El Mormonismo y los templos/Manifestaciones espirituales en la dedicación del templo de Kirtland

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Manifestaciones espirituales en la dedicación del templo de Kirtland

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Pregunta: ¿Fue el "Pentecostés" en la dedicación del Templo de Kirtland realmente una orgía de borrachos?


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 (énfasis añadido)

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]

Pregunta: ¿Cómo se originó la historia del "comportamiento ebrio" en la dedicación del Templo de Kirtland?


The first mention of "drunken behavior" came from John Corrill, an LDS dissenter

John Corrill, an LDS dissenter, wrote a book in 1839 that described the Church's history and gave his reasons for leaving. Of the Kirtland dedication, Corrill wrote:

At length the time arrive for this [solemn] assembly to meet, previous to which, Smith exhorted the elders to solemnize their minds by casting away every evil from them in thought, word, or deed, and let their hearts become sanctified, because they need not expect a blessing from God without being duly prepared for it; for the Holy Ghost would not dwell ini unholy temples....

The sacrament was then administered, in which they partook of the bread and wine freely, and a report went abroad that some of them got drunk; as to that every man must answer for himself. A similar report, the reader will recollect, went out concerning the disciples, at Jerusalem, on the day of penticost. This was followed by a marvellous spirit of prophecy. Every man's mouth was full of prophecying, and for a number of days or weeks their time was spent in visitng from house to house, making feasts, prophecying, and pronouncing blessings on each other, to that degree, that from the external appearance, one would have supposed that the last days had truly come, in which the spirit of the Lord was poured out upon all flesh....[4]

When this account was written, Corrill had already decided that Joseph Smith was a false prophet

This account is significant because of what Corrill does not say. At this writing, Corrill was disenchanted with the Church, and had decided that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Corrill acknowledges that some charged that the Saints were merely under the influence of wine; he notes that each person would have to respond for themselves, but does not seem to give this story much credence. Corrill even goes so far as to point out that the pentecost at Jerusalem had similar charges made—a strange claim to make if he wishes to claim that Church members were drunk. Corrill goes on to say that to all outward appearances, "the last days had truly come"—i.e., there was nothing about the conduct of the members in those days to suggest that they were not having revelations, prophecies, etc.

Corrill would have had motive for disparaging the Saints' claims to revelations

Indeed, he insisted that he did not believe the Church's revelations, but this was because of the difficulties which the Church encountered up to his departure. He no where blames wine for the Kirtland events.[5]

Pregunta: ¿Cómo se propagaron las historias de "comportamiento ebrio" en la dedicación del Templo de Kirtland?


Wilhelm Wyl, in his anti-Mormon book Mormon Portraits, quotes William McLellin

In 1886, Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal, writing under the pen name Wilhelm Wyl, published a book of lurid anti-Mormon tales called Mormon Portraits.

Wyl quoted former apostle William McLellin on the topic of the Kirtland dedication:

The "Endowments" in the Kirtland temple were nothing but a big spree, so big, that the "apparitions of angels," etc., were not miraculous at all. I quote from a letter by Dr. McLellin, one of the first quorum of Mormon apostles :

"About five hundred ministers entered that great temple about sunrise and remained fasting until next morning sunrise, except a little bread and wine in the evening. The Twelve were required to take large servers and set glasses of wine and lumps of bread, and go through the house and serve the brethren. I did my part of the serving. During the night a purse was made up and a wagon sent to Painesville and a barrel of wine procured, and then it was a time. All the latter part of the night I took care of Samuel H. Smith [brother of the prophet] , perfectly unable to help himself. And I [309] had others removed from the house because they were unfit- to be in decent company" Plantilla:Io."[6]

One must then ask—was McLellin in a position to know about such things at the Kirtland temple dedication, and what did he say or do about it prior to Wyl's citation in 1886?

Pregunta: ¿Fue William McClellin decepcionado con la dotación en el Templo de Kirtland?


