The feelings of many Latter Day Saints in visiting Kirtland might prove at once jubilant and agonizing. It is a place that mingles in the hearts of those who call themselves members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints both awe and anguish. Part of the negative emotions might arise from the fact that our beloved Kirtland Temple, the temple our ancestors built with not only their broken china but with their faith and labor, resides in hands other than our own.
|Temple of the Community of Christ|
The death of the Prophet Joseph brought many alterations in the lives of the Saints, not least of which included appointing a new prophet and president of the Church. I know for a certain fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints retains the right to priesthood and apostolic authority, but a splinter group broke away and appointed Joseph’s son as his rightful successor. It is this group that owns our beloved temple. Many of the members of the Church feel uncomfortable and blame Joseph’s wife, Emma, for destroying unity. While the rest of the Saints trudged westward under the direction of Brigham Young, Emma stayed behind and helped create this rift.
Recently, the LDS Church donated a great deal of money to the reorganized group for the upkeep of the temple and animosities smoothed to some extent.
The past week has brought me to many of the most noted sites of LDS history and as I came upon this rivalry I pleaded that heaven teach me why the church split. Surely God could have prevented this. Why did He, in His infinite wisdom, allow such a heart rending divorce?
|Temple site at Independence|
And as I pondered thus, awake and receptive to His counsel, the answer came. I understood the reasoning so well that it seemed absurd that I had never realized it before. The Lord saw a larger picture and sat, gazing calmly at the world from a much higher vantage point than mine, or Emma’s or even Joseph Smith’s. The Church as a body fled from persecution in order to find a more stable home where they might worship God in peace. That certainly proved a necessity. However it transpired, for whatever reason we might employ to explain the situation, our progression as a people necessitated one party strengthening itself in the Salt Lake valley and another group maintaining all the sacred sites pertaining to Joseph Smith and the restored gospel. If the reorganized LDS Church had not stayed in Palmyra and the like, the Sacred Grove would not have been held sacred. It might have been bulldozed to create a parking lot or mini mart. The presence of believers in the eastern United States ensured that we have a way to look back and accurately view the past. Because of this rift, places like Independence not only have retained the reverence of the populace but we know exactly where these places were located. No one forgot the place Joseph called Adam ondi Ahman because his family and others stayed in this region and continued to honor these sites. Someday perhaps we will resolve our differences enough to merge together as one. But for the moment, we can rejoice together, pray reverently together, and study the Book of Mormon together. God has a mighty plan of reconciliation and forgiveness. All is well!