News Release

Elder McKay Explains Why the Church Purchased the Kirtland Temple

“The significance of what happened in this temple cannot be overstated,” the Church Historian and Recorder says

Some may wonder why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would ever spend significant money on anything other than humanitarian aid. For example, why would the Church spend US$192.5 million to purchase the Kirtland Temple and other properties, documents and artifacts, as it did earlier this year?

To those people, the Church’s Historian and Recorder Elder Kyle S. McKay points to a specific date and place in the past: April 3, 1836, in Kirtland, Ohio. On that day, Jesus Christ gave significant priesthood keys to Joseph Smith.

Speaking to attendees at the annual 2024 Mormon History Association conference held this year near Kirtland on Thursday, June 13, 2024, Elder McKay said it is essential to understand the concepts of priesthood and priesthood keys. If one comprehends these, he said, one can better “appreciate the significance of what was restored” to the earth on that day in 1836.

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Elder McKay explained that the priesthood is the power of God delegated to man on earth to act in God’s name for the salvation of God’s children. The keys of the priesthood are the authority to direct how, when and where that power is exercised. The priesthood has all power to do all of God’s work.

“There is little we do in this Church of lasting significance that is not done under the authority of the keys restored on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple,” Elder McKay said. “Please understand, the Church did not consider itself deficient or incomplete without these historic properties, but these things do provide a magnificent reminder of God’s dealings with His people — sacred evidence of the greatest Restoration ever.”

Visitors are given a tour of the Kirtland Temple by missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio on June 11, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Hillary Kirkham, a curator with the Church History Department, seconded Elder McKay’s comments.

“We have these buildings, artifacts, documents,” she said. “But, at the end of the day, they can help testify of the gospel and of what God has done for his children. That’s the value. When visitors come, they can be in these buildings and see these artifacts or these documents, and the Spirit can testify to them.”

On March 5, 2024, ownership of the Kirtland Temple and several historic buildings in Nauvoo, Illinois, along with documents and artifacts, were transferred from Community of Christ to the Church of Jesus Christ. Twenty days later, these properties opened for free public tours under the Church’s stewardship.

In an interview with Church Newsroom, Elder McKay said the transition of ownership was “nothing short of miraculous.”

“Bishop [W. Christopher] Waddell was assigned to be the chief spokesman for the Church. He has observed and I have observed in working with him that it has gone so smoothly,” Elder McKay said. “It took time over a year, but it was just so open and so honest and so smooth and so amicable.”

It was a process suitable for sacred space.

“There are very few places on the earth where we can point to and say, ‘The Savior was here,’” said Ben Pykles, director of Church Historic Sites. “We are delighted that we can continue to share this special place, the Kirtland Temple.”

In the Kirtland Temple, Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. He told them who He is. He forgave their sins. A vision followed of Moses giving them the keys of the gathering of Israel. Elias then appeared with “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.” Last was Elijah, announcing that the time had come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. Having thus spoken, Elijah restored the “keys of this dispensation,” or what the Church today calls the sealing power.

Kirtland historian Karl Anderson visits with Church Historic Sites director Ben Pykles, at the Kirtland Temple on June 14, 2024.2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Kirtland Historian Karl Anderson said Joseph Smith called this time the Church’s “Pentecostal period.”

“Kirtland is a place where you feel this spirit that’s here. I’ve not found [it] to that extent anywhere else,” Anderson said. “These are holy places, I believe, wherever deity appears. And you feel that this is holy ground.”

Elder McKay agreed, noting that the power of what happened in Kirtland “affects all of us.”

“The significance of what happened in this temple cannot be overstated,” Elder McKay said. “It is glorious. It is eternal. It is heavenly.”

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