William McLellin was disappointed in the endowment, because McLellin did not receive what he sought

McLellin was among the first apostles called in this dispensation, on 14 February 1835.[7] McLellin was present for the dedication, but was disappointed with it. He wrote, "We passed through it [the Kirtland endowment]; but I, in all candor say, we were most egregiosly mistaken or disappointed!"[8] McLellin went on to describe the reason for his disappointment:

In a few days I said to Joseph: "I am disappointed! I supposed—yet, I believed that during the endowment, I should get knowledge but I have not."

He said to me, "What do you want?"

I said, "I want to know for myself Plantilla:Io."[9]

There is no mention here of those who claim to receive knowledge being drunk—we learn only that McLellin did not receive what he sought. This was a recurring theme of McLellin's—he often mentioned the endowment and the fact that it was a disappointment, or did not achieve what was anticipated. For example:

Feb 1847
McLellin forms "Church of Christ" with Martin Harris and others. The new Church faults Joseph Smith for "Engineering the 'endowment' at the Kirtland Temple in March and April 1836, which failed to meet expectation because the Lord would not endow His spirit in those who had drifted so far from divine purpose."[10]
"disappointed" because he did not know for himself.[11]
December 1878
"I told him [Joseph] I wanted knowledge and power from God; that as an Apostle I might go forth to the nationis of the earth, and preach to them in their own lip the pure gospel of the Lord."[12]
"I don't believe, in the attempted endowment in the Temple in Kirtland in 1836. It was an entire failure."[13]
"I do not believe in the authority that dedicated Zion or the Temple in Kirtland. There was no power from God shown forth in those pretended dedications; as was seen and known when Solomon's Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem. If ceremony and nothing but form was seen in Joseph's dedications then we are prepared to say they were not of God; but only manism and nothing more.[14]

Pregunta: ¿Alguna vez William McLellin mencionó beber licor en asociación con el Templo de Kirtland?


There are, however, several instances in which McLellin mentioned drinking in association with the temple

April 1854
"Orson, you cannot have forgotten the scenes of drunkenness during the pretended enduement [sic] in Kirtland in 1836. I shall never forget them, nor the hundreds of false prophecies delivered in the Temple on that occasion.[15]
October 1871
"As to the endowment in Kirtland, I state positively, it was no endowment from God. Not only myself was not endowed but no other man of the five hundred who was present—except it was with wine![16]
July 1872
"In 1836 when they undertook to get an endowment in the Kirtland Temple. All washed and with oil anointed themselves, and appeared in the Temple at sunrise...and about five hundred ministers took their places, and solem[n]ly prayed. We remained there fasting until sunrise next morning. We however partook of some bread and wine in the evening. And some partook so freely, on their empty stomachs, that they became drunk! I took care of S[amuel] H. Smith in one of the stands so deeply intoxicated that he could not nor did sense anything. I kept him hid from the crowd in the stand, but he vomited the spit-box five times full, and his dear brother [Don] Carlos would empty it out of the window.[17]
August 1872
"In 1836 when they undertook to get an endowment in the Temple. All washed, and with oil anointed themselves, and appeared in the Temple at sun rise, then all their feet were washed, and about five hundred ministers dedicated themselves by solemn prayr [sic]. We remained there fasting until sun rise next morning. We however partook of some bread and wine in the evening. And some partook so freely, on their empty stomachs, that they became drunk! I took care of S[amuel] H. Smith, in one of the stands, so deeply intoxicated that he could not nor did not sense any thing. I kept him hid from the company but he vomited the spit-box full five times, and his dear brother [Don] Carlos would empty it out at the window. But I would prefer to draw a curtain over the awful drunken scene! Others imbibed to[o] much also. But let the curtain fall!!...But no power in Jos. Smith's dedication...If it was not transgression, what was the cause of so much disappointment?[18]
December 1878
"On the 6th of April, 1836, the ministerial authorities, about five hundred in number, entered that house at sunrise, and remained fasting until next morning, sun-rise, in order to receive an endowment, but utterly failed in their endeavor! It was more an endowment with wine than power from God.[19]
January 1879
Quotation as cited by Wyl above.[20]
Circa 1880
"The endowment was sought for in Kirtland, O. on April 6th 1836, but was not received, and was an entire failure....[the members] assembled at sunrise, and remained fasting until the next morning sunrise. Then about five hundred ministers began to wend their way home from than noble building, many of them disappointed and dispirited. The scene through which they had passed was one long to be remembered. No display of power from God was given. Al the power given was the power of man....They had a little bread, sent in by the sisters in the evening, The Twelve as servants carried round to them on servers a little bread and wine, and some of them partook of the wine so freely so as to become badly intoxicated!{[21]
Circa 1880
"The morning arrived and some five hundred ministers assembled in the Temple at sunrise....We remained until sunrise next morning fasting, excepting a little bread and wine furnished us in the evening. Some partook of the wine so freely on an empty stomach, that they actually became drunken! And a scene ensued that would be hard to describe. One thing I state candidly, I saw no one man in that assembly that was endowed with super-human power–no not one. This wonderful enduement [sic] then was only a farce—a very great failure.[22]

