Have you ever been to a well-known place in the country or in the world, and you didn't realize how historically significant or amazing it was until you'd been there? That has happened to me a few times, and places that come to mind are the Colosseum in Rome, the ruins of Pompeii, the confined space of Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam, and the Alamo in San Antonio. Last month, just a mere 15 minutes approximately from where my sister lives in Kansas City, I had the opportunity to take a brief tour of an LDS Church historical site in the tiny town of Liberty, Missouri, at the Liberty Jail where Joseph Smith and a few other LDS church leaders had been wrongly imprisoned during a bitter-cold winter, more than 170 years ago from December, 1838, until April, 1839. While this site may not have world fame and popularity, I had known about Joseph Smith being unjustly confined in jail there. Last month as I stood in that exact same place, the truth of his persecution and suffering in these miserable quarters really hit home to me. In Doctrine & Covenants 122:7, there's a familiar scripture that has always touched my heart to the very core, at times when I have felt in the deepest, darkest depths of despair, these words penned by the prophet of God, have given me comfort, "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness and all the elements combine to hedge up the way and above all; if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee; know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
I've read those words numerous times in the past, but until I realized that in this spot, so close to my sister's house, is where the actual event had transpired. I did not realize that Kansas City and Liberty were practically the same place. Amazing. Julie and I were so glad that we took time to go on this tour while in town last month to celebrate our sister's birthday.
It was on a Sunday afternoon, the day before I returned home to Austin. Julie and I also drove to Independence to another visitors' center and LDS historical site. Missouri is rich in LDS history, with it being in the center of the United States. It's also the state that had a law that stated you could kill a Mormon on the spot any time you saw one. Thank goodness that one didn't last! Here's Julie.
I was so cold the few days I spent in Kansas City, and I imagined how much more severe the conditions must have been for those courageous men who were stuck there in that little room for four months with no heating, beds to sleep on, decent food, running water, or restrooms. Yet with all the lack of comforts and conveniences, this place was considered to be one of the most spiritually refining and uplifting, sacred times for them. Hard to imagine. It really did feel special there. These pictures I took don't even do it justice. You really should go there to see what I mean.
After going to Liberty, we took a quick tour inside the LDS visitors' center in Independence, which is right across the street from a temple of the Community of Christ, not a part of our church.
This was inside the LDS Church visitors' center.
There wasn't much time left for us, so we kind of rushed, and looked at an art display that was there in its final days, a collection of photography of actors and models who were portraying the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We also heard a bit about the printing press of William W. Phelps, I think his name was. I hope to go back there sometime so I can enjoy it more fully. I recommend that anyone who has some extra time while in Kansas City, should make the effort to check it out.
I took this photo above while in the foyer, but the ones below were part of the collection that was there at the visitors' center temporarily. I will not comment on each of these specifically, but I did enjoy viewing this collection and am impressed with the concept. I'm sorry that I don't know the name of the artist, and that my pictures don't quite capture the real life images very well. If you click on each picture, you can get a better look at the work.
This was our final stop, then we headed back to Tracy's house.
I want to add this church history gem I just read today. "Five leaders of the Church, including the Prophet Joseph, marching under a flag of truce, approached the camp of the Missouri militia near the small settlement of Far West, located in Caldwell County."As it turned out, the flag of truce was meaningless, and the Church leaders were immediately put in chains and placed under heavy guard. The morning after this arrest, two more Latter-day Saint leaders, including the Prophet's brother Hyrum, were taken prisoner, making a total of seven in captivity."Injustice swiftly moved forward toward potential tragedy when a military 'court' convened by officers of that militia ordered that Joseph Smith and the six other prisoners all be taken to the public square at Far West and summarily shot. To his eternal credit, Brigadier General Alexander Doniphan, an officer in the Missouri forces, boldly and courageously refused to carry out the inhumane, unjustifiable order. In a daring stand that could have brought him his own court-martial, he cried out against the commanding officer: 'It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. . . . And if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God' (in History of the Church, 3:190–91)."In showing such courage and integrity, Doniphan not only saved the lives of these seven men but endeared himself forever to Latter-day Saints in every generation."