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Article


In defense of Joseph Smith
The "false" prophecy of the "Independence" Temple
 

The legitimacy of Joseph Smith's call as a prophet to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days is questioned by anti-mormon propagandists who like to cite Doctrine and Covenants, Section 83, as containing a false prophecy. The scripture reads as follows:

1b. yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, which shall be the city New Jerusalem;
1c. which city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, with whom the Lord was well pleased.
2a. Verily, this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation;
2b. for verily, this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.

Specifically, they say that Joseph Smith predicted that a temple would be built in Independence in the generation which he was given this prophecy. This accusation comes from either an ignorant misunderstanding of the simple meaning of the text, or deliberate deceit.

To correctly understand this revelation, there are three facts which need to be understood. First, the prophecy does not just point to the building of a single temple. Second, the key to understanding this prophey lies in the phrase "this place" and where it points to. Third, the combination of the "this place" and an indistinct time limit of "in this generation" in which the temple was to be built point to the building of a specific temple.

In order to better understand Section 83, it is first necessary to examine another verse of revelation in Isaiah 9:6:

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;"

Dr. Chuck Missler, founder of Koinonia House ministries, in his exposition of this verse, points out that even though it occurs in a single sentence, this verse points to two different events. The prophecy "for unto us a child is born" was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, while the prophecy "unto us a son is given" was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This prophecy, without careful study, would appear would be fulfilled in a single event. However, upon careful examination, the prophecy must be divided and apportioned, so that it may be correctly understood to point to multiple events. Only then could someone living before those events discern that they were looking for more than a single event.

Similarly, the wording of Doctrine and Covenants, Section 83, with only a cursory reading and perfunctory comprehension, might be understood to point to a single event. However, this revelation must also be carefully examined in order to gain an accurate understanding of its meaning and comprehension of the events it points to.

Understanding this, let us distinguish that Section 83 points to two different places:

1b. ...which shall be the city New Jerusalem;
1c. which city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri...

This points to the building of a temple in Independence, Missouri. As will be shown, the place for the building of this temple has been located and dedicated.

2a. ...beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation;

This points to the building of a temple which would be built in the generation in which Joseph Smith lived. Whether and where this temple was built is the central question of this article.

It would seem that the building of either of these temples would have fulfilled the following verse:

2b. for verily, this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house."

By now examining Section 83 verse by verse, looking at both the individual meaning of each phrase and the interconnections between them, and also to interweave the related scripture and historical events. It can then be determined how this prophecy has been fulfilled, or remains unfulfilled.

Verse 1a. "Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church," prefaces the revelation as being directed to his church. "Established in the last days for the restoration of his people," gives an insight as to why the church was restored. "As he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets," points to the prophets who have previously prophesied this restoration in the latter days. "Which shall be the city New Jerusalem;" links the people of the church and the time of the restoration of his people to the place of the city New Jerusalem.

Verse 1b. "which city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot," specifies that when the city New Jerusalem is built, the building of the city shall begin at the temple. "Which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri." This specifies that the particular place of the temple, and by extension the place for the city New Jerusalem, has been appointed by God himself. "And dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, with whom the Lord was well pleased." acknowledges that the specific location of the New Jerusalem temple, having been revealed, was located and dedicated.

Before continuing to examine Section 83, it is necessary to insert some historical background to show these events had taken place.

On Monday, March 7, 1831 a revelation (RLDS Section 45:12, 13; LDS Section 45:64-71) was received commanding people to gather out of the Eastern lands1. This gathering was to be into Kirkland, Ohio, where the church was headquartered at that time.

On March 8th, a revelation was received (RLDS Section 48:1c, 2a; LDS Section 45:4, 5) instructing the saints then gathering to Kirtland, Ohio to continue purchasing lands as necessary, but to begin saving money to purchase lands for an inheritance, in another place which was not yet revealed. When those lands were purchased, they would then gather to that place.

