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Church History Experts React to Church Purchasing the Kirtland Temple and MORE!

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00.280] - Scott Woodward

Holy cow. What a day. Mark it down. March fifth, 2024.

[00:00:05.860] - Casey Paul Griffiths

I am stunned.

[00:00:08.580] - Scott Woodward

The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now the stewards over some very incredible, precious historical locations, buildings, and documents.

[00:00:20.600] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Which is wow.

[00:00:21.320] - Scott Woodward

Holy cow. This is humongous. It's big. It's not just the Kirtland Temple. That be enough to be super excited about. But it's also...

[00:00:39.870] - Scott Woodward

Casey, we have big news.

[00:00:42.240] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Big news.

[00:00:43.100] - Scott Woodward

This is breaking news. It just happened like minutes ago.

[00:00:48.510] - Casey Paul Griffiths

We're freaking out over here. It'

[00:00:52.700] - Scott Woodward

A major announcement.

[00:00:54.640] - Casey Paul Griffiths

I'm still processing what we just found out. This is a special episode that we've recorded because, I mean, we're talking just a few minutes ago. I'm sitting there talking to you and you're talking to me, and we're just shooting the breeze before we record our episode. And we just received, I saw it in a Facebook post from a friend of mine, news that that Community of Christ has sold the Kirtland Temple, along with a number of historical properties, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is- Holy cow.

[00:01:26.660] - Scott Woodward

This is humongous.

[00:01:29.480] - Casey Paul Griffiths

It's big. We're recording this on behalf of Scripture Central. Just so you know who we are, I'm Casey Griffiths.

[00:01:35.800] - Scott Woodward

I'm Scott Woodward.

[00:01:37.090] - Casey Paul Griffiths

We do a podcast for Scripture Central called Church History Matters. We talk about all kinds of things linked to church history. We generally do series where we go through and do a deep five-or-six hour dive into topics like translation of the Book of Mormon, First Vision, plural marriage, race in the priesthood. We are nerds when it comes to church history. Today's a huge day, just as we were getting ready to record our podcast, we got news. And so we're going to take a few minutes and walk you through this. And what we know and what we don't know, and we're going to be very candid in saying this is very much developing right now. And so we might miss some details, but we're going to try and give you the major, major details of what's happening right now with Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[00:02:28.030] - Scott Woodward

It's not just the Kirtland Temple. That would be enough to be super excited about. But it's also properties in Nauvoo, right? We're talking the Joseph Smith Homestead, where he and Emma live for a few years, the Mansion House, the Red Brick store, my word, and then a bunch of documents. What documents do you remember from the news release, Casey?

[00:02:53.330] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah, there's actually a wonderful Q&A that the church put out along with this about what it involves. Question one, what was included in the transaction? It says, The transaction involves land, buildings, artifacts, and documents. The real estate, along with some artifacts, are in Kirtland, Ohio and in Nauvoo, Illinois, while artifacts and documents also come from Community of Christ Library and Archives in Independence, Missouri. The second question is, what are the most significant items? The answer, the most significant properties are the Kirtland Temple, the Smith Family Homestead, the Mansion House, the Nauvoo House, and the Red Brick Store. Significant documents and artifacts include manuscripts and the Bible used in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

[00:03:36.080] - Scott Woodward

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. The JST. The JST.

[00:03:39.290] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Seven letters from Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma, John Whitmer's history of the Church, original portraits of Joseph and Emma Smith, the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, The original door of Liberty Jail, and a document with the title of "Caracters", which may contain a sample of inscriptions from the Gold Plates. And then there's an appendix that has more details, but that starts us off rolling. So this is-

[00:04:02.870] - Scott Woodward

This is an historic day.

[00:04:05.560] - Casey Paul Griffiths

This is... Wow. Just to let our listeners in on the significance of what this means. The Kirtland Temple is this centerpiece of the entire church community in Kirtland. It's the first house of the Lord built and dedicated by the church in this dispensation. It's where Jesus Christ appeared. This is noted in Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Moses, Elias, and Elijah all appear within this sacred structure. The structure is the original building. It has been kept up and maintained by Community of Christ over the years. They've done a wonderful job preserving it. But for members of both churches, it is a highly significant building that holds a ton of meaning for us.

