Historical Summary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Siants in Independence Missouri

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To understand why Independence Missouri is significant to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, you should first understand a little of what we believe. Primarily you should understand the following 5 points:

1. We believe that God The Father created a plan for His children by which we can advance in our sphere of intelligence and perfection insofar as we choose. We believe this earth was created to assist God in fulfilling that plan.

2. We believe that Jesus Christ was designated by God to play the central part of The Father’s plan for us. That He took upon Himself the demands of justice in suffering for our sins, and we believe He will return to this earth to restore peace and to finish the work of Salvation for all of God’s children who will accept it. We believe that the location in which He dwells after His return will be called the “New Jeruselem” as spoken by John (Rev. 21:1-5), also called the city of Zion.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.

3. We believe that we are separated from God’s immediate presence for the purposes of His plan and because of our sins. But that He sends messengers to us in the form of prophets, angels, and the Holy Ghost to lead us in accomplishing His work and to bring about His plan for us.

4. We believe that when a prophet of God writes by the power or influence of the Holy Ghost that his words are scripture, the Word of God to us.

5. We believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, called of God and given authority to act in the office to which he was called.

Early Revelations Given To Joseph Smith Concerning The Location of the New Jerusalem (1829 – 1830)

Joseph’s first clues as to the significance and location of a city called the New Jerusalem came as he translated the Book of Mormon during the months of April through June in 1829.

In third Nephi chapter 21 it reads:  “And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” 3 Nephi 21:22

And in Ether chapter 13 it reads: “And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord. And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land …” see Ether 13:2-6

In September 1830 and again in February of 1831 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the location of the New Jerusalem would be made known (D&C 28:9, D&C 42:33-36,62,67), “And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter.”

First Visit To Independence and Revelation That It Has Been Designated as The New Jerusalem (1831)

On June 6th 1831, during a conference of the church, it was revealed that some of the brethren were to travel to Missouri, preaching the gospel along the way. They were to gather there for the next conference where the Lord would reveal “the land of your inheritance” (D&C 52:1-5).

Joseph’s party arrived in Independence on July 14, 1831 and it was just 6 days later, on July 20th 1831, that the future location of the New Jerusalem was revealed to be in Independence Missouri, “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 57:3 See also Doctrine and Covenants 84:2.

For a more complete account see Our Heritage chapter 4.

Members Gather In Independence (1831 – 1833)

Ten days after Joseph arrived in Independence the 60 members from the Colesville Branch, led by Newel Knight, arrived In Jackson County.  Just two weeks later, the mother of Newel Knight, Polly Knight, died and was buried in Independence, the first Mormon to be buried there. She had said that her greatest desire was to set her feet in the land of Zion before she died.

12 miles west of Independence, in there area where Kansas City stands today, land was purchased and on August 2nd 1831 a ceremony was held in which a log was laid as the foundation for the first Mormon log cabin to be built in the area. It was used as both their chapel and meeting place. Sidney Rigdon dedicated that land and said these words: ““Do you pledge yourselves to keep the laws of God on this land, which you never have kept in your own lands? [The audience responded,] we do. Do you pledge yourselves to see that others of your brethren who shall come hither do keep the laws of God? [Those present again said,] we do. After [the dedicatory] prayer [Elder Rigdon] arose and said, I now pronounce this land consecrated and dedicated to the Lord for a possession and inheritance for the Saints (in the name of Jesus Christ having authority from him). And for all the faithful servants of the Lord to the remotest ages of time. Amen.”

The next day, August 3rd, the temple lot was dedicated by Joseph Smith in prayer, and a single stone was laid at the southeast corner of the future temple.

The next summer of 1832 brought 300 to 400 more members to the area. Log cabins, buildings, and fences were erected, including two schoolhouses and the famous printing press where the Book of Commandments, now known as the Doctrine and Covenants, was published.

By April of 1833 ten branches had been organized for the roughly 1,000 members living in the area in and around Independence and the present day Kansas City.

Conflicts With Missourians and Expulsion From Jackson County (1833)

On April 6th 1833 the saints gathered to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the church founding, the first celebration of its kind for the members. There jubilation was short lived, it was that same month that the local Missourians began to vocalize their dislike for the presence of the newly arrived Mormon residents.

A group of 400 men gathered at the courthouse on July 20 to coordinate their efforts against the Mormons. When their demands were not met, the mob destroyed the printing press and seized Bishop Partridge and Charles Allen, took them to the square and tarred and feathered them when they refused to agree to leave the county.

The first dead came on November 4th 1833 when Andrew Barber, a member, was killed in the Battle of the Big Blue, and 2 members of the mob were killed. By the end of the year all of the saints had been driven out of Jackson County Missouri.

Further Reading: Missouri Conflict

Governor Lilburn Boggs Extermination Order (1838 – 1842)

Governor Boggs was a resident of Independence and a vehement anti-Mormon. It was he who issued the extermination order in the fall of 1838 which stated that all Mormons be “exterminated or driven from the state,” an order which was not officially rescinded until June 25, 1976 by Governor Christopher Bond who said it violated the rights granted by the U.S. Constitution.

After Governor Boggs had left office he moved into a house near the temple lot. On the evening of May 6, 1842 he was shot in the head while sitting in his house. He survived the attempt and Orrin Porter Rockwell, Joseph Smith’s body guard, was arrested on suspicion of committing the crime but no conviction ever came of it.

*Governor Boggs and the original extermination order.

Lilburn-Boggs       Extermination_order

“Headquarters of the Militia, City of Jefferson, Oct. 27, 1838.

Gen. John B. Clark:Sir:

Since the order of this morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Reese, Esq., of Ray county, and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids, information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Willock, of Marion county, to raise five hundred men, and to march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with five hundred men to proceed to the same point for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the north. They have been directed to communicate with you by express, you can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead therefore of proceeding as at first directed to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.

I am very respectfully, yr obt st [your obedient servant],

L. W. Boggs, Commander-in-Chief.”

 

Church of Christ and RLDS Church Return to Independence (1867 – 1894)

LDS Church Returns To Independence Missouri (1900)

In October of 1900 the Indian Territory Mission was expanded to include Missouri. On April 14h 1904 the church repurchased a portion of the original lot of land in Independence that it had first purchased in 1833 by Bishop Edward Partridge, an area known as the temple lot. That same year the Indian Territory Mission’s name was changed to the Central States Mission and in 1906 its headquarters were moved to Independence.

The first branch (a small congregation) was organized in 1911 and in 1913 a chapel was built and dedicated the next year by President Joseph F. Smith. It was located on the temple lot on the corner of Walnut St. and Pleasant.

*Pictured Below – Old Independence Chapel in 1948. Picture by Betty Preator, provided by Nive Faletau of the Independence 1st Ward

Old Independence Chapel - Build 1913

In 1956 the Kansas City Stake was organized, and with it, the Independence Ward.

In 1971 President Spencer W. Kimball, who had served as one of the first missionaries to Missouri in 1914, organized the Independence Stake. And on September 3rd 1978 he returned to Independence to dedicate the new stake center which was also located on the land originally purchased by Bishop Edward Partridge.

*Independence Stake Center. Early Missionaries to Missouri, Spencer W. Kimball with Companion L.M. Hawkes.

 

Sources & Recommended Reading:

Saints in Independence
Missouri Myths
New Jerusalem