Spiritual Preparation for the Restoration – Experiences of Early Converts

Prepared for the Restoration

By David F. Boone

David F. Boone, “Prepared for the Restoration,” Ensign, Dec 1984, 17

Spiritual manifestations foreshadowed the return of gospel to earth

“About the time that Joseph Smith found the gold record, I began to feel that the time was drawing near, that the Lord would in some shape or other, bring forth his Church. I made some inquiry thro the country where I traveled if there was any strange work of God, such as had not been on the earth since the days of Christ. I could hear of none, I was living about 20 miles east of where the gold record was found.” 1

Although Solomon Chamberlain lived near the area where the beginning events of the Restoration took place, he heard nothing of them until, traveling to Canada to preach, he was moved by the Spirit to make an unscheduled detour. He went to Palmyra, where he met and visited with the Smith family. When he shared with them his own spiritual witness, he was surprised by their reaction.

“I … opened my mouth and began to preach to them,” Chamberlain wrote, “in the words that the angel had made known to me in the vision, that all Churches and Denominations on the earth had become corrupt, and no Church of God on the earth but that he would shortly rise up a Church, that would never be confounded nor brought down and be like unto the Apostolic Church. They wondered greatly who had been telling me these things, for said they we have the same things wrote down in our house, taken from the Gold record, that you are preaching to us. I said, the Lord told me these things a number of years ago, I then said, If you are a visionary house, I wish you would make known some of your discoveries, for I think I can bear them. They then made known to me that they had obtained a gold record, and just finished translating it here. Now the Lord revealed to me by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost that this was the work I had been looking for.”

He stayed with the Smiths for two days and listened to their message about the Book of Mormon. Then he accompanied them to the printing office where the Book of Mormon was being printed for the first time. “As soon as they had printed 64 pages, I took them with their leave and pursued my journey to Canada, and I preached all that I knew concerning Mormonism, to all both high and low, rich and poor, and thus you see this was the first that ever printed Mormonism was preached to this generation. I did not see any one in traveling for 800 miles, that had ever heard of the Gold Bible (so called). I exhorted all people to prepare for the great work of God that was now about to come forth, and it would never be brought down nor confounded.” 2

Solomon Chamberlain had left home with a feeling that a restoration of Christ’s church was imminent. But after meeting the Smith family, he gained a conviction that what he had previously felt was now a certainty.

Solomon’s feelings about a coming restoration of the truth were not uncommon during the period just prior to the dawning of the dispensation of the fulness of times. Similar feelings and experiences came to others who, in faith, sought to know the mind and will of God.

For centuries, the world had been bereft of the gospel, awaiting the day when the “restitution of all things” would be fulfilled. (Acts 3:21.) But it was not until the nineteenth century that such a promise became a tangible hope. At that time, it was made known to a limited number of truth seekers that a restoration would indeed occur in the immediate future—and some were even promised that it would happen in their own lifetime.

Wilford Woodruff, who later became President of the Church, had an impressive experience early in life that led him to look forward to the Restoration. An elderly gentleman, Robert Mason, with whom he often visited, told him about a strange vision he had received years earlier. “I was carried away in a vision,” the old man told him, “and found myself in the midst of a vast orchard of fruit trees. I became hungry and wandered through this vast orchard searching for fruit to eat, but I found none. While I stood in amazement finding no fruit in the midst of so many trees, they began to fall to the ground as if torn up by a whirlwind. They continued to fall until there was not a tree standing in the whole orchard. I immediately saw thereafter shoots springing up from the roots and forming themselves into young and beautiful trees. These budded, blossomed, and brought forth fruit which ripened and was the most beautiful to look upon of anything my eyes had ever beheld. I stretched forth my hand and plucked some of the fruit. I gazed upon it with delight; but when I was about to eat of it, the vision closed and I did not taste the fruit.”

