Missouri Independence Mission History



Many will remember this painting from the Independence Visitors Center




As you all know this mission is a land of promise. This is a page of accounts of this great mission. Starting with the timeline as outlined from Mission net.


If you have anything to add e-mail me Jerry@CDreams.com





Highlights of the History



·        Mission Timeline

·        Mission History – President and Sister Clayton

·        1973-1976 Mission President - Graham W. Doxey - LDS Church News

·        Ensign May 1979 Missouri History Pictures Today

·        1968 Far West Monument erected in 1968 marks the temple site

·        1971 Independence Visitors’ Center, dedicated in 1971 on part of the temple lot.

·        September 2, 1978 Independence Stake Center Dedication – President Kimball Visit

·        1979 Additional Reader’s Digest Inserts Planned

·        1979 Independence MO Courthouse

·        1979 Independence pageant Announcement

·        1981 Benson Visits Independence – LDS Church News

·        1988 Independence Pageant Story June - LDS Church News

·        1991 Independence Missouri Regional Conference - LDS Church News

·        March 1993 – Announcement of New Nebraska Omaha Mission - LDS Church News

·        1993 Independence Pageant Article – LDS Church News


·        1993 Liberty Jail 30th Anniversary Article - LDS Church News

·        1994 FINDING FRIENDSHIP IN MISSOURI, Article - LDS Church News

·        1994 New Stake President – Independence MO - LDS Church News

·        Dec 1998 Liberty Jail becomes 'enlightened dome' - LDS Church News

·        Dec 1998  Display at Independence Visitors Center builds bridges to community - LDS Church News

·        April 1999 Painting Unveiling at Liberty Visitors Center marks an. of D&C 121-123 - LDS Church News

·        June 1999 New temple announcement for Omaha Nebraska - LDS Church News

·        October 2000 Missouri Heritage Conference  - LDS Church News

·        July 2001 Independence Visitors center lights up for Fourth - LDS Church News





Missouri Independence Mission History – From the Beginning



 Organized on Tue 26-Jun-1855



 Indian Territory 


 Reorganized as "Southwestern States" on Tue 29-Mar-1898

Southwestern States



 Reorganized as "Central States" on Mon 4-Apr-1904

Central States


 Reorganized as "Kansas-Missouri" on Wed 10-Jun-1970




Reorganized as "Missouri Independence" on Thu 20-Jun-1974


 Missouri Independence






Mission History

By President and Sister Clayton

At the 1855 LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City, 5 Elders were called to serve as missionaries to the Indian Territory Mission. Their service began among the Cherokee and Creek Indians in the Shawnee area of Kansas. Three of the missionaries served there for 4 years and were eventually expelled from the Indian Territory by Indian agents who were unhappy about unrelated trouble with Johnson’s Army. The last two missionaries from that group returned home in 1877 . . . 22 years later.

An iron railing led up the steps of the first LDS chapel in the mission which was located in St. Johns, Kansas. The Mission Home was actually a hotel rented by the church in the same city. Apostle George Teasdale was the first President of the Indian Territory Mission, which was formally organized in April 1883. President Teasdale served until September of that year and was followed by Elder Andrew Kimball, who served for 12 years (June 1885-April 1897). In April of 1897 Elder William T. Jack was called as Mission President until May 1900. During his presidency, in March of 1898, the mission name was changed to Southwestern States Mission and on December 26, 1900, the Mission Office was moved to Kansas City, Missouri

Seven years later the mission headquarters moved from Kansas City to Independence, Missouri where a hall was rented in the Examiner Building, (located unknown) for worship services. In 1906 the mission name was again changed to become the Central States Mission. Another name change occurred in 1969 and the mission was called the South Central States Mission and shortly thereafter became the Kansas Missouri Mission (1970).  In 1974, the mission name was once again changed to become the Missouri Independence Mission.

This mission history was provided by President and Sister Clayton.


1968 Far West Monument erected in 1968 marks the temple site


Far West today is peaceful and pastoral. In 1838, it was Church headquarters. The Saints purchased thousands of acres of land in the area, but nothing now remains of their school, stores, homes, and bustling city.




In 1838, the Saints gathered in Far West in Missouri’s Caldwell County. The Prophet Joseph dedicated this grassy field as a temple site; and D&C 118 instructed the Twelve to depart on their missions for England from here. Even though the Saints were driven from the state, the faithful apostles returned to this site before starting their journey across the ocean. Four days before that revelation, on 4 July 1838 the cornerstones for the temple were laid. Pictured above is the southwest cornerstone, marking one corner of the 110-x-80-foot rectangle. Each cornerstone was laid by select groups of the priesthood in a grand procession of Church officers, militiamen, ladies, and gentlemen.



A commemorative monument erected in 1968 marks the temple site. Cornerstones are clearly visible next to the fence. All four corner markers may be seen in this photo.




1971 Independence Visitors Center




Independence Visitors’ Center, dedicated in 1971 on part of the temple lot.







Mission President – Graham W. Doxey 


Graham W. Doxey was the first mission president with the mission named Missouri Independence Mission.



Article about Graham W. Doxey in the Saturday, April 27, 1991 LDS Church News



BY GERRY AVANT, Church News Assistant Editor

    For years, Graham W. Doxey has relied on favorite stories from the scriptures to teach, inspire and motivate others, and to find courage for himself.
    ``One story that has been a great help to us in the past few years has been the one of Nephi where he, with his brothers, was assigned to get the plates from Laban,’’ said Elder Doxey, 64, who, exudes a peaceful, happy countenance. ``They made the first effort and were unsuccessful. They were unsuccessful the second time. Nephi finally got his brothers to go back with him to the city, but they were so cowed with fear that he told them to stay outside the city while he went in alone. They couldn’t imagine how they possibly could get those plates. They had lost their gold; they had nothing with which to bargain.``But even in the face of that, Nephi was not dissuaded. He went. It was at night, as he said, ` . . . not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth. . . . ‘ (1 Ne. 4:6-7.)
    ``Nephi took a step. He didn’t have knowledge. He went on blind faith, stepping into the darkness beyond the light.’’
    And that, declared Elder Doxey, is an apt description of how he is approaching his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, to which he was sustained April 6. ``Sometimes we just have to go on simple faith and take a step,’’ he said.
    His parents helped set examples for such steps of faith. His father, Graham H. Doxey, presided over what was then the East Central States Mission from 1943-46. His mother, Leone Watson Doxey, now 91, served as a counselor to LaVern Watts Parmley in the Primary general presidency. Elder Doxey’s father died 21 years ago.
    The younger Graham Doxey, who is known to family and close friends as ``Bud,’’ was 16 when the family moved from Salt Lake City to Louisville, Ky., then the mission’s headquarters.
    Years later, in 1973, he and his wife had an opportunity to be a ``mission family’’ when President Harold B. Lee called him to preside over the Kansas-Missouri Mission, which a short time later became the Missouri Independence Mission. ``We enjoyed three years in the mission,’’ Elder Doxey said. ``We had our 12th child born to us in Jackson County; we had two married at that time, and the others were with us in the mission. It really was a family experience for us. It welded us together.’’
    For Elder Doxey, the realization of the importance of families began in early childhood. ``My grandfather, Tom Graham Doxey, was born in England,’’ he related. ``His mother died and his father was away at sea. His grandmother brought him to America when he was 14, about the time they joined the Church. He lived with a roommate in a dinky little room. He told me that when he was a young boy, he hungered for a family.’’
    When the time came for Graham W. to leave the family circle, he gained a greater understanding of the loneliness his grandfather must have felt in his youth. After he graduated from high school in Louisville while his father was mission president, he joined the Navy and was assigned with the American forces sent to northern China to transport Japanese soldiers out of China after World War II.
    ``There I was in northern China, lonely and homesick,’’ said Elder Doxey. ``I was the only LDS boy in our unit.’’ The slim, 6-foot-tall young man with blond hair and blue eyes, through that experience in China, gained a brief glimpse of the loneliness his grandfather must have felt.
    Out of that experience, however, came an incident that demonstrated to him that family love can narrow the distance across thousands of miles. He and about 12 other sailors got on the wrong train while returning from leave in a city about 40 miles from their base. When they discovered their error, they got off the train in a desolate area, which he described as looking much like Utah’s Salt Flats. They started walking back toward the base.
    They found a hand-pump cart beside the railroad, which which they put on the tracks. They got off and pushed it up inclines and jumped on to ride down hills. ``One time, it started to gain momentum as it went down hill,’’ Elder Doxey recalled. ``Everybody jumped on. I was running alongside looking for a place to jump on. The only place left was in front, between the tracks, right in the center. I thought it wasn’t very wise to try to get on there, but that was all there was left.
    ``I thought about my mother. All the years of my life, as I went out the door, she would say, `Now, Bud, you be careful.’ I could hear the squeaking screen door close as she was saying that.
    ``That went through my mind. I thought, `This isn’t being careful,’ but I had to jump on or be left behind. I ran between the tracks, jumped on the cart and perched there for a few minutes. Then I fell between the tracks in front of the cart. My right foot got caught in the gears underneath and locked the wheels. It was a foolish thing to have done. My boot was cut and my foot was cut a bit. It could have been serious; I could have lost my life.
    ``My next letter from Mother and Dad asked, `Has something happened?’ I wrote and said I had a little accident but it wasn’t serious. It turned out that at the very moment I was thinking of my mother, she and my father were on a mission tour. It was about 2 in the morning where they were. She sat straight up in bed, shook my father and said, `Bud’s in trouble.’ They got out of bed and knelt beside it and prayed that whatever trouble I was in, that I would be preserved. We determined it was at the exact moment I was having that experience with the rail cart. That’s always been a sweet experience and lesson.’’
    After he returned from the Navy, he attended the University of Utah for a year before he was called to serve in the mission over which his father had recently presided. The day after his mission began, however, the mission was divided. He was assigned to the new Central Atlantic States Mission, where he served two years in Virginia and North Carolina.
    While on his mission, he and Mary Lou Young, with whom he became acquainted before his mission, wrote to each other. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 22, 1950, by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, a friend of the Doxey and Young families.
    Elder Doxey graduated from the University of Utah in 1952 with a degree in business and returned a year for graduate work.
    He then went to work for the Doxey-Layton Realty Co., a company begun in Salt Lake City in 1923 by his father and Howard J. Layton, a carpenter and contractor.
    Sister Doxey received a bachelor’s degree and was certified to teach elementary school. However, she had other plans for how she would spend her time and talents.
    She said, ``I always wanted a large family. When I was growing up, I heard my father say many times, `There’s nothing that will bring you greater joy than having a large family.’ I grew up saying, `I’m going to have 12 children.’ And I did.’’
    Elder Doxey said, ``I thought four would be nice; we could fit them all in the same car. But Mary Lou’s ambition was to have a larger family. That takes a lot of selflessness. She has never had any concerns for the material things she could have wanted; she just wanted what her family desired and needed. Observing her has been a marvelous inspiration. She has focused on the important things in life.’’
    One of the important things, according to Elder Doxey, is doing one’s best in life. He recalled an early childhood experience that lessened his self-esteem but quickened his caution to never offend or hurt others through thoughtless words or actions. ``I overheard one of my elementary school teachers tell my mother that I would never amount to anything,’’ he said. ``The teacher said I would never get through high school. She told my mother, `If he can just get a job sweeping a floor some place, let him do it. That’s the best he will do.’
    ``My parents knew I heard the teacher’s comments. My father told me, `You can do anything. Don’t hold back. You’ve got all these capabilities.’
    ``I guess I worked hard so I would not disappoint my parents,’’ Elder Doxey said. ``They were supportive, but they didn’t drill that their children had to have straight-A’s to succeed. And I think that’s been our attitude toward our children. They were good students, but my wife and I tried to teach them that grades and paychecks are not the only measures of success.’’
 (Additional information)
 Elder Graham W. Doxey
    - Family: Born March 30, 1927, in Salt Lake City to Graham H. and Leone Watson Doxey. Married Mary Lou Young June 22, 1950, in the Salt Lake Temple; parents of 12 children, they have 54 grandchildren.
    - Education: Attended the University of Louisville one year; graduated from the University of Utah, 1952; attended graduate school, 1953.
    - Military: U.S. Navy, 1945-46.
    - Employment: President of Doxey-Layton Co., a real estate management firm.
    - Church service: Bishop; stake president; mission president, 1973-76; and a counselor in the Young Men general presidency, 1977-79.







September 2, 1978


President Kimball visited the Mission to dedicate the new Independence Stake Center.

This photo was provided by Jeff Richards (MIM Alumni, 1976-1978).



This picture was taken on September 2, 1978.  It was on this day that President Kimball visited the Mission to dedicate the new Independence Stake Center. The photo was taken at the Mission Conference on the steps of the old chapel that President Kimball helped to build when he was on his mission to the Central States Mission.  This photo was provided by Jeff Richards (MIM Alumni, 1976-1978).




1979 Independence MO Courthouse


Looking down from the courthouse in Gallatin, Daviess County, we can see the courtyard where hostilities began in earnest over an election on 6 August 1838. Violence escalated until the Saints were driven out again.




1979 Reader’s Digest Inserts


News of the Church

Reader’s Digest Inserts Spark Interest

“News of the Church,” Ensign, Feb. 1979, 74
They are perhaps the Church’s smallest missionaries measuring just seven and a half inches high. But when a series of Church-sponsored inserts published in the Reader’s Digest went into homes of Digest readers in 1978, they proved that impact can’t be measured by size.

The four inserts were published in the English and German editions of the April, June, September, and December issues of the Digest. The inserts, labeled clearly as advertisements, explained the family, the roles of men and women, self-reliance, and the relations of parents and children. Since the inserts were published, stories of their effect on individual lives have been accumulating.

Two missionaries serving in the Massachusetts Boston Mission reported that while four elders were at a meetinghouse, a woman called to ask if she could learn more about the Church. She said she and her husband had read the insert in the Digest.

One month after their first appointment with the missionaries, the couple were baptized.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, a woman read the insert and went to a public library to study about the Church. The next Sunday she and her two children attended meetings. They were baptized a few weeks later, followed in two weeks by the woman’s mother.

Two elders tracting in the Oregon Portland Mission met a nonmember woman who told them she had just read the insert. She requested that they come in and tell her more about their church. They subsequently taught her the gospel, and she prepared for baptism.

In the Texas San Antonio Mission, a ten-year-old girl read the insert, and called two missionaries to tell them that she wanted to belong to that kind of family. She asked if they would teach her.

Any conversion to the gospel can have far-reaching effects on the family and friends of the convert. In Howard, Kansas, those effects are quickly becoming obvious.

