To help class members understand the significance of temples and encourage them to seek the blessings of the temple in their own lives.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
If the following materials are available, prepare to use them during the lesson: Pictures of the Kirtland Temple (62431; Gospel Art Picture Kit 500) and of another temple.
Prepare to have class members sing
“The Spirit of God” if you plan to use it during the lesson (Hymns, no. 2). Or ask a class member or a group of class members to prepare to sing it.
Suggestions for Lesson Development
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Write the following questions on the chalkboard so class members can see them as they enter the classroom:
How many temples were built by the Lord’s covenant people before this dispensation?
How many temples were built or planned in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Without asking for discussion of these questions, explain that we know of only four temples that were built by the Lord’s covenant people before this dispensation. The first was the temple built in the days of Solomon, which was rebuilt twice and known at different times as the temple of Zerubbabel and the temple of Herod (Bible Dictionary, “Temple,” 781). The other three are mentioned in the Book of Mormon: the temple built by Nephi (2 Nephi 5:16), the temple in the land of Zarahemla from which King Benjamin gave his final address (Mosiah 1:10; 2:1), and the temple in the land Bountiful where the people gathered before the appearance of the resurrected Lord (3 Nephi 11:1).
Explain that five temples were built or planned during the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith: in Kirtland, Independence, Far West, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and Nauvoo.
How many temples are currently built or under construction?
Emphasize that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a temple builder. It was through him that Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah’s return was fulfilled (Malachi 4:5–6; D&C 110:13–16). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to be a temple-building church.
This lesson discusses the Kirtland Temple, the first temple built in this dispensation.
Discussion and Application
This lesson contains more material than is possible to teach in one class period. Prayerfully select the material that will best meet class members’ needs.
1. The Lord commanded the Saints to build the Kirtland Temple.
Teach and discuss D&C 95. Explain that temples are an essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In December 1832, the Lord commanded the Saints to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio (D&C 88:119; 109:2; show the picture of the Kirtland Temple). Five months later the Saints had done little to fulfill this command, so the Lord called on them to repent and hasten their work (D&C 95). Four days later, men began hauling stone and digging trenches in preparation for building the temple.
Read D&C 95:3–4, 8–9, 16–17; 109:5, 8 with class members. What do these verses teach about the purposes for building the Kirtland Temple? (Summarize class members’ responses on the chalkboard. Explain that the Kirtland Temple was not like today’s temples, where saving ordinances are performed for the living and the dead. The Lord restored temple ordinances a few years later while the Saints were in Nauvoo.)
What did the Lord reveal to Joseph Smith about how to build the Kirtland Temple? (See D&C 95:13–17 and the following quotations.)
Some of the workers suggested they build the temple with logs or boards. But Joseph Smith replied: “Shall we … build a house for our God, of logs? No. … 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” (quoted in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 230).
The Lord revealed His plans for the Kirtland Temple in a vision to the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams). President Frederick G. Williams said they knelt together in prayer, and a model of the building “appeared within viewing distance. … After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us.” When the temple was completed, Frederick G. Williams said it looked exactly as it had in the vision. (In The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Lyndon W. Cook , 198.)
You may want to point out that today the First Presidency, through revelation, determines when and where to build temples.
2. The Saints were blessed for their great sacrifices in building the temple.
Explain that the Kirtland Temple was the first temple built in this dispensation. What were some of the challenges and sacrifices associated with building the temple? (See D&C 109:5 and Our Heritage, pages 33–34.)
How were the Saints blessed for the sacrifices they made in building the Kirtland Temple? (See Our Heritage, pages 34–35.)
What sacrifices have you seen members of the Church make to receive temple blessings or to participate in temple work? What are some sacrifices we could make to participate in temple work?
3. Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple.
On 27 March 1836, the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple. The dedicatory prayer, which the Lord revealed, is recorded in D&C 109. The dedicatory service lasted seven hours and was accompanied by a great outpouring of the Spirit. It included the dedicatory prayer, hymn singing, testimony bearing, the passing of the sacrament, sermons, and a solemn assembly in which members sustained Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. The service ended with the Saints giving the Hosanna Shout—raising their hands above their heads and shouting three times, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb, amen, amen, and amen” (History of the Church, 2:427–28).
You may want to have class members sing
Why do we dedicate temples? How are temples different after they are dedicated? If any class members have attended a temple dedication, invite them to share some of their thoughts and impressions of the experience.
What spiritual manifestations occurred during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple? (See Our Heritage, pages 34–35.)
Explain that in the dedicatory prayer, the Prophet emphasized some responsibilities of Church members with regard to temples. What responsibilities did he emphasize? (Some of these are outlined in the following scripture passages. Select a few passages for class members to read and discuss. Summarize responses on the chalkboard.)
D&C 109:7, 14. (We should seek diligently to learn by study and by faith.) Why is this an important responsibility with regard to temples?