[00:04:55.570] - Scott Woodward

The very first temple built in this dispensation.

[00:04:58.750] - Casey Paul Griffiths


[00:04:59.750] - Scott Woodward

The place, as you mentioned, where keys were restored, which the significance of those keys would take an hour to discuss, right? In fact, we've done so. But the keys that are restored there are the keys that are eventually going to be used later on in future temples to help seal families together.

[00:05:22.680] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah. And because the Kirtland Temple is so significant, we're talking about just about the only place on Earth that you can point to and within a couple of feet, say, this is a place where Jesus appeared. We should note that one of the Q&A's was, will the Kirtland Temple be converted into a functioning Latter-day Saint Temple? The answer was no. The Kirtland Temple will be maintained and presented as a historic building that's open to the public. The Kirtland Temple, under ownership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is going to continue to do what it did under ownership of Community of Christ. And I want to mention that everybody will be welcome. Like anybody will be able to visit the Kirtland Temple and go into the Kirtland Temple just like they have been before ownership was transferred.

[00:06:07.530] - Casey Paul Griffiths

So that's the Kirtland Temple.

[00:06:08.810] - Scott Woodward

Come learn the history, come learn the significance, come sup on church history.

[00:06:12.640] - Casey Paul Griffiths

That is the beginning of this. The announcement also mentions the historic properties in Nauvoo, which includes...

[00:06:20.930] - Scott Woodward

Tell us.

[00:06:21.900] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah. So they mentioned the Joseph Smith Homestead. This is the house the Joseph Smith family lives in most of the time they're in Nauvoo. A little cabin on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Mansion House, which is the home Joseph Smith lives in for the last eight months of his life. It's also used as a hotel. The Nauvoo House, which is mentioned in Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants, kind of a house for strangers. And the Red Brick Store. The Red Brick Store, which is a recreation.

[00:06:48.840] - Scott Woodward

The Red Brick store.

[00:06:49.990] - Casey Paul Griffiths

The original Red Brick Store is where the Relief Society was organized. It's also where the first endowments were given. It functions as sort of church headquarters.

[00:07:00.350] - Scott Woodward

Community center.

[00:07:02.170] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah. So that's a huge deal, too. And that I did not expect. I had been hearing rumors for a couple of months that the Kirtland Temple was going to be sold, but I didn't expect the Nauvoo properties to be sold also during this time. So this is pretty stunning.

[00:07:20.190] - Scott Woodward

The Red Brick Store is almost the proto-temple, right? It's before the Nauvoo Temple was completed, they're doing temple ordinances in the Red Brick Store. Yeah.

[00:07:31.540] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Joseph Smith says, if the temple is not completed, then we can do it in another place. The place that happens is the Red Brick Store. Now, alongside that, the historic artifacts.

[00:07:43.730] - Scott Woodward

I mean, these have some of the most incredible history of our church embedded in them. And so we're excited to see what the church does. But tell us about why those are significant.

[00:07:58.970] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Okay. So a ton of things that were kept by Emma Smith when the church moved west were eventually transferred into custody of Community of Christ. And that includes the Bible and the original manuscripts for the Joseph Smith Translation, which is hugely significant to us. They mentioned the door from Liberty Jail, the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. The cornerstone of the Nauvoo House is where Joseph Smith places the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. To try and preserve it, water seeps in and most of the manuscript is destroyed. But that's been on display in the Nauvoo Temple Visitor Center. And the entire list of items actually lists several sunstones, moonstones, starstones from the Nauvoo Temple as well. And the homes in Nauvoo also include the Sidney Rigdon home, a stable built by Lewis Bidamon, a bunch of stuff that's currently owned by Community of Christ. Basically, everything that they had stewardship over in Nauvoo and Kirtland is listed as part of this.

[00:09:11.130] - Scott Woodward

Sounds like pretty much everything related to the Joseph Smith era.

[00:09:15.700] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah, this is pretty much everything.

[00:09:18.510] - Scott Woodward


[00:09:19.880] - Casey Paul Griffiths

I am stunned. Q&A says, The church paid $192.5 million without assigning specific values to properties and items. So this is everything transferred into church control. And like I said, this isn't a huge shock.