Michael Land of Howard had been dissatisfied with churches he attended; he began holding services in his home, for his family. He saw Donny and Marie Osmond on television and was impressed with them. Then he read the first insert published by the Church in the Digest. He and his wife wrote Church headquarters for more information. The same day they received information in the mail, they were telephoned by two missionaries. They were taught by the missionaries, and they attended the Missouri, Mormons, and Miracles pageant at Independence, Missouri. Within a week of the pageant, they were baptized, on 26 June 1978.

Brother Land says that before finding the gospel, he was lost in a forest. Now that he is out of that wilderness, he goes back in to help others find their way out. First he introduced his wife’s sister and her husband to the Church. In December, another family he approached were baptized.

The converts in Howard are looking toward a time when they can have a branch of the Church and full-time missionaries in their town.

The Church’s Public Communications Department reports receiving an average of 575 letters a day from Digest readers requesting more information. Those responding to the December insert are sent a recently published brochure What Keeps the Osmonds Together and Happy? It is the same size as the Digest inserts.

Missionaries have used the insert in tracting, and members have given copies of the insert to nonmembers.


Additional Reader’s Digest Inserts Planned

“News of the Church,” Ensign, June 1979, 77
The Church will publish four additional advertising inserts in the Reader’s Digest during 1979. Four were published in 1978.

The first in the 1979 series, “7 Keys to Mormonism,” deals more directly with Church doctrine than did the 1978 inserts. The Articles of Faith are included on the back cover.

The insert scheduled for the June issue uses the Word of Wisdom to explain revelation and prophets. The September insert explains the plan of salvation and genealogy work. The Savior is the focus of the insert in the December issue.

Readers can send for free copies of the previous inserts as well as for free tracts. A print of a nativity painting will be available at no cost with the December insert.



1979 Independence pageant Announcement


Pageants Scheduled for 1979

“News of the Church,” Ensign, Feb. 1979, 74
This year, like recent years, is one of pageantry for Saints in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Nine pageants—eight of them outdoor productions—have been announced. Admission to all is free.    Including Independence MO:

Independence, Missouri, June 14-16—Missouri, Mormons, and Miracles will be staged near the Church’s visitors’ center. Attendance in 1978, 9,000.




1981 Benson Visits Independence – Church News Article


This is an article written about President Benson and a visit to Independence MO. He was there in the latter part of 1981.  President Bensons stayed with the President and Sister Flake, who was the mission president at the time. This is a great article of the testimony of not only our Prophet, but the great testimony of President and Sister Flake. This testimony and love for the gospel was passed on to their children and all the missionaries that served with them.


Saturday, June 4, 1994
LDS Church News



BY SHERIDAN R. SHEFFIELD, Church News Contributor

    Many redheads suffer through childhood with jeers about the color of their hair and the numerous freckles that cover their face and arms.
    But having freckles and red hair became a boon for young members of the Church, thanks to President Ezra Taft Benson.Many times when he would see a redhead, President Benson would sing the song ``Freckles,’’ to the child’s delight.
    Read Flake, now 25, remembers when President Benson, then president of the Council of the Twelve, sang ``Freckles’’ to him and his two brothers – all redheads.
    During a trip to Independence, Mo., President Benson stayed in the Flake home. Read’s father, Lawrence Flake, was mission president of the Missouri Independence Mission at the time.
    Read was only about 12 years old then, but his feelings about President Benson and his visit with the family remain vivid in his mind.
    ``He had a kind, gentle manner about him that was really noticeable to us and made an impression even at that young age. I remember that he was on our level as children, whereas some adults might tend to shun us or treat us like little kids.
    ``He talked to us a little about the Church and about reading scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon. He told us to remember to say our prayers and encouraged us to go on missions. I still remember that. It has stuck with me.’’
    Elaine Flake, mother of the redhead boys and five other children, said President Benson ``was very attentive, kind and loving and good to our children. He talked to them and made them feel like they were important. We were just amazed at how good he was with children. It was definitely a talent he had.’’
    While in the Flake home, President Benson also sang ``A Mormon Boy,’’ a song that became a favorite for the boys after his visit. They all learned the words and would sing it as well.
    ``He just seemed to have a real softness and tenderness for children that was very impressive,’’ the former mission president said. ``He was kind and gentle with everyone, but he really seemed to be that way with children.’’
    One of the qualities that President Benson admired about his wife, Flora, when he first met her was the way she treated children, he once said in a tribute to Sister Benson. He took her to his home and while there his youngest brother fell down. Sister Benson went over to him and said, ``Oh, did you make a hole in the floor?’’ The comment distracted the young boy from thoughts of pain and he went on playing. Meanwhile, President Benson was falling further in love.
    President Benson’s love for children was evident when he would speak to them. He considered them an important element of the Church by speaking directly to the children during an April 1989 general conference address:
    ``Dear children, our Heavenly Father sent you to earth at this time because you are some of His most valiant children. He knew there would be much wickedness in the world today, and He knew you could be faithful and obedient.
    ``I promise you, dear children, that angels will minister unto you. You may not see them, but they will be there to help you, and you will feel of their presence.’’
    After his address, a videotape was shown of him singing ``A Mormon Boy’’ to a group of children.
    When the videotape was made, the children gathered in the lobby of the Church Administration Building to meet the prophet. Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president, recounted the experience:
    ``When he entered the room, he was rejuvenated to see the children. He reached out to each child individually and said, `I love you.’ I think they could feel that he really did love them. As he sat down on a bench, he motioned to a couple of children and they crawled on his lap. He talked to them eye to eye
and then he sang to them. Every eye was glued on him just because he emanated genuine love and concern for each one. I’m sure he relates to children everywhere in the same way.’’
    His interaction with children indicated how much they meant to him. Those who assisted him through the years said he went out of his way to talk with handicapped children or any children with special needs.
    President Benson’s love for and belief in the youth of the Church was also evident, as explained by Church leaders who have worked with young people. Elder Jack H Goaslind of the Seventy and Young Men general president said: ``President Benson’s love for youth, his understanding of their problems, and his dedication to teaching them to live by gospel principles began early in his life when he served as a young Scoutmaster.
    ``His vision of what young men could become through honoring their priesthood and learning to do their duty helped to shape his views on living worthily to be ordained to the priesthood, missionary preparation and service, and preparing for fatherhood and a lifetime of service to others. Throughout his life, he was drawn to youth, and they were drawn to him.’’
    Speaking of the prophet’s belief in youth, Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president, said: ``Nothing has been more reassuring to me than the words of President Benson when he told young people, `You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose.’
    ``His words give me confidence in the future and in the divine potential of young people,’’ Pres. Hales added.
    Concerning her personal feelings and love for the prophet, she spoke of when she was set apart as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency in 1990. President Benson, she related, helped set her apart. ``Being in his presence,’’ she said, ``made me want to be as prepared as Alma explained in Alma 34:32.’’
    Ardeth G. Kapp spoke of the prophet’s love while she served as Young Women general president from 1984-1992. ``President Benson’s love for youth was evident in his countenance and his sensitivity to their presence in addition to all that he said.’’
    In Provo, Utah, for a meeting of the Young Women Worldwide Celebration in November 1989, President Benson was walking past a young girl about 12 or 13 years old when he stopped and without saying a word cupped the young girl’s face in his hands.
    ``To our knowledge he said nothing, but simply looked at her,’’ Sister Kapp related. ``The evidence of his deep love for her brought tears to the eyes of those who stood close by. The stake president said he knew the prophet was inspired to stop and touch the girl because she was a young woman who was having some challenges.’’
    Many children throughout the Church have returned their love to the prophet through letters. The bulk of his mail came from children sending valentines, birthday cards, pledges about reading the Book of Mormon and notes saying they accomplished their goal to read the book.
    ``I know you are reading the Book of Mormon, for I have received hundreds of personal letters from you telling me that you are reading this sacred book,’’ President Benson said to the youth in his April 1989 conference talk. ``It makes me weep for joy when I hear this.’’
    In a Church News article Feb. 23, 1986, President Benson wrote a special thanks to children who sent him valentines. ``To the many choice Primary children and youth who sent us such beautiful valentine’s greetings, Sister Benson and I send our love and thanks. We were overwhelmed with your tender, handwritten messages of support. May the Lord bless each of you in your righteous pursuits is our prayer. We love you.’’
    Children would often slip notes to visiting Church authorities in their area asking them to take the notes back to the prophet.
    Many times President Benson referred to youth as ``a rising generation’’ and the ``promise of the future.’’
    ``God bless the children of this Church,’’ President Benson said in his April 1989 address. ``How I love you! How Heavenly Father loves you! And may we, as your parents, teachers, and leaders, be more childlike – more submissive, more meek and more humble.’’