On June 7th, after a conference of the Elders of the church, it was revealed (Section 52) the next conference was to be held in Missouri. The elders were to go in pairs, each by a different route. 2

In July, after the elders had travelled in pairs, preaching as they went, they gathered together in Missouri in conference and it was revealed (Section 57) to them the land of inheritance, the place for city Zion, the center place of which, and the spot for the temple, was to be located in Independence, Missouri. 3

On August 3rd, the spot for the temple in Independence was dedicated. Joseph Smith described the occasion:4

On the third day of August the spot for the Temple, a little west of Independence, was dedicated in presence of eight men, among whom were myself, Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and Joseph Coe. The eighty-seventh Psalm was read, and the scene was solemn and impressive.

On August 8th, Instruction was given (Section 60) concerning the return of the elders. On August 9th, they began their return to Kirtland. 5

After returning to Kirtland, Ohio, in September 1831, Joseph Smith moved his family to the home of John Johnson in Hiram, Ohio, about thirty miles southeast of Kirtland. 6

In April and May, 1832, Joseph Smith again visited Independence to bring supplies for the printing press and conduct several conferences but then returned to Kirtland. 7

Having shown the order and progression of these events, it is important to point out an historical fact. Although Joseph Smith visited Independence, Missouri again, his primary residence remained in or around Kirtland, Ohio. He was in the area of Kirtland during September 22nd and 23rd, 1832, when Section 83 was given. Understanding this, the phrase by phrase examination of Section 83 can continue.

Verse 2a. "Verily, this is the word of the Lord." Notice the distinction between the beginning of verse 1a. and this verse. Whereas verse 1a. is a preamble of this revelation, this verse announces the subject of the prophecy. "...that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints," This phrase is self-explanatory. It contains a simple command for the Saints to gather to the location and it is coupled to a prophecy that the building of a New Jerusalem will occur. The phrase "beginning at this place" is the pivotal statement of this prophecy. But, it raises the question, where is "this place?"

In order to more easily understand the answer, the two verses in question are again quoted here for easy reference:

1c. which city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, with whom the Lord was well pleased.
2a. Verily, this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place...

Anti-mormon propagandists only give this prophecy a cursory reading and thereby obtain only a perfunctory comprehension. They would have those whom they desire to turn away from the restored gospel believe that "this place" refers to the previous verse which says the "city shall be built, beginning at the Temple Lot," putting, in their interpretation, the place for the beginning of the gathering of the saints synonymous with the place for the building of the temple "in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri," e.g. Independence. However, this view completely ignores the simple meaning of the text within the historical context of this prophecy.

In order to properly distinguish where "this place" was, it is necessary to take the historical context of where this revelation was given into account. The first question that logically follows is: Where was Joseph Smith when he gave this prophecy?

It has already been shown that Joseph Smith was not in Independence, Missouri when this revelation was given. He was living in Kirtland, Ohio. So it reasonably follows that "this place" does not refer to Independence, Missouri, but to Kirtland, Ohio, where he was living when it was given.

In verse 2a. the revelation continues with "...even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation;" When this revelation was given there had been no temples constructed. This verse also places the necessity of the construction of a temple within indistinct time limit of the generation which they lived in order to fulfill the prophecy.

Verse 2b. "for verily, this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord," First, this verse confirms and emphasizes the former verse, much the same as Christ would say "Verily, verily, I say unto you..." in the New Testament. Second, the prophecy simply states "an house shall be built." Potentially, any temple built within Joseph Smiths' generation could have fulfilled the particular requirement of "an house." However, only a temple built in "this place," and "in this generation" would fully fulfill the revelation.

By understtanding the facts that:

  1. the revelation points to the building of two temples,
  2. Joseph Smith was living in Kirtland, Ohio when the revelation was given,
  3. the revelation constrains the building of a temple to "this place" and "in this generation,"
it is clearly shown that the temple to be built was not to be in Independence, Missouri, but a temple to be built in Kirtland, Ohio. The answer to the next question is obvious. Was a temple built in Joseph Smiths' generation in Kirtland, Ohio? The answer this question is found by looking at the history of the Kirtland, Ohio area.

On May 6th, 1833, (Section 918) a command was given calling for the building of the house of the Lord. In part it says:

1a. And again, verily, I say unto you, my friends, A commandment I give unto you, that ye shall commence a work of laying out and preparing a beginning and foundation of the city of the stake of Zion here in the land of Kirtland, beginning at my house; and behold, it must be done according to the pattern which I have given unto you.