At the conclusion of the vision, Mr. Mason had prayed that the Lord would give him the interpretation. “Then the voice of the Lord came to me saying: ‘Son of man, thou hast sought me diligently to know the truth concerning my Church and Kingdom among men. This is to show you that my Church is not organized among men in the generation to which you belong; but in the days of your children the Church and Kingdom of God shall be made manifest with all the gifts and the blessings enjoyed by the Saints in past ages. You shall live to be made acquainted with it, but shall not partake of its blessings before you depart this life. You will be blest of the Lord after death because you have followed the dictation of my Spirit in this life.’ ”

Then the elderly gentleman looked at the young man and made an unusual prophecy: “Wilford, I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh, but you will and you will become a conspicuous actor in the new kingdom.” 3

Of course Wilford Woodruff was moved by what he had heard. “To me this was a very striking circumstance,” he later wrote. “I had passed many days during a period of twenty years with this old Father Mason. He had never mentioned this vision to me before. On this occasion he said he felt impelled by the Spirit of the Lord to relate it to me.”

In addition to hearing the old man’s prophecy that he would live to embrace the truth, young Wilford came to the same conclusion himself after his own sincere search: “I had given myself up to the reading of the Scriptures and to earnest prayer before God day and night as far as I could years before I heard the fullness of the gospel preached by a Latter-day Saint. I had pleaded with the Lord many hours in the forest, among the rocks, and in the fields, and in the mill—often at midnight for light and truth and for His Spirit to guide me in the way of salvation. My prayers were answered and many things were revealed to me. My mind was open to the truth so much so that I was fully satisfied that I should live to see the true Church of Christ established upon the earth and to see a people raised up who would keep the commandments of the Lord.”

The fulfillment of Father Mason’s prophecy was as unusual as the prophecy itself. “The vision was given to him [Father Mason] about the year 1800,” Elder Woodruff wrote. “He related it to me in 1830, the spring in which the Church was organized. Three years later when I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, almost the first person I thought of was this prophet, Robert Mason. Upon my arrival in Missouri with Zion’s Camp, I wrote him a long letter in which I informed him that I had found the true gospel with all its blessings; that the authority of the Church of Christ had been restored to the earth as he had told me it would be; that I had received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands; that I knew for myself that God had established through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Church of Christ upon the earth.

“He received my letter with great joy and had it read over to him many times. He handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision. He was very aged and soon died without having the privilege of receiving the ordinances of the gospel at the hands of an elder of the Church.

“The first opportunity I had after the truth of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him in the temple font of Nauvoo.” 4

Benjamin Brown was another who received assurances of the coming restoration of the gospel. “A knowledge was given me that the ancient gifts of the Gospel—speaking in tongues, the power to heal the sick, the spirit of prophecy, &c., were just about to be restored to the believers in Christ. The revelation was a perfect knowledge of the fact, so sure and certain, that I felt as though the truth had been stereotyped upon me. I knew it from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot—in the whole of my system, being filled with the Holy Ghost! I can compare it to nothing better than the change made on a clean sheet of paper by a printing press, leaving an indelible impression behind.” 5

Part of that knowledge had come to him as a result of an experience he had had earlier. When he was about twenty-five years old, he had “a vision” of his brother who had died fourteen or fifteen years earlier. In the vision, his brother was praying. “I heard his voice clearly and distinctly, and listened attentively.

“In the course of his prayer, he referred to a great work to be done on the earth during the last days, quoting several Scriptures. I did not, however, fully comprehend the meaning of them, until, coming into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, years after, I saw the applicability of his words to the views of that people, with regard to the restoration of the Gospel gifts, and great work of gathering the Saints of all nations in the last days, and the fulness of the latter-day glory, for he particularly prayed for the hastening of these things. Soon he disappeared from my view, when suddenly … a sound, as of a rushing mighty wind, with some accompanying influence, seemed to fill the house and myself, and I heard a voice saying—“This is the spirit of understanding.” 6

Daniel Tyler, an early Saint who became prominent in later Church history, recorded that after his father and grandfather had studied the scriptures, they came to believe that the Church as established by Jesus Christ was not on the earth. Their reason for so believing was that none of the ancient signs that were exhibited by the followers of Christ were then manifest.

