Independence Visitors' Center
Nestled in the western portion of the city of Independence, Missouri, in Jackson County, is a rectangle of land with importance to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Community of Christ, and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). This piece of land is the temple lot that was designated as the location for the temple of the New Jerusalem.
On July 20, 1831, the Lord revealed to Joseph:
- “Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.
- “Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city 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” (D&C 57:1–3).
On August 3, 1831, under the direction of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon dedicated Jackson County as a place of gathering and dedicated a temple site. Joseph Smith laid a stone at the northeast corner of the temple. On December 19, 1831, Bishop Edward Partridge purchased 63.27 acres that included the 2-acre temple lot.
Adjacent to the temple lot is a visitors’ center and a stake center belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thousands of Latter-day Saints come to the visitors’ center each year. Visitors can see the temple lot when they exit through the front doors; it lies immediately to the northwest and bears six small stone markers and a sign. The Independence Visitors’ Center was dedicated on May 31, 1971, by President N. Eldon Tanner.
The Community of Christ owns buildings including the Community of Christ Auditorium, the Stone Church, and the Temple and International Headquarters that are also adjacent to the temple lot. Built on the temple lot is the meetinghouse of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).
History of Independence and the Temple Lot
The area of Independence became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. The city of Independence was founded on March 29, 1827, and named after the Declaration of Independence. It was the farthest point westward of the Missouri River where steamboats and other cargo vessels could travel.
In 1831, four years after the founding of Independence, Joseph Smith and the Saints began to settle Independence. During this time as many as 2,000 Saints resided there, and the First Presidency prepared a plat for the city of Zion, which was to include 24 temples that may have been intended to function as the Kirtland Temple had. One was to be built first. Only two short years after they arrived, tensions between the Saints and the Missourians had climaxed and the Saints were driven from the area.
The Church of Christ, or the Hedrickites, returned to Independence in 1867 and purchased the temple lot. It has been headquartered there since then. The then Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter ay Saints sued for title to the temple lot in 1891, and won; but the decision was reversed on appeal. The Church of Christ excavated the site in 1929 to begin construction of a temple, but internal disputes stopped the progress until 1931, but the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) lacked funds to begin in full. “A plea was sent to the LDS for money to build the temple. President David O. McKay, then second counselor to President Heber J. Grant, wrote in his journal that ‘we courteously refused.’ By 1943 the Temple Lot church abandoned the project and in 1946 the lot was refilled and landscaped.
The Community of Christ owns most of the original 63.27 acres purchased by Bishop Partridge. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the next largest portion.
Originally, the temple lot was west of Independence. Over the years, the city expanded to include the temple lot. The city of Independence has a population of 116,000 as of 2019.