1988 Independence Pageant Story

Saturday, July 2, 1988
LDS Church News


    Suffering from the effects of a drought, residents here perhaps found the pageant at the Independence Visitors Center especially meaningful this year, as it dramatizes the hardships of frontier life in western Missouri during the 1830s
    The pageant, “A Frontier Story, 1833,” was presented in three performances June 23-25 on the hillside behind the visitors center. Despite stifling heat, an estimated 6,000 people saw the pageant, reported Elder Robert Blodgett, a public communications missionary in the Missouri Independence Mission.Each evening for three hours prior to the pageant, visitors attended a Frontier Fair, a living display of artisans in pioneer dress using authentic methods and tools of frontier Missourians in the 1830s. The fair was held in a portion of the set used for the pageant.
    About 300 cast members, mostly from the Independence, Kansas City. Liberty and Olathe stakes, acted out the fictionalized drama based on actual events experienced by 19th Century Latter-day Saints. The story is told from the perspective of two woman, one Mormon and one non-Mormon, who become friends in the midst of turmoil between Latter-day Saints and other settlers in Missouri, according to pageant director Cheryl Blasnek.
    The production is enhanced by the use of live animals and special effects to depict such action as thunder and lightning, and the burning of Mormon homes by a mob.
    This is the second year the Frontier Fair has been held. It was expanded from last year’s event and involved about 45 participants, including some who are not Church members, according to fair coordinator Coleen McLain.
    Displays included candle making, basket weaving, chair caning, spinning, weaving and log bench and shingle making. Groups and individuals from the community performed international folk and square dances, told stories, and gave musical performances on banjo, guitar, harmonica and hammered dulcimer.
   Fair spectators were given free gingerbread cookies and apple cider. They also received a program containing interesting facts about the frontier and Mormon pioneers, along with recipes for gingerbread cookies, old-fashioned soda crackers, old time remedies, and homemade hand or laundry soap.
    Elder Blodgett said about 15 pageant-goers filled out cards and checked a box indicating they would like more information about the Church. He said many missionaries rought investigators to see the pageant.
    The event was well publicized by local news media, with two front-page stories in the Independence Examiner, and an article in the Kansas City Star, Elder Blodgett said.


June 1991 Independence Missouri Regional Conference


Saturday, June 8, 1991
LDS Church News



    More than 7,000 members of the Church attended the Independence Missouri Regional Conference May 12 in the Municipal Auditorium. The gathering of Latter-day Saints was perhaps as large or larger than gatherings here in the 1830s when the Church was headquartered briefly in Independence.
    Members came from the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area and from Topeka, Kan. Speakers included President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Graham W. Doxey of the Seventy.



March 1993 – Announcement of New Nebraska Omaha Mission in Church News


Saturday, March 13, 1993
LDS Church News





Nine new missions, including six in the United States, were announced this week by the First Presidency. Eight new missions were announced last week. (See March 6 Church News.)
    The new missions announced this week are: Brazil Florianopolis, Brazil Recife South, California Carlsbad, California Roseville, Canada Toronto West, Colorado Denver North, Nebraska Omaha, New York New York South, and Tennessee Knoxville.The two new Brazilian missions bring the total in that country to 19, while the new California missions bring to 14 the number in that state. With the new mission in Toronto, Canada will have seven missions, and with six new missions in the United States, the U.S. will have 85.
    All the missions become effective about the first of July. Presidents of the new missions will be announced later.


All the new missions were listed including the announcement of the new Nebraska Omaha Mission:

Nebraska Omaha

    The Nebraska Omaha Mission will be created from a division of the Missouri Independence Mission. The new mission will have 12,532 members in four stakes and one district, and a population of 1.9 million. The Missouri Independence Mission will retain 23,058 members in seven stakes, and a population of about 3 million.
    The new mission will be headquartered near the historic Winter Quarters area, now part of greater Omaha, said
Pres. Thomas R. Murray of the Independence Mission. ``There is a very active missionary effort in the four stakes of the new mission – Kearny, Lincoln, Papillion and Omaha,’’ he said. ``There has been a definite upward trend in baptisms in the missionary work in that area in the past six months.’’
    Included in that effort have been inner city branches in several areas, including a successful Vietnamese Branch, where two young men were recently sent on full-time missions.
    The historical ties of the Church to the community are strong, since Winter Quarters was the first city in Nebraska. ``We have a very good relationship with the community and historical societies,’’ he said.



1993 Independence Pageant Article – LDS Church News


Saturday, July 3, 1993
LDS Church News



BY NORMA NEILSON KING, Liberty Missouri Stake Public Affairs Director

    On ``the hill,’’ 13 families wait in the growing darkness, their children clamber on wagons, play tag or feed the two goats whatever vegetation is handy. Teenagers whisper and giggle, and oxen shuffle impatiently.
    At last the strains of an old ballad fill the humid night air: ``Here far in the realm of Missouri, I sit and sing and tell thee a story how many trials I have passed o’er before I found this dwelling in peace. . . .’’The families begin to move, wagons roll, children scamper back to their parents. ``A Frontier Story: 1833’’ has begun.
    As one of the Church’s nine pageants, ``A Frontier Story: 1833’’ was presented June 23-26 at the four-acre pageant site in Independence.
    While the pageant is a recreation of the events that took place in Independence 160 years ago, pageant producer Don Organ said the story is really as up-to-date as today’s news headlines.
    ``A kind loving Heavenly Father has given the people of this area a very powerful witness in the form of this historical drama of what happens when we let pride rule our lives,’’ Brother Organ said of the pageant.
    He cites several gospel principles taught in the pageant, such as the power of the Savior’s teachings, the power of personal testimony and the witness that ``love is the only weapon for a true Christian.’’
    Some 315 volunteer cast members from the Independence Missouri Region portray Mormon settlers and Missouri townsfolk.
    ``The pageant tells the story of two pioneer families who meet and remain loyal friends in spite of their differences and difficult circumstances in their lives,’’ said Cheryl Blasnek, a Gladstone, Mo., resident who has directed the pageant for the past seven years.
    Sister Blasnek said working in the pageant is a spiritual experience. She has seen testimonies grow and lives changed, and has learned much about pioneer life and suffering.
    ``I have come to realize we sacrifice nothing today in comparison to what the early Mormon settlers did,’’ said Sister Blasnek. One of her favorite memories is of a young man nearing his 19th birthday who wasn’t sure he wanted to go on a mission, but after participating in the pageant, ``told his family he had sufficient experience out on the hill, that he knew Heavenly Father wanted him to go on a mission.’’
    Most of the stage sets are actual buildings. One, a 140-year-old cabin, once stood in a wooded area near Independence and was donated by a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The cabin serves as the Jackson County Courthouse in the pageant.
    Features of the pageant include a historical Fourth of July celebration complete with fireworks, stagecoach and wagons, a horse race, and the tragic cabin-burning sequence near the conclusion of the pageant as the Mormons are forced to leave Jackson County.
    The final scene takes place in Salt Lake City and shows the enduring love of the Savior and those who follow His teachings.
    Brother Organ said a ``beautiful sweet spirit’’ was present during the performances, and many in the audience felt it. ``They applauded when it was over, but they walked out in a contemplative mood, almost a reverent mood. There were some hearts touched. It was almost like they didn’t want to break the spell.’’
    A total of 12,600 attended the pageant this year. They were invited to take home an art rendering of Jesus Christ and written suggestions for family home evening discussions.