Brother Tyler further recorded: “My grandfather … prophesied that he would die, but my father [Andrew] would live to see the true church organized with all the apostolic gifts and blessings.” Young Daniel heard and believed the prophecy, and identified the true gospel when it was later restored and taught. Ironically, his father resisted it, even threatening to disown family members who were baptized. “Soon after,” Brother Tyler wrote, “my grand-father appeared to my father in a dream, and told him that this was the people he prophecied of while living, and my parents were baptized.” Other family members, including Daniel, followed. 7

Before hearing the message of the Restoration, Lorenzo Dow Young, a younger brother of Brigham Young, was concerned about religion and studied the Bible diligently. But he didn’t feel right about being baptized in any church. “Although religious in my nature, … sectarian religion seemed empty and void,” he wrote. “… I had joined no church, although I had professed religion, attended meetings, and preached when I had an opportunity.” Indeed, his preaching yielded great fruit. Sixty people desired baptism after hearing some of his sermons, but he excused himself from performing the ordinance, saying “that I had never joined any religious denomination, and did not feel authorized to administer it.”

A Campbellite preacher baptized Lorenzo’s converts, organized them into a branch of the Campbellite church, and tried to convince Lorenzo to be baptized himself and to go on a preaching circuit. “I told him I would not preach his doctrines. If I preached at all, I should preach the whole Bible as I understood it. … A spirit worked with me to do all the good I could, but not to join any religious denomination. It prevailed within me against all temptation this time.”

When he was introduced to the Book of Mormon, he was cautious. “I read and compared the Book of Mormon with the Bible, and fasted and prayed that I might come to a knowledge of the truth. The Spirit seemed to say, ‘This is the way; walk ye in it.’ ” He was later baptized.

Years before, Lorenzo had had a dream which, in retrospect, helped prepare him to accept the restoration of the gospel: “In the autumn of 1816, when about nine years old, I had a peculiar dream. I thought I stood in an open, clear space of ground, and saw a plain, fine road, leading, at an angle of 45 degrees, into the air, as far as I could see. I heard a noise like a carriage in rapid motion, at what seemed the upper end of the road. In a moment it came in sight. It was drawn by a pair of beautiful, white horses. The carriage and harness appeared brilliant with gold. The horses traveled with the speed of the wind. It was made manifest to me that the Savior was in the carriage, and that it was driven by His servant. The carriage stopped near me, and the Savior inquired where my brother Brigham was. After informing Him, He further inquired about my other brothers, and our father. After I had answered His inquiries, He stated that He wanted us all, but He especially wanted my brother Brigham. The team then turned right about, and returned on the road it had come.

“I awoke at once, and slept no more that night. I felt frightened, and supposed we were all going to die. I saw no other solution to the dream. It was a shadowing of our future which I was then in no condition to discern.” 8

Another young boy, John Taylor, had a vision pointing to the Restoration which he too failed to understand until years later. “When but a small boy,” writes his biographer, B. H. Roberts, “he saw, in vision, an angel in the heavens, holding a trumpet to his mouth, sounding a message to the nations. The import of this vision he did not understand until later in life.”

We can only guess the impact such an experience would have had upon him when, years later, he joined the Church and found that what he had seen in vision was a supporting tenet of the restored gospel and the fulfillment of prophecy as seen by the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.

At the age of seventeen, while serving as a Methodist preacher in England, he had an additional witness which he did not understand at the time. “I have a strong impression on my mind,” he told a companion, “that I have to go to America to preach the gospel!”

His biographer explains the significance of those feelings: “At the time he knew nothing of America but what he had learned in his geography at school; and emigration to that country had not been thought of then by his family. So strong was the voice of the spirit to him on that occasion that it continued to impress him as long as he remained in that land; and even after he arrived in Canada, a presentiment that he could not shake off, clung to him that he had some work to do which he did not then understand.” 9 John Taylor later became the third President of the Church.

Another who became convinced that the Restoration was at hand was Asael Smith, grandfather of Joseph Smith. Asael was a deeply religious man who strictly encouraged scripture study among his family members. Although he felt partial to the Universalist faith, he generally kept himself aloof from the sects of his day because he was unable to reconcile their conflicting teachings with the truths found in the scriptures.

