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Elder Bednar Dedicates Joseph and Emma Smith’s Restored Home in Kirtland

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Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated the restored home of Joseph and Emma Smith on the morning of Saturday, August 26, 2023.

“We are blessed today to participate in this historic dedicatory service,” Elder Bednar told a group of about 300 people, including community dignitaries and religious leaders. “This house is far more than a building of historic interest. This house was truly a home to Joseph and Emma Smith — the place where they lived together for the longest period of time before Joseph’s death.”

 

The Apostle’s remarks were broadcast to local church buildings.

“In this home,” Elder Bednar said, “Emma and Joseph worked unitedly to take care of each other, their children and members of their extended family. This home was a place where they obeyed the commands that the Lord recently had given to parents: to teach their children the gospel and bring them up in light and truth.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the home and the surrounding property in 2012 and conducted extensive archaeological and architectural research to determine which parts of the structure are original to the home and which parts were added later. Construction to return the structure to its original appearance began in May 2022.

“It has really been a labor of love for the past 10 years,” said Church Historic Sites Director Ben Pykles. “[The 2012 purchase] started a decade of research — architectural research, archeological research, historical research, material culture research. And so many experts and intelligent individuals have come together to really make this home as accurate and as authentic as possible so that we can bring people here and tell them this is what the home looked like when Joseph and Emma lived here in the 1830s.”

The site is located on the west side of Chillicothe Road (Ohio SR 306), immediately north of the Kirtland Temple and the historic Kirtland North Cemetery.

“Kirtland is rich in faith, faith that is rooted in people helping people, community looking out for community, prayer and communion abounding,” said Kirtland Mayor Kevin Potter. “And as we sit atop this hill today in this space that means so much to so many. I’d just like to say thanks. Thank you for extending your hand of faith to enrich this community. We are so blessed. Thank you for letting me be a part of this.”

The site includes two parcels — one to the south, which is occupied by the restored home, and one to the north, which was once occupied by the home of Joseph Smith’s parents, Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. The elder Smiths’ home does not survive, but a historical marker explains its location.

Latter-day Saints believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet through whom Jesus Christ restored His New Testament church. They also believe that God led Smith to translate a sacred record of Christians who lived in the ancient Americas. This record, called the Book of Mormon, includes an account of Jesus Christ visiting the Americas after His crucifixion and resurrection. In 1830 in Fayette, New York, Smith organized what has become a worldwide church.

The main body of the church moved to Kirtland in 1831, gathering with an energetic group of new converts in the area. The Western Reserve town served as Church headquarters for the next seven years.

Joseph and Emma arrived in Kirtland in February 1831. They lived in four different places from that time until late 1833, when they moved into the home that has now been restored. They lived in that home until January 12, 1838, when they fled the city because of persecution and threats of violence.

Joseph and Emma’s time in the home — a little longer than four years — was longer than they lived anywhere else together before Joseph was killed in 1844.

The Smiths’ home was a place of family unity, hard work and practical faith in Jesus Christ. When they moved into the home, their family included their 2-year-old adopted daughter, Julia Murdock, and their 1-year-old son, Joseph III. Another son, Frederick Granger Williams Smith, was born there in 1836.

“As I toured this beautiful residence this morning,” said Susan Bednar, “I could sense how excited Joseph and Emma must have been to be together there with their young children in a house that would hold memories both amazingly joyful and deeply sorrowful.”

“Emma was the heart of the home,” said Mark Staker, a master curator in the Church History Department. “She even writes letters to Joseph while he’s away. Even though it’s a small family, she’s very busy trying to maintain that family. And so we tried to emphasize her role” in the restoration of the home.

Pykles said visitors will also get a strong sense of Joseph Smith as husband and father.

“We focus so much on his role as a prophet, as we should. But there was this other part of his life that we don’t focus on as often,” Pykles said. “In this home, you get a real sense of what it must have been like for him — a man in his late twenties who had seen God and Jesus Christ, who had been commanded to restore his Church on the earth, who had been given the restored priesthood — but also with a young wife, three small children, needing to care for his family as well as this young church.”

The home was often busy with visitors. Extended family and friends gathered there. Strangers came to quench their curiosity about Joseph’s prophetic claims and about the church he led. The Smiths also welcomed boarders. Some long-term guests paid for the privilege of living here. Others did not — for example, Joseph’s parents lived there for more than a year until their home was built next door.

And with so many visitors, Joseph and Emma sometimes sacrificed comfort and privacy.