Notice this revelation differentiates Kirtland as a stake of Zion, whereas Independence is designated as the centerplace. However, like Independence, the commandment requires the building of the city dedicated as a stake of Zion begin with the building of the house of the Lord.

On June 1, 1833, a command was given describing the dimensions and functions of the temple to be built in Kirtland. It was to be a two-story building which the interior was to be fifty-five feet wide by sixty-five feet deep. The lower story was to be used for services while the upper story was to be used for the school of the Saints. 9

On June 3rd, a conference appointed Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to obtain a draft or construction of the inner court of the house. 10 pg 294

On July 23, 1833, the cornerstone for the temple was laid. 11 By July 26, 1834, the outside walls of the temple were being built. 12

January 4, 1836 the unfinished west room of the upper level was first occupied for the use of a school to learn the Hebrew language13. January 5, 1836 the outside plastering was finished14. January 18, the Elders school moved into the temple in the room adjoining the Hebrew school15.

Sunday, March 7, 1836 the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio was dedicated. It's description is as follows: 16

This historic building stands on elevated ground south of the east fork of the Chagrin River about three miles southeast of Willoughby, Ohio, about nine miles southwest of Painesville, and about six miles in direct line from Lake Erie.
The building is built of stone, plastered without and within. It is three stories high exclusive of the basement.
The first and second stories are auditoriums, each fifty-five by sixty-five feet on the inside, exclusive of the vestibule on the east end, through which is the entrance to the building, and in which are the stairways. The lower room was to be dedicated for "sacrament offering, and for your preaching; and your fasting, and your praying, and the offering up your most holy desires unto me, saith your Lord." The second room was to be dedicated for the school of the apostles. In each of these rooms are eight pulpits, four in each end. Those in the west end were intended for the Melchisedec priesthood, and those in the east end for the Aaronic priesthood. The third story is divided into small rooms.
The outside walls are about two feet thick; the outside of the building is fifty-nine by seventy-nine feet.

On September 22nd and 23rd, 1832 17 The Lord began to reveal to the church of the gathering to the New Jerusalem. In this revelation he foretold that the building of that city would begin with the building of a temple. The location of the New Jerusalem in western Missouri, which was at that time time western boundary of the United States of America, was just beginning to be revealed to the church. The church, at the time of this revelation, was gathering to Kirtland, Ohio and was just beginning to learn of the gathering to the New Jerusalem.

This revelation also fortells, with the rather indistinct time limit of being within that generation, of the building of a temple in the place where the church was at that time gathering. The church moved quickly to fulfill that revelation, designing and constructing a House of the Lord in three years according to the specifications given in later revelations. This is then not a false revelation in this respect.

It has been shown that this aspect of this revelation has been fulfilled, according to the prophecy contained therein. If this aspect has been fulfilled, it adds to the credibility of the rest of the events foretold within, including the eventual gathering of the saints, the building of a temple on the spot dedicated for that purpose and the building of the city New Jerusalem.

The temple in Kirtland, Ohio stands to this day, administered as an historical site by the Community of Christ. More information on this building can be found at www.kirtlandtemple.org


Bibliography

1. History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 1, page 183

2. ibid. Vol 1, page 194

3. ibid. Vol 1, pg 202

4. ibid. Vol 1, page 209

5. ibid. Vol 1, page 210, 211

6. ibid. Vol 1, page 217, 218

7. ibid. Vol 1, pages 243-250

8. History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 1, page 291; footnotes, page 293, 294; see also Doctrine and Covenants, Section 91:1a

9. Doctrine and Covenants, Section 91:3a-c

10. History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 1, page 294

11. ibid. Vol. 1, page 368

12. ibid. Vol. 1, pages 518, 519

13. ibid. Vol. 2 page 4

14. ibid. Vol. 2, page 5

15. ibid. Vol. 2, page 14

16. ibid. Vol. 2, pages 33, 34

17. ibid. Vol. 1, page 253

Published Monday, May 1, 2017


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