But Asael Smith had great hope for the future. His great-great-grandson, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote of him: “At times the spirit of inspiration rested upon him. On one occasion Asael said: ‘It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith.’ Perhaps he did not expect to live to see that day, but such proved to be the case.” 10

Indeed, shortly after the organization of the Church and the restoration of priesthood authority, his son Joseph Smith, Sr., and grandson Don Carlos Smith visited him and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. While reading it, the old gentleman rejoiced, stating that he was certain the work of his grandson Joseph was of God. According to another grandson, Elder George A. Smith, when the aged gentleman “heard of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, … he said it was true, for he knew that something would turn up in his family that would revolutionize the world.” 11 Thus the prophecy was fulfilled.

The prophet Joseph further supports the account by his cousin in his narration of the event. “My grandfather, Asael Smith, long ago predicted that there would be a prophet raised up in his family, and my grandmother was fully satisfied that it was fulfilled in me. My grandfather, Asael, died … after having received the Book of Mormon, and read it nearly through; and he declared that I was the very Prophet that he had long known would come in his family.” 12

Because of advanced age and poor health, Grandfather Asael Smith was not baptized; he died in October 1830 at the age of 86, firmly believing in the restoration of the gospel. A daughter-in-law who was present at the time of his death recorded: “F[at]her Asael Smith … on his deathbed declared his full and firm belief in the everlasting gospel and also regretted that he was not baptized when Joseph his son was there and acknowledged that the doctrine of universalism, which he had so long advocated, was not true. For although he had lived by this religion 50 years, yet he now renounced it as insufficient to comfort him in death.” 13

Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also had special dreams pointing to the Restoration of the gospel. On one occasion, after praying in behalf of her husband—“that the true gospel might be presented to him and that his heart might be softened so as to receive it, or, that he might become more religiously inclined”—she was informed in a dream that “the pure and undefiled gospel of the Son of God” would be made known to him, and that “when he was more advanced in life, [he] would hear and receive [it] with his whole heart, and rejoice therein; and unto him would be added intelligence, happiness, glory, and everlasting life.” 14

Of course, Joseph Smith, Sr., and his wife Lucy accepted the gospel when their son Joseph taught it to them—as did many others who had been prepared beforehand for the Restoration. The signs, wonders, and gifts of the Spirit were of themselves testimonies of the source of the Restoration. These gifts and blessings have been promised to men in all ages of the world. They were evident in the early ages of the world, during the meridian of time, prior to the restoration of gospel keys and authority, and they continue today. The proper use and understanding of these gifts and blessings will help to edify the Saints and help to fulfill the promises of the Lord to his obedient children.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Kay Watson

[illustration] The coming restoration of Christ’s church was revealed to Solomon Chamberlain in a vision. After visiting with the Smith family and hearing the teachings of the gospel, he received a witness that this was the work he had been looking for.

[illustration] Robert Mason received a vision of the Restoration in 1800. In 1830 he was prompted to relate it to Wilford Woodruff and to prophesy that young Wilford would embrace the truth and play an important role in building the kingdom.

[illustration] Benjamin Brown saw his deceased brother in a vision, praying about a great work to be done on the earth in the last days.

Notes

1. Larry C. Porter, “Solomon Chamberlain—Early Missionary,” BYU Studies (Spring 1972), pp. 315–16. The spelling and grammar of the material quoted have been retained.

2. Ibid., pp. 316–17; italics added.

3. Wilford Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881), p. 3.

4. Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), pp. 16–18.

5. Benjamin Brown, Testimonies for the Truth: A Record of Manifestations of God, Miraculous and Providential (Liverpool: England: S. W. Richards, 1853), p. 7.

6. Ibid., p. 4.

7. Daniel Tyler, “Incidents of Experience,” Scraps of Biography, Classic Experiences and Adventures (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 22–23.

8. Lorenzo Dow Young, “Lorenzo Dow Young’s Narrative” Fragments of Experience, Four Faith Promoting Classics (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), pp. 23–25, 31–33.

9. B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963), p. 28.

10. Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973), p. 25.

11. Journal of Discourses, 5:102.

12. History of the Church, 2:443.

13. Quoted in Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), p. 215 (note number 217).

14. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), pp. 43–45.

Notes

David F. Boone, father of four, teaches in the Department of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. He currently serves as high priest group leader in his Orem, Utah, ward.

