LDS Visitors Center, Independence, Missouri
The LDS "Mormon" Visitors Center, Independence, Missouri (dedicated on May 31, 1971) is a visitors center owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Independence, Missouri. The center is situated on the Greater Temple Lot dedicated and purchased by Joseph Smith and his associates in 1831, only a few yards from the Church of Christ (Temple Lot)'s headquarters and the Community of Christ Temple.
The property upon which the Visitors Center stands was first purchased on December 19, 1831 by Edward Partridge, acting on behalf of Joseph Smith. It was repurchased by the LDS Church, which had become the largest of several different Latter Day Saint denominations, on April 14, 1904. The purchase was completed by James G. Duffin, President of the Central U.S. States Mission, acting on behalf of the First Presidency.
A few months later, the Kansas City Times published a rumor (but corrected itself the next day) that the so-called "Utah Mormons" had secretly purchased the entire Greater Temple Lot, including that portion owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), which had been the subject of a lawsuit in the 1890s between the Temple Lot and (then) RLDS churches. The portion owned by the Temple Lot church was the highest-altitude 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) portion of the 63.5 acres (257,000 m2) originally purchased by Partridge in December, 1831, and had been repurchased by Granville Hedrick, founder of the Temple Lot church, between 1867 and 1877. Both pieces of real estate are often confused, because since 1867 both the 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) area and the larger 63.5-acre (257,000 m2) area have been described in newspaper and other media reports as the "Mormon Temple Lot." A January 2009 online article by Community of Christ researcher John Hamer entitled "The Temple Lot: Visions and Realities" helps clear up the confusion.
The Visitors Center opened in 1971, the same year as another particularly notable LDS Visitors Center, the LDS Visitors Center in Nauvoo, Illinois. Its style of presenting Mormon claims and doctrines in a modern audio-visual and interactive format was specifically the brainchild of LDS general authority Bernard P. Brockbank, who had overseen implementation of this same style at the 1964 New York World's Fair.
Theories on future use
The Visitors Center is alleged to have been designed after the Parthenon, one of the world's most renowned temples. This has fueled speculation as to whether the LDS Visitors Center is, by definition, a temple constructed on the Greater Temple Lot dedicated and purchased by Joseph Smith and his associates for that purpose in 1831. An October 1952 Kansas City Times essay written by a friend and admirer of RLDS Church Historian Heman C. Smith (1850 - April 17, 1919) published the rumor that the LDS Church intended to build an LDS Temple on the site today occupied by the LDS Visitors' Center. In his 2004 book Images of New Jerusalem author Craig S. Campbell examines the rumor, but is skeptical the building may be "converted someday" into an LDS Temple.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "...address by President Joseph Fielding Smith ... at the dedication of a new Visitors Center at Independence, Missouri, on May 31, 1971" Ensign, August 1971, p. 5.
- p. 19, Church chronology: a record of important events pertaining to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Deseret [News] Publishing, 1914
- "Denied by Mr. Duffin: No Truth in Report of a Large Purchase of Land by Mormons" Kansas City Times quoted in the Salt Lake City Herald newspaper, page 17 (C-3), January 15, 1905. "...The report published in the Times yesterday morning that several thousand acres of land had been purchased in Independence, Mo., for the use of the Mormon colonists was denied yesterday afternoon by James G. Duffin..."
- A 1975 edition of the Los Angeles Times mentions the Visitors Center in a report headlined Independence to be ‘City of God’: Three Churches Await Christ in Missouri Independence to be ‘City of God’: Three Churches Await Christ in Missouri By Charles Hillinger, Los Angeles Times, p. 18, Saturday, March 29, 1975, at Google Docs
- An article published in the LDS periodical the Ensign in 1979 and reproduced online today includes a photograph of the LDS visitors center in Independence, Center, and the cutline reads: "Independence Visitors’ Center, dedicated in 1971 on part of the temple lot": "The Way It Looks Today: A Camera Tour of Church History Sites in Missouri", Ensign, April 1979.
- The Temple Lot: Visions and Realities January 19, 2009 — John Hamer at bycommonconsent.com
- "Church readies pavilion for N.Y. Fair Inaugural" Deseret News, February 29, 1964
- "Famous members of the Community of Christ formerly named the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)"
- RLDS "Church Letter on Succession Authority" ref. Heman C. Smith, 1919 at Shields-Research.com
- Moore, Edward D. (October 30, 1952). "Church History Surrounds Independence Tract Said to Be Worth Million Dollars". Kansas City Times. Retrieved December 25, 1010. "...The 7,000-seat auditorium built by the R.L.D.S., which that church expects to finish at a cost of about 1 million dollars, faces the temple lot from the south...But just east of the Auditorium lot, across River boulevard, comes up the corner the Utah-owned temple tract on which the Utah Mormons say they will build a temple. In fact when the Independence school board offered to buy the tract for a new high school building and grounds, the Utah church president refused, but countered with an offer to give $60,000, to apply on the purchase of some other tract by the school board. Recently the Mormons sent the check. So a temple, understood by all Latter-Day Saints factions to be a strictly religious rites building, may spring up to complicate further an already complicated situation."
- Campbell, Craig S. (2004). Images of the New Jerusalem: Latter Day Saint faction interpretations of Independence, Missouri. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 169–172. ISBN 1-57233-312-X. "...[T]he membership on occasion has been known to speculate whether the Visitors Center could easily be converted into a temple, after all it is a multilevel structure with grounds decorated in templelike manner. One member expressed to me that the Visitor's Centers twelve columns were like those...twelve gates of the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:11-12)...In reality, the Visitor's Center has thirty-eight slender pillars covering all four sides of the building, so quite a bit of millenial imagination was employed in converting a museum into a temple..."
- Independence Visitors' Center at LDS.org, official web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints