“The House of the Lord, As Seen in a Vision” by Joseph Smith III

The following was published in The Saints’ Herald on June 1st, 1878. In it, Joseph Smith III gives an account of a dream that he had years prior. He described the basic dimensions of what he believed it would look like, and gave a description of those who would be barred from entrance and how.

Artist Earnest Webb then depicted this dreamed temple in his painting entitled “Dream of the Temple that Might Be”. Since this painting also shows a completed Stone Church, that means that this painting was created sometime between 1892 and early 1907. The first documented publishing of this was in the May 1907 edition of Autumn Leaves.

Of course, we are to keep in mind that this dream of his was never canonized as scripture in our community, and is rightly and simply called theological speculation. That being said, it is a fascinating glimpse into what our people’s relationship was with the temple at this time.

In sleep, or in waking hour, I can not tell, I saw and realized what I shall try to relate; and, though some years have elapsed, what was seen and heard during that eventful hour remains vividly impressed upon my mind, as if heard and seen buy yesternight.

I had slept and was consciously awake, and approaching a building apparently, eighty feet long by fifty in width, the walls of which were about twenty-five feet high from the top of the foundation, which was raised some five or six feet from the ground, and of stone roughly dressed by the mason’s hammer, though jointed and faced at the edges. The front was to the east, and as I approached it from the north-east I had time to note that in the outside of the building no attempt had been made by the builders at ornamentation; except that along the sides were a series of pilasters standing out from the main wall a few inches, though forming a part of the wall, the basses of which were finished in square work, pedestal and pediment; the tops in capitals rich and peculiar in style, but which I can not describe.

At the front a flight of nine, wide, stone steps reaching nearly across the building, led up to the entrance; this entrance being an open porch about sixteen feet deep and thirty wide. Two finished pillars stood at the outer edge of this porch supporting with the walls at either side, three arches. These pillars had square and solid finishes at the base, but rose from their bases round and smooth, to their caps, which were very richly carved in square designs; the arches which they supported the inner and outer feet of, were exactly circular, and formed of cut stone, and were only a few feel below the ceiling of the porch. The inner side of the porch formed the outer wall of the assembly room, and was richly paneled between the open doors, one at either side of the porch opening straight into the building from the front, and apparently three and a half feet wide and nine or ten feet high.

As I passed up the steps I seemed to know that the Saints were assembling for some purpose, and yet I felt no care nor responsibility respecting the nature of the assembly, any more than to be there with the rest. I found three or four brothers standing at the right, or north end of the porch, conversing in low and quiet tones together. I joined them for a moment; and while standing there I saw numbers of both brothers and sisters come up the steps and pass across the porch and into the open doors, the brothers to the right, the sisters to the left. Some I knew, some were strangers whom I had never seen before. Some, of both men and women, who came briskly up the steps and walked freely across the porch went no further than the doors; when for some cause that I could not see, they stopped, and either turned immediately round and walked hastily away, or turned hesitatingly, slowly and sadly with frequent backward glances, went away as if overcome and distressed.

While standing thus a shadowy fear came over me, that as I saw some turned away, for reasons that I did not know, and as I then supposed by some one standing at the doors, so I might not be permitted to go in; and in my perplexed and doubting frame of mind, I turned from the brethren with whom I was chatting and walked slowly toward the door upon the right, thinking that if I saw the least sign that I was not to go in, I would turn at once away, as if I did not care to enter. As I came near the doorway, to my surprise, I saw neither sentinel nor usher, neither door shutter, nor bolt, lock nor hinge, nothing but the door way with door jams, lintel and threshold smooth and free from any indication of there ever having been a shutter with which to close the opening. My surprise was increased when, being permitted to pass in, I found no one inside having charge of the door or aisle; not anything to betray the mystery of turning those back that had gone away.

I went carefully in, taking my hat off as I passed the door way, and walked about a third of the way up the aisle which led the entire length of the room, ending against the side of the pulpit platform. A dim and mellow light shone in the building, thought I saw no windows; nor did it seem as if the light came from the sun shining out of doors, for none came in at the open doors. There were two aisles, one at either side of the room, a trifle wider than the door way, dividing the seated portion into three parts; the seats were similar to some styles of church pews, or slips, finished in dark, heavy, polished woods, and at the two sides running level from end to end, and across the room, except at the two sides of the pulpit platform where they were placed lengthwise, facing the pulpit. The middle row of seats were in parallel lines with those at the side, and level with them for about two thirds of the way from pulpit to the door, when the rose in a circle, arc down, until the last one was raised five or six feet. At equal distances apart, and at the outer side of the inner row of seats, were four pillars supporting the roof.

The pulpit platform was very elaborately finished, and contained a seated apartment, richly furnished; two small circular tables, one at either side, chairs at the sides, and an orator’s desk, all of a similar material and finish as the seats, only much more exquisitely carved and colored. The walls were, apparently, painted, and finished in pictured designs, that the back of the platform much more elaborate and complicated than those at the sides; the ceiling, also, was richly decorated; the cornices profusely so, with carven imagery, scroll and counter-scroll, reaching along the sides, and down the corners and along the walls in places, corresponding to the pilasters upon the outer surface. In suitable niches, and on brackets carved and embellished, were pictures and statuettes, the pictures representing scenes in the life of the Savior, the Apostles of the New Testament and of the Book of Mormon; the statuettes the figures of covenant leaders of both continents, ancient and modern.

I had, however, only time to catch a hasty glimpse of all that is so briefly described, when a sort of metallic, ringing sound from the left hand door, and a kind of flashing light diverted my attention, and I looked across to the other side, but saw nothing.

