Apostle Elder M. Russell Ballard recently traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, and Liberty, Missouri, to participate in events at historic sites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in those areas. Fifty years ago, the reconstructed Liberty Jail was dedicated, and 10 years ago the buildings of historic Kirtland opened to visitors, meticulously rebuilt or restored to their 1830s appearance. Both sites have special significance in the Church’s early history.
Elder Ballard speaks from a podium inside the reconstructed Liberty Jail during a commemoration of the historic site's 50th anniversary.
“The historic Liberty Jail is a sobering place,” Elder Ballard said. “It is a place where the lesson of humility was learned.”
Church founder Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders spent months unjustly confined in the jail.
“It was a miserable three and a half months here in the winter,” Elder Ballard said. “But they learned something very precious. They learned of the atonement of Jesus Christ. They learned to understand the words uttered by Christ in Gethsemane and on the cross.”
Partial reconstruction of the Liberty Jail. Mannequins represent Church members who were imprisoned there.
In Kirtland, many key elements of the Church’s current organizational structure were first established, including the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency. More than 500 pages of Church teachings were recorded in Kirtland.
"Kirtland is a very, very special place,” Elder Ballard said. "The spiritual manifestations in Kirtland are like no other place on the earth other than the Holy Land."
Elder Ballard encouraged those who visit Kirtland to take time to think about what occurred there.
Visitors walk among the rebuilt and restored buildings in historic Kirtland, opened 10 years ago.
"[Those] who come to walk the streets of Kirtland need to take time to ponder, to contemplate,” he said. “For the devil is stealing time, the time we would spend to wonder at spiritual things. Instead, we get so caught up in the things that 'seem' to matter, when all of us need to slow down and find a time to contemplate."