Independence, Missouri

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As persecution persisted in Ohio and other areas in the East, Joseph Smith suggested that some of the Saints settle in Missouri. In 1831, Joseph Smith received a command that they should buy as much land in the Jackson County area of Missouri as possible (see Doctrine & Covenants 57:3-5, 58:37, 49-52 and 63:72). He also received the revelation that Jackson County would be the site of the New Jerusalem at the time of the Second Coming. On August 2, 1831, the land was dedicated as a place of gathering for the Saints. The next day, Joseph Smith dedicated the temple site. Settling of the wild frontier land then began.

By January 1832, more funds were coming from other members of the Church. In the spring, another 300-400 families arrived and the area began to rapidly prosper. In June of 1832, the Church published its first periodical, the Evening and Morning Star. At the time it was the only newspaper in the area, so it contained national and international news and was read by Latter-day Saints as well as nonmembers of the area. The Star also, however, printed Church news and revelations received by Joseph Smith.

Aerial view of the temple lot in Independence, Missouri

By the end of 1832 there were over 800 Saints in Jackson County. There were, however, difficulties within the Church. Some members were not following the law of consecration; there was jealousy and other problems. The members in Jackson County were warned to repent or Zion would suffer. In July 1833, the peace the Saints were enjoying in Missouri ended suddenly. The first settlers of the area and other nonmembers became afraid and suspicious of the Saints. They did not like the huge influx of people moving into the area that did not hold the same political, cultural, or religious ideas as them. By this time, there were nearly twelve hundred Saints in the area. Independence also began to lose business at this time because a flood had caused the Missouri river to change its course. This was also blamed on the Mormons.

On July 20, four to five hundred non–Latter-day Saint citizens met at the courthouse in Independence. They drafted a document that said that no more Mormons were going to be allowed into the area, and those that were already living there must agree to leave as soon as they could. The Church leaders of the area were surprised by the document and asked for three months to find out what the Church leaders in Ohio would advise them to do, but this request was denied. They then asked for ten days, this was also denied. They were given only fifteen minutes to decide whether or not they should agree to the terms. The non–Latter-day Saint meeting quickly turned into a mob and they destroyed the printing office and press. They destroyed copies of the Book of Commandments and manuscripts. Luckily two sisters saw some of the unbound books and took as many as they could and hid with them in a cornfield. The mob then went searching for the leaders of the Church. Bishop Edward Partridge and Charles Allen were tarred and feathered by the mob because they would not denounce the Book of Mormon.

On July 23, the mob returned again this time with guns, clubs, and whips. They burned fields and haystacks, and destroyed homes. Six leaders of the Church offered their lives in exchange for the safety of the rest of the members. Their offer was turned down and they were forced to sign an agreement that they would be out of the county by April 1, 1834.

Today Independence receives thousands of visitors who come to see the Independence Visitors' Site, which includes exhibits about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri and about Heavenly Father’s eternal plan for His children. President N. Eldon Tanner dedicated the building on May 31, 1971.

Nearby is the original site that was dedicated for the construction of a temple in the center place of Zion. “And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse” (Doctrine & Covenants 57:1–3). Since then, the city has expanded to include the temple lot. The courthouse mentioned in this revelation no longer exists. It was replaced in 1836 by the building now known as the Truman Courthouse.

The lot and surrounding land, a total of 63.27 acres, was purchased by Bishop Edward Partridge in December 1831. However, today the Community of Christ owns most of the parcel of land, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the next largest portion. The smallest portion of the land—including the spot dedicated for a temple—is owned by the Church of Christ, once known as the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). This church was founded by Granville Hedrick, a former Latter-day Saint who chose not to go to the Salt Lake Valley when the Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois. Granville Hedrick and his followers returned to Independence in 1867.[1]

The Community of Christ owns other buildings in Independence, including their temple and international headquarters, an auditorium, and a stone church.

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