All trip long, I have been looking forward to attending the Community of Christ Devotional at the Independence Temple. The meeting began at 8:30 AM, and was a wonderful hour of singing and spoken word. Professor Alex Baugh of BYU, and Apostle Susan Skoor of the Community of Christ
gave background on many hymns written or revised by WW Phelps. It was a truly inspiring meeting. I haven’t enjoyed singing that much since I was in the MTC!
Following the service, I went on a tour of the temple. We visited the meditation chapel, as saw many beautiful sculptures inside the temple. Unlike LDS temples, we were able to take photos everywhere except for the museum. I was lucky enough to be led on a personal tour by Ron Romig, Community of Christ Director of the Kirtland Temple.
Displayed in the museum were actual copies of 1830, 1837, and 1840 copies of the Book of Mormon, along with facsimiles of the printer’s manuscript. The famous oil painting of Joseph and Emma were also there, along with photos of the previous 6 or 7 prophet/presidents of the Community of Christ. It was truly fascinating.
Following the tour, I wanted to visit some of the other Restoration churches. There are quite a few Restoration churches in the vicinity. When Joseph designed the city of Independence, he had allocated 63 acres for 24 temples to be erected on 3 city blocks. The original plan called for 12 temples for the Melchizedek Priesthood, and 12 temples for the Aaronic Priesthood. These temples apparently were supposed to serve a more administrative role than for worship. As you can imagine, many followers of Joseph Smith, both inside and outside the LDS and RLDS churches have clamored for this land.
A group calling itself the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) actually owns the location for the spot where Joseph Smith said a temple should reside, and they have a church on that location now. The RLDS owns a portion o fthe temple lot, where the Independence Temple resides, and the LDS church owns a visitor’s center and a stake center on part of the temple lot.
I really would like to attend some of these other Restorationist branches, so it was difficult for me to choose where to go. I attended part of the service for the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), also known as the Hedrickites. The group was founded by a man by the name of Granville Hedrick. There is an article in the Journal of Mormon History outlining many legal battles between the Hedrickites and the RLDS church, with the Hedrickites prevailing. I attended about 20 minutes of the service. During the service, a baby was blessed, and I heard references to both the Bible and Book of Mormon. I was late for the service, but I did not see a sacrament table, so I’m not sure if that was part of the service.
Wanting to visit a few other churches, I attended the Stone Church—the oldest church in Independence. The RLDS church began construction in 1873 and it was dedicated in 1888. I arrived just in time for the last song and prayer. The church had a balcony, similar to the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The congregation stood during the last song, and I was so tall that I had to duck into the aisle to see the organist. There were old wooden benches there, but they had cushions.
I asked if I could take photos, and they said I could. There were 3 beautiful stained glass windows: one showing Moroni, Joseph Smith, and
the Golden Plates, another showing Moses, Jesus, and the resurrection, and a third symbolizing the Trinity. The people were extremely friendly, and it was nice to have one of the members take me on a mini-tour.
Following that service, I noticed another Community of Christ church a short distance away. I was surprised to learn that they had a Jazz band playing. I recorded a few minutes of their last song! (I tried to post it, but the file is too big–I’ll try to condense it somehow.) They mentioned that the neighborhood was full of drugs and gangs, and they were trying to help citizens in the area avoid these problems. They invited me back next week for a baby blessing, but I told them I had a plane to catch.
A friend told me that I really needed to attend the Cutlerite Church. It was founded in 1853 by Alphaeus Cutler, who I believe is mentioned in the D&C. On my way there, I mistakenly thought this was a Cutlerite church.
I knocked on the door, but nobody answered.
Just a few houses down was the real Cutlerite church. My friend told me that the Cutlerites are the only group that still maintains an Endowment Ceremony, and it is conducted in the upstairs portion of this church.
Apparently they only have about 10-15 people meet on a weekly basis. The MHA pre-conference tour flooded them with about 50 interested participants.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late: the doors were locked. Here are a few photos, and I stuck my camera up to the door to peer into the chapel.
As I looked at my map, I decided to try to find Lilburn W Boggs house. Unfortunately, I never found it, but I did find another interesting church: the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They meet across the street from the Independence Temple in a converted high school (formerly Crisman High School.) I walked around the building, and discovered a man. Apparently, they hold luncheons for the needy and homeless. Their freezer had broken, so he was loading food into his van. I asked him if I might be able to tour the building, and he reluctantly agreed. His name is Arlo Stevenson.
I learned that he is not a member of the Remnant Church, but his church has partnered with them to help out the needy. The Remnant Church is a break-off from the RLDS church. Arlo is a former member of the RLDS church, but has joined the House of Aaron, and I learned that this church has a branch about 50 miles west of Delta, Utah on the Utah/Nevada border. Arlo showed me the Remnant Church offices, and then I learned that the Remnant Church has rented a room for the House of Aaron to hold meetings. I purchased a “Sunday School” manual, and I hope to do a future post on the House of Aaron.
I also ran into some interesting people. I had a nice chat on Saturday night with Paul Savage, Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Elijah message. He is from Independence as well, and has a small congregation. I had recently purchased Scattering of the Saints by John Hamerand Newell Bringhurst, and he pointed to the cover to his name. I said, “Wow, I thought these were all dead people.”
“I’m not dead!” he exclaimed. He was a really interesting person. We didn’t have much time to chat, but I got his email address and hope to discuss this group further as I learn more.
I also took my picture with 2 apostles from the Community of Christ: Andrew Bolton and Susan Skoor. Here is Elder Marlin Jensen, Historian for the LDS church. I was pleased to meet many authors including John Hamer, Newell Bringhurst, Kathy Daines, Rick Turley (asst LDS Church Historian), and Greg Prince. It was a real blast—I remarked to some that Independence felt a bit like Mormon Disneyland to me.