On April 6th, McLellin notes that the men involved had been fasting all day, and so the wine brought them to break their fast had a more dramatic effect than intended

Thus, McLellin describes an event on the 6 April. We learn the following things:

  • the men involved had been fasting all day, and so the wine brought them to break their fast had a more dramatic effect than intended. Even in McLellin's account, the drunkenness is not intentional.
  • "a little bread and wine" is provided—this is clearly not intended to be a time of excess, gorging, or over-indulgence.
  • "some" partook too "freely on an empty stomach."
  • the food and drink was provided by the women of the Church—unlikely candidates for trying to get the religious community drunk. In one account (the one cited by Wyl) McLellin says only bread was sent up, and then a "purse" collected to send for wine from a neighboring town. This is a strange deviation from the story told everywhere else—it seems calculated to make it seem as if the wine was sent for with the intent of getting drunk. It seems more likely that wine was procured for breaking the fast, and that McLellin told the story in this way to produce the worst impression possible. It is small wonder that Wyl chose to cite this version, likely for the same reasons.
  • The Twelve—including McLellin himself—helped distribute the food and wine—so, if the intention was to get everyone drunk to induce visions, McLellin participated. Yet, he was clearly horrified by those who were affected.
  • McLellin names only one person specifically as being drunk: Samuel Smith. This presumably means that other more prominent members (e.g., Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery) who reported visions that day were not inebriated, or McLellin would have named them, the better to shock his audience and prove the falsity of the Church's claims.
  • Samuel Smith is said to have been so affected that "he could not nor did sense anything." If this is so, then Samuel cannot have simultaneously been under the delusion that he was seeing celestial visions. While his state might be regrettable, it cannot explain the visions which others reported.
  • McLellin says that he tried to "hide" Samuel from the crowd—this suggests that the majority of those there were perfectly capable of noticing that Samuel was drunk. It also suggests that Samuel was an exception, rather than the rule—if all (or most) of the crowd is drunk, why would anyone notice Samuel's illness, and why would any of them care?
  • McLellin's August 1872 account says that Samuel was drunk, and then notes almost as an afterthought that "Others imbibed to[o] much too." Samuel seems the most dramatic case, and something of an exception—one wonders if the necessity of preventing Samuel's condition from making a scene and disturbing the worship service soured the experience for McLellin, leading him later to ascribe an air of drunkenness to the whole group, which is clearly unwarranted.
  • McLellin's Jan 1879 account says that he had others removed from the temple because of the problem—but, this would again seem to imply that the majority were not misbehaving, were not drunk, and were not rowdy or out of control.

