Kirtland, Ohio

In the Fall of 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr. and Ziba Peterson were passing through northeastern Ohio on their way to Missouri, and stopped in a small town named Kirtland. There they encountered a large group awaiting the Restoration of all things as prophesied in the scriptures, led by a Pratt’s former preacher named Sidney Rigdon.

After baptizing more than 120 individuals, they left these new converts and continued on their mission west. The Evil One saw a unique opportunity and soon misguided practices surfaced. Burr Riggs would jump up from the floor, strike his head against a joist, falling to the floor like he was dead. Upon consciousness he would then relate many visions. Harmon Bassett would jump onto a barrel and act like a baboon while spurting “prophesies”. Some spoke in tongues without interpretation. One man would chase letters from heaven through the forest until he accidentally ran off a cliff and broke his leg. Some claimed they possessed the sword of Laban, others would slide on the floor like serpents.

This was not the activity among all of the new converts, however, and many had concerns over their flock. In February of 1831, Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland, pulled his coach up to the front steps of the Whitney Store, walked through the doors up to the owner and said, “Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man!” Newel answered by saying, “you have the advantage of me. You seem to know who I am but I don’t know who you are.” Joseph replied, “I am Joseph the Prophet, you prayed me here, now what do you want of me.”

The Prophet called a Conference together at the barn of Isaac Morley, located toward the top of the hill behind the farm house. Approximately 2,000 individuals attended the three- day conference. Doors and windows were opened so that those who couldn’t find room inside could at least hear the meeting.

At some point during the meeting, Harvey Whitlock’s skin began to turn black, his fingernails began to grow long and his eyes became large ovals. Hyrum Smith turned to Joseph and said, “That’s not from God.” Joseph then turned to Lyman Wight and said, “Lyman, Satan has entered into Harvey Whitlock, I want you to cast him out.” Lyman was terrified by Joseph’s request, but obediently rebuked the evil spirit. As Harvey’s appearance returned to normal, Leman Copley was suddenly picked up by an unseen force and thrown across the room and crashed into a bench where Joseph and Hyrum had been sitting moments before. Joseph then turned to Harvey Whitlock and told him to cast the evil out of Leman Copley. He obeyed but John Murdock fell victim and then Harvey Green. Finally, the Prophet Joseph stepped forward and commanded Satan to leave, at which point the crowd standing at the door were violently thrown to each side in three foot swaths.

Finally peace prevailed at the Conference and the first High Priests in this dispensation were ordained. Joseph Smith was transfigured before the Saints. He said, “Let them kill me. I would not feel death as I am right now. Behold I see the Son of God on the right hand of the Eternal Father.” Joseph then turned to Lyman Wight and Harvey Whitlock and said, “If you two men have the faith, it is your privilege this day to behold the same. You may see the living God if you look to the heavens.” Both testified that they could.

The Prophet then opened up the scriptures and read from 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2, verse 3, and expounded that Paul’s prophesy was that day fulfilled, that the “Man of Sin” was Satan and was now known to the Saints so that they would be less susceptible to his schemes.

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