Saturday, July 31, 1993
LDS Church News



BY BARBARA D. TORRES, Public Affairs Director Independence Missouri Stake

    After six months of closure for renovation and remodeling, the Church’s visitors center in Independence was formally reopened July 9 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring area government and religious leaders.
    Church leaders at the ceremony were Elder Graham W. Doxey of the Seventy, second counselor in the area presidency; President Thomas R. Murray of the Missouri Independence Mission; Gerald Harris, former president of the Independence Missouri Stake; Elder Clemont Bishop, visitors center director; and Elder Dee Horton, a missionary serving at the visitors center.Also taking part in the ceremony were Mayor William Carpenter of Independence; Roger Yarrington, assistant to the First
Presidency of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; and Apostle William A. Sheldon of the Church of Christ, Temple Lot.
    The renovation included installation of an elevator and other changes, making it more accessible for the physically impaired. A theater was added to the first floor, making a total of four theaters that are used to acquaint visitors with the beliefs of the Church, particularly as they relate to the Savior and the Plan of Salvation.
    A resource room with exhibits on the first floor includes interactive video screens that teach basic Church doctrines and concepts, such as ``The Purpose of Life,’’ ``Our Heavenly Father’s Plan,’’ and ``Strengthen Your Families.’’
    A museum of Church history on the lower level features displays of the Mormon experience in Missouri. The displays include a multi-media theater that presents the story of LDS settlements of the 1800s. Authentic artifacts dating back to the 1830s are on display, and many historical items have been painstakingly recreated to give visitors a first-hand view of family life in frontier Missouri.
    Music was provided by a string trio comprised of Dr. A. Harold Goodman, a former Music Department chairman at BYU, and his granddaughters Arian and Natalie Goodman of Blue Springs, Mo. Leslie Goodman, accompanied by Yvonne Bishop, sang a vocal solo. A reception was held after the program
    The visitors center in Independence is open each day from 9 a.m. to
9 p.m.




1993 Liberty Jail 30th Anniversary Article

Saturday, October 2, 1993
LDS Church News


BY NORMA NEILSON KING, Liberty Missouri Stake Director of Public Affairs

    One hundred fifty-five years after the Prophet Joseph Smith and five others were incarcerated in the Liberty Jail, the mayor of Liberty joined with dignitaries, members and friends to commemorate the event and the anniversary of the reconstruction of the historic site.
    In a special open house held Sept. 15, exactly 30 years after the dedication of the Historic Liberty Jail Visitors Center, Liberty Mayor Robert Saunders, not a member of the Church, said the site was a ``historic and saintly place’’ and the visitors center grounds ``have been a spot of beauty in the city of Liberty.’’The reconstructed jail and visitors center were dedicated on Sept. 15, 1963, by President Joseph Fielding Smith of the Council of the Twelve.
    Other speakers at the anniversary program included Elder Everett West, director of the visitors center, and his wife, Betty West; Dell Johnson and Harvey Evans, members who once attended Church meetings in a house that had been constructed over the jail dungeon; Ross Schriever, who has portrayed old-time jailer Sam Tillery in vignettes at the jail; Liberty Stake Pres. Michael Barker; and Pres. Thomas R. Murray of the Missouri Independence Mission.
    The jail was constructed in 1833. In November of 1838 the Prophet Joseph Smith was arrested on false charges and imprisoned there with five other Church leaders: Caleb Baldwin, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight and Alexander McRae.
    The old jail was the strongest in Clay County and perhaps western Missouri when it was constructed with its four-foot-thick walls. It was used for just 23 years as a jail. From 1856 to 1878, it served as an ice house for Clay County and then was abandoned.
    In 1900 the upper floor was torn down, and a home was built upon the dungeon foundation, which became a basement.
    In 1939 the Church took steps to acquire the building. Members used it as a home for missionaries and a Church meetinghouse. In the early 1960s the house was demolished. The dungeon’s limestone rocks were carefully removed, numbered and later reset in their exact location as the jail was rebuilt. The modern visitors center was built around it.
    The jail was constructed as close to the original as possible. Besides the original stone dungeon, other original artifacts are an outer door, the lower window bars and some of the door hardware.
    For the past decade, area members have participated in vignettes each month at the Liberty Jail for visitors to the site. Three actors portray the Prophet Joseph Smith, Emma Smith and jailer Sam Tillery. Tom Wight, a descendant of early apostle Lyman Wight, frequently takes a turn portraying the jailer. He lives in nearby Excelsior Springs.
    This month, for the first time ever, deaf members from the Olathe Kansas 4th (deaf) Branch did vignettes in sign language for deaf members and friends.
    Deaf member Susan Debauge, who portrayed Emma Smith, said the experience increased her appreciation and respect for Emma. Her husband, David Debauge, portrayed Tillery. In sign language and verbally, he said: ``I feel the Spirit here. I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet and it [the gospelT is true.’’
    In his anniversary speech, Mayor Saunders noted that the city of Liberty has recognized the Mormon role in the history of the area in a historic mural in the Liberty City Hall, one panel of which depicts the Prophet Joseph Smith.
    ``You continue to be part of our history and we continue to be part of yours,’’ he said.






