Journey of the Saints: The Kirtland and Nauvoo Visitor’s Center Videos


These videos were created by Community of Christ to be shown at our historical visitors’ centers in Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois. These videos were then uploaded to youtube by the schismatic church, The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, since the publication of this post Community of Christ has since had these videos removed from the public eye. The links to the videos will remain in the event that they are restored. In the meantime, please enjoy the transcripts.

The Community in Kirtland


“I must confess the scenery is indescribable. When I entered the threshold of the house and passed into the lower room, there was great solemnity if not awe. It immediately overwhelmed me! I felt indeed as if my footsteps were in the temple of the Lord” – Wilford Woodruff

Wallace B. Smith:

Welcome to the Kirtland temple, a monument to the dedication and sacrifice of diverse seekers and disciples who built this magnificent building. It stood at the center of a religious community that grew to 2,000 members between 1830 and 1838, although by the end of the decade all but a hundred were gone.

Hello, my name is Wallace B. Smith, President-emeritus of the Community of Christ and great-grandson of Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint tradition churches. His son, my grandfather, Joseph Smith III, was born here in Kirtland in a room at the Whitney store in 1832.

His father’s story begins as a boy in western New York, an area so scorched by the fires of religious revivals that it became known as the “Burned Over District”. As a teenager, Joseph turned to the pages of the New Testament for guidance. He read in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God”.

Joseph then found a secluded grove near his home and poured out his heart and prayer. There he had a vision of Jesus Christ. This personal conversion experience set him on a path which led to the publication of the Book of Mormon, an additional scriptural witness to the Bible, and the founding of the Church of Christ in 1830.

Building a Community


“We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a new community in his waistcoat-pocket” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is the early 19th century and youthful United States of America offers to its citizens freedom of religious expression. Ann Lee and the Shakers, the Rappites of the Harmony Society, the Separatists of Zoar, Ohio, and the Perfectionists of Oneida, New York. These groups practice community living and share all possessions in common.

“You must remember the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, and deal out your bread to the hungry, and your clothes to the naked. your natures will say ‘They may work and get these things for themselves’, but Christ said ‘Give to him that asketh and of him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.'” – Ann Lee

Preacher Sidney Rigdon and his congregations in and around Kirtland Ohio also explored the communitarian lifestyle as a part of their Christian calling.

“Our pretensions to follow the Apostles and all their New Testament teachings required a community of goods, that, as they established their order in the model church at Jerusalem, we were bound to imitate their example.” – Sidney Rigdon

“All the believed were together and had all things common and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men as every man had need.” – Acts 2 44-45

Sidney encourages the establishment of a communitarian settlement at the large local farm of Isaac Morley. The Morley family challenges the ownership of personal property; the arrangement proves troublesome.

“While I was in the room at father Morley’s, as we all called him, this same Hermon Bassett came to me and took my watch out of my pocket and walked off as though it was his. I thought he would bring it back soon, but was disappointed as he sold it. I asked him what he meant by selling my watch ‘Oh,’ said he, ‘I thought it was all in the family.’ I told him I did not like such family doing and I would not bear it.” – Levi Hancock

In 1830 Parley Pratt, one of a group of missionaries from the recently established Church of Christ, arrives from upstate New York and gives his friend Sidney a copy of the recently published Book of Mormon. This new church scripture shares the story of ancient Americans’ encounter with Jesus Christ in the Western Hemisphere. Although skeptical at first, Sidney becomes convinced of the book’s Divine origin. Sidney and many in his numerous congregations decide to convert to the Church of Christ.

“I shall therefore content myself by saying that they brought the Book of Mormon to bear upon us, and the whole of the common stock family was baptized, and during the seven weeks they tarried, they succeeded in building up a church of 130 members.” – Lyman Wight

Sidney travels to New York to meet with Church of Christ Prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. Joseph leads the new church, whose growing persecution east and potential for growth west, prompts him to consider Sidney’s proposal of moving the group to Ohio. Joseph goes to God in prayer:

“You should go to the Ohio, and there I will give unto you my law and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” – Joseph Smith Jr (D&C 38:7B-7C)

The community hopes to build Zion the kingdom of God on earth and expects their efforts at restoring early Christianity will bring about the imminent return of Jesus Christ. That vision includes the church priesthood, a prophet-revelator, and an open canon of scripture.

Joseph adapts Sidney’s communitarian impulse into a new United Order, in which members give to the church and then receive back according to their need. The community has an abiding concern for those who have less.

In addition to caring for the poor the community embraces another idea from the Bible. In 1833 the church lays the cornerstones for what becomes known as the Kirtland Temple.