In short, at most McLellin tells us that a few members were unintentionally made drunk after fasting and taking wine on an empty stomach

McLellin's account dovetails well with John Corrill's—Corrill had responded to the charge of drunkenness by saying that every man needed to answer for himself, but downplayed the idea that the Saints' behavior at Kirtland could in general be explained by drunkenness. Thus, some may have been influenced by the wine, but they would have been the exception, rather than the rule.

And, McLellin's tellings often omitted the wine altogether, and focused on the "failure" of the endowment, demonstrating that the wine was probably not his biggest concern, or the scandal which he sometimes made it out to be. McLellin goes on to insist that no one reported or experienced anything—but the record clearly contradicts him. McLellin makes his own failure to experience anything into a universal experience, when it clearly was not.

We note too that April 6th was well after the dedication of the temple; a great many visions and experiences had been reported, which predate McLellin's account of the wine. McLellin was present at these events, and says nothing of them—the April 6 meeting seems to be the only anomaly, and then only for a relatively few participants.

Of McLellin's remarks, historian D. Michael Quinn noted that:

he [McLellin] was among those responsible for having served too much wine to the fasting men, something which undoubtedly embarrassed him in retrospect....
McLellin admonished Mormon antagonist James T. Cobb as follows: 'I know a man can sit down and find crookedness in almost any thing by prying closely into it.' It was wise advise and unusually temperate. That said, [McLellin's] treatment of the drunkenness in the temple would fall into the same category of hyper-criticism.
Of course, he wanted to emphasize the more substantive issue of truthfulness or falsehood in later claims about heavenly manifestations in the temple. On this score, it is interesting that he conflated several solemn assemblies and successive days of temple dedication into one incident, leaving the reader to wonder whether he was implying that the drunkenness was representative or anomalous....[23]

Quinn discusses the many contemporaneous reports of visions and miracles from leaders and lay members of the Church, and then writes:

One may legitimately disobelieve these testimonials or dismiss them as delusional, but McLellin denied that such claims even existed....Since even the rank-and-file made contemporary notations about spiritual events in the temple at this time, it is difficult to believe that Apostle McLellin was unaware of these reports from January through the spring of 1836 [we again recall that McLellin only speaks of April 6 — ed.]. It would have been more accurate (and charitable) for McLellin to say that he saw no otherworldly manifestations himself, even though others made such claims.[24]

Other accounts

Benjamin Winchester

Another account comes from Benjamin Winchester, who was a friend of Joseph Smith’s, an LDS leader in the early 1840s. In 1889, he wrote that the Kirtland temple dedication “ended in a drunken frolic.”[25] Winchester left the Church during the Nauvoo era in the 1840s, but the temple dedication occurred in March of 1836. Winchester had thus remained a member even after the supposed events in Kirtland that he later condemned. Why? Why didn’t he leave earlier if he knew that such things were serving as the surrogate for spirituality five years earlier?

John L. Traughber

Traughber, a member of the RLDS Church, carried on a correspondence with McLellin, and would later acquire the McLellin collection with the intention of writing a book about Mormonism. Despite creating a manuscript of over three hundred pages, he never successfully completed his book.[26]

In May 1884, Traughber cited some of McLellin's material, and then claimed that in April 1881 he visited McLellin:

I talked with Dr. McLellan and his wife about the endowment at the Kirtland temple, 1836. They stated that before Samuel H. Smith became dead drunk, he staggered up on the stand of the First Presidency and delivered a prophecy. Mrs. McLellan remarked that the Latter Day Saints seemed to think that it was all right for Samuel to be drunk, and spoke of it as almost a miracle that he could deliver a prophecy when he was so drunk he could hardly stand.[27]

This version seems an exaggeration or fabrication. McLellin's numerous accounts never mention Samuel giving a prophecy or speech. Furthermore, McLellin twice indicated that he tried to keep Samuel's condition a secret from the rest of the congregation—hardly necessary or possible if Samuel had been seen to be "so drunk he could hardly stand," and if the Saints had regarded this as "all right" and "a miracle." If this was so, why was McLellin trying to keep Samuel's state a secret? Why did McLellin expel others who had taken too much wine on an empty stomach? Why did he never tell this even more damning version of events in his multiple accounts?

