The Earth Was Once a Garden Place, But Now It’s Just Missouri

A few weekends ago headed the 5.5 hours up I-35 to Independence, Mo. to check out church history sites. The best part was the barbecue place and the prayer for peace at the RLDS temple of division. Here are some photos and random, related (?) discussion.

The temple that launched a thousand restoration branches.

So that’s the RLDS (Community of Christ) temple in Independence. On the fun side, I happened to be there for the daily, 1 PM Prayer for Peace in the auditorium that’s at the center of the conch. Auditorium holds probably 1,000 people, but I was the only attendee :(. Well — there was me, the officiator, and the organist. We sang a couple hymns, then the officiator said a prayer, then he invited me onto the stage with him to co-recite another prayer (we switched off paragraphs). It was specifically for the sake of Syria. A little surreal, but, hey, I’ve never been on the stage in the LDS tabernacle, so: yeah.

It turns out that the RLDS building of the afore-pictured temple was one of the two major forces that caused the splintering of that church (there are now many “restoration branches” floating around the country, existing outside the direct purview of the RLDS leadership). After the prayer service, the officiator, who use words so generically non-specific and protestant for the most part, explained to me using somewhat Mormon-sounding language that all the restoration branches play a role in preparing for the second coming. Anyway — something to look forward to.

He was nice, but not exactly interested in two-way conversation. Narcissistic probably. That one talk given by Harry Truman about how great the UN is seems to play a very central role in modern RLDSism.

Anyway, also went over to the LDS visitor center, which was extremely generic. One of the sister missionaries there insisted that I watch one of the “Meet the Mormons” featurettes. I was steadfast and did not give in. I understand why the LDS church trades in propaganda, but it tends to not have a positive effect on me.

Also went across the street to the temple lot:

Apparently one of the cornerstones was buried here.

Talked to one of the Church of Christ pastors there to see what they were about. They’re — they’re about being a really small group of people who derive their group identity entirely from the ownership of one plat of land in Independence, Mo. Which I suppose isn’t the worst source of an identity. There were apparently a couple of different cornerstones found on the plot, one laid by Joseph Smith and the other by Brigham Young. I’m not sure which one was found here next to the sidewalk.

From there, drove up to Liberty Jail. The church has built a structure to completely enclose the semi-rebuilt ruins of the jail, which kind of takes a lot of the “I’m really there!” out of the situation. It’s also made up like, I dunno, a Disney-made diorama, with spotlights shining on different mannequins who speak their piece before their spotlight goes out and another shines on someone else.

They really need to do this differently. It’s unreasonable that (a) you can only visit in a missionary-led group, and (b) you can’t just have a minute by yourself in that jail basement to contemplate what it would have been like to have been there in the middle of winter in 1839 while at the same time ponderizing D&C 121 off your iPhone.

Then I headed up north another 90 minutes to Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was pretty much dusk by the time I got there.

It’s apparently just a well-mowed hay field these days.

The barbecue in Overland Park was pretty good and staff at the Courtyard in South KC were very cheerful.

This (meaning Missouri) was the least interesting of the major LDS history sites I’ve been to. By a lot. Palmyra, for instance, doesn’t have a lot more to see, but you’re totally free to walk through the woods and recognize that, yeah, that’d be a pretty good place to pray. Here: big ol’ hayfield, climate-controlled diorama-jail, and crazily bland offshoots. And you can’t even get out to Hahn’s Mill.

Then I drove home.