Saturday, January 8, 1994
LDS Church News



BY JOHN L. HART Church News Staff Writer

    To Church members in this area, finding friendship in the present is more important than belaboring the persecutions of the past.
    One who has been at the forefront of building bridges between the Church and others is a prominent farm implements executive, J. T. Whitworth of the Blue Springs 2nd Ward in the Independence Missouri Stake, who serves as director of public affairs for the North America Central Area.A lean, hard-driving but affable businessman who is known for his penchant to ``do it now,’’ Brother Whitworth has seen considerable progress in inter-faith relations in the past few years.
    One event that seemed to crystallize that progress was the 1992 visit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Independence, he said.
    The Tabernacle Choir was invited to perform in the Auditorium of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has its world headquarters in this city, near the Church’s visitors center.
    ``This was mainly because of their kind feelings toward us, and RLDS President Wallace Smith’s friendship with President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. That really solidified our friendship.’’
    Brother Whitworth said that in the greater Kansas City area, of which Independence is a part, ``We are well-respected. The people know who we are, and we have become known as a hardworking, family-oriented group with high moral standards. We are more community-minded than we have been, but we have a long way to go in that area.’’
    In the summer of each year, the Church works with other faiths in ``Project Hunger,’’ in which local television stations and grocery stores are enlisted along with the public to gather food for the homeless and underprivileged.
    Church members also take part in a local inter-faith choir. ``We sang in the choir in the RLDS performance of Handel’s `Messiah’.’’
    Church members worked hand-in-hand with others during what is now known as ``the great flood of ‘93.’’
    ``That was a unified effort, particularly by the Liberty and Independence stakes where we assisted in sandbagging and providing clothing and blankets and food, etc. for the flood victims, both during the flood and during the clean up.’’
    Independence is a pivotal area in Church history where early members once tried to settle in fulfillment of scriptural admonition. (See Church News, July 24, 31 and Aug. 28, 1993, p.14.) They were, however, violently rebuffed by local frontiersmen, who feared the growing population would outnumber and overwhelm them.
    Even though the Saints were once forced to leave the area at great hardship, Independence has remained important to the Church. Today, the Church has a large visitors center and an adjacent stake center across the street from the original temple lot in Independence, ``the center place’’ of Zion. (D&C 57:1-3.)
    On a sweeping grassy slope between the visitors center and the stake center is site where an annual pageant, ``A Frontier Story,’’ is presented each July. The props and backdrop for this pageant are particularly striking. Brother Whitworth explained:
    ``A lot of the props and materials used in building the Independence pageant set came from Nauvoo where the set for the film ``Legacy’’ was built. We tore down what we could use and trucked it here, and rebuilt it for our use.’’ Said Brother Whitworth. ``That was beneficial for us.’’
    He explained that the pageant recounts the moving of the Saints into Missouri, and their persecution and expulsion by the Missourians. Events of that epoch are portrayed near the locations of where they actually took place.
    ``We had an attendance of about 15,000 people in four days. In addition, the visitors centers in Independence and at Liberty Jail are very successful.’’
    Even when he goes to work, Brother Whitworth, manager of imports/exports for AGCO Corp., is near historic areas. The acres-large plant, manufacturer of tractors and combines, is located on property adjacent to the visitors center.
    Giant combines and powerful tractors, built at the rate of four a day, are shipped around the world from this facility. The company also imports tractors from such countries as Italy, Poland, France, United Kingdom and Japan.
    Brother Whitworth oversees purchasing of tractors from these countries, as well as overseeing shipping of tractors, combines, hay tools, etc. to European countries, and to Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia.
    Brother Whitworth started with the company 33 years ago at a branch office in Pocatello, Idaho, of Allis-Chalmers, the predecessor of AGCO.
    Born on a ranch in Bancroft in southeastern Idaho, the son of Frank and Wanda Whitworth, he grew up taking part in raising cattle, milking cows, and growing sugar beets on a 4,000-acre ranch.
    ``One thing we learned was the value of work,’’ he said. ``We were up long before sunup, and long after sundown.’’
    He graduated from North Gem High School in 1954, and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for four years. Afterward, he graduated from Ricks College and Idaho State University in business management. Shortly after his military service, he married Kaye May.
    After he graduated from college, he and his wife went to live on his father’s ranch, where he worked. But the ranch life was arduous, and when a child died at birth, the couple decided to leave the ranch. She died in 1972 while giving birth to their fourth child. He later married Marie Phillips, and they now have five children.
    During his career in various places around the United States, as he worked his way up the corporate ladder, he served as bishop twice, high councilor, stake mission president twice, stake president’s counselor and director of public affairs.
    His emphasis on his family, hard work, moral values and service to others has made him an exemplary ambassador of the Church in the Independence area.



New Stake President – Independence MO


Saturday, October 29, 1994
LDS Church News


Oct. 16, 1994


INDEPENDENCE MISSOURI STAKE: (Oct. 16, 1994) President - Charles Kent Wood, 47, special agent for FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, succeeding Gordon Dean Goodman; former high councilor, bishop and counselor, high priests group leader, and elders quorum president, married Carolyn Chapoton. Counselors - Manuel Medina, 42, information services manager for Hallmark Cards, former high councilor, bishop and counselor, ward mission leader, and elders quorum president, married Malle Savaiinaea; Siale Fa`oa Vaka, 43, customer service representative for AT&T, former bishop, seventies president, ward mission leader, and elders quorum president, married Aifai Mausia.



1998 Liberty Jail becomes 'enlightened dome'

Saturday, December 12, 1998
LDS Church News

Liberty Jail becomes 'enlightened dome'

    LIBERTY, Mo. -- On Dec. 1, 1838 -- 160 years ago -- Joseph Smith and five other Church leaders were confined in the dank dungeon of Liberty Jail. That event as well as the meaning of Christmas were observed Nov. 27 at the Church's Liberty Jail Visitors Center with an annual exterior lighting display and a new interior display. The interior display features more than 80 Nativity scenes loaned by Church members from seven stakes. It is the first time the interior of the center has been decorated for Christmas.
    "The message of Liberty Jail is a simple one," said Elder Gayle D. Heckel, visitors center director, to the assembled audience of more than 350. "Joseph endured many hardships here. His faith was tested and found sufficient. He pleaded with the Lord in fervent prayer, and the Lord answered his prayer. And that's a model for each of us to follow."Speakers at the outdoor lighting ceremony were Liberty Mayor Steven P. Hawkins and Bishop Detlef Lehnardt of the Liberty 2nd Ward. Also in attendance were Bruce Ross, president of the Liberty Chamber of Commerce; Pres. V. Daniel Rogers of the Missouri Independence Mission, who gave the opening prayer, and his wife; and Jay Nielsen of the Liberty 1st Ward bishopric, who gave the benediction. A choir from the Liberty 1st Ward provided music.
    The mayor, though not a member of the Church, demonstrated a heartfelt affinity for what the historic site represents.
    "This particular corner was a site of great adversity for the founders of your church," he acknowledged. "However, the re-enactment of the events in Liberty Jail of 160 years ago, which takes place here every day, points out to us that out of adversity can come great things, noble things in fact.
    "Each of us . . . knows that we will be confronted with difficulty. Challenge to things that we want to do or to the ways we think or to the things that we believe will raise its head. Sometimes it will be an uninformed challenge, sometimes it will even be mean spirited. Sometimes that challenge will sprout from a small seed of truth, though it will be nourished by a large manure pile of rumor. . . . But we know that we do not bear it alone, and we know that that challenge can be overcome," said Mayor Hawkins.
    "The building we illuminate this evening," he continued, "is an immediate example. The site upon which it arises was not a pretty one, but it was and it continues to be a place of inspiration. The walls may have been thick, the quarters dark, dank, dirty and cramped. But 160 years later, though one doesn't forget the adversity that occurred here, that adversity has been overcome and is enclosed within an enlightened dome.
    "Tonight that dome experiences its traditional annual Christmas lighting, and within, there is a new tradition born, a display of Nativity scenes, many of which are, in their own ways, artful enclosures commemorating another dark grotto in which a momentous event occurred almost 2,000 years ago.
    "As we admire the impressive physical beauty of this structure, and we remember the dark past which it encloses, as we gaze upon the special seasonal contents and remember the humble surroundings they symbolize, let us be inspired to believe that some of the things we stand for today against opposition may in some small way be celebrated as enlightened domes someday in the future," said the mayor.
    Bishop Lehnardt emphasized that the citizens of Liberty were not responsible for the prophet's incarceration but had indeed nursed the persecuted members of the Church when they came across the Missouri River from Jackson County, where their possessions had been destroyed and many murdered. "We thank you, people of Liberty, and your ancestors, for treating our brothers and sisters, some of whom were our ancestors, as kindly as you did."
    The bishop recounted two experiences involving the Prophet Joseph Smith which, he said, show his humility and that he had the light of Christ.
    In one, the prophet's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, was at home a few days before Joseph's arrest at Far West, Mo., in 1838. Eight soldiers came into her home searching for him with the intent of killing him and the Mormons. "Lucy knew that he was in the adjoining room writing a letter. When he finished writing, he came into the room where his mother was, and she said, 'Let me introduce you to my son, Joseph Smith.' Joseph greeted them and shook their hands. Then he explained to them about the Church and its teachings. After a while, he turned to his mother and said, 'I will be leaving now. Emma is expecting me.' "
    Two of the soldiers immediately jumped up and insisted on protecting him from the mob outside. The ones who remained in the home spoke to one another of how they felt Joseph Smith was innocent. They soon left.
    The second experience the bishop related was about Emma Smith. She visited her husband in Liberty Jail at least twice. Returning from the second visit, she found her house ransacked, and many possessions stolen. Destitute in the cold of winter, she left with four small children with the rest of the Saints for Illinois. Her letter to Joseph about the journey prompted his poignant prayer and its answer, now recorded in Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
    "Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the light of Christ permeated this Liberty Jail 160 years ago, and it can be found today in the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ restored in its fullness through the Prophet Joseph Smith," Bishop Lehnardt declared.
    In an interview, Elder Heckel explained that it was felt, since this was the 160th anniversary of the prophet's confinement, something special should be done. His wife, Pat, came up with the idea of the Nativities. The purpose, he said, is three-fold: to draw attention to the birth of Christ; to show how many countries and cultures around the world celebrate the birth of the Savior through their art; and to give everyone in the community a special reason to come through the visitors center several times during the season and feel the spirit of Christmas with their family and friends.




