Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Community of Christ Stone Church - Independence, MO

The Stone Church of the Community of Christ ("CofC") in Independence, Missouri was the administrative headquarters and site of general conferences of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which was renamed the CofC in 2001) from the early 20th century until the building of the Auditorium in 1958. For that reason, they refer to the Stone Church as the "pulpit of the presidency." 
The Stone Church in Independence, Missouri.
To the right is the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) church and in between it and the Stone Church is the spire of the CofC Temple. 
The Stone Church is just outside the 63 acres of land that Joseph Smith, Jr. dedicated in August 1831 as the land of Zion and where a temple would be built as part of the New Jerusalem. That 63 acres is now owned by three parties: (1) the largest portion by the CofC, including the spots where the CofC Temple and Auditorium are located; (2) a little lesser portion by the Mormons, including the spots where a Visitor's Center and Stake Center are located; and (3) two and a half acres by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), also known as the Hedrickites, the current location of a wood church and visitor's center. I believe the Hedrickites own the land that was specifically dedicated as the temple site. As the CofC literature attests, this land, which is sacred to the various fragments of the LDS movement, has been sought after and contested for, much as other Christian churches have contended for important sites in Jerusalem. 


Members of the Reorganized Church began moving into Independence shortly after the church was organized in 1860. A branch was organized in Independence in 1873. Daniel Bowen, a member of the Reorganized Church, was outside his home in Stewartsville, Missouri when he heard a voice telling him to "Look south." A few months later the same voice told him, "There is a piece of land in Independence for you." Bowen traveled to Independence and worked with a real estate agent to show him land around town. Daniel prayed that the Spirit would guide him to the land he was supposed to buy. As Daniel passed the Temple Lot the Spirit told him to buy the land just to the north of it, which he did. As the Reorganized Church was looking for a place to build a church building, Bowen offered this lot to the church. 
Construction of the Stone Church began in 1884. It was built of limestone quarried near Warrensburg, Missouri, about 56 miles away.  The stone was transported by rail to near where the Auditorium now stands, and then transported by wagon to the church site. Each stone piece was cut on-site. The Stone Church was dedicated by Joseph Smith III on April 6, 1888.  
Inside it has somewhat of the feel of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake, although much smaller. This is probably due to the wood benches and the upper balcony seats supported by columns. 

What really sets the Stone Church apart for me is the wonderful stained glass, which was installed in 1970. Some of it is uniquely LDS. 
This uniquely LDS window has the Angel Moroni as the centerpiece, the gold plates, the Book of Mormon, Christ in the Americas and a person that I assume is Joseph Smith under a dove that must represent the Spirit.  
Angel Moroni who led Joseph Smith, Jr. to the gold plates.
The gold plates held together by rings and transitioning into a book. 
The Book of Mormon which was translated from the gold plates, is transitioning from the plates in this window. 
Christ and a depiction of a Central American structure behind him. 
Joseph Smith, Jr. holding the Book of Mormon under a dove, probably indicating that the book was translated by inspiration of the Spirit. 
Less uniquely LDS, this shows Christ as the centerpiece, Moses in the bottom left, John the Baptist in the bottom right and the empty cross, bottom center, the emptiness signified by the robe left on it. 
I like the symbolism of this empty cross. 
The window is uniquely Reorganized Church.
The youth, the lamb and the lion, with "peace," is the CofC symbol. 
A modern baptism ordinance.
A modern blessing or ordination. 
I don't know what the symbolism of this is, if any.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting background on the temple lot and fantastic photos of the windows. I'm glad we haven't come to blows over the temple lot as has been the case in Jerusalem! It seems to be a relatively peaceful, supportive environment in Independence.

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  2. I rather like this idea of all of the different splinter groups peacefully co-existing in Independence. It's fun to see the stained glass "takes" on various LDS subjects.

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  3. The last window might represent the Godhead.

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  4. Daniel Bowen was my great-great-great grandpa!

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