I have enjoyed interviewing Dr. Mark Staker, who has written a book about early Kirtland, as well as Dr. Richard Bennett (no relation to me) of BYU who is writing a book on the evolution of temple work. In my first interview with Dr. Staker, he told me that the Kirtland Temple was originally designed to be a school
The School of the Prophets meets regularly in the Newell K. Whitney Store in the upper floor in Newell K. Whitney’s store and as they discuss having another space to meet, they’re talking about it as a school. They want to build a schoolhouse and they talk about building this school of logs. Lucy Mack Smith [Joseph Smith’s mother] shares that story in her biography of Joseph Smith coming in and saying, are we going to build a house to our Lord of logs? The Lord has a better plan for us, something more grand, and reveals information about that building and what we now call the temple. Well it was still a schoolhouse. It was not to be a log schoolhouse. It was to be something grander.
The House of the Lord also becomes more than just a schoolhouse. It is the schoolhouse. The School of the Elders meets there instead of what they were calling the School of the Prophets before. The names are changing a little bit but they’re also holding other kinds of meetings such as to study Hebrew and they have a Hebrew school. They hire a teacher to come in and teach them Hebrew. They’re studying grammar, and they’re studying composition and writing, and they’re studying these other things and it becomes so influential that the local community starts meeting down in the schoolhouse on the flats and they organize an adult education program. They’re trying to do some of the same things. Theirs ends up failing after just a couple of days and they’re not able to do it. This is before adult education becomes widely practiced in America. This is some of the earliest efforts to do that. It’s all part of this Kirtland schoolhouse, Kirtland House of the Lord experience.
It’s not until after the building is dedicated, then Jesus Christ appears there, where he had promised earlier: Behold, suddenly I come to my temple.
I just found it really interesting that when we talk about the temple as “a house of learning”, the original Kirtland Temple was designed to be an actual school! And it wasn’t known as a temple until after the vision of Jesus and Elijah! Were you aware of this?
Have you heard that the saints crushed up their best china to make the plaster for the Kirtland Temple, In my second interview, I asked BYU professor, Dr. Richard Bennett about this story. I was surprised by his candid response.
Dr Bennett: No that’s not a true story. It’s one of those Mormonisms that have come through, somewhere along the line.
However, Dr. Mark Staker did some archaeology work in Kirtland.
Dr. Staker: As I did archaeology out there, I worked under T. Mike Smith who was a lead archaeologist on that project. I was digging in the ashery pit. It’s 30 feet across, probably about 15 feet deep pit of ash, and I went through bushels of ashes and I found fragments of ceramics after fragments of ceramics that had been swept up in people’s fireplaces and as they brought the ash in all the time, so I thought, you know, why would they take their best china and break it up when they have all this stuff here just thrown out on to the ground? As I went back to adult’s accounts as children, I was going around and gathering up the garbage, putting it in the plaster, I thought, this is how it was done. They went and got garbage just like these people were saying they did. They didn’t break up their best china, which doesn’t make sense.
GT: Oh so there is a little bit of truth to that. It wasn’t their best china, it was their worst china, or something like that.
Dr. Staker: It was the broken stuff. They gathered up the garbage, and as I tried to then trace it out, well how did that that story get started? I was able to push it clear back to 1910. An individual who was looking at the plaster, and saw these fragments of broken china and other things suggested that well, they must have taken and broken up stuff to put it in there, so it kind of grew from that. They broke up their china, and then they broke up their best china and it was this great sacrifice.
Were you aware of this story?
I also wanted to share a video of these interviews. There are some old public domain photos that show the Kirtland Temple was not white like it is now, but more of a granite look.
What are your thoughts about the Kirtland Temple?
Dr. Bennett used to be my Stake President, he is salt of the earth, just a truly wonderful and humble man. Any idea on when his book is coming out?
I wasn’t aware the “best china” story was a myth until a couple years ago when someone brought to my attention this 2013 article in “The Friend” magazine: https://www.lds.org/friend/2013/05/shining-walls?lang=eng (I wish I had known much earlier when I had to teach that story in a YW lesson to a bunch of inner-city girls who had no exposure to fine china. They got even less out of that story than I did as a youth.)
Yes I agree Whizzbang. I have known Dr. Bennett for a few years, and he is a very cool, funny guy. I always joke that he is my older, shorter twin. We talked about his upcoming book at the beginning of the YouTube link above. It sounds like he has a lot of work to do on it, so I think it’s going to be some time before it is published.
