Question: Was the "Pentecost" at the Kirtland Temple dedication actually a drunken orgy?

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Question: Was the "Pentecost" at the Kirtland Temple dedication actually a drunken orgy?

There is no contemporaneous evidence of drunkenness at the Kirtland temple dedication or associated events

Were there really spiritual manifestations attending the dedication of the Kirtland temple? There have been allegations that it was in fact a drunken orgy. [1]

There is no contemporaneous evidence of drunkenness at the Kirtland temple dedication or associated events. There is extensive evidence from both leaders and lay members of a miraculous spiritual outpouring. An early apostate, John Corrill, minimized or dismissed accounts of drunkenness. Another apostate, Winchester, continued with the Church until Nauvoo, and only later reported the drunkenness about which he mentioned nothing for five years. McLellin is the richest source for the charges of drunkenness, but an examination of his account makes it clear that he speaks of only one meeting in the temple, and the problem was at worst confined to a few members who unintentionally fell under the influence of wine on an empty stomach.

Subsequent critical authors have often relied on Wyl or accepted such remarks uncritically, and have ignored a rich vein of contemporary source material attesting to the Pentecost of Kirtland. While the critics are anxious to dismiss reports of spiritual manifestations by any means necessary, theories of mass drunkenness are simply not up to the task.

At the first Pentecost, the Apostles were also accused of being drunken

It is ironic that critics refer to the Kirtland Temple dedication as some form of "Pentecost" for the early Church, when, at the first pentecost, the Apostles were also accused of being drunken. "Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine." (See Acts 2:13-15)

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Acts 2:4-13 (emphasis added)

In November 2002, an early account of the dedication of the Kirtland temple surfaced, confirming the spiritual outpouring. This account provides an excellent contemporary window into the event:

Sunday evening after joseph spoke opened & told them the day of penticost was continued the the [sic] Brethren began to to prophesy many prophesied in the name of the Lord then began speaking in tongues and it filled as it were the whole house, perhaps there were forty speaking at once cloven tongues of fire was seen to sit on many of them an hand was seen laid upon one when he spake in tongues to the lamanites many Visions seen, one saw a pillow or cloud rest down upon the house bright as when the sun shines on a cloud like as gold, two others saw three personages hovering in the room with bright keys in their hands, and also a bright chain in their hands....[2]

There is no contemporaneous record of drunken behavior associated with the Temple dedication

Significantly, there is no contemporaneous record of drunken behavior associated with the dedication. A great deal was written about miraculous events, but the stories of drunkenness occur only later. One LDS historian noted:

...Latter-day Saints, like so many other Christians of the 1830s, regarded intemperance as a serious transgression, and there is no evidence that any of the visions described by numerous witnesses followed the consumption of large amounts of wine. Contemporary testimonies of these events are so numerous that they cannot be dismissed with such an oversimplification.[3]


  1. This criticism is advanced by Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 179. ( Index of claims ); William E. McLellin, multiple accounts; Benjamin Winchester, "Primitive Mormonism," Salt Lake Tribune (22 September 1889): 2; Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 308–309. (citing McLellin); Theodore Schroeder, "Mormonism and Intoxicants," American Historical Journal 3 (1908): 238-249 (citing Wyl).
  2. Steven C. Harper, "Pentecost Continued: A Contemporaneous Account of the Kirtland Temple Dedication," Brigham Young University Studies 42 no. 2 (2003), 4–.
  3. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 309. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)