It is hard to imagine that a town in which 47 of the canonized revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants were received is so insignificant to the world that an edition of the National Geographic Atlas did not even acknowledge its existence. Such is the lot of Kirtland, Ohio, headquarters of the Church from 1831 until 1837. In this obscure village, located about six miles from the shores of Lake Erie in the northeastern part of Ohio, significant, sacred events took place.
It was in Kirtland that the first temple of modern times was erected and dedicated to the Lord on March 27, 1836 (D&C 109). Within its sacred walls, angels mingled with men on that holy occasion (HC, 2:427-28). Less than one week later, the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were visited by such heavenly beings as the Savior, Moses, Elijah, and Elias as keys of authority were restored to the earth (D&C 110).
The first high council and first stake of the Church were organized at Kirtland in February 1834 (D&C 102). One year later, the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized. Two years prior to this, the primary quorum of the Church—the First Presidency—had been established. Thus, Kirtland was the spawning ground for the three basic quorums which preside over the Church today (D&C 107:22-26).
Even though the Lord had revealed that Missouri was to be the “land of Zion,” or the Saints’ inheritance (D&C 57:1-3), two months later, in September 1831, He commanded that a “strong hold in the land of Kirtland” be maintained “for the space of five years” (D&C 64:21). The building of a temple and the restoration of keys from heaven might not have been possible under the conditions in which the Saints have lived in Missouri.
Kirtland was to survive as a stronghold of Zion until she met the measure of her creation. She must first give birth to those wondrous events for which she was created. “After this glorious event,” said President Joseph Fielding Smith, “the members of the Church were at liberty to remove to Zion (Missouri). IN fact there followed a few months later an apostasy, and many turned away from the Church, but some were saved and they were under the necessity of fleeing from the place” (CHMR, 1:237). The deserted temple stood sound in structure, yet barren of spirit.