MaryAnn, I think that’s when I learned the story wasn’t true too, but it was interesting to hear that there was some truth to the story. I didn’t know the original temple was supposed to look like granite, and the glass/ceramic stuff was actually patented! The temple really did shimmer in the sun. It must have been pretty cool to see.
The more I learn about the Kirtland temple the more I like it. When I was reading Andersen and Buerger’s books about the development of temple worship, I was intrigued by how Christian and biblical early worship was compared to what developed later when masonry and polygamy got involved. I like this notion that it was initially built as a school.
Kirtland is a place I’ve been several times, and it has really changed over the years. With the newly recreated village, it’s interesting to see more of the town. The upstairs of the Newel K. Whitney store does have the School of the Prophets room, and it’s very interesting to see. It’s not that big a room, and they were in there smoking pipes and everything. It must have been unpleasant for any non-smokers. But they were all very focused on welcoming divine experiences. There was a lot of focus in Kirtland on seeing the Savior and other heavenly beings.
The LDS sites point this out and talk about it pretty openly now while the Community of Christ tours of the Kirtland temple downplay it unless asked. The contrast of the two tours is really interesting to see. The novelty of the Community of Christ led tours was cool as a Mormon. I was made a bit uncomfortable by the attempts of the LDS missionary couple trying to get us to spontaneously sing or bear testimony or share moments of reflection. I was a tourist with my kids, not seeking a Quaker friends meeting. Give me history, answer questions, and chat politely about local ice cream shops. Don’t turn it into a church meeting! I know that’s just my preference, but it sets me on edge.
I remember when the RLDS (Community of Christ ) sold small lapel pins shaped like a china plate as part of the fundraising for their temple in Independence. The story of the crushed china for Kirtland was in their history.
I wonder if the “sheep shed” story is also a myth? Allegedly, when the majority of members left Kirtland, that was one of the building’s uses; although there were still some members in the area. Joseph Fielding Smith said the Kirtland Temple was polluted and rejected.
Still, I wish the CofC would sell it to the LDS. They do not have sufficient funds for upkeep; and tend to shy away from their connections to Mormonism, as Angela C noticed.
I remember visiting years ago and at the CoC visiter center there was an early edition of the BoM open to Jacob 2. Subtle but effective.
Angela C , I’ve been frustrated by both the LDS and FLDS tours, but by far the most irritated I’ve been by the LDS missionaries was at Carthage. They gathered everybody upstairs and wanted to sing “I am a Child of God” and have a mini-testimony meeting. I was so disgusted I picked up my kid and walked out. I wasn’t just the contrived nature and awkwardness of it, but it was the site of a murder! It seemed so inappropriate to me. Yech.
GBSmith — I’d say not so subtle, but kinda awesome. Touche’, I say!
Markag, I haven’t heard the story of the sheep shed before. You’re saying the temple fell into disrepair and was used as a sheep shed?
Updating on the downloading issues on itunes: a few episodes did download, specifically (taking the numbers from your website) 4, 7, 9 and 13. Everything else comes up with a download error. I don’t know whether you’re able to identify a difference between those that will and won’t download?
The last time I went to the Kirtland Temple (summer of 2014), the tour guide – a volunteer from the Community of Christ – was quite explicit about the various visions that took place in the temple following its dedication, including that of the Saviour, Elijah, and Moses.
MH. If memory serves, Roger D. Lanius wrote a book about the Kirtland Temple and mentioned several non-sectarian uses of the building. I also remember a booklet from around 1980 about LDS Temples; compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith. It began with Kirtland and stated that because it fell into corrupt use it became polluted and rejected. I wonder if that belief influenced how hard the LDS Church fought for ownership in the court case of 1880.
I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble downloading. I check every episode and haven’t had a problem so far. Here’s a link to my free channel on the Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/gospel-tangents I wonder if that works any better for you? Also a link to my YouTube channel, but I had a few tech problems so Margaret Young isn’t there, and 2 of Paul’s are missing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4clkuJcpGygxprWuwa5SVA
Markag, I hope to interview David Howlett, a Kirtland expert too. I hadn’t thought of Roger Lanius, but he would be good too. You’ve definitely given me a question to ask them!
Thing is Rick, I only listen to podcasts on my ipod, and download them directly to the podcast app that only links to itunes. If they won’t download then I won’t be listening to them. And so far I have only been able to download 4 of them. Am I really the only person having this problem trying to download from itunes direct to an ipod?
