HIRAM, Ohio In a setting reminiscent of 170 years ago when the Lord revealed the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants in an upstairs room of an obscure farmhouse in Hiram, Ohio, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the beautifully restored John Johnson Farm Oct. 28, saying that "the power of God that was expressed in that farmhouse . . . has gone over the earth . . . and we have scarcely seen the beginning of it."
"So long as this Church lasts, so long as it goes across the earth, so long as its history is written and known, the John Johnson home will have a prominent place in that history. For it was here that the Prophet Joseph Smith lived for about a year. It was here that he suffered such terrible indignities. . . . It was here that God spoke through him in language clear and unmistakable setting forth some of the great purposes of this work and some of the great doctrinal concepts which we have to present to the world," said President Hinckley.
" 'Hearken, O ye people of my Church, . . . Hearken ye people from afar; . . . the voice of the Lord is unto all men,' " said President Hinckley, reading the opening verses of Section 1 at the dedicatory program held in the Hiram Ward meetinghouse, which lies only an alfalfa field to the west of the Johnson farm.
"Those words coming out of this little community, this little unknown place in rural Ohio, speaking of the work of the world betrays a knowledge and inspiration far beyond Joseph Smith's power. It represents the voice of the Almighty setting forth in declaratory language the great future of this Church. As I think of it today, these many years later, I cannot believe that Joseph Smith, great prophet that he was, could possibly have seen all the consequences of his life and teachings at that time, back in the 1830s."
John Johnson was a prosperous farmer in the 1830s who joined the Church and opened his home to the Prophet and his family. While his name is a generally less familiar among many, his home was the site of 16 revelations in the early days of the Church, including the preface to the Book of Commandments given by the Lord on Nov. 1, 1831, and Section 76.
In many respects much remains the same today in rural Ohio as when the Prophet lived here. A half-mile down the road hundreds of pumpkins lie strewn across the sloping hills of a neighboring field. Rows and rows of apple trees across the road droop under the weight of an early autumn snow storm. Barns are as numerous as houses.
Yet in the intervening years, the Church has grown from several hundred in the early 1830s to include 11 million members in 160 countries. "You can't go very many places . . . that this work is not established and moving forward," President Hinckley said.
After speaking of the four purposes of this work as declared by the Lord in Section 1 and offering personal insight with each purpose, President Hinckley spoke of Section 76. "There is nothing like it. I don't know of any literature like it," he said, explaining how it came as the result of translating the Bible and a statement concerning the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
"The Prophet and Sidney Rigdon were puzzled by that and called upon the Lord," President Hinckley said, noting that their petition resulted in a "marvelous vision, wonderful, great and tremendous."
"God be thanked for the Prophet Joseph," President Hinckley said.
Also speaking during the service was Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve, who, with his wife, Ruby, accompanied President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie.
In his comments, Elder Haight marveled at the rich history of the Church and how a young boy, not a university president, was called by the Lord to establish His Church. After honoring Joseph Smith for his contributions, Elder Haight expressed his thoughts explaining the dynamic growth of the Church. Quoting President Hinckley who answered a similar question during a talk to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Elder Haight said the Church continues to grow because "we expect much of our people."
Prior to the dedicatory service, President and Sister Hinckley and Elder and Sister Haight met Elder Sheldon F. Child of the Seventy and president of the North America East Area, and his wife, Joan, in Kirtland where they were given a tour of Church facilities there.
Elder David Brown, director of the Kirtland Visitors Center, and his wife, MelRae, hosted the group and took them on a walking tour of Kirtland highlighting recent improvements that include a new road surrounding the site, construction of a new visitors center, construction of the John Johnson Inn and the excavation of the original sawmill and ashery sites.
Following the walking tour, President and Sister Hinckley and others were given a tour of the Newel K. Whitney store where 17 revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received and where the Prophet and his family also lived.
Lachlan Mackay of the Community of Christ Church, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, welcomed President and Sister Hinckley and Elder and Sister Haight and other local priesthood leaders in the Kirtland Temple. He recounted the events of April 3, 1836, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110 and described the different priesthood pulpits and a system of veils that were used.
"Thank you so very much," President Hinckley said to Mr. Mackay following the visit. "Thank you for all you've done to preserve this building and maintain it in such great condition."
After a 40-minute drive to Hiram, President Hinckley and others were given a brief tour of the restored Johnson farm home, pausing to remember the revelations received in the upstairs room, and how the Prophet preached from the front steps of the home to members gathered in the front yard.
Members of the Kirtland stake, eager to attend the dedication, filled the chapel and cultural hall and surrounding classrooms. Proceedings of the dedicatory service were broadcast by satellite to other buildings in the stake, as well as stake centers throughout Ohio.
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