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Dear Gramps,

I am told that the President of the Kirtland Temple today in the RLDS Church is a direct descendant of Joseph Smith Jr. Is that true? I understood that there were no more direct descendants of our beloved Prophet alive today and that the RDLS Church has a female acting as a leader in their church.





Dear Jeff,

The Kirtland Temple has not been operated as a temple since the Saints moved away from Kirtland. The Temple and other properties were sold by court order after the death of the prophet, Joseph Smith, to settle some of his debts. It fell into the hands of the RLDS Church in 1873. Below is an account of those transactions from BYU Studies, 25:11–

“Beginning on 29 October 1860, the probate court of Lake County, Ohio, took action to settle the question of ownership of property in the Kirtland area that had been recorded in the name of Joseph Smith, Jr., the Trustee in Trust for the Church. A part of this property included the temple. The court concluded that all this Kirtland property should be sold to pay the debts that Joseph smith had incurred to a local merchant, Grandison Newell, and other residents of the area. The probate court made the appropriate arrangements for the sale, and on 18 April 1862 sold the property to William L. Perkins, a prosperous businessman in the area. On the same day Perkins conveyed that portion of Smith’s estate containing the temple in a quit claim deed to Russell Huntley, a member at one time or another of several Mormon splinter groups and a man who had long had an interest in the temple. Huntley held the temple for more that a decade, but on 17 February 1873 Joseph Smith III and Mark H. Forscutt acquired Huntley’s title for $150. They controlled the Kirtland Temple without dispute until 1875 when the RLDS church leadership, Smith and Forscutt included, determined that the quit claim deed was insufficient to ensure the perpetual ownership of the property and that the church should undertake a lawsuit to secure a final settlement. Accordingly, the Presiding Bishop, the church’s chief financial officer, filed suit in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas in 1878 and received a favorable verdict in February 1880.”

Since it’s acquisition by the RLDS Church the Kirtland Temple has been maintained in very good shape. It has been used for public and RLDS church meetings, but has served no temple purpose. The building has been open to the public and a staff has been maintained to conduct guided tours through the building.

It was held by those who formed the RLDS Church that the church presidents were to be lineal descendants of Joseph Smith. Upon the organization of the RLDS Church, the leadership was controlled by others until the prophet’s second son, Joseph Smith III, became old enough and willing to accept the presidency. He accepted the position of president in 1860.

Joseph Smith III had three wives and seventeen children, including three sons who became the next three presidents of the RLDS Church (Frederick, Israel, and William Wallace). Reorganized members hasten to note that Joseph had one wife at a time, and that the first two wives preceded him in death.

It is not true that there are no living direct descendents of Joseph Smith. However, the direct-line descendents of Joseph Smith III came to an end somewhere along in the mid 1900s.

On Jan. 1, 2001, the RLDS Church changed its name to “The Community of Christ.” The presidency of the RLDS Church at this time (Mar,. 2017) consists of Stephen M. Veazey, president, with counselors Stassi D. Cramm and K. Scott Murphy. Their quorum of twelve apostles, all whom must be ordained high priests, presently contains four women.






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