Kansas City -- As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepares to dedicate a new temple tomorrow in Kansas City, we are learning the Church has made a purchase of significant historical sites related to the faith, in Missouri and Ohio. Most of the property acquired is in the region of the new temple.
The LDS Church purchased the property from Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized LDS. Sites include Haun's Mill and the old Far West Burying Ground in Northwestern Missouri, along with the Joseph Smith Sr. home in Kirtland, Ohio. The purchase also includes six thousand acres of farmland, several miles south of the new temple. The temple now stands in the same area where, for a time, the early Mormons found peace.
"The stately and magnificent Kansas City Temple, in a lovely part of the country, really the heartland of America, will be dedicated in the morning," said President Thomas S. Monson. After a greeting from Monson, thousands of Latter-day Saint youth performed in honor of their heritage to celebrate the opening of the Kansas City temple.
An LDS temple in this region of Missouri has been more than 180 years in the making. In 1831, church founder Joseph Smith dedicated this spot in Independence for a temple. Soon after, the Mormons were driven out of the area, across the Missouri River to Clay County.
"It's kind of a return to our roots, it's something that is happening in the church," said Dr. Alex Baugh, professor of Church History & Doctrine at Brigham Young University. "We have a temple in the Palmyra area, we have a temple at Winter Quarters, we have a temple at Nauvoo."
Several Mormon settlements existed in the early 1830's, near the new temple.
"This is where the Mormons really had the greatest amount of peace, and you might say prosperity, in a sense, during the period 1833 to 1836," Baugh said.
Those living in Clay County, which at the time was the edge of the Western Frontier, were more accepting of their Mormon neighbors.
"Although they never intended for the Mormons to stay there permanently, they were quite friendly to them being there," Baugh said.
Eventually the early Mormons were again driven away. Joseph Smith would be imprisoned in nearby Liberty for several months in 1838, before the Mormons were forced to flee Missouri. Last month, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acquired more historical properties here, including Haun's Mill and the old Far West Burying Ground.
The land was purchased from the Community of Christ, whose headquarters have been in Missouri for nearly 100 years. The LDS Church says it will continue to farm the property and maintain the historical sites, but says there are no plans for any development.
With a modern temple here, Church leaders are also looking to the future. Many believe the construction of this temple has allowed for a time of healing from the past.