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Spencer: In 1831 there was an excitement radiating from Kirtland, Ohio. It was a time of change for the fledgling American settlement. That year, hundreds of residents joined the Church of Christ, and hundreds of men, women, and children who were already members of the church moved to the town. What brought about this sudden change? In part, it’s because in 1831, Joseph Smith the prophet moved from New York to Kirtland.
To church members, Kirtland became a place of prophecy, a city of revelation. They built lives there that resembled the lives of other nineteenth-century Americans. But they chose to build their lives in Kirtland because they sought the word of God through living prophets just as many of the people described in the Bible had done. In Kirtland, church members asked religious questions and often, in response, received answers through prophetic revelations and miraculous visions. They leaned on those revelations to refine the organization of the church and to expound its doctrine. And they relied on the promises in those revelations as they constructed a temple.
But, as you can imagine, the church and its members also faced strong—even violent—opposition. The history of Kirtland in the 1830s, then, is filled with highs and lows, stories of religious devotion paired with intense persecution.
Yet, as a historian immersed in the records that Joseph Smith and others left behind, there is one theme from the history of Kirtland that stands out to me above all others. While people flocked to Kirtland to receive the word of God through the prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith was intent on teaching people how to hear the voice of God themselves. At its heart, the story of Kirtland, Ohio, in the 1830s is a story about men and women seeking to hear the voice of God in their lives. That’s what we are talking about over the next eight episodes.
This is Kirtland, City of Revelation: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast, and I’m your host, Spencer McBride.