Heart of the Community

“At this time, the Brethren were laboring night and day building the House of the Lord. Those who had teams assisted in drawing the stone to the house. These all labouring one day in the week brought as many stones to the house as supplied the masons through the whole week. We continued in this manner until the walls of the house were reared” – Heber Kimball

The Kirtland church community builds a temple they name “The House of the Lord”. Money problems continue as the impoverished group now has an ambitious new building project requiring their time and treasure. The men labor in a nearby stone quarry, the women work sewing, cooking, and housing temple builders. Construction continues for nearly three years.

“Candor obliges me to say that many of the common people are industrious, good neighbors, and possibly very sincere Christians. They seem to delight in the duty of prayer and services of devotion and their zeal goes far beyond anything seen among sober Christians. Some are enterprising and intelligent, conversant with the Bible, and fond of reading.” – Truman Coe

Education is a priority. A school of the prophets has been in operation even before the idea of a temple is proposed. The foundation of church belief and leadership structure, including most of the divine instruction found in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, develops in Kirtland. As the church continues to grow, so does their need for printed materials. Their neighboring print shop houses a school and is also used for worship until the temple is complete. The school then continues as an important component in the House of the Lord.

“I went to school that winter and studied the Hebrew, attended the school of the prophets, and had a good time generally in the Kirtland temple where the Spirit of the Lord was daily felt.” – Nathan Tanner

Although a mix of popular architectural styles of the day, the three-story Kirtland temple includes some unique features: large assembly rooms are found on both the first and second floors, pulpits on both floors are emblazoned with gold letters representing the emerging priesthood offices of the church, windows on every wall fill the temple with natural light, ropes and pulleys control curtains or veils to divide the large rims into smaller compartments.

“After walking into the pulpits erected for the priesthood and viewing the curtains, all be speaking that grandeur solemnity and order that nothing short of wisdom from God could invent” – Wilford Woodruff

The community celebrates their realization of the Kirtland temple with a day of worship. March 27th, 1836 is dedication day for the House of the Lord. It’s lower court is jammed with nearly a thousand people! The jubilant celebration lasts for hours.

“We ask thee, O Lord, to accept of this house, the workmanship of the hands of us, thy servants, which thou didst command us to build. For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation, and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name.” – Joseph Smith Jr.

There are reports of visions of angels and other miraculous experiences.

“The hearts of the people were melted and the spirit and power of God rested down upon us in a remarkable manner. Many spake in tongues and others prophesied and interpreted. A bright light shone across the house and rested upon some of the congregation. What I felt that day seemed outweigh all the affliction and distress of mind I have suffered since I came here”- Mary Fielding Smith

The Kirtland temple hosts visits both extraordinary and ordinary, both before and after dedication it is open for public tours.

“I paid 25 cents for going through the temple. Upon entering the first story the keeper took off his hat. I did the same and asked him if that was the rule. He said it was. Indeed the sublime appearance of that apartment when the veils are unfurled seemed to enjoin sacred reverence.” – William West

Outreach beyond the United States begins from Kirtland, with the first overseas mission bound for England. The message proclaimed in Kirtland will eventually be shared around the globe.

Community in Transition

“We are not prepared in our feelings to censor any man; we wish to extend that charity. Other men, and are far more propitious circumstances, have failed. It is easy to see when the deed is done, the die cast and time goes by where there were errors they may have been errors of the head and not of the heart” – Warren Cowdery

Construction of the Kirtland temple leaves the church thousands of dollars in debt. Church leaders want to open a bank in Kirtland to turn valuable land into something they could use to relieve debt. When the State of Ohio refuses to approve their request to open a bank they open an “anti-bank”, with the first notes issued early in 1837.

No state approval means there’s little trust in the “Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company”. Its notes are refused and newspapers threaten fines for those who accept them. Lawsuits are filed and the anti-bank fails. Arguments break out among the members of the congregation. Arsonists burn buildings surrounding the Kirtland temple; winds luckily spare the House of the Lord the same fate.

Threats and lawsuits make life difficult for church leaders in Kirtland. Troubles climax in a retreat from Ohio by Joseph and Sidney some seven years after Joseph first moved the church to Kirtland. The Kirtland church community gradually follows to western states where the exodus continues through Missouri and Illinois. Political aspirations, marching militias, and accusations of polygamous marriages create conflict both within and without the church community in Nauvoo, Illinois.

“All governments ought to permit every man to enjoy his religion unmolested. No man is authorized to take away life, and consequence of difference of religion which all laws and governments ought to tolerate and protect, right or wrong.” – Joseph Smith Jr

In 1844 Joseph and his brother Hyrum are assassinated in an Illinois jail. Church leadership is in upheaval and the group begins to fragment. They scatter from Michigan to Utah to present-day Texas, including a small remnant who follows Sidney Rigdon to Pennsylvania.

Some of the scattered church members congregate in the midwest with hopes to reorganize the church. The son of Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith III, is ordained the first president and prophet of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1860.