[00:09:39.370] - Scott Woodward

Why is this not a huge shock? Okay.

[00:09:41.650] - Casey Paul Griffiths

So back in 2017, Steve Veazey, he is the President of the Church (Community of Christ) right now and was back then. They've named a successor, but she hasn't been put in place yet. In 2017, Steve Veazey sent out a letter saying that the church had I think it was a $115 million budget shortfall, that they needed to take care of the pensions for their employees. They need to do this to provide retirement for them. And in the letter, I think his wording was, "The church will consider to sell historic properties in order to meet its obligations." It was only a couple of days after that that the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon sold for $35 million. This could be looked at as the logical conclusion of that sequence of events where Community of Christ has this... They need to take care of their employees. They need resources to operate their church. This is probably the end result of that process that started several years ago, too. So huge, huge stuff. Let me pause for a moment and say, I work with Community of Christ quite a bit. Part of my work is, I work with an interfaith team that meets with leaders from Community of Christ about every six months.

[00:11:05.330] - Casey Paul Griffiths

And I know that this is tough for them. And so I would I would plead with the members of our church to be gracious during this time0 No triumphalism, no spiking the football, because this is...No gloating. Please, please, please be gracious, because this this could be very difficult for some of, for some of our friends in Community of Christ who we love and respect and who have done a wonderful job. It's a real labor of love to care for these historic properties. And I would hope that we'd emphasize to them that this is something that honestly will stay a shared space, that members of Community of Christ are going to be welcome at all these sites. This is still going to be inter-. I mean, one of our interfaith dialogs was held in the Kirtland Temple, in the top floor. We've also had interfaith dialogs at the Nauvoo historic sites that they're talking about here. We've done it in the Independence Temple where some of these artifacts are stored. I want to emphasize to them that I'm grateful to know that these buildings and artifacts will be cared for by people that care about them.

[00:12:23.190] - Casey Paul Griffiths

But I also recognize how this could be a hard day for a lot of people in Community of Christ, and my heart goes out to them. They're my friends and I love them, and I hope they're okay. This is tough stuff.

[00:12:35.070] - Scott Woodward

We can only hope to be as gracious to them and anyone else who'd like to come and visit these sites as they were to us as the stewards of these sites when they were under their ownership. I've only had positive experiences visiting them under the care of the Community of Christ. We thank you, our brothers and sisters in the Community of Christ, that care, that love, that openness will be reciprocated. Let brotherly love continue. We plan on that. But Casey, for those who are lovers of our church history, whatever branch of the restoration movement you're from. This is a big day. This is a huge day. What an important moment in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You and I are Church History nerds. We have a podcast called Church History Matters, where we nerd out about stuff like this, where we nerd out about all kinds of things, church history. We think it's really important and significant. If you're not aware of what we do on that, please come over and join us on Church History Matters. It's a podcast that we have on Scripture Central. We're actually even recording a series right now about the significance of temples.

[00:13:50.790] - Scott Woodward

We've even talked about the Kirtland Temple very recently.

[00:13:55.310] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Honestly, the last episode we just recorded was on the Kirtland Temple, and I was sitting there wondering, do we need to talk about ownership of the Kirtland Temple? And I'm glad we put it off because it would have been outdated before it was published. Things are moving really, really quickly here. And so, wow. I mean, we're learning just as quickly as you are out there. And I'm going to need a little while to process this, Scott, to be honest with you. This is just something that I thought maybe I'd see happen, but now that it's happened, it's a "where were you when you found out" moment for me.

[00:14:35.000] - Scott Woodward

Holy cow. What a day. Mark it down. March 5th, 2024. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now the stewards over some very incredible, precious historical locations, buildings, and documents.

[00:14:52.890] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Stunning, stunning stuff.

[00:14:54.190] - Scott Woodward

Come on over to Church History Matters. Come join us. We'd love to have you. If you want to go do a deep dive with us about temple worship.

[00:15:03.830] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Yeah. Wow.

[00:15:04.260] - Scott Woodward

Okay. Thanks, Casey.

[00:15:05.520] - Casey Paul Griffiths

Well, exciting times. Exciting times, Scott.