D&C 109:9, 17–19. (Our incomings, outgoings, and salutations should be in the name of the Lord.) How can we fulfill this responsibility?
D&C 109:20–21. (We must be clean to enter the temple.) Why is it necessary that we be worthy when we enter the temple? (See D&C 97:15–17.) How do we verify our worthiness to enter the Lord’s house? (Through temple recommend interviews.)
D&C 109:23. (We should leave the temple bearing the great tidings of the gospel to the ends of the earth.) How can temple attendance inspire us to do this?
Explain that in the dedicatory prayer, the Prophet prayed for many great blessings. What blessings did he pray for? (Some of these blessings are outlined in the following scripture passages. Select a few passages for class members to read and discuss. Summarize responses on the chalkboard.)
D&C 109:22. (The Lord’s people would go forth from the temple armed with power and watched over by angels.) Invite class members to share experiences when they have felt armed with power after attending the temple.
D&C 109:25–26. (No weapon or wickedness would prevail against the Lord’s people.) How does temple attendance protect us from evil?
D&C 109:32–33. (The Lord would break off the yoke of affliction from His people.) How has temple attendance helped you overcome or bear affliction?
D&C 109:36–37. (There would be an outpouring of the Spirit, as on the day of Pentecost; see Acts 2:1–4.) One fulfillment of this part of the prayer occurred during a priesthood meeting on the night of the dedication. The temple was filled with the sound of a mighty wind, and many brethren spoke in tongues, prophesied, and saw visions (History of the Church, 2:428).
D&C 109:54–58. (The Lord would have mercy on the nations of the earth, softening the hearts of the people to prepare them for the gospel message.)
D&C 109:61–64, 67. (The scattered children of Israel would begin to be gathered and redeemed.) How does temple work help bring about this blessing?
D&C 109:72–74. (The Lord’s Church would fill the whole earth.) How does temple work help bring about this blessing?
President Howard W. Hunter, the 14th President of the Church, described these promises in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple as “stirring and wonderful” (“The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct. 1994, 5). This prayer, he said, “continues to be answered upon us individually, upon us as families, and upon us as a people because of the priesthood power the Lord has given us to use in His holy temples” (Ensign, Oct. 1994, 4).
4. The Lord accepted the Kirtland Temple, and ancient prophets restored priesthood keys.
Teach and discuss D&C 110. Explain that the Lord fulfilled His promise to endow His servants with power from on high when the Kirtland Temple was completed (D&C 95:8). This endowment of power included an appearance of the Savior in the temple, an outpouring of the Spirit, many revelations, and the restoration of priesthood keys by Moses, Elias, and Elijah. With these sacred experiences and keys, the Lord’s servants were able to move His work forward with greater power and authority.
How did the Prophet Joseph Smith describe the appearance of the Savior in the Kirtland Temple? (See D&C 110:1–3.) What did the Savior say about Himself? (See D&C 110:4.) What did He say to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery about the temple? (See D&C 110:6–10.)
What priesthood keys did Moses, Elias, and Elijah restore? (See D&C 110:11–16.) What blessings and responsibilities do we have today because Moses restored the keys of the gathering of Israel? because Elias restored the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham? because Elijah restored the keys of the sealing power? (The following chart may help your discussion. You may want to summarize the information on the chalkboard.)
Blessings and Responsibilities Today
Gathering of Israel
The authority to preach the gospel to gather Israel (missionary work).
The dispensation of the gospel of Abraham
The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and the responsibilities associated with that covenant (see Abraham 2:9–11 for a review of these blessings and responsibilities).
The power that makes priesthood ordinances valid in heaven. The sealing power makes possible temple marriage, sealings to children and ancestors, eternal families, and temple ordinance work for the dead.
5. Temple building and temple work accelerate in our day.
Display a picture of a temple. How has temple building accelerated in our day? (The Church had 19 temples in 1980 and 51 temples by the end of 1997. In the October 1997 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced plans to construct smaller temples. In the April 1998 conference he announced plans to have 100 temples by the end of the year 2000, which meant constructing as many temples in 3 years as were built during the first 167 years after the organization of the Church.)
Along with the acceleration in temple building, Church leaders have given renewed emphasis to participating in temple work. Read D&C 138:53–56 with class members. Explain that worthy Church members today are among the “choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in … the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein.” How can we help accelerate temple work?
President Howard W. Hunter said: “Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us” (Ensign, Oct. 1994, 5).
Encourage class members to prayerfully examine their lives and determine how they can participate in temple work. Suggest that just as the Saints made sacrifices to build the Kirtland Temple, we should make sacrifices to assist with temple work. If you are near a temple, encourage class members to attend the temple. Testify that the Lord will bless us as we participate in this great work.
Additional Teaching Idea
You may want to use the following idea to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
Pictures of temples
Suggest that class members display pictures of temples in their homes. President Howard W. Hunter said: “Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 8; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8).