The Vision of Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah

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(This is an excerpt from the book The Savior in Kirtland by Karl Ricks Anderson.)

The pinnacle of all the holy events transpiring in Kirtland and possibly even in the history of the young latter-day Church was reached with the supernal visions of this day. The Savior Jesus Christ—followed by Moses, Elias, and Elijah—stood before Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to instruct them and to bestow on them long-awaited priesthood keys and authority to carry out the missions of the Church. Joseph’s journal relates that as he and Oliver rose from prayer, Christ stood before them in His full glory. After testifying of Himself and His resurrection, He acknowledged His acceptance of His house, the temple. He then promised to appear again to His faithful servants. Joseph testified:

We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us. . . . His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. . . . I have accepted this house. . . . I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house.45

Joseph and Oliver related this vision to other early leaders. In turn, William W. Phelps told his wife of the vision, saying, “On Sunday, April 3, the twelve held meeting and administered the sacrament. It was a glorious time. The curtains were dropt in the afternoon. And there was a manifestation of the Lord to Br Joseph and Oliver, [by] which they [learned] thus the great & terrible day of the Lord as mentioned by Mal[a]chi, was near, even at the doors.”46

Lorenzo Snow remembered the testimonies of Joseph and Oliver almost fifty years later. He said, “Those who saw Him testify to this fact.”47 He made particular reference to his association with Joseph and Oliver and to their vision. He said, “There were two persons [Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery] with whom I was very well acquainted who saw [Christ] . . . in the Temple in Kirtland, Ohio.”48 Lorenzo was so well acquainted with the vision that he gave these details: “They were sitting side by side, as my brethren are sitting here on this stand, and the Son of God appeared to them.” Lorenzo had obviously heard them relate the vision in 1836. He knew which pulpit Christ stood upon. He later said, “I have preached from that pulpit many times.”49 In relating his feelings in his journal, he tells of the first time he preached from the pulpit:

No language can describe my feelings when, for the first time, I stood up in one of those pulpits to address an audience—a pulpit on the breastwork of which, only a short time before, this holy Personage stood—‘his hair as white as pure snow, his eyes as a flame of fire’—where also Moses, Elias and Elijah came and committed the keys of their dispensations to Joseph Smith.50

The appearance of these divine heavenly visitors was even stamped on the memory of children. Mary Ann Stearnes Winters, a stalwart Utah pioneer, always remembered how, when she was a child, her mother showed her the exact spot where the Savior stood. She said, “Mother took me to the stand and showed me the place on the pulpit where the Savior had stood when He appeared to the Prophet, and where afterwards Moses and Elias came and delivered the keys for the gathering of the Saints (Israel), and the redemption of the dead.”51

Seemingly, the non-LDS community was aware of the Savior’s visit. One week after this vision of Christ, Lucius Parsons, a local resident, wrote of it to his sister: “They report that the Savior appeared personally with angels and endowed the Elders with powers to work Miracles.”52

Orson Pratt, who no doubt was present on April 3, 1836, concluded that this vision of Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah in itself rewarded the Saints for all they had endured in building the temple. He said:

Then you see that even this one revelation, which God gave in that Temple, paid the people for the toil they had endured in erecting it. What a satisfaction it was to them to know that angels administered in that Temple! What a satisfaction it was for them to go into that Temple and have the heavens opened to them so that they could gaze on the glory of God! What a satisfaction it was for them to know that the Lord accepted, as His own, the house which they had built according to the pattern which He had given! And what a satisfaction it was for them to know that they loved God by keeping His commandments!53

_________________________

45. Doctrine & Covenants110:2–4, 7–8.

46. William W. Phelps, Journal, April 1836 (letter 27), 3, William Wines Phelps (1792–1872) Papers, Vault MSS 810, BYU Special Collections.

47. Lorenzo Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 23:342.

48. Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 23:291.

49. Lorenzo Snow, discourse at the Brigham City Tabernacle, March 6, 1887, reported by John Burroughs, in Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, comp. and ed. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. (Burbank, Calif.: B. H. S. Publishing, 1987–92), 1:28.

50. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record, 11–12.

51.Relief Society Magazine 3, no. 8 (August 1916), 432.

52. Lucius Pomeroy Parsons to Pamelia Parsons, April 10, 1836, Church History Library, in Harper, in Opening the Heavens, 329. Parson’s letter does not identify in which meeting the Savior appeared. He wrote in the letter that the manifestation occurred “behind the curtains.” He dated the time for the meeting as being “of late” and around the time of the solemn assembly (March 30, 1836). It is concluded that it was the April 3 meeting because this was the only vision of Christ in the Kirtland Temple that occurred behind the dropped curtains with angels (likely a reference to Moses, Elias, and Elijah).

53. Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 13:359.

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