Since the 1840s the Kirtland temple had fallen slowly into disrepair, hosting various Latter Day Saint tradition churches. It is also visited by curious tourists and used for community events. A small congregation of the Reorganized Church begins meeting in the Kirtland temple in the 1870s. An RLDS General Conference votes to restore the Kirtland temple to its previous splendor (WCR #256, passed Sept. 23rd, 1882). The Kirtland temple is in good enough repair to host the 1883 General Conference of the church, the first held there in nearly half a century.

“Fifty years ago the speaker began his earth life in this place when those who were working in this place were warring against difficulties to maintain and advance such principles as to them were of the highest truth. The fact exists that almost everywhere where our work has been taught the prejudices of the people have given way.” – Joseph Smith III

Repair and restoration by the Reorganized Church, for over a century ensure that the historical prominence of the Kirtland temple is always remembered.

Community Building in the 21st Century

The Reorganized Church, headquartered since 1920 in Independence, Missouri, dedicated a temple to the pursuit of peace in 1994. Like its Kirtland ancestor, this temple to is used for vibrant worship, education, and church administration.

A church that first gained a foothold in Kirtland is now comprised of Christian communities in over 50 nations throughout the world. To better reflect its mission, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has since 2001 been called “Community of Christ”.

“If there is one consistent theme at the heart of our journey as of people of faith, it is the cause of Zion. This phrase captures the sense of Divine call to express the gospel in community living through which the physical and spiritual needs of people are to be met, and through which harmony, security, and peace can be ultimately realized” – Steve Veazey

We continue to strive for that peaceable community we symbolize as Zion, believing this to have been likewise the goal of our Kirtland forebears.

The United States Department of Interior recognized the significance of this story by declaring the Kirtland temple a National Historic Landmarks in 1977. It is visited by thousands of people each year who experience a sense of the heritage and holiness forever enshrined in the House of the Lord.

As noted in 1933 by the Painesville Telegraph, a local newspaper:

“Around the quiet little village of Kirtland cluster some of the most remarkable events of Ohio history, and in its presence the visitor still feels the spirit of a people who possess the fullest measure of faith and whose temple stands yet today as a monument of their devotion.”



The Mississippi River flows through our country and through our history, always changing yet always the same, it bends around this outcropping of earth where once a community of devout pioneers worked and prayed together. Their dedication to the building of God’s community on earth is an inspirational reminder of a faith group that would eventually find expression as several different churches, but at the time the people were united by their faith in a Latter Day prophet

Joseph Smith Jr. was a teenage boy seeking to understand the will of God. In a quiet grove of trees near his upstate New York home, Joseph prayed for guidance and there had an experience with the Divine. Joseph grew over the next few years, both to adulthood and as a person who kept asking questions about the reasons for his existence. His prayerful quest led to the publication of an additional witness of the resurrected Jesus Christ and the founding of a new church in April of 1830. The publication was the Book of Mormon the church was the Church of Christ.

Wallace B. Smith:

Welcome to Nauvoo and to this brief look at a part of its history. I’m Wallace B. Smith, president-emeritus of Community of Christ and great-grandson of Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the latter-day saint tradition churches. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the Joseph Smith Historic Site.

Nauvoo stands out in our history as a time of triumph and trial, marked by new ideas and rapid change. As we explore the history of Nauvoo, we understand something of how its people lived and responded to God’s call. Insights we gain in this exploration can inform and inspire our own journey as we seek to fulfill the Divine call to be the Community of Christ in the world today. I hope you enjoy your visit as you share in our rich heritage.


From its earliest days, the church long to build a cooperative Christian community. The first was in Kirtland, Ohio near present-day Cleveland. By the end of 1830 many of the church members were in Ohio, and so it was agreed to move the church from New York to Kirtland.

Missionary teams had tried to plant the Church among Native Americans in the Kansas Territory, then the western edge of the United States. Reports from these travels prompted trips by Joseph who, during the summer of 1831, designated Independence, Missouri as a special land of promise.

There came to be two prominent church communities during the early 1830s: one in Ohio and another in Missouri. But the native Missourians and the new church members fought about religious ideas and property acquisitions. Before long the outnumbered Missouri church members were driven north out of the county.

Joseph shared revelations for envisioned temples in Missouri and Ohio. From Kirtland, Joseph and his counselors were drawing up temple plans for both locations. The expulsion in Missouri kept those plans only on paper, while they actually finished a house of the Lord in Ohio between 1833 and 1836. It was used for worship and education.