Dec 1998  Display at Independence Visitors Center builds bridges to community


Saturday, December 19, 1998
LDS Church News



Display builds bridges to community

By Tim Bowring, Multi-stake media relations

    INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A line from a popular motion picture, "If you build it, they will come," seems to best describe the creation of an exhibit of outdoor lights and indoor decorations at the Church's Independence Visitors Center this Christmas season.
    The exhibit benefits children through a charitable foundation and was accomplished under the guidance of Elder Larry Brown, visitors center director, and by a host of people in the greater Kansas City area who assisted. On the evening of Nov. 28, Nicholas Franken, 6, threw the switch lighting 250,000 lights decorating the visitors center and surrounding trees and shrubs to the "oohs" and "aahs" of the 1,000 adults and children attending the ceremony.
    At that moment, the "Light a Light for a Child" program began, and the dream to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International was a reality. Nicholas Franken is one of thousands of children afflicted with juvenile diabetes.
    During the lighting ceremony, the public's attention was drawn to the need for funding to combat the disease. Donation envelopes from the foundation are made available to people who come to see the lights and the exhibits inside the visitors center; the envelopes can be mailed to the foundation with a donation enclosed.
    Beginning the ceremony, Ron Stewart, mayor of Independence, commended the visitors center for its efforts to strengthen families and communities. He said, "We are approaching the time of year when we celebate the birth of our Christ Jesus," adding that with the emphasis on commercialism, "we sometimes forget what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about giving, and it is most appropriate that we share what we have to help find the cause for and cure to juvenile diabetes that afflicts so many of our children."
    Lay Lakin, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International in Kansas City, said, "Thank you for making this incredible opportunity available to us."
    Other speakers included Henry Kester, master of ceremonies; Elder Brown; and Pres. Daniel Rogers of the Missouri Independence Mission. Prayers were offered by Pres. Kent Wood of the Independence Missouri Stake and Pres. Dennis Karpowitz of the Topeka Kansas Stake.
    Throughout the short program, the 120-voice Heart of America Mormon Choir sang a variety of hymns, including "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Christmas Is a Time of Joy," "Do You Hear What I Hear," and "Silent Night," with the audience invited to join in.
    The visitors center itself has been a show place and hub of activity and excitement this season. In addition to the traditional religious and historical exhibits, the center features:
     A 125-foot, life-size Nativity scene spanning the front of the center, lit by blue and white spotlights at night. The scene was designed by Sharon Viskers, a graphic designer at Hallmark Cards and a member of the Hickory Hills Ward, Lenexa Kansas Stake.
     Eight Christmas trees donated and decorated by local businesses and families.
     Sixty-seven gingerbread houses, bridges, Mayan temples and many other models designed by engineering students at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Missouri Western State College. The structures were constructed by local families with supplies donated by local mills.
     A model train donated by Lionel Corp. that makes continuous journeys through the largest of the gingerbread villages.
     A unique display of Christmas greeting cards and ornaments designed by Hallmark Cards for the White House and U.S. presidents throughout the years.
    The "Light a Light for a Child" exhibition, which closes Jan. 2, has become a major Christmas attraction here and is on a local Tour of Sites to See in Independence.
    It has also built bridges to the community as people have come -- by the hundreds.
     On Saturday, Nov. 28, a record 884 visitors passed through the center. Prior to this, the record attendance was 858, set July 20, 1997.
     During the entire month of December 1997, 29 non-LDS referrals were received. In one day, Dec. 5, 1998, 30 referrals were received.
     Comparing the first seven days of December 1997 to the same period in 1998, average daily attendance jumped 255 percent; total number of tours conducted increased 219 percent; total number of non-LDS tours increased 774 percent; total number of non-LDS referrals increased 1,460 percent; and total daily attendance increased 256 percent, according to Elder Brown.
     On Dec. 3, Bryan Hale, meteorologist on the "Kansas City Today Show" on KSHB-TV 41, broadcasted live from the visitors center, netting 16 minutes of air time. At one point in the show, he said to the program's anchors, "Boy, you have got to come and see this; these Mormons really know how to do things right."




April 1999 Painting Unveiling at Liberty Visitors Center Unveiling marks anniversary of D&C 121-123