I had hardly time to renew my survey of the walls and ceiling when I was fairly startled by a repetition of the sound already referred to, this time at the door on the right through which I had come; I turned in my seat and saw a man standing at the doorway facing it as if to come in, and in the door-way itself, two crossed swords, much like the old fashioned broad swords, only a trifle broader; the hilts rested against the door jams, one at either side, about two and a half feet from the floor, and the swords crossed each other, edge down, with their points resting against the opposite door jam about the height of a man’s shoulder from the floor. The hilts were plain, the guards like the common sabre guard, the handle part of dark material; the blades polished till they shone like silver, with a golden tinge. As the man stood for a moment, the swords shook a little, as if held in the hand of a person nervous from excitement, and from them as they shivered, a pale, shimmering yellow light seemed to flash, or flow.

The man turned away with a sigh, and with a sad face; the swords remained just a moment, but before the footsteps of the repulsed man had reached the outer edge of the porch, they were drawn back apparently into the door jam itself, turning upward as if upon a hinge formed at the hilts. I looked the door jams all over after the swords were withdrawn, but there was no sign nor trace of any opening in which the swords might be hid; nor was there an evidence of the existence of the swords to be seen.

I turned to renew my survey of the room and as my eyes became more accustomed to the peculiar light, I discovered new and wonderous beauty in the workmanship and finish of the whole. I had, as it seemed, come early; for the arrivals were more frequent, the intervals between them shorter and shorter; the room was filling up on both sides, and in the centre; the dropping of the swords in either doorway was also more frequent, the light flashing from them more continuous; while now and then, from some cause, the falling of them seemed like a crash, as if they were clashed furiously together, at which the light seemed to blaze throughout the room and coruscate along the emblazoned imagery of cornice and column like yellow lighting. I sat in wonder, but not in fear, for within was complete quiet; I began to contemplate the arrangements of the pulpit, where now a page, a lad of some sixteen years of age, was moving to and fro arranging something upon the stand, the tables, and chairs.

A sudden loud clashing of the swords in the doorway just behind me, together with a vivid flashing of the strange light caused me to turn my eyes again in that direction; a man was standing outside the doorway, with his teeth shut tightly together, his hands clenched, and eyes blazing with fury and disappointment; before him were the crossed swords, quivering as if instinct with life, and endowed with emotion; the polished blades had changed their hue from silvery, golden tinged glitter to the color of a golden flame, while the light that scintillated from them flashed over and filled the room to the remotest corner, flooding seat and pillar, pulpit and altar, niche and statuette, picture and scroll, with its terrible brilliancy. The man turned away, the swords were withdrawn, but in an instant he came towards the door quickly, and was almost in the room with his right foot touching the threshold, when with a crash that sent the blood surging through my veins with the shock, the swords fell before him, sending a flood of flame and light over the room again; he turned again away, and stepping back a few paces, he started toward the door the third time with determination, despair and fierce rage pictured in his face; and again those terrible swords, now white and glowing like molten gold, fell before him, striking fire from their clashing crossing, shaking the building with the fierceness and suddenness of their fall, and filling the doorway from top to bottom and side to side with their quivering, eager motion, putting before the enraged and desperate man seeking an entrance, a wall of flaming swords and seeming fire. I shall never forget the fearful expression of baffled desire and helpless rage depicted in the face of the man thus barred out.

I watched him depart, and though many came; some coming in, some being prevented and going away, I saw only the one who tried more than once to enter. It seemed that when a person came up who was to com in, no stir, nor charge took place at the door; but when some one came who was not to come in, the swords dropped lightly into place across the doorway, striking slightly together as they fell. If the one thus stopped from coming in, at once turned away, the swords were with drawn, without noise or light; but if they remained standing, as if waiting to come in or to question why they were thus stopped, the blades of the swords would begin to blaze and quiver with motion, and light would begin to emit from them, similar in appearance to the flame from a hit, briskly blazing wood fire; and the longer the person stood there, the more energetic would be the shivering motion of the swords, and the more vivid and intense would be the light flying from them, until in some instances, as in the one described, the room would be illumined with the light, which resembled that which heralds the rising sun seen as it comes unclouded from the shades of night; or like the glow at the setting of the sun.

I saw some enter whom in my waking every day hours I knew were deemed not meet for a membership with the faithful; and I saw some rejected who are deemed most worthy.

Some walked briskly in, some slowly; none who entered seemed to take any heed to whether there was anything to stop or hinder them; while some walking slowly and gently would find their way barred with the crossed swords, they having fallen into place gently and noiselessly; others coming quickly, would be met suddenly by the fall of the swords with a clash and noise, as if sprung into place by the stroke of a nervous and impatient hand; and if entrance were insisted upon, or seemed to be, the crossed swords began to glow, moving up and down, quivering as if with emotion and life, and light would emit from them as from the burnished plough-share set in the sun.

My waking eyes have never looked upon workmanship so complete, so fit, so richly elaborate in design and finish, so profuse and yet so grandly harmonious as that of the room I have so poorly described. The outside of the building was massive and solid, a building only impressive because of its solidity and strength; without a spire, and yet perfect in proportion, design and finish.

If faded from my sight, as sublunary things began to obtrude themselves upon my conscious being; but the impressions made upon my mind will never effaced. Well may we believe that the “Flaming Swords that turn every way to guard the way of the Tree of Life,” still stand as prescient sentinels at the open doors of the Temple of Eternal Peace, and dispute with the fierceness of awakened wrath the entrance of human or devilish design and work.