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A Pentecostal Season at the Kirtland Temple

The story of the building, preparation, and dedication of the Kirtland Temple is so spiritually rich and filled with visions that I quote below the entire section of the chapter in the Institute manual – ‘Church History in the Fulness of Times’.

A Pentecostal Season

In addition to their great personal efforts, the Saints spent from forty to sixty thousand dollars on the temple. Because they were so willing to sacrifice in building the temple, the Lord poured out great blessings upon them. From 21 January to 1 May 1836 probably more Latter-day Saints beheld visions and witnessed other unusual spiritual manifestations than during any other era in the history of the Church. Members of the Church saw heavenly messengers in at least ten different meetings, and at five of these gatherings different individuals testified that they had beheld the Savior himself. Many experienced visions, some prophesied, and others spoke in tongues.

One of the most important meetings held in the Kirtland Temple was on Thursday, 21 January 1836. The Prophet recorded the incident:

In the evening “at early candle-light I met with the presidency at the west school room, in the Temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil. . . .

“We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith, and invoked the blessings of heaven. . . . The heavens were opened upon us, and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof. . . . I saw . . . the blazing throne of God. . . . I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.” Joseph Smith also saw many prophets in the celestial kingdom before the scene of his vision shifted (see D&C 137:1, 3–5 ). He then saw the recently appointed Twelve “standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, . . . and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. . . .

“Many of my brethren who received the ordinance [of washing and anointing] with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as to myself, and the power of the Highest rested upon us. The house was filled with the glory of God, and we shouted Hosanna to God and the Lamb. . . .

“. . . Some of them saw the face of the Savior, . . . for we all communed with the heavenly host.” 38

Joseph Smith saw his brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom and marvelled because Alvin had died before the gospel was restored. Also with the vision the Lord revealed the principle of mercy: “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 ). The Prophet also learned that all children who die before the age of accountability “are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” ( D&C 137:10 ).

Some of the most memorable spiritual experiences occurred on the day the temple was dedicated—Sunday, 27 March 1836. Hundreds of Latter-day Saints came to Kirtland anticipating the great blessings the Lord had promised to bestow upon them. Early on the morning of the temple dedication, hundreds of people gathered outside the temple hoping to attend the dedicatory service. The doors were opened at 8:00 a.m., and the First Presidency assisted in seating the congregation of nearly a thousand people, but many were left outside. When the leaders of the Church were seated at the elevated pulpits and benches at each end of the hall and when all the available seats in the temple were filled, the doors were closed. This left hundreds of people still outside, including many who had sacrificed tremendously for the temple’s construction and had come long distances to attend the dedication. Sensing their disappointment, the Prophet directed them to hold an overflow meeting in the schoolhouse just to the west. The dedicatory service was repeated a second time the following Thursday for their benefit.

After the choir’s opening number, President Sidney Rigdon spoke for two and a half hours declaring that the temple was unique among all the buildings of the world because it was built by divine revelation. After a brief intermission, the officers of the Church were sustained. The climax of the day was the dedicatory prayer, which had previously been given to the Prophet by revelation. He expressed gratitude for God’s blessings and asked the Lord to accept the temple which was built “through great tribulation . . . that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people” ( D&C 109:5 ). He petitioned that the blessings promised in the Lord’s initial command to build the temple (see D&C 88:117–21 ) might now be realized, and he prayed that Church leaders, members, and the leaders of nations would be blessed, and that the promised gathering of the scattered remnants of Israel would be accomplished (see D&C 109:60–67 ). This prayer became a pattern for other temple dedicatory prayers.