Saturday, April 3, 1999
LDS Church News


Unveiling marks anniversary of D&C 121-123

    LIBERTY, MO. -- Languishing in the cold, miserable confines of a jail dungeon, the Prophet Joseph Smith 160 years ago dictated a letter containing what today is some of the most memorable scripture in Latter-day Saint canon.
    It was March 20, 1839, that the revelations recorded as Sections 121, 122 and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants were received and spoken by the prophet while he was imprisoned at Liberty Jail.On that date this year, the event was commemorated with the unveiling of a new painting at Liberty Jail Historic Site and by other events at Far West, Mo., and the Liberty Missouri Stake center. Community and religious leaders of different faiths attended.
    The painting, by Liz Lemon Swindle, was unveiled in the Liberty Jail Visitors Center rotunda and will be permanently displayed there. It depicts Joseph kneeling on the straw-covered floor of the jail dungeon and gazing upward in prayer, a tattered blanket over his shoulders.
    Elder Gayle D. Heckel, visitors center director, conducted the commemoration and briefly explained the significance of the day: "The Prophet Joseph Smith and five others were held here on unsubstantiated charges for a little over four months during the bitter cold Missouri winter of 1838-39. The message of Liberty Jail is a simple one. Here, they endured many adversities and hardships with unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here, the Prophet prayed fervently to the Lord, and the Lord answered the prayer with revelation for the benefit of all mankind, because when the Lord speaks to one of His prophets, He gives revelation for the whole world, and the prophet has the responsibility of passing it on."
    Elder Heckel explained that the occasion was 160 years to the day since the prophet dictated a letter in the jail to the Saints who were then taking refuge in Quincy, Ill., and other places after being driven from the state of Missouri. (An observance this year on July 24 in Quincy will commemorate the gathering there that immediately preceded the establishment of Nauvoo, Ill.) "He included in that letter the revelations that he received here in Liberty Jail."
    Presenting her painting, Sister Swindle said: "My heart is full. This is such an honor to represent this historic event as an individual that bears testimony of this man."
    She told of one morning when she was looking at the painting, still unfinished in her studio. She had been reading of Joseph's experiences in the jail. "As I looked at the painting," she said, "it took hold, and I felt those emotions that I was trying to portray. . . . I felt his pain. I felt his tears. I felt his helplessness for the Saints he loved. And I felt the love that he had for the Savior, that all that he did was for Him."
    Presiding at the unveiling was Elder Kay Christensen, an Area Authority Seventy representing the North America Central Area presidency.
    Government and civic officials in attendance included Liberty Mayor Stephen Hawkins, Missouri State archivist Kenneth Winn, and officers of the Liberty Downtown Merchants Association and Clay County Visitors Bureau.
    Presidents of seven area stakes and the Missouri Independence Mission attended. Representatives of other faiths included Apostle Linda Booth and Presiding Bishop Larry R. Norris of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; and Michael and Julie Gatrost from the Restorationist movement.
    Elder Heckel and his wife, Sister Patsy J. Heckel, hosted many of the dignitaries at a dinner afterward in the visitors center.
    Earlier in the day, Calvin Stevens, a Church education institute instructor at Ogden, spoke to a gathering at Far West, Mo., about the history of that location settled by Latter-day Saints in the 1830s.
    In the evening, Sister Swindle and Cliff Cole, the model for Joseph Smith in her paintings, spoke at a fireside in the Liberty stake center, as did Brother Stevens.





June 1999 New temple announcement for Omaha Nebraska


Saturday, June 26, 1999
LDS Church News

New temples announced for Perth, Omaha

    The First Presidency has announced the construction of two new temples: the Omaha Nebraska Temple and the Perth Australia Temple. The Omaha temple will be Nebraska's first, and the Perth temple will be Australia's fifth.
    With these new temples, the Church now has 114 temples announced, under construction or dedicated.The First Presidency announced the temple in Omaha in a letter to local priesthood leaders June 14, and they announced it to their members at a meeting Sunday, June 20.
    The Omaha temple will be built at the site of historic Winter Quarters in the north Omaha area of Florence, a region rich in Church history dating back to Mormon pioneer times of the late 1840s. Pending local government approval, the temple will be constructed on 1.9 acres of Church-owned land adjacent to the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery at 34th and State streets.
    Made up of 14 stakes and four missions, the Omaha Nebraska Temple district will include the Missouri Independence, South Dakota Rapid City, Nebraska Omaha and Iowa Des Moines missions. The temple, the first temple between St. Louis, Mo., and Denver, Colo., will serve more than 40,000 members living in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota.
    The Perth temple was announced June 11 by the First Presidency in a letter to local priesthood leaders. The letter will be read to local members in sacrament meetings Sunday, June 27.
    The new temple will be built adjacent to the Dianella Stake Center, located about 15 minutes from downtown Perth. The Perth Australia Temple District will include 6,865 members from four stakes and one mission, the Australia Perth Mission.
    John Grinceri, an Area Authority Seventy, said since local Church leaders received official word of the temple from the First Presidency, the news has been spreading among the members like wildfire. "It is wonderful," he noted. "Excitement has been building. Perth needs a temple."
    Elder Grinceri said for years members in Perth, located on Australia's western coast, have had to travel long distances to attend the Sydney Australia Temple -- a journey that is similar to a trip from Los Angles to New York -- or other temples located at even greater distances.
    Elder Grinceri and his wife were married in the New Zealand Temple. He was later sealed to his parents, "at great expense and sacrifice," in the New Zealand Temple.
    Elder Vaughn J Featherstone of the Seventy and president of the Australia/ New Zealand Area, said that Elder Grinceri's story is not unusual. Many members in Perth, he said, have made great sacrifices at tremendous expense to attend the temple -- some driving three 18 hours days across the country.
    Elder Grinceri said members have watched with great anticipation as other temples were announced for Australia. The Brisbane Australia Temple was announced July 20, 1998. Ground was broken on the Melbourne Australia Temple March 20 and for the Adelaide Australia Temple May 29. The Sydney Australia Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley Sept. 20, 1984.
    "While many members [in Perth] have only gone to the temple once or twice in a lifetime," said Elder Grinceri, "now they will have the opportunity to go much more frequently."




October 2000 Missouri Heritage Conference



Saturday, October 21, 2000
LDS Church News

Missouri Heritage Conference

By Carol A. Lemon
Media relations specialist, Independence Missouri Stake

    INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — More than 300 participants learned about new research, swapped stories of shared LDS ancestry and rubbed shoulders with prominent scholars at the Mormon Missouri Heritage Conference Sept. 15-16.
   The conference involved participation from the LDS Visitors Center in Independence, BYU faculty members and the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, a non-denominational group. It was held in the Independence Missouri Stake Center, the adjacent Visitors Center and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple. In addition to BYU professors, the conference featured local historian Bill Curtis, RLDS Archivist Ron Romig, former Missouri Independence Mission President V. Daniel Rogers and Gracia Jones, a great-great-granddaughter of Joseph and Emma Smith.
   Topics included early Church historical sites in Jackson County and northern Missouri, including Far West and the temple site there. Significant historical figures, such as Joseph and Emma Smith and Alexander W. Doniphan were the subjects of other classes. Susan Easton Black, BYU professor of Church history, and LDS artist Liz Lemon Swindle joined to present a fireside Friday evening.
   A feature article in the Kansas City Star of Sept. 15 called the gathering a "peace conference," citing the growing cooperation and shared scholarship of LDS and RLDS historians, as well as recent community support.


July 2001 Independence Visitors center lights up for Fourth


Saturday, July 21, 2001
LDS Church News

Visitors center lights up for Fourth

    INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — It was a memorable and festive 4th of July in Independence[0], said Carol Lemon, Independence[0] Missouri[0] Stake public affairs director.
   There were enactments of Revolutionary and Civil War encampments, patriotic singing and dancing, band concerts, children's games and activities, summer-time refreshments, and dramatic presentations. Joining with the City of Independence[0], the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church), the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, the First Presbyterian Church, and Independence[0] Power and Light, and the Mormon Visitors Center co-sponsored the annual event.
   The highlight of the celebration was the energetic performance of the Hughes Brothers, Church members who donated their time and talents before an enthusiastic crowd in the Community of Christ Auditorium. The five brothers, along with their families, brought part of their popular Branson, Mo., show to the festivities. Concluding their program with a stirring patriotic medley, the group ushered in a brilliant fireworks display on the grounds of the Church's visitors center.









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