For those interested in American frontier religious history, the Kansas City, Missouri, suburb of Independence City is well worth a visit.
One of the first things visitors to Independence are likely to notice is the 90-meter-tall (300 feet) Community of Christ temple, as it is by far the tallest structure in the city. The temple is the world headquarters for the denomination, which traces its origins to American religious pioneer Joseph Smith, who traveled to the area in 1931 and declared it as Zion, the place where believers of Christ would gather. After Smith was assassinated by a jailhouse mob at Carthage, Illinois, in 1844, the biggest group of his followers moved to Utah, where their body of believers became incorporated as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, informally known as the Mormons. Many of those we went to places other than Utah became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, later renamed the Community of Christ.
The Community of Christ temple is designed after a spiraling seashell and is open to the public (although access to the top of the spiral is restricted). In the temple’s basement is a museum that includes artifacts related to church history, including the most well-known painted portrait made of Smith and his first wife, Emma. The church also offers a video presentation and tour that explains church beliefs and practices. The public also is invited to daily prayers for peace, and community events are often held in the temple’s sanctuary, which features one of the largest pipe organs in the country.
Across the street is a visitor center belonging to the larger Mormon church. It also features displays related to church history, along with some original artifacts.
Next to the facilities of the two large denominations is an older and smaller church owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), a small sect that claims to be the true church organized by Smith. It has a small museum that features the cornerstones of a temple that Smith started to build on the site before persecution forced him and his followers to leave.
Admission to all three of the church sites is free.
Indendence is also known as the place to see sites related to former U.S. President Harry S. Truman. More information on visiting Independence is available from the City of Independence Department of Tourism.
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