It’s hard for me to know. I haven’t had anyone comment on my blog about problems. Of the 14 episodes I’ve released so far, most have been downloaded 57-80 times, so I know at least 57 people haven’t had a problem; of course I don’t know if others have had problems unless they tell me. (My Episode from Paul Reeve about the Race Essay has been downloaded almost 500 times.) Most of my downloads are from USA (almost 1400), and the United Kingdom is in 2nd place with just 68, and Canada 3rd place at 40. (I’m surprised to see 32 from Japan!) Is anyone else having a problem downloading on iTunes?
If you send me an email to gospel tangents at gmail dot com, I could try to email them to you, and then you could copy them to the iTunes folder. Would that work?
I did some further digging. It appears 42% of people listen to the podcasts on their iPhone, 12% on “Podcasts for iOS” (is this computer)? IPad Media player is 5%, and less than 3% on iTunes. I’m not clear where an iPod would be in this list–I’m guessing iTunes, but I’m not sure. iPhones are definitely the most popular medium to listen. I do have an iPod, and have listened to nearly all episodes on it, but it appears to be a dying platform for Apple. It’s a shame because I love my iPod. iPhone is more convenient though.
One weird thing is that it says I only have 3 downloads from Stitcher, but I have 52 Stitcher for iOS downloads (3%). The numbers don’t match up at all, so I’m not sure what to make out of that discrepancy.
This is a fairly old iPod touch, I never connect it to the computer and do everything over wifi. I get all the podcasts I listen to via itunes podcast app. Still whatever the problem is (it comes up download error, and a little message saying ___ cannot be downloaded at this time), the only other time that has happened is a recent Year of Polygamy podcast, but that’s because that particular podcast has been taken down temporarily according to the YoP website.
I went on the Kirtland Temple tour in 2001 and made a comment about china being in the plaster and the CoC tour guide said there was no china in the plaster, which was the first time I heard about that.
I wonder if wi-fi is the problem. Any chance you can use the cable to sync?
Rigel, I guess next time you can set them straight!
In recent years, I’ve had similar uncomfortable experiences with LDS sites in Kirtland, Liberty, and Independence: Prompt me to express the spiritual experience I must have had and shake me down for referrals. I had much more meaningful visits to Far West, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, and Haun’s Mill, which I experienced alone.
MH, I don’t see how it can be a wifi issue, with the exception of the single YoP episode that isn’t actually available currently I haven’t had a problem with anything else in the over 35 podcasts I’m currently subscribed to … Not that I listen to all episodes from all of them, but subscribing seems to be the simplest way to download.
I’ve checked the software settings, and there were no problems I could see there. So…
If you’re willing to help me troubleshoot, send me an email and I will email you one of the files to see if you can get it to load via cable. If it still doesn’t work, then we will know that it isn’t a wi-fi issue and I can look at other things.
I don’t know if the story is true about keeping sheep in the Kirtland temple but I can verify that I have been told that story when I was young. The way it was explained to me was that the temple had 3 ascending sets of podiums on both the west and east walls with various priesthood officers sitting behind them, the Aaronic on one side the Melchezedik on the other. The people in the audience sat on benches without backs and could stand and turn around when different people spoke from podiums on opposite sides. The benches were enclosed with little fences so that each family could keep their children from ranting around too much.Some of the meetings went on for most of a day or half the night, no 3 hour block quickie like we have today. Later the benches were easily taken out and the remaining little fences were perfect for keeping few sheep together and as a safe place for lambing. Aspects of this story are verifiable by those who have visited the temple, if the restorations are historically accurate.
Actually here is an image that shows what I am saying: https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/kirtland-mormon-temple-775257?lang=eng
Another Kirtland temple story I was told, not in church but on the back porch, was about a gunfight in the temple. When things unraveled after the Kirtland bank failed and people lost their life savings and their farms that had taken a generation of blood, sweat and tears to wrestle from the wilderness, tempers flared. Brigham Young gained the nickname Lion of the Lord when he roared. Supposedly that was before Porter Rockwell learned to shoot straight. It could have been worse than Haun’s mill. There might be bullet holes in the walls if this story is accurate and no repairs have been done. If they didn’t hit any people they must have hit the walls, ceiling or floor.
A final story about sheep in the temple I still remember from childhood. A woman who lived down the street reported in testimony meeting that she had a vision in the Logan temple wherein she was shown many marvelous wonders including all the resurrected spirits of the lambs which were slaughtered in the Biblical temples. She felt so bad for all those innocent lambs but they were alive and that gave her great comfort.. A cranky old uncle who was raised on a farm and sitting next to me retorted quietly that he sure hoped those lambs were not nibbling on the rugs and shitting everywhere. I about died laughing not exactly silently until my mother whacked me a good one across the head.