The story is dubious, and the fault of fabrication likely lies with either Mrs. McLellin, or with Traughber himself.

The story spreads

In 1890, the Reverend Theodore Schroeder went to Salt Lake City, and stayed for ten years digging through libraries and collections for ammunition with which to attack the Church. He returned to Wisconsin in 1900 and donated all his books and papers to the Wisconsin State Historical Society Library, in Madison, Wisconsin. He also wrote several anti-Mormon articles for publication, and used Wyl's material frequently. In 1901, Traughber offered to sell the McLellin collection to Schroeder, but the latter declined.


  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. Plantilla:HeavensResound1
  4. Plantilla:CriticalWork:Corrill:Brief History/Full title
  5. Corrill, Brief History, 48, gives as his reasons for leaving that "I can see nothing that convinces me that God has been our leader; calculation after calculation has failed, and plan after plan has been overthrown, and our Prophet seemed not to know the event till too late....But where now may you look for deliverance? You may say, in God; but I say, in the exercise of common sense and that sound reason with which God has endowed you; and my advice is to follow that, in preference to those pretended visions and revelations which have served no better purpose than to increase your trouble...."
  6. 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.
  7. Larry C. Porter, "The Odyssey of William Earl McLellin: Man of Diversity, 1806–86," in Plantilla:McLellinJournal1
  8. William E. McLellin in Saints' Herald 17 (15 September 1870): 554; cited in Porter, "Man of Diversity," 320.
  9. McLellin, Saints Herald (15 September 1870): 554.
  10. Richard P. Howard, "Mormonism's Stormy Petrel," in Plantilla:McLellinPapers1 Also available in Plantilla:DifferingVisions1
  11. McLellin, Saints Herald (15 September 1870): 554.
  12. McLellin to John L. Traughber, 14 December 1878, in Plantilla:McLellinPapers1
  13. McLellin, "Reasons Why I am Not A Mormon, ca. 1880 Plantilla:Io; cited in Plantilla:McLellinPapers1
  14. McLellin, "Reasons Why I am Not A Mormon, ca. 1880 Plantilla:Io; cited in McLellin Papers, 390.
  15. McLellin to Orson Pratt, 29 April 1854, p. 2; cited in McLellin Papers, 436.
  16. McLellin to Mark H. Forscutt, 1 October 1871; cited in McLellin Papers, 476.
  17. McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July 1872; cited in McLellin Papers, 493–494.
  18. McLellin to Dear Mary, 3- August 1872; cited in McLellin Papers, 498.
  19. McLellin to John L. Traughber, 14 December 1878, in McLellin Papers, 512.
  20. McLellin to John L. Traughber, 5 January 1879, in McLellin Papers, 517. See previous section for Wyl's citation.
  21. McLellin, "Reasons Why I am Not A Mormon, ca. 1880 Plantilla:Io; cited in McLellin Papers, 396.
  22. McLellin, "Reasons Why I am Not A Mormon, ca. 1880; cited in McLellin Papers, 421-422.
  23. D. Michael Quinn, "'My Eyes Were Holden in Those Days': A Study of Selective Memory," in McLellin Papers, 73–74.
  24. D. Michael Quinn, "'My Eyes Were Holden in Those Days': A Study of Selective Memory," in McLellin Papers, 74–75.
  25. Benjamin Winchester, "Primitive Mormonism," Salt Lake Tribune (22 September 1889): 2.
  26. See Plantilla:Paper:Traughber:Marriott Library
  27. Traughber cited in McLellin Papers, 518 note.