Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Church History Tour Part 1: Missouri

Robyn and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (some call us the LDS or Mormon church).  This year for our vacation we decided to take a history tour of the areas that are significant to the early days of our church.  Our tour began in Missouri.

We went to Independence where we were able to see the Community of Christ Temple.

The Community of Christ is the largest break off group that has broken away from the mainstream LDS church.  After Joseph Smith's death when the saints went west to Salt Lake City, certain saints chose not to go and reorganized their own church.  They started with a belief in the Book of Mormon but have since tried to distance themselves from it to some extent.

We were able to go inside and see what it was all about.  They had a museum inside with some of the artifacts of the early church.  We were also able to go into the chapel in the center of the temple and look up and see the spiral from the inside.  It was pretty cool looking.
It was neat to see the architecture and walk through the museum.  It was also very interesting to see how different their temple is from our temples.  It is still a place of worship but it feels very different.  It seemed that the function of their temple was more like our conference center.  It is a place of worship but not necessarily a sacred place.

From there we proceeded across the street to the temple lot where Joseph Smith dedicated for the future building of a temple.   There is just a small plaque there almost covered by a bush showing what it is.

Since we clearly hadn't had our fill of temples we then went to the location of the Kansas City temple which is currently under construction.

From there we went to Far West.  Joseph Smith also dedicated this area for a future temple as well.  Robyn and I decided to take a precious picture.
But then Robyn got cranky because Jared was taking too many pictures.
Her face is too classic.
After that we proceeded to Liberty Jail where Joseph Smith was incarcerated for a time.  Several of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were recorded in Liberty Jail.  The original jail was destroyed, but the Church has rebuilt a replica of the jail that you can see.

I was amazed to learn of the filthy conditions within the jail.  It also really helped me reflect on the trials that the prophet faced.  This period in his life was truly a refiner's fire for him and helped him become who he needed to be.  It was very powerful.

Lastly, we went to Adam-ondi-Ahman.  Robyn looked very precious as we overlooked the valley.

We believe this will be a place of gathering upon the return of the Savior.  I thought the acoustic properties of this area were particularly fascinating.  I stood atop this rock and spoke in my normal voice without raising it at all.  Jared went several hundred yards away and he could still hear me.
Robyn climbed up on top of the rock with me and was just talking quietly to me when Jared responded from clear across the little valley.  She kind of jumped and said, "He can hear us?"  It was really cool.  I guess it's a good place for us to gather and hear a speaker.

After Adam-Ondi-Ahman we were driven from the state.  Luckily, it has been illegal to kill a Mormon in Missouri since June 25, 1976, so I was doing the driving and not an angry, murderous mob.

Stay tuned.  We're currently in Nauvoo, Illinois learning about all sorts of history.  I'm sure I'll write about it soon.


  1. That spiral temple is fascinating! As an architect, I'm curious what makes it seem less sacred to you, would you mind elaborating?

    I love learning about different religions and their histories! Thanks for sharing your trip : )

  2. April, it was nothing about the architecture that made the building not seem sacred. It was more the function that they used and the attitude they had towards it. It was a multi purpose building that was a house of worship but also a place for tourists to walk through, to make purchases at the gift shop, to see the museum. It just seemed like they conducted the day to day worldly business inside the temple.

    This is just my perspective, and I'm sure is based on my upbringing in my own church, but in my paradigm, a sacred place is one where you leave the world outside and you go in and commune with deity. It's a place where you can forget day to day matters and focus solely on your relationship with the divine.

    I felt similarly when I was in Paris. Inside the Notre Dame cathedral it was strictly a place of worship. We walked in during mass and I felt a little bit like the tourists were desecrating their worship service.

    Then we went to the St. Chapelle cathedral and there was a gift shop inside. I felt like the gift shop made it lose something for me.

    So that was a big part of the difference to me, was simply that it functioned as a tourist attraction and that they did various bits of business with tourists inside. Of course, I mean no disrespect to them. I appreciate that I was allowed to come inside and look around, but it just seemed that they didn't have the reverence for their temple that I have for my own.

    In Salt Lake City, we have the headquarters of our church and we have the temple there as well. Tourists are allowed to walk the grounds of the temple and there is a very beautiful visitor's center where they can learn more about our beliefs. But tourists are not allowed to actually enter the temple unless they are members of our church who are in good standing.

    Anyway, I hope that answers your question. It just seemed that they had a different perspective towards their temple. It was a beautiful building but just seemed to perform a different function then the one I am used to from my paradigm.

  3. Wow, that answer didn't seem that long when I was writing it. Sorry I'm so verbose. :)

  4. It has been a fun trip even when I have a really ugly cranky face on.

  5. I am so excited for you and your trip. I have wanted to do a church tour for a few years now. Hopefully, soon we can make it a reality. Enjoy the rest of your trip, and be sure to keep track of all the things Graham and I should do when we someday go!

  6. Thank you so much for your in-depth answer! Don't be embarrassed about your verbosity, I've also left more than my share of essay-like comments before : )

    I totally understand what you meant now. And I feel a little... ego-centric? career-centric? to have thought that it had to do with the architecture! ha.

    Your answer clears up my curiosity about why I've never seen photos of the insides of LDS temples. & I'm sure I'd feel the same way if I encountered a gift shop inside any church!

  7. April,
    While it is true that we hold our temples as sacred and therefore don't take photographs inside or share them with the world, it is actually possible for you to see inside.

    When a new temple is built, the church has an open house where the public can come and walk through the newly built temple. Depending on the size of the temple and the demand, this open house could last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months. After this period we hold a "dedication" where the President of our church (or a member of the twelve apostles) says a special prayer dedicating the building to the Lord. After that the temple is closed to the public. I'm not sure where you live, but there are currently 10 temples under construction and 16 others that have had their locations announced so one of them may or may not be near you.

    But even without that, the church has published some online. I just randomly found a couple sites that had some pics. They probably aren't of the quality you'd be looking for to understand their architecture but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. The two sites I tracked down were and There are others out there but most of them are just in single news articles and not really compiled into one place.

  8. I am glad your trip is going well. I hope you had a great time!

  9. Thanks for looking up those links, Jeff : ) I like how the level of detail is inspiring without being gaudy.

  10. It was kinda sad when Jeff drove us out of Missouri. He always does that. Later he drove us from Nauvoo then Winter Quarters. We just wanted to live in peace.

  11. I want to go to Adam-Ondi-Ahman and experience the acoustics! That is sweet!

  12. Phew. I'm happy it's illegal to kill Mormons! Now I have nothing to fear.


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