Economic troubles forced Joseph and the church community to leave Ohio in 1838 and join their persecuted church brothers and sisters on the run in Missouri. Sadly, the forced exodus continued through the northern counties in Missouri. Many people left the church; those who remained were forced to leave Missouri by an extermination order from the governor. In 1839 they fled through the northeast corner of Missouri. They crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois and transformed a malaria-infested swamp land into a beautiful city named “Nauvoo”.

Because of persecution in other states, Joseph designed a community where believers will be free to practice their religious beliefs. The Illinois State legislature granted Nauvoo a city charter that allowed enactment of new laws, except any conflicting with the state constitution.

Nauvoo became a church stronghold of religious development and civic might. Joseph, in addition to being the church prophet and president was also the Nauvoo mayor, Chief Justice, and commander of the Nauvoo Legion. A printing press was established in 1839 and began issuing monthly editions of the church periodical “Times and Seasons”.

As Joseph’s civic responsibilities multiplied, his homes and businesses likewise expanded. The first Smith residence, the two-story log house known as “The Homestead”, was enlarged in 1840. In 1841 construction began on a spacious boarding house by the riverside, “The Nauvoo House”, and on a temple poised on a bluff overlooking the city.

In 1842 Joseph built and managed “The Red Brick Store”, a general store in the heart of the Naucoo business district. Joseph’s second story office served as headquarters for the church and for the city.

In 1843 the Smith family moved into a new home, “The Mansion House”. Soon afterward a hotel wing was added to lodge travelers seeking shelter in the Smith home.

Converts from England, Canada, and the United States swelled the city population from 5,000 in 1839 to more than 12,000 by 1846. At its peak Nauvoo rivaled Chicago as one of the largest cities in Illinois.

Joseph grew increasingly interested in politics and began his own campaign for the United States presidency in 1844.

The community became troubled over the growing strength of the church leadership and doctrinal developments. On June 7th, 1844, dissatisfied members published a newspaper, “The Nauvoo Expositor”, in which they criticized church leadership and their practices. The City Council, at the urging of Mayor Joseph Smith, declared the newspaper of public nuisance and ordered its printing presses destroyed. The Expositor publishers fled to the county seat of Carthage and their charged Mayor Smith and the Nauvoo City Council with riot. A committee requested that the governor call out the state militia to bring Joseph to justice. On June 24th, Joseph and the 17 others charged surrendered themselves at Carthage, Illinois. Joseph and three of the men were imprisoned there.

The Nauvoo Legion, 4,000 men strong under Joseph’s command, gave up their weapons. On June 27th the governor went to Nauvoo to ask its citizens for their continued calm. Joseph wrote a letter to his wife:

“Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends and all who inquire after me. May God bless you all.”

A few hours later Joseph and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed at the Carthage Jail by an angry mob. The surrounding communities expected a bloody day of retribution, fortunately, this did not happen.

Several men advanced their church leadership claims and gathered adherence.

By 1847 most of Nauvoo’s population was gone. Although Josephs widow, Emma Smith, and her children soon returned to Nauvoo, homes and businesses were abandoned. In 1848 the Nauvoo temple was gutted by an arsonist’s fire. In 1850 a tornado topplled its walls.

But some new inhabitants had settled in Nauvoo. In 1849 a colony of French Icarians arrived, German and Swiss immigrants also came and began new industries, but little was left of the church community from the early 1840s.

The next several years saw the emergence of several different Latter Day Saint tradition churches around the country.. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, officially established in 1860, was made up of some of the early church members who stood against polygamy and believed that Joseph Smith the third should succeed his father as Church President. Scattered around the midwestern United States, these members did not migrate to Utah with the Mormon Church, and instead spent the following years developing an identity and institution of their own. It was headquartered in Plano, Illinois, then Lamoni, Iowa, and finally moved to Independence, Missouri during the 1920s. We are now a church with a quarter million members in over 50 nations throughout the world. Our mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.

In Nauvoo, our community was arguably at its most powerful, but possibly at its least peaceful. Our faith journey, seen through the hope and freedom of the gospel of Jesus, has ingrained in us a devotion to embody justice and proclaim peace.

After decades of world outreach and dialogue about sharing our Christian witness, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on April 6th, 2001, changed its name to “Community of Christ”; a name more in harmony with church mission, both in the telling of our sacred story and in reaching out to the world the 21st century.

We offer to the world a temple open to all, dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Through the ministries of the temple we strive to become makers of peace in our own lives, in our families, our congregations, our communities, and throughout the world. We seek to live the gospel in the very center of life and culture: to serve in many ways proclaiming Jesus Christ, celebrating his spirit with us in the fellowship of believers, and promoting communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. Countless people have encountered the living Christ and found hope and new purpose for their lives through the ministries, sacraments, teachings, and mission of the church.

Thank you for visiting this place so important to our heritage. We hope you sense our enthusiasm not just for the past, but for our present and future mission. May God’s blessings and rich and sustain you always.