I started the day early, wanting to tour the Kirtland Temple, the John Johnson Home (Which was an hour’s drive in the opposite direction) and make the drive to Buffalo in upper state New York, all in one day. I’m looking forward to Buffalo, as I will be meeting my sweetheart, Penny, and my little girl (19 year old), Jennica, there on Saturday morning. It’s been lonely on the road, so it will be good to have family with me for a few days.
The Kirtland Temple Tour, conducted by the Community of Christ Church (Previously known as the Reorganized Church), started in their visitor center with a movie. The movie gave the history, from their perspective, of the restoration and building up of the Church. To me it was different to see Joseph Smith and the early saints from their point of view.
The tour was strange from the start, as my tour guide, dressed in a blue golf shirt and Levis, introduced himself as Jim, and not Brother or Elder. He seemed very casual about his beliefs, not the enthusiastic, spiritual approach that I became so accustomed to with all my other church history site visits on this trip. Jim seemed quite knowledgeable about his church history, but just lacked the conviction and testimony I was use to seeing.
That aside, I really enjoyed sitting inside the Kirtland Temple and imagining what it must have been like, the day of the dedication, when the heavens were opened and poured down spiritual manifestations upon the Kirtland Saints. I saw the place where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery witnessed the appearance of Jesus Christ, as well as Moses, Elias and Elijah. I stood in the upper room where Joseph Smith received many revelations. Although the tour was different, I still felt the spirit of the events that took place there. The building of the Kirtland Temple was long awaited for the Lord to bless his children with the higher blessings of the priesthood. To me, it was amazing the sacrifices the Kirtland Saints made to build this beautiful temple, to then turn towards the west and move on, leaving it behind.
I was excited as I drove to the John Johnson home. One of my favorite stories, which illustrates the strong dedication of the Prophet Joseph Smith, is when a mob broke into the John Johnson home, while Joseph and Emma and their twins were sleeping, and carried Joseph several hundred yards from the home, stripped him of his clothes, tried to force a vile of poison in his mouth, then tarred and feathered him from head to toe, leaving him for dead on the frozen ground. Making his way back to the home, opening the front door, he was greeted by Emma. She fainted, thinking he was covered in blood. All night Emma and the Johnson’s scraped and cleaned the tar from the body of the Prophet.
With the next day being Sunday, the Prophet preached a sermon from the front steps of the Johnson home to a group of saints, which also included some members of the mob from the previous night. Joseph forgave them openly, and in his journal for that day he wrote: “With the rising of the sun, it was the Sabbath Day; I preached a sermon and baptized three.” As I stood on those same front steps, I felt the deep love Joseph had for his Savior and the dedication to his prophetic calling.
I felt privileged, as Sister Packer, of Mesa, Arizona, and Sister Ruff, of Highland, Utah, led me into a very special room of the Johnson home, where Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon received one of the most important revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants on the Three Degrees of Glory, known as Section 76. These sweet sisters both bore strong testimonies of what happened there, and then they asked if I would like to be alone, by myself, in the room. As I sat there, pondering the wonderful truths of this revelation, I felt the loving arms of my Savior encircle me and I knew He loved me.
After completing the John Johnson tour, I climbed back upon my motorcycle, higher than a kite, and floated my way to Buffalo, New York.