Today is a special day here in Independence Missouri.
43 years ago today, 31 May 1971, the Visitor Center in Independence was dedicated by President N. Eldon Tanner. President Joseph Fielding Smith was there and spoke. Elder Spencer W. Kimball was also here, along with many other church leaders, members and friends, It was a wonderful event from all accounts, and was a major milestone in the promised redemption of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri.
Last night we gathered at the Visitors Center to remember this great day, and perhaps put it in perspective for us in this modern day.
This is what the Visitors Center (which we call the "VC") looks like today.
The first group to come back here after the 1833 expulsion from Jackson County was what is today called The Church of Christ Temple Lot (also referred to by many as the Hedrickites). They returned here and obtained claim to the temple lots number 15 to 22 during the period from 1867-1877. They built what is often called the "White Church". The first one was burned down by a crazy man in 1898.
This is a picture taken by George Edward Anderson in 1907 and shows the second white church that sat just north of the temple lot. The temple lot is on the right in the trees.
This is what that white church looks like today. The second building was burned down on January 1, 1990 by another crazy man who had left the Church of Christ. He was trying to start a war according to his prophesy. Another larger building was built in its place. There were lots of donors that assisted in rebuilding this current, larger building, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Utah).
Today the Church of Christ Temple lot owns the original 2 1/2 acre lot that Joseph Smith stood on in 1831 when he dedicated the site for a temple--the first of three spots he dedicated for temples here in Missouri.
The entire temple property that was purchased originally by Bishop Edward Partridge included 63.27 acres. Today almost all of that land is owned either by The Church of Christ Temple Lot, The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Community of Christ) or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. None of the other splinter groups own original temple land.
This is a 1907 photo by George Edward Anderson of the Temple property before much was developed.
The Reorganized Church was "reorganized" in 1852. Joseph Smith III and his mother joined with them on April 6, 1860. They were located in Nauvoo from 1860 to 1866. Then they went to Plano, Illinois until 1881. From there Smith began to move the headquarters to Independence, Missouri. It did not happen officially until 1920, though his people began to "gather"as early as 1870's.
The famous Temple Lot Case (which went all the way to the United States Supreme Court) was between the Church of Christ Temple Lot and The Reorganized Church over ownership of the Temple Lot.
The 2 1/2 acre "Temple Lot" is right of the White Church, in front of the RLDS Temple--the grassy area.
Again, this is a 1907 photo by George Edward Anderson of the RLDS Stone Church.
This is the Stone Church today.
Joseph Smith III died here in Independence in 1915. His son, Fredrick Madison Smith was their leader until his death in 1946. He had his "pulpit" at the Stone Church. here in Independence.
I have been able to find information that in the early 1900's there was an invitation by the Church of Christ Temple Lot folks to try to get the three main groups to get together and hold a conference to discuss the building of a temple here on their property, A committee of men went to Utah and met with President Lorenzo Snow. In the end, the Brethren came to the conclusion that a temple would be built here when the Lord commands it, not as a result of a committee or a conference. They were grateful for the offer, and determined that perhaps the Utah Church should begin to have a presence here, along with the others.
They used money from a special fund that President John Taylor had established years before to purchase lands in Zion, and in 1904 bought 25.82 acres, adding another parcel in 1907. This purchase obtained the major lands that have been in the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ever since.
On that land they built a full blown chapel in 1917.
President Spencer W. Kimball served his mission here, and returned to dedicate the "new" stake center in 1978.
This is on the steps of the old building at the time of the dedication of the new Stake Center. You can see President and Sister Kimball in front with the Mission President and his 10 children (two of which were born while here).
This building was dedicated 3 September 1978 by President Spencer W. Kimball.
As I said, Joseph Smith dedicated two other sites for temples here in Missouri. None of the three were ever built. The first was the Independence temple site.
The second was the Far West Temple site:
This is another George Edward Anderson photo from 1907. This is the Far West Temple site. The woman on the left and the man on the right by the fence are standing on the corner stones.
This is a modern picture of the Far West Site. Note the corner stones under the glass cases on both the right and left.
A temple was never built here, but the site was dedicated. The land is still Holy!
The third temple site was at Adam-Ondi-Ahman:
A lot more than building a temple is going to happen at Adam-Ondi-Ahman, but it was also dedicated as a temple site,
Perhaps with this background, we can better understand how the folks here feel about this beautiful temple that was dedicated in 2012. We love this temple, and claim it as our own (Along with Salt Lake, Ogden, and Ghana).
So, when the Visitors Center was dedicated, over 5,000 people were there to participate and to see the Prophet of the Lord.
Our dearly beloved Mission President, Donald J. Keyes was there. He served in this mission from 1970 to 1972. He is now the mission president.
Last night he spoke to us at the VC (he is being released on 1 July 2014). He told us "The miracle of the rain". Most of these pictures were part of a PowerPoint presentation I helped prepare for him.
He said as the crowd gathered for the dedication, the sky began to darken. Then it started to rain lightly. All around the clouds gathered. But as the service began, it stopped, at least where they were. It was raining all around them. He said it was "like there was a Plexiglas cover over them" but when the service ended, the glass was removed and everyone was soaked, but happy. He said he had water in his pockets, his shoes and was wetter than he had ever been. But while the prophet and other brethren were speaking, they were protected. President Smith said that he did not think he was going "to have to fight the devil" that day. All of the speakers acknowledged the miracle that they were witnessing.
President Keyes said the water was running off the roof of the RLDS auditorium in sheets, and it was also gushing down the street right in front of the Visitors Center.
When I went back upstairs after his talk, I looked outside and it was raining as hard as I have ever seen, just like he described. It was a demonstration of what kind of rain he was talking about.
President Keyes' testimony, as a eyewitness was strong.
We know the Lord still has his eye on this place.
This is in front of the VC. The RLDS auditorium is on the left, just across the street. This was a similar storm from what President Keyes described.
We know that the Lord keeps His promises. One of them is that He will redeem Zion!