Section 109

Prayer of Dedication, 27 March 1836. Joseph’s cousin George A. Smith reported that “When the dedication prayer was read by Joseph, it was read from a printed copy.”[1]
What does one pray for when dedicating the first House of the Lord in the last dispensation, having never done anything like it before? Joseph thought about that question on March 26, 1836, the day before he dedicated the Kirtland temple. He met with his counselors and secretaries “to make arrangements for the solemn assembly.”[2] Oliver Cowdery’s sketch book adds the detail that he assisted Joseph “in writing a prayer for the dedication of the house.”[3]

The next morning the House of the Lord filled to capacity with nearly a thousand Saints. An overflow meeting convened next door. The solemn assembly began at 9 AM with scripture readings, choir singing, prayer, a sermon, and the sustaining of Joseph Smith as Prophet and Seer. In the afternoon session the sustaining continued, with each quorum and the general body of the Church sustaining, in turn, the leaders of the Church.[4] Another hymn followed, “after which,” Joseph’s journal says, “I offered to God the following dedication prayer.”[5]

Joseph read section 109 from a printed copy. It is an inspired, temple prayer. It begins with thanks to God, then makes requests of him in the name of Jesus Christ. It is based heavily on Section 88’s temple instructions as well as other temple-related scriptural texts. It “sums up the Church’s concerns in 1836, bringing before the Lord each major project.”[6]

Joseph began by asking God to accept the temple on the terms he had given in Section 88, which the Saints had tried to fulfill in order to obtain the promised blessing of entering the Lord’s presence (D&C 88:68, 109:4-12).  Joseph prayed that all the temple worshippers would be endowed with God’s power and “that they may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing” (15). Joseph prayed, in other words, a temple prayer that the Saints would become like their Heavenly Father by degrees of glory as they obeyed His laws and prepared to enter His presence. He prayed for what Section 88 had taught him to pray for.

Joseph prayed that the Saints, “armed” or endowed with priesthood power from the temple, could go to “the ends of the earth” with the “exceedingly great and glorious tidings” of the gospel to fulfill prophecies declaring that they would (22-23). He asked Heavenly Father to protect the Saints from their enemies (24-33). He asked Jehovah to have mercy upon the Saints, and to seal the anointing ordinances that many of the priesthood brethren had received in the weeks leading up to the solemn assembly. He asked for the gifts of the Spirit to be poured out as on the biblical day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2-3).  He asked the Lord to protect and empower the missionaries and postpone judgment until they had gathered the righteous.  He prayed that God’s will be done “and not ours” (44).  

Joseph prayed that the Saints would be delivered from the prophesied calamities.  He asked Heavenly Father to remember the Saints oppressed and driven from Jackson County, Missouri and prayed for their deliverance.  He asked how long their afflictions would continue until avenged (49).  He asked for mercy “upon the wicked mob, who have driven thy people, that they may cease to spoil, that they may repent of their sins if repentance is to be found” (50).  He prayed for Zion.  

Joseph prayed for mercy on all nations and political leaders, so that the principles of individual agency captured in the United States Constitution would be established forever.  He prayed for “all the poor, the needy, and afflicted ones of the earth” (55).  He prayed for an end to prejudices so that the missionaries “may gather out the righteous to build a holy city to thy name, as thou hast commanded them” (58).  He asked for more stakes to facilitate the gathering and growth of Zion.  He asked for mercy for the Native Americans and for the Jews, indeed he prayed for “all the scattered remnants of Israel, who have been driven to the ends of the earth, [to] come to a knowledge of the truth, believe in the Messiah, and be redeemed from oppression” (67).  

Joseph prayed for himself, reminding the Lord of his sincere effort to keep his covenants. He asked for mercy upon his family, praying that Emma and the children “may be exalted in thy presence” (69). This is the first usage of exalted in the Doctrine and Covenants to refer to the fulness of salvation through temple blessings.[7] Joseph prayed for his in-laws to be converted. He prayed for the other presidents of the Church and their families. He prayed for all the Saints and their families and their sick and afflicted.  He prayed, again, for “all the poor and meek of the earth,” and for the glorious Kingdom of God to fill the earth as prophesied (68-74).

Joseph prayed that the Saints would rise in the first resurrection with pure garments, “robes of righteousness,” and “crowns of glory upon our heads” to reap “eternal joy” (76).  Thrice repeating his petition, Joseph asks the Lord to “hear us” and accept the prayers and petitions and offerings of the Saints in building the house to His name. He prays for grace to enable the Saints to join the choirs surrounding God’s throne in the heavenly temple “singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb” (79).  “And let these, thine anointed, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints shout aloud for joy.  Amen, and Amen” (80).

Section 109 dedicated the first House of the Lord in the last dispensation and set the pattern for all subsequent solemn assemblies met for the same holy purpose. It teaches the Saints how to pray, including what to pray for and to ask according to the will of God.  It teaches the doctrine and evokes the imagery of the temple, perhaps most poignantly in the idea that temple worshippers can “grow up” by degrees of glory until they become like their Heavenly Father (cross reference Section 93). That is the meaning of being exalted in God’s presence. Joseph’s temple revelations call this fulness, including fulness of joy. Section 109 continues the expansive work of the temple revelations in Sections 76, 84, 88, 93 and points us forward to the culminating revelation on exaltation, Section 132:1-20. Section 109 invites mortals who occupy a polluted telestial planet where they cannot think of more than one thing at a time, and generally only in finite terms, to be endowed with power that will enable them to journey to the real world where God lives “enthroned with glory, honor, power, majesty, might, dominion, truth, justice, judgment, mercy, and an infinity of fulness, from everlasting to everlasting” (77).[8]

Section 110

Joseph Smith Journal, April 3, 1836, handwriting of scribe Warren Parrish. Though Section 110 was not widely publicized when it was received and not published until 1852, it was written in Joseph’s journal soon after the visions occurred.[1]
April 3, 1836 was the second greatest Easter Sunday in history. Joseph attended an afternoon sacrament meeting in the temple at Kirtland. When it ended, he and Oliver Cowdery retreated behind the heavy curtains used to divide the room. They bowed in what Joseph’s journal describes as “solemn, but silent prayer to the Most High.” Then they beheld a series of visions.[2]

First they saw and heard the Lord standing before them. Four times, in a voice like rushing water, he declared, “I am,” evoking Old Testament revelations in which he repeatedly identified himself saying, “I am the Lord your God” (see Exodus 20 and Leviticus 19). It seems like he meant to evoke the related words of the Hebrew verb for to be and the name transliterated into English as Jehovah. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ was declaring that he is the God who told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus Christ was affirming that he is the God of Israel, the promised Messiah.  

In a powerful but understated juxtaposition of present and past verb tenses, Christ declares himself the crucified Christ who conquered death. “I am he who liveth. I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (4). Who else can say that: They killed me, but here I am, in Kirtland, Ohio, forgiving your sins, accepting my temple and promising to visit my people here and pour out an endowment of power from here

Section 110 fulfills the Lord’s conditional promise to the saints that if they would move to Ohio and build him a holy house, he would endow them with power in it (see Sections 38, 88, 95).  It fulfills Section 88’s great and last promise that the sanctified would come into the presence of the Lord.  Indeed, Joseph promised the saints that “on conditions of our obedience,” the Savior had promised “a visit from the heavens to honor us with his own presence.”[3]

After the vision of the Savior ended, Moses appeared to Joseph and Oliver and gave them the priesthood keys needed to gather Israel. Next Elias appeared and dispensed keys for the gospel of Abraham, “saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed” (12). Then Elijah appeared and said that it was time to fulfill a multi-layered prophecy.  

Through Malachi, the Lord prophesied, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5). Moroni paraphrased and personalized that prophecy for Joseph Smith in 1823 (see section 2). Elijah fulfilled it nearly thirteen years later, as recorded in section 110. Jews had long awaited Elijah’s prophesied return and welcomed him during the Passover Seder. On the very day Elijah appeared in the temple, some Jews were celebrating the sacred meal with the hope that Elijah would return.   

Moses showing up was pretty impressive too. “His appearance in company with Elijah offers another striking parallel between Mormon teachings and Jewish tradition, according to which Moses and Elijah would arrive together at the ‘end of time.'”[4]

Section 110 reenacts the endowment received in the Biblical account of the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). Joseph received priesthood keys from the heavenly messengers. He had received all the priesthood when he was ordained by Peter, James, and John years earlier (see D&C 27:12) But he did not have all the keys they had and he needed until after section 110. In other words, Joseph had power but not permission to send missionaries globally or to perform temple ordinances until Moses, Elias, and Elijah brought him the keys–the permission to exercise the priesthood in those ways.  

Section 10 welds dispensations together. Given on Easter and during the Passover season, the revelation links Israel’s Old Testament deliverance with Christ’s New Testament resurrection and affirms that Joseph Smith and the temple-building Latter-day Saints are the heirs of God’s promises to the Israelite patriarchs. Christ is the Passover lamb who “was slain” and then resurrected and now appears to Joseph in Kirtland, Ohio to approve of the Latter-day work and to commission Joseph to fulfill the work of Moses (the gathering of Israel), Elias (the gospel of Abraham), and Elijah (the sealing of families).     

Joseph went to work putting the keys to use against great opposition. Not long after receiving the keys to gather Israel from Moses, Joseph whispered in Heber Kimball’s ear a mission call to Great Britain.  Joseph had previously sent missionaries on short, local or regional missions. Heber’s and his companions began the ongoing process of gathering Israel from the ends of the earth. Though oppressed by what seems like a concerted opposition that included financial collapse, widespread apostasy, an executive order driving the saints from Missouri, and then unjust imprisonment in Liberty, Missouri, Joseph began to teach and administer the ordinances of the temple. In sum, the endowment of priesthood keys he received on the second greatest Easter in history authorized him to begin performing temple ordinances.  

Section 110 communicated temple knowledge and power. It came in the temple, behind a veil, was recorded but not preached, and acted on but not publicly explained.[5] After the revelation, Joseph used the keys to gather, endow, and seal in anticipation of the Savior’s second coming. Section 110 marks the restoration of temple-related power and knowledge that Moses possessed and “plainly taught,” but which had been forfeited by the children of Israel (D&C 84:19-25).  

Section 109 notes

[1] Journal of Discourses, 11:9.

[2] “History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838],” p. 713, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 24, 2020,   

[3] Oliver Cowdery, Sketch Book, March 26, 1836, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. 

[4] Steven C. Harper, “‘A Pentecost and Endowment Indeed’: Six Eyewitness Accounts of the Kirtland Temple Experience,” in John W. Welch, editor, Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2005), 327-71.

[5] Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:195.

[6] Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 317.

[7] See Section 49:10, 23 for earlier usages in a different context. 

[8] Emphasis added.  See Hugh Nibley, “A House of Glory,” (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993).

Section 110 notes

[1] “Visions, 3 April 1836 [D&C 110],” p. 192, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 24, 2020,

[2] “Journal, 1835–1836,” p. 192, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 24, 2020,

[3] “Letter to William W. Phelps, 11 January 1833,” The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed November 24, 2020,

[4] Stephen D. Ricks, “The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in The Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover,” BYU Studies 23:4 (1903): 484.

[5] Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 320-321. 

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