Church accepts revelations selected for publication in Doctrine and Covenants.

March 27, 1836, Kirtland Temple is dedicated.

April 3, 1836, the Savior and heavenly messengers appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who receive keys of dispensations.

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