Kirtland Temple
Kirtland Temple

Following the prayer, the choir sang the hymn “The Spirit of God.” It had been written especially for the dedication by W. W. Phelps. The sacrament was then administered and passed to the congregation. Joseph Smith and others testified that they saw heavenly messengers at the service. The congregation concluded the seven-hour service by standing and rendering the sacred “Hosanna Shout”: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, amen, amen, and amen,” repeated three times. Eliza R. Snow said the shout was given “with such power as seemed almost sufficient to raise the roof from the building.” 39

That evening over four hundred priesthood bearers met in the temple. While George A. Smith was speaking, “a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels.” 40 “David Whitmer bore testimony that he saw three angels passing up the south aisle.” 41 “The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple).” Others saw angels hovering over the temple and heard heavenly singing. 42

The most transcendent spiritual manifestation of all occurred a week after the dedication. After the afternoon worship service, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery retired to the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits in the west end of the lower room of the temple. The canvas partition, called a veil, was lowered so that they could pray in private. As they prayed, “the veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened” ( D&C 110:1 ). They saw a series of remarkable visions. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared, accepted the temple, and promised to manifest himself therein “if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house” ( D&C 110:8 ; see also vv. 2–9 ).

Moses next appeared and restored “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” ( v. 11 ). Elias then conferred “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” ( v. 12 ). Finally, in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (see Malachi 4:5–6 ) and Moroni’s promise (see D&C 2 ) to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” ( D&C 110:15 ), Elijah appeared to the Prophet and Oliver testifying that “the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands” in preparation for “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” ( v. 16 ). Through the sealing keys that were restored by Elijah, Latter-day Saints could now perform saving priesthood ordinances in behalf of their kindred dead as well as for the living. These sacred ordinances for the dead were not introduced to the members of the Church until the Nauvoo era.

This great day of visions and revelation occurred on Easter Sunday, 3 April 1836. What better day in the dispensation of the fulness of times to reconfirm the reality of the Resurrection? That weekend was also the Jewish Passover. For centuries Jewish families have left an empty chair at their Passover feasts, anticipating Elijah’s return. Elijah has returned—not to a Passover feast, but to the Lord’s temple in Kirtland.

The Story of Artemus Millet, Canadian Master Builder of the Kirtland Temple

Consider also the example of Artemus Millet. In 1832 the Church faced a real dilemma. A stonemason was needed to direct the stonework on the Kirtland Temple. No one was qualified. Lorenzo Young suggested that they recruit Artemus Millet, who was a capable stonemason living in Canada. But there was one problem–Artemus was not a member of the Church. Joseph Smith paused and considered the suggestion. He then turned to Brigham Young and said, “I give you a mission to go to Canada and baptize Brother Artemus Millet and bring him here.” If that wasn’t enough, he then said, “And tell him to bring a thousand dollars with him” (Millet Family History, “A Brief History of Artemus Millet,” manuscript, LDS Archives, pp. 70­71). You prospective and returned missionaries, how would you like to receive such a mission assignment? With the help of the Lord, Brigham Young went to Canada and taught and baptized Brother Millet. When he was asked to leave Canada to supervise the work on the Kirtland Temple, Brother Millet responded that he had a business in Canada and if he left, not only would the business fail, but people who owed him money would never pay their debts to him. Being touched by the Spirit, Brother Millet left his business and moved to Kirtland, Ohio.

The stately Kirtland Temple is in a large part a monument to Artemus Millet. He lost his business. He lost his money. He lost his prestigious standing in Canada. Later his wife died. But look what he gained.

What Came from Kirtland

M. RUSSELL BALLARD


M. Russell Ballard was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address
was given at Brigham Young University on 6 November 1994.

© Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that Artemus Millet was not yet a member of the Church, he sent Brigham Young on a special mission to baptize him. Artemus Millet was a skilled mason in Canada who would be the right man to help build the Kirtland Temple. Brother Millet was baptized and accepted the call to be the master builder of the temple and to contribute a great deal of his own money to help pay for the sacred edifice. He went to Kirtland and selected the stone for the temple’s foundation. Later he sent workers to ask Saints in the area for precious china and glassware to grind into the plaster for the temple walls. Brother Millet would not reveal the formula for the plaster to anyone, explaining that it had been revealed to him by the Lord.

