In the first months and years after the command to "go to the Ohio" was issued (D&C 37:1), Latter-day Saints began arriving in Kirtland. Many of them, including Joseph and Emma Smith, needed assistance of some kind.
In Joseph Smith's Kirtland - Eyewitness Accounts, Karl R. Anderson wrote:"Most of the faithful saints who followed the Lord's command to `go to the Ohio' acted out of pure faith. Like the children of Israel who had faith that God would sustain them in their journey to the promised land, many came on foot, leaving behind them their worldly goods as well as family and friends. What few possessions these faithful converts were able to carry could not sustain them for long. But the saints already in Kirtland welcomed these pilgrims and shared their meager substance willingly."
A major problem confronting the incoming saints was finding housing of any kind. "New arrivals often appeared at the doorstep of friends, acquaintances, and strangers with no notice," Brother Anderson wrote. "Brotherly love dictated that members move over and offer hospitality, however meager - at times even sleeping on the floor and giving up their own beds."
Brother Anderson noted that in the seven years Joseph and Emma were in Ohio, they lived in five locations. For at least the first three years they shared quarters as guests of other families. The shortest stay was a few weeks, when they lived with Newel K. Whitney and his wife and five children in the home across the street from the Newel K. Whitney store. For about 18 months, the Prophet and his family lived in rooms above the store.
The hardships endured by faithful saints in gathering at Kirtland paid great dividends. Kirtland was a favorable location for the headquarters of the Church. It was centrally located, and missionaries could leave Kirtland and be in Pennsylvania or New York within a few days. They could travel along the Erie Canal to eastern New York and from there go to New England. Missionaries could also skirt Lake Erie and within a few days be in eastern Canada; or follow the roads or canals south to the Ohio River, which bordered Kentucky and was a gateway to the South and West.