A few days following the dedication in , Ohio, and the that empowered for the ministry, JS’s journal records that JS and had a vision of heavenly messengers in the House of the Lord. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 3 April 1836, JS helped other members of the church distribute the of the Lord’s Supper to the congregation that had assembled in the lower court of the House of the Lord. After the sacrament, the curtains were dropped, dividing the court into four quarters. According to , who participated in the day’s meetings, the presidency then went to the pulpits for “the confirmation & blessing of the children.” At some point during the meeting, more veils were lowered, enclosing the west pulpits and dividing them into their four levels. JS and Cowdery “retired to the pulpit”—apparently the top tier, which was reserved for the presidency—where they bowed “in solemn, but silent prayer to the Most High.”
According to the journal, after JS and prayed, secluded in the curtains and pulpits of the , they had a miraculous vision of Jesus Christ, who accepted the House of the Lord as JS had prayed for at the dedication. The appearance was a fulfillment of a promise made in earlier JS revelations, that the Lord would show himself in the temple. Following the appearance of Christ, the journal records, JS and Cowdery also received visitations from the biblical prophets Moses, Elias, and Elijah, who bestowed upon the two church leaders “the of this dispensation.” These keys authorized JS and Cowdery to exercise in new ways the they had received from the apostles Peter, James, and John in 1829. The bestowal of “the Keys of this dispensation,” particularly those concerning the of Israel and turning “the hearts of the Fathers to the children,” marked a vital moment for Latter-day Saint missionary work and temple . Just over a year after receiving these keys, JS sent preachers to to begin the gathering of Israel from abroad. Later, in , Illinois, he would teach and administer new temple ordinances that offered salvation to the deceased and bound them to the living, including , , and . The Latter-day Saints had shown their willingness to build the Lord a house, and these visitations on 3 April 1836 were not only a continuation of great spiritual outpouring; they were also a beginning for Latter-day Saint understanding of the purpose and power of temples.
JS and recounted their visions to some associates shortly after they occurred. In a letter to his wife, , written on the same day, stated that JS and Cowdery experienced “a manifestation of the Lord” in which they learned that “the great & terrible day of the Lord as mentioned by Malichi, was near, even at the doors.”
Sometime shortly after, , JS’s scribe and ’s brother, recorded the experience in JS’s journal, which is the source for the text below. Warren wrote the entry referring to JS in the third person, in contrast to the first-person language found throughout the journal. He may have relied on another original text, no longer extant, or on oral reports from either or both of the participants. If he was working from a prior text, it would directly parallel the method that produced the third-person 1834–1836 history, which he was composing in early April using JS’s journal. By 7 November 1843, , church historian and personal secretary to JS, changed the account into first person for JS’s multivolume history. JS and Oliver Cowdery’s vision was added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876. That version, and published versions to follow, contained first-person language.
This account of visitations closes JS’s 1835–1836 journal. After more than six months of almost daily recording of developments in , entries ceased, and for nearly two years there were no entries written in this or in any other extant JS journal.
The vail was taken from their minds and the eyes of their understandings were opened. They saw the Lord standing upon the breast work of the pulpit before them. and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber: his eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was like the pure snow, his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the Voice of Jehovah, saying, I am the first and the last. I am he who liveth. I am he who was slain. I am your Advocate with the Father. Behold your sins are forgiven you. You are clean before me, therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice, let the hearts of your brethren rejoice and let the hearts of all my brethren <people> rejoice, who have with their might, built this to my name. For behold I have accepted this and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people, in mercy, in this , Yea I will appear unto my servants and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my and do not pollute this . Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the with which my servants have already been endowed and shall hereafter be endowed in this . and the fame of this shall spread to foreign lands, and this is the beginning of the blessing, which shall [p. 192]