Church historian weighs in on historical acquisition of Kirtland Temple

Mar 5, 2024, 8:17 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2024, 9:59 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Glenn Rawson, Historian and host of the popular documentary series “History of the Saints,” said the acquisition of dozens of historic sites, documents, and artifacts from Community of Christ, including the Kirtland Temple, is faith-affirming to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide.

“That’s our oldest temple artifact and it’s priceless to be able to go into that building and say it happened right there, it started right there,” said Rawson. “To be able to tell the full story and show them where the revelations like Section 137 (of the Doctrine and Covenants) came from, being able to show them where it actually happened will do as much to strengthen their testimony as any historical site that we have in the church, it’s priceless.”

On Tuesday, the Church announced the $192.5 million acquisition, which includes the Mansion House, the Nauvoo House and the Red Brick Store where Joseph Smith maintained an office and claimed sacred endowments for church members were given. It is also where Smith organized the Relief Society in 1842.

The Church will also receive the original door of Liberty Jail.

“Can you imagine walking up with a group of young people or older tourists and standing before that door and saying it was behind this door where prophet Joseph was incarcerated for those months of 1838-1839, and it was behind these doors where the prophet was held prisoner and sections 121, 122, 123 were revealed?” Rawson said. “Just to be able to put your hand on that door and say Joseph touched that door and was right behind it, I can’t wait, I just can’t wait.”

Glenn Rawson talks with KSL News about the recent acquisition by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (KSL News)

Glenn Rawson talks with KSL News about the recent acquisition by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (KSL TV)

Other significant documents acquired from Community of Christ include manuscripts, notes of an 1879 interview with Emma Smith, a document with the title of “Caractors,” which “may contain sample inscriptions from the gold plates,” and the Bible used in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

“The Book of Mormon is tangible proof to hold in a man’s hand that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God but right there next to that is the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible, it does the same thing as the Book of Mormon, that document does almost as much as the Book of Mormon to authenticate the prophet Joseph’s calling,” Rawson said. “As one scholar, Robert Matthews once said, the Joseph Smith translation is the most correct of any Bible on earth and it reveals a greater Christ, a more perfect Christ, a more divine Christ, hence, I’m a student of the Joseph Smith translation, again, a priceless acquisition for the faith of the saints.”

When reflecting on the relationship between Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ, Rawson said it’s one that’s been built over decades. He said he often works with the Community of Christ leadership and appreciates the love and respect they’ve shown to him and other members of the Church.

“They are my brothers, my sisters, my friends,” he said. “They’ve been good to us; we’ve been good to them, and I hope that with this acquisition our relationship will continue into the future.”

Rawson said he can’t wait to visit the newly acquired historic sites under the stewardship of the Church, including the Kirtland Temple, which will reopen to visitors on March 25. He believes the sites are some of the most sacred in Church history.

“To go into the mansion house in Nauvoo and talk about what happened there, to go into the homestead in Nauvoo and what happened there, testimonies will be strengthened, faith will be affirmed, people will weep, people will feel the spirit, they’ll be bonded to the prophet Joseph, they’ll be bonded to the Savior like very few other historic sites in the world,” Rawson said.

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Church historian weighs in on historical acquisition of Kirtland Temple