Because the was never an incorporated religious organization in , land was held privately by individuals, like and other church leaders, on behalf of the church. When the was organized in 1832, it bore responsibility for overseeing church lands and other property holdings, like the ashery, in , Ohio. Members of the firm held these lands on behalf of the firm. After the United Firm was dissolved in 1834, some of the land previously held by firm members was deeded to JS to oversee for the church. This included a portion of the “,” land in Kirtland where the was under construction.
When JS relocated his family to in 1831, he did not have the financial means to purchase land and instead relied on the generosity of friends and fellow Latter-day Saints to house him and his family. One such benefactor was , who allowed JS the use of his farm beginning in 1831. Williams this property to the church when he joined the United Firm, but he did not deed the land to JS until May 1834.
The population of Latter-day Saints in grew considerably over the course of the mid-1830s, with the largest growth between 1835 and 1837. In an effort to develop Kirtland as a gathering place for the Saints, JS and other church leaders became involved in several business ventures in 1836, including developing mercantile stores, establishing a bank, and purchasing large pieces of land in the area. Most of these land transactions occurred between September 1836 and January 1837. During this time, JS also sold land, primarily in the platted area near the .
In the fall of 1836, JS, individually and in connection with other church members, purchased several tracts of land totaling approximately 440 acres. Some of these transactions took the form of mortgages in which JS, along with any partners in the purchase, provided an initial payment and then arranged a payment schedule, including interest, over several years. The largest of these mortgages was an October 1836 transaction with for additional land in the area. This property appears to have provided land for Saints relocating to . These tracts of land increased the church’s assets and may have provided financial security as JS and other church leaders began establishing the . In April 1837, JS transferred his interest in most of these purchases to , who likely held the land as JS’s . Another agent, , also held and managed land in Ohio for JS and the church after JS and other church leaders left in January 1838.
By December 1836, there was a shortage of land for arriving church members, and guidelines were established for those intending to move to Kirtland. Sidney Rigdon later explained that the objective of purchasing land was to ensure “a place of rest, a place of safety, a place that the saints might lawfully call their own.” He instructed the elders to discuss the gathering of the Saints and “urge the necessity and propriety of the measure from the fact that we have a place for them, and not only so, it is the will of God that they should come.” (Minutes, 22 Dec. 1836; “Anniversary of the Church of Latter Day Saints,” Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1837, 3:488–489, italics in original.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.