Sunday, December 20, 2015


Independence, Missouri, could be considered the site of a modern-day "Holy War" between three very different churches with one common origin: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka LDS Church, or Mormons), the Community of Christ (aka the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [no hyphen, capital D], or RLDS), and the Church of Christ (aka Temple Lot, or Hedrickites). With over 15 million members, the LDS Church eclipses the Community of Christ (about 250,000 members) and the Church of Christ (about 7,300 members). Each church claims to be the true successor church to the one established by Joseph Smith in 1830.

In Independence, the three churches each vie for a attention around what is known as the "Temple Lot." 
#1a: LDS Church Visitors Center and #1b: LDS Stake Center
 #2: Community of Christ Temple
#3a Church of Christ Headquarters and #3b Temple Lot (owned by the Church of Christ)
#4: Community of Christ Auditorium
#5: Community of Christ Stone Church
The Church of Christ's main claim to fame is its ownership of the property in Independence, Missouri, that was dedicated by Joseph Smith for the building of a temple (#3b above). Today that property is bordered on three sides by significant Community of Christ properties (#2, #4, and #5 above) and is kitty-corner from the LDS Visitors' Center (#1a above). 
The Church of Christ headquarters are located in a white wooden building built in 1990 next to the Temple Lot:

These two acres of grass have been the source of some contention among the three churches named above, including a lawsuit in the 1890s and two acts of arson, one in 1898 and one in 1990:

The Community of Christ Temple is the main religious site in the area (see a previous post on the building here), but the domed Community of Christ Auditorium located across the street is also a very large and important building and is considered to be part of the church headquarters. The two buildings in close proximity to each other are very much like the LDS Temple and LDS Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah:
The groundbreaking for this huge building was in 1926, but the Great Depression halted its construction, and it wasn't completed until 1958. The large hall seats almost 6,000, and in addition to the church's World Conferences, which are held here every two years, the Auditorium hosts many local community events, including an annual production of the Messiah by the Kansas City Symphony and the Independence Messiah Choir. It was in this building on June 27, 1945, that President Truman announced that the United States had become a signatory to the United Nations Charter the previous day. Colin Powell, Jane Goodall, and Bill Clinton have all spoken here.

Unfortunately, the building was locked up when we tried to get in, so we missed seeing the interior. We were very disappointed.
Photo of a Messiah performance from here
The Auditorium is famous for its 6,300-pipe organ, and we just barely missed an organ concert being given there the day we visited:
Photo from here

As we walked around the area, we saw a small group of men and women also sightseeing. Based on the women's clothing and hairstyles, we assumed they were a group of Fundamentalists coming to visit the sites:

The final structure we visited was the Community of Christ Stone Church, built in 1884-1888 and once the headquarters of the RLDS Church:
The building is used as a regular meeting house today.
We had a friendly, gracious guide take us into the chapel/sanctuary area of the church. Its rich wood and delicate balconies reminded me a lot of the Assembly Hall at the LDS Temple Square in Salt Lake City:

My favorite part of the building was the beautiful stained glass. The window below depicts the sacraments of baptism and confirmation flanking the Community of Christ symbol, a child standing between a very human-looking lion and a lamb.

The window on the left shows Joseph Smith on the lower left and Christ in the Americas on the right, with the Book of Mormon and Bible in the circles above and the Angel Moroni in the center.  The window on the right shows Moses on the lower left and John the Baptist on the right with an empty cross in the center and Jesus Christ in the large circle above:

A large organ dominates the front. It looks like an airplane, or maybe a rocket, pointed towards heaven:

I was impressed by the cheerful warmth of our guide, who told us about joint efforts between the Community of Christ and LDS churches to feed the homeless and engage together in other community improvement activities. She mentioned joint musical events and the sharing of space as well. I was glad to hear that. It's nice to know the Holy War I was expecting has pretty much ended in peace.


  1. It is strange to me to see another church claim Joseph Smith as their founder.

  2. Love the aerial view and the reference to the "Holy War" on the heels of the BYU and Utah football game.

    1. Like the Las Vegas Bowl "Holy War" last Saturday, I'm sure the rightful heirs to the temple properties in Missouri will end up in the right hands.