After the Kirtland Temple was completed, he received his endowment in the temple he had helped build. Brother Millet also contributed his time to the building of the Nauvoo Temple. He then went west with the Saints and helped build the St. George and Manti Temples in Utah. He died in the faith in Scipio, Utah, on 19 November 1874. 36

36. See Karl Ricks Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), pp. 15–16.

Kirtland Temple
Kirtland Temple

Vision of the Design of the Kirtland Temple

The Prophet once asked a conference of high priests how the temple should be constructed. Some favored building it of logs. Others preferred a frame structure. “‘Shall we, brethren,’ said he, ‘build a house for our God, of logs? No, I have a better plan than that. I have a plan of the house of the Lord, given by himself; and you will soon see by this, the difference between our calculations and his idea of things.’” 29 Truman O. Angell, one of the construction supervisors, testified that the Lord’s promise to show the Prophet the building’s design was literally fulfilled. He said that when the First Presidency knelt in prayer, “the Building appeared within viewing distance.” Later, while speaking in the completed temple, Frederick G. Williams said that the hall in which they met coincided in every detail with the vision given to them. 30

Kirtland Temple
Architectural drawing of the Kirtland Temple
Courtesy of U. S. Department of the Interior

Six Hour Fast & Testimony Meetings

In the early days of the church in Kirtland, fasst & testimony meetings lasted six hours:

The first Thursday of each month was fast day. In meetings that often lasted six hours, the Saints sang, prayed, bore their testimonies describing divine manifestations in their lives, and exhorted each other to live the gospel. Eliza R. Snow fondly remembered these gatherings as “hallowed and interesting beyond the power of language to describe. Many, many were the pentecostal seasons of the outpouring of the spirit of God on those days, manifesting the gifts of the Gospel and the power of healing, prophesying, speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.” 28

28. Nicholas G. Morgan, comp., Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1957), p. 63.

The Danger of Having a Rebellious Spirit

Potential enemies notwithstanding, quarreling and contention within the camp became its most vexing problem. Several men feared possible dangers, some complained about changes in their life-style, and a few questioned the decisions of their leaders. For forty-five days they marched together, and the inevitable personality clashes were exacerbated by the harsh conditions they encountered. Grumblers often blamed Joseph Smith for their discomfort.

Sylvester Smith (no relation to the Prophet), a sharp-tongued group captain, frequently led the dissension. He complained that the food was poor, preparations for the journey were inadequate, and Joseph’s watchdog kept him awake at night. On the evening of 17 May, Joseph was called upon to settle a dispute among some of the brethren. He said that he found a “rebellious spirit in Sylvester Smith, and to some extent in others. I told them they would meet with misfortunes, difficulties and hindrances, and said, ‘and you will know it before you leave this place,’ exhorting them to humble themselves before the Lord and become united, that they might not be scourged.” 21 The following day the prophecy was fulfilled: nearly every horse was sick or lame. The Prophet promised if they would humble themselves and overcome their discord, their animals would immediately be restored to health. By noon the horses were nimble once again, with the exception of Sylvester Smith’s mount, which soon died.

Contention soon arose again when Sylvester Smith threatened to kill Joseph’s dog. On 3 June a frustrated Joseph Smith stood on a wagon wheel and scolded the men for their lack of humility, their murmuring and faultfinding: “I said the Lord had revealed to me that a scourge would come upon the camp in consequence of the fractious and unruly spirits that appeared among them, and they should die like sheep with the rot; still, if they would repent and humble themselves before the Lord, the scourge, in a great measure, might be turned away; but, as the Lord lives, the members of this camp will suffer for giving way to their unruly temper.” 22 This sad prophecy would be fulfilled within a few weeks. 23

For a few of the Saints, the Lord’s command not to do battle was the final trial of their faith. Disappointed and angry, they apostatized. As a result of their insurrection the Prophet again warned the camp that the Lord would send a devastating scourge upon them as a consequence of their unrighteous complaints. The day before the revelation was given two men contracted cholera. Three days later several more were struck with the dreaded disease, which was carried in contaminated water. The epidemic spread, causing severe diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. Before it ended, about sixty-eight people, including Joseph Smith, were stricken by the disease, and fourteen members of the camp died, one of whom was a woman named Betsy Parrish. 38 On 2 July, Joseph Smith told the camp that “if they would humble themselves before the Lord and covenant to keep His commandments and obey my counsel, the plague should be stayed from that hour, and there should not be another case of the cholera among them. The brethren covenanted to that effect with uplifted hands, and the plague was stayed.” 39

[Church History in the Fulness of Times p.145-149]

