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The Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1838, Joseph Smith left town in the dead of the night.  The town of Kirtland was basically bankrupt.  Because of this, ownership of the temple was claimed by several people.  John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay will talk about Kirtland Temple ownership problems.  It’s a little bit like a soap-opera.   We’ll also hear an episode where people stormed the temple with guns and knives to try to take ownership of the temple.

Lachlan:  This is the one where Joseph Smith Sr. is at the pulpit on the west end.  The dissenters are concerned and hoping to take possession of the temple, and they stormed to the front with guns and knives drawn.  I think this is Oliver Huntington, one of the Huntington boys said, “Them that had chicken-hearts dove out the windows for safety.”

The police are called in to restore order.  They rush in and they knocked over a stove-pipe.  So I just imagine soot filling the room.  The best part is, after that chaos, they eject the belligerents and resume the services of the day.  {Everyone chuckles}

GT:  Really!  Wow.

Lachlan:  So I think that’s probably what you were referring to.

GT:  Yeah, it must have been quite a service!  {all chuckle}  We don’t talk about that in the LDS tradition very often.  I remember reading that somewhere and just going, “Wow!”

Lachlan:  I think one of them is even—they are walking from the front to the back, in some cases over the back of the pews, so stepping from pew-box to pew-box because the aisles are full of people, so they have to walk on the top of the pew-boxes to get up there.

We also talk about some other Mormon groups:  Strangites & Hedrickites and their involvement in Kirtland Temple ownership.  I also update our previous conversation with Dr. Richard Bennett about Brigham Young trying to sell the Kirtland Temple!  Was the Kirtland Temple turned into a sheep shed?  How did the Kirtland Banking Crisis affect ownership?  What else can we learn about the Kirtland Temple over the years?  Check out our conversation…..

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Comparing LDS and RLDS Temple Worship

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about differences in temple worship between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church.  (Note:  The Community of Christ has been historically known as the RLDS Church.)  Community of Christ Apostle, Lachlan MacKay and John Hamer (a Seventy) discuss the differences in temple worship between the two churches, and how the temple has evolved.

Lachlan:  Sure.  So Kirtland in the 1830s, it’s a house for public worship with a strong emphasis on empowerment, both spiritually and intellectually.  Two-thirds of Kirtland Temple was classroom space.  You would worship in the temple on Sundays, and you would go to school six days a week.  Kirtland High School met on the third floor.  Students ranged in age from six through adults, so it was the center of their community life.

My sense is that in Nauvoo the same was going to be true, but you did start to have to have, I believe, a receipt saying you were a tithe payer in order to gain access to the baptismal font, and they didn’t welcome non-members in the temple in Nauvoo while they were performing ordinances, but it was still a public building.  That receipt, I think, is what many generations later would become the idea of a temple recommend.

John:  This idea for the LDS tradition of having what constitutes temple work and everything like that, almost all of this is extremely different than what existed in Kirtland.  There’s no font, like you say, in the Kirtland Temple.  That’s something that begins in Nauvoo.  The same thing, the Endowment ceremony, and things like that is taking place after Joseph Smith had been exposed to Freemasonry and things like that so that also isn’t taking place, the whole liturgy and things like that in Kirtland.

I have a chart.  I’ll give it to you so you can splice it in if you want for the videos, but essentially where you take the spaces that exist, you’ve taken Kirtland, like what Lach is telling you about, the spaces of worship, the space for learning, the space for order, the church offices and things like that, you can see where they have that same major portion of the space is devoted to that in Nauvoo, but then there’s also the space for the baptism of the dead in the basement and there’s a space for endowments in the attic.

Then you go to Salt Lake, all of that is preserved so there’s a big solemn assembly hall and things like that in the Salt Lake Temple.  There are the offices for the apostles and things like that, but then when you get to the little temples that are in the LDS tradition, which might be what most Mormons in the Utah tradition are exposed to, they don’t have any of those things that are from the Kirtland period.  All they have is the basement and attic part of the Nauvoo Temple and that’s their whole experience.  So they go and that’s their temple experience.  They go to Kirtland and say, “What did these Reorganites do to the temple?  It’s not even—it’s so alien.”  That’s what Kirtland is!  But anyway, we’re each honoring different parts of the heritage.

We’ll also talk about baptism for the dead as well as vision of Elijah in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.  It’s going to be a very interesting conversation.  I hope you check it out (as well as part 1 of our conversation)!

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A Seventy & Apostle Discuss Myths & Kirtland Temple

I’m excited to start 2018 two amazing guests: a Seventy and an Apostle of the Community of Christ: John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay. I’ll let them introduce themselves.

Lachlan:  Sure, [I’m] Lachlan MacKay, a member of the Council of Twelve in the Community of Christ.  I oversee the northeast field in the U.S. which is Michigan and basically Kirtland to Maine to Virginia.  I have functional assignments including Community of Christ Historic Sites.  I oversee historic sites and lead the church history and sacred story team.

John: In terms of the history work that I do, I primarily have studied the broader Latter-day Saint tradition churches.  Like I say that would be all manner of –ites, so the Strangites,[1] especially but also Cutlerites[2] and Hendrickites[3] and everybody else, Josephites,[4] our tradition.  I’m a member of Community of Christ.  I serve as the pastor of the downtown Toronto congregation.  I’ve been called to be a Seventy.  I’m a Seventy-designate.  The ordination will happen in October.[5]  I am also a past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association (JWHA), which is essentially the other –ites, or the Community of Christ’s version of the Mormon History Association (MHA), those kind of things.

We’ll be talking a little bit about LDS myths.

GT:  One of my favorite blog posts was, it’s been a decade now, the Top Myths about the Community of Christ for Mormons.

John:  Oh yeah, the Top 10 myths, I don’t remember exactly how it was, the top 10 Mormon myths about the Community of Christ or something like that.  That one we ended up doing a couple of podcasts with that. I think we did one on Mormon Expression that was on that same topic.

One of the ones for the LDS Tradition, one of the blogs posts that gets the most traction is for whatever reason, sometime in your curriculum every spring you do the Milk & Strippings story.[6]  Then suddenly this essay that I’ve written that has been read more times is on the Milk & Strippings story because every May or something like that it comes up for some reason.  I don’t know why.

We will also talk about the construction of the Kirtland Temple.  (Don’t forget to check out our previous discussion with Dr. Mark Staker and Dr. Richard Bennett!)  Check out our conversation!

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[1] Because so many churches founded by Joseph Smith have similar names, sometimes it is easier to name the groups by their next founder.  For example, the Strangites have a similar name as the mainline LDS Church.  Their church is officially known with slightly different capitalization and punctuation as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (vs. Latter-day Saints), and were founded by James Strang following an angelic visit.  We will talk more about them in a future episode.

[2] Cutlerites were founded by Alpheus Cutler and are officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ.

[3] Hedrickites were founded by Granville Hedrick and officially known as the Church of Christ or Church of Christ (Temple Lot.)  They are sometimes referred to as the Temple Lot Church.  We will discuss them in a future episode.

[4] Josephites are better known as Community of Christ or RLDS Church.  The official name is the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  They are called Josephites after Joseph Smith III.  The Utah church is sometimes referred to as Brighamites, after Brigham Young.

[5] John was ordained in October 2017.

[6] The Milk Strippings story is a story in which the LDS Church claims that apostle Thomas B. Marsh was excommunicated for defending his wife.  As the story goes, his wife took extra milk for butter, known as “milk strippings.”  John wrote a post that there was more context to the story than is given in LDS Sunday School manuals.  See https://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/01/the-milk-strippings-story-thomas-b-marsh-and-brigham-young/