“They have a constant stream of visitors,” Staker said. “People, as soon as they arrive to Kirtland, often come to visit Joseph. He would invite them to stay in his home until they got their own place. So often Joseph and Emma are sleeping on the floor on their coat. Their parents are sleeping on the floor to accommodate all of these visitors. As you go into the home, you say, ‘Where could they have slept? How could they have fit everybody?’”

In this home, Joseph and Emma Smith both oversaw significant publications for the Church. Emma completed the compilation of the Latter-day Saints’ first hymnal. Joseph guided the publication of the second edition of the Book of Mormon and the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations he received from God. He also began his inspired translation of teachings of the ancient prophet Abraham. These teachings now appear in the church’s book of scripture called the Pearl of Great Price.

This home was also a place of church administration, where Joseph Smith led the church in its early years. In the home, he met with other church leaders and instructed missionaries. He also oversaw and participated in the work to build the Kirtland Temple.

“Our hearts are filled to the brim with thanksgiving as we remember, reflect on and commemorate the important revelatory events that occurred in this city and in this place in the earliest days of the restoration of Thy Son’s gospel and Church,” Elder Bednar concluded in the dedicatory prayer. “I dedicate this house as a place of remembrance, a place of inspiration, a place of appreciation, a place of knowledge, a place of seeking and learning and a place of reverence.”

In an interview after the dedicatory services, Elder Bednar reflected on the growth of the Church since Joseph and Emma lived in Kirtland.

“The first temple [was built] here in Kirtland and [we have] more than 300 temples today,” Elder Bednar said. “This work is true. It was in Kirtland that Joseph said that the Church would grow, prosper and spread. It would fill North and South America. It would fill the world. That’s true. I’ve been able to travel the world and see the fulfillment of that prophecy. So, coming to this place on this day is a sacred experience for me.”

For more information about the Joseph and Emma Smith Home, see the FAQ below.

1. When did The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchase the Joseph and Emma Smith home and property from Community of Christ?

The purchase was completed in 2012.

2. How long did it take to restore the home?

After 10 years of research, planning, and design, construction on the home took a little longer than 16 months. It began in early May 2022 and was completed in August 2023.

No photo description available.

3. What was done in the restoration process?

The home was restored to its original dimensions, consistent with architectural and archaeological studies of the structure. The ceiling of the first story was dropped 22 inches to its original height of about 7 feet. The second story was returned to its original use as a half-story garret, with exposed roof beams. The wing on the west side of the home, which was added after Joseph and Emma Smith lived there, was dismantled and replaced with a smaller room. Interior decorations and furnishings were added, representative of the time period when the Smiths lived there.

May be an image of hearth and indoors

4. Who did the restoration work?

Okland Construction, a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, acted as the general contractor. Numerous local artisans and consultants—including historical architects, building subcontractors, finish carpenters, painters, antique experts, and weavers—contributed their knowledge and skills to the project. Most of the artifacts inside the home are antiques or replicas that were made especially for the home, all of them consistent with the time period when the home was built.

No photo description available.

5. Some people in the community have understood that the restored home originally belonged to Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, not Joseph Jr. and Emma Smith. How did The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints determine the original ownership of the home?

Historic plat maps and tax records show that the restored home is indeed the home that was built for Joseph Jr. and Emma Smith. In addition, the Church commissioned a dendrochronology study—a scientific examination of the wood used to build the home—to determine when the trees were cut for the timber that was used to construct the home’s frame. This study revealed that the home was completed in late 1833, which is consistent with contemporary accounts of Joseph Jr. and Emma Smith moving into their home. The home of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith was not completed until 1837.

6. Are reservations required to tour the home?

Because the home is small, reservations are required for a guided tour. The tours are provided free of charge. Each tour is limited to 12 guests, not including small children held by adults. Tours are given every 20 minutes, starting at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The last tour begins at 6:20 p.m.

At 7:00 a.m. daily, guests can request tickets for that day at ChurchofJesusChrist.org/VisitKirtland. Guests may request up to 6 tickets per email address.

7. Where can guests park?

The site features eight parking spaces, two of them reserved as ADA-accessible. These are the only approved parking spaces on Conley Drive. Buses are not permitted at any time on Conley Drive.

Community of Christ has graciously agreed to permit guests to park at the Kirtland Temple Visitor Center and walk to the home. Guests may also park at the Historic Kirtland Visitors’ Center and walk up the hill, crossing Chillicothe Road at the crosswalk past the temple.

8. What happened to the former blacksmith shop on the opposite side of Chillicothe Road (SR 306)?

The original structure, built in 1836, has been preserved. It is protected with durable metal siding and is used for storage. It is not open to the public. In 1872, two structures were added, creating a blacksmith and wagon-making shop. Those buildings have not been preserved.

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