This originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Trailmarker

The Temple Lot Site
The Temple boundary as outlined by the entire membership of the “Church of Christ ()”

On July 20, 1831, the Lord told the Saints:

“Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.”

By December 19, 1831,  after the Church obtained ownership, John Whitmer recorded:

“Sidney Rigdon dedicated the ground where the city is to stand, and Joseph Smith Jr. laid a stone at the northeast corner of the contemplated temple in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth.”

In April 1840, Apostles John E. Page and Orson Hyde were called to dedicate Israel, but Page separated himself and gradually worked his way through several states, organizing branches under his own system of order. At one time Elders Heber C. Kimball and Orson Pratt organized a branch in Cincinnati, but after their departure. Page annulled the organization and reestablished his own version. After the Prophet’s death he wandered for employment and soon became a “preacher for hire,” which led to his excommunication in 1846.

Some Saints throughout Illinois and Indiana who didn’t move west under Brigham Young and became disaffected with the main body of the Saints created a new “Church of Christ.” In June 1858, Page (still acting in his former office) ordained Granville Hedrick and several others to be apostles in this sect. Later Page ordained Hedrick to the first presidency of that church. In 1864 Hedrick directed his people to return to the New Jerusalem dining the midst of the Civil War, and through former records being lost or otherwise destroyed during the war, Hedrick purchased eight parcels, including the Temple Lot.

Later, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also relocated to Independence and in 1891 tried to gain possession of the site, but lost their case. They eventually proceeded to build a temple decades later, but on a neighboring site.

When Hedrick’s followers decided to excavate and build a temple on the Temple Lot in 1929, laborers turned up the stones placed by the Prophet Joseph Smith marking the Temple corners, but were unable to obtain necessary funds to continue construction as the Great Depression hit the nation. They moved these stones into their chapel and replaced them with markers, to preserve the artifacts as they filled the site back in as before. The Church of Christ Temple Lot believe they are called as physical and spiritual custodians to the temple lot, a duty they have tenaciously fulfilled up to this point, and are awaiting further revelation.

Their chapel is the second to be built on the block, the first one was destroyed by arson. A member of their sect, as well as several others, had been suffering from delusions and conspiracies, claimed that God had told him to “