Revelation on the Priesthood

The Priesthood Extended to All Races

Perhaps few events have had a greater impact on the worldwide spread of the gospel than did the 1978 revelation received through President Spencer W. Kimball extending the priesthood to worthy males of all races. For some time, the General Authorities had discussed this topic at length in their regular temple meetings. In addition, President Kimball went frequently to the temple, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when he could be there alone, to plead for guidance. “I wanted to be sure,” he explained. 13

On 1 June 1978 President Kimball met with his counselors and the Twelve and again brought up the possibility of conferring the priesthood upon worthy brethren of all races. He expressed the hope that there might be a clear answer received one way or the other. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve recalled, “At this point President Kimball asked the brethren if any of them desired to express their feelings and views as to the matter in hand. We all did so, freely and fluently and at considerable length, each person stating his views and manifesting the feelings of his heart. There was a marvelous outpouring of unity, oneness, and agreement in the council.” 14

After a two-hour discussion, President Kimball asked the group to unite in formal prayer and modestly suggested that he act as voice. He recalled:

“I told the Lord if it wasn’t right, if He didn’t want this change to come in the Church that I would be true to it all the rest of my life, and I’d fight the world against it if that’s what He wanted.

“. . . But this revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it.” 15

President Gordon B. Hinckley was at the historic meeting. He remembered: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. . . .

“Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. . . .

“. . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same. . . .

“Tremendous, eternal consequences for millions over the earth are flowing from that manifestation. . . .

“. . . This has opened great areas of the world to the teaching of the everlasting gospel. This has made it possible that ‘every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.’

“We have cause to rejoice and to praise the God of our salvation that we have seen this glorious day.” 16

Brother Anthony Obinna, a convert in Nigeria who had prayerfully waited for baptism for thirteen years, wrote to President Kimball after hearing about the revelation:

“We are happy for the many hours in the upper room of the temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold. We thank our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours and by revelation [confirming] the long promised day . . . to receive every blessing of the gospel.” 17

Only five months after the revelation came, two experienced couples were sent to open missionary work in the black African nations of Nigeria and Ghana. “In black Africa . . . the revelation on the priesthood was, in effect, the restoration of the gospel for them. . . . Within one year there were more than 1,700 members in 35 branches in West Africa.” 18

“After only nine and a half years of missionary work, Elder Neal A. Maxwell organized the Aba Nigeria Stake on May 15, 1988—the first stake in which all priesthood leaders were black—and he noted that this was ‘a historic day in the Church in this dispensation . . .’ (in ‘Nigerian Stake,’ Church News, 21 May 1988, p. 7).” 19

When one considers how many people were “affected by this revelation—which includes millions on the earth and billions on the other side of the veil—we can see why President Kimball said that it brought ‘one of the greatest changes and blessings that has ever been known’ [ Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 451].” 20

Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual

Second edition

© 1989, 1993, 2000, 2003 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Gordon B. Hinckley:

After the monthly temple meeting of the General Authorities, President Kimball excused all present except his counselors and the Twelve and then raised a subject that had been discussed repeatedly during preceding months – that of conferring the priesthood on worthy males of all races.  After inviting a lengthy discussion of the issue, acknowledgin how he had worried over this matter and how vigourously he had pleaded with the Lord for direction, President Kimball led out in prayer.  Elder Hinckley recorded his impressions of the experience:  “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room.  For me, it was as if a conduit had opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling pleading prophet of God who was joined by his brethren.  The Spirit of God was there.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.  Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing…No voice audible to our physical ears was hear.  But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls…Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.”

Ensign, Oct 1998, p. 70

Though electrifying and intensely spiritual, the day’s events did not come as a great surprise to Elder Hinckley.  ‘Not only had President Kimbal agonized over this situation, but President Lee and President McKay had before him,”  he later explained.  It was, however, a wonderful development.  President Kimball was bold in petitioning the Lord for this revelation.  He wrestled over it.  He worked at it.  He went to the Lord again and again.  And when the reveleation came, there was among the Twelve a tremendous feeling of gratitude for this unspeakable blessing.”

[Interview with GBH, 9 Aug 1995, quoted in The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley]