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Kirtland Temple

The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space

David J Howlett

Publication Year: 2014

The only temple completed by Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith Jr., the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, receives 30,000 Mormon pilgrims every year. Though the site is sacred to all Mormons, the temple's religious significance and the space itself are contested by rival Mormon denominations: its owner, the relatively liberal Community of Christ, and the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.David J. Howlett sets the biography of Kirtland Temple against the backdrop of religious rivalry. The two sides have long contested the temple's ownership, purpose, and significance in both the courts and Mormon literature. Yet members of each denomination have occasionally cooperated to establish periods of co-worship, host joint tours, and create friendships. Howlett uses the temple to build a model for understanding what he calls parallel pilgrimage--the set of dynamics of disagreement and alliance by religious rivals at a shared sacred site. At the same time, he illuminates social and intellectual changes in the two main branches of Mormonism since the 1830s, providing a much-needed history of the lesser-known Community of Christ.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

When I was young, I occasionally would watch my handyman father work on odd projects in our basement. On one such a night, he turned from his latest project and asked me, “You want to see some old-timey square nails?” I nodded, and he rummaged in an old card-catalog drawer filled with odds and ends. From it, he pulled out a yellowed envelope. In pencil on the envelope’s ...

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Introduction. The Kirtland Temple as a Parallel Pilgrimage

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pp. 1-10

In 2008, thirty-three thousand people from six continents visited a small, historic Mormon temple, the Kirtland Temple, near Cleveland, Ohio. “I couldn’t value anyplace more than the Kirtland Temple,” related a frequent Latter-day Saint visitor. “The feeling there is similar to what I had in Jerusalem when I visited the garden tomb and the garden of...

Part I: Pattern and Preparation

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1. A "House of the Lord" in Kirtland, 1831–1844

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pp. 13-37

The seventy-year-old matriarch of Mormonism’s first family, Lucy Mack Smith, composed a now-famous family memoir in 1845, less than a year after the deaths of three of her sons, all leaders in the early Mormon church. In an early chapter, Lucy recalled a scene from the previous decade where Joseph, her middle son and founder of the movement, led a meeting of Mormon ...

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2. Splintered Saints and the Temple, 1844–1900

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pp. 38-47

During the winter of 1879–80, a writer for Lippincott’s Magazine, Frederic G. Mather, visited the Kirtland Temple and wrote a detailed account of the then half-century-old building. On a tour of the temple led by an RLDS member, Mather was struck by a sign prominently posted on a wall in the temple’s upper court and copied it into his notes:...

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3. Reforming Identities, Reframing Pilgrimage, 1900–1965

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pp. 48-64

In December 1905, a small group of LDS general authorities and their spouses embarked on a whirlwind tour of the eastern United States, including a stop to dedicate a monument at Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Vermont. On the return, the LDS party surprised the RLDS Kirtland Temple caretakers by appearing on the temple’s steps during a time of the year that had few guests ...

Part 2. Proximity

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4. Creating a Cursed and Sanctified Temple, 1965–1984

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pp. 67-95

On June 26, 1966, 325 people jammed the Kirtland Temple’s lower court (the first floor) to dedicate a nearby Ohio Historical Marker for the building. The Kirtland Temple, noted a Cleveland newspaper, was designated “among the finest examples of architecture in Ohio,” the fifth building in the state to earn such an honor. On hand for the ceremony was Joseph Smith’s grandson...

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5. The Destroyer and the Peacemakers, 1984–1990

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pp. 96-111

“God is giving me a new name and a new job,” declared former Kirtland Temple guide Jeffrey Lundgren to a group of gathered Kirtland followers in 1987. “I am now to be called ‘the Destroyer.’ People will die at my hands.”1 Lundgren did not speak in hyperbole. Just as the Kirtland Temple began to be positively reincorporated into LDS sacred space by 1984, the RLDS community...

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6. New Shrines and New Capital, 1990–2012

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pp. 112-128

In the late 1980s, rumors abounded in the RLDS church that the hierarchy had placed the Kirtland Temple up for sale. The annoyed RLDS First Presidency wrote in the Saints’ Herald that “perhaps some have supposed that with our plans to build the Independence Temple, we would no longer need to retain the one in Kirtland.” Such a notion was misguided, they assured...

Part 3. Performance

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7. Staging the Temple, 1972–2012

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pp. 131-144

Anthropologist Simon Coleman suggests that, at pilgrimage sites, “links to the past can be established as much by staged performance as by history or archeology.”1 Plays performed at pilgrimage sites are among the most obvious kinds of staged performances that establish links between the past and the pilgrim. Since the late 1970s, the Kirtland Temple and its surrounding...

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8. Tour Guiding, 1959–2012

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pp. 145-173

“Good morning, folks. It certainly is nice to have you come to see us here in this lovely old Kirtland Temple, this morning,” began Ray Lloyd, a temple guide, on a 1959 tour. “You have never seen a building like this before,” he continued. It “is the only building of its kind standing in the world today, that we know of, that was built by direct command of God.”1 Fifty years later, as a guide, I began my tours in the Kirtland Temple visitor center with these ...

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9. Dealing with Diversity, 1965–2012

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pp. 174-206

Katya joined the Community of Christ as a young adult in a small town in Russia in 2007. Before coming to the United States for the summer, her only experience with Christianity had been with the Russian Orthodox Church or with her small Community of Christ congregation. In July of 2009, she was appointed to the tour staff at the Kirtland Temple for one month as part of an international exchange program among Community of Christ...

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Conclusion: Parallel Pilgrimages, Parallel Temples

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pp. 207-218

Three sets of three chimes rang through the air of a small chapel, honoring the triune God. A picture window in the chapel opened to a view of the Kirtland Temple. A candle was lit in the chapel and a reader at the front solemnly greeted a small group of worshipers:...

Appendix: Theorizing Pilgrimage

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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-254


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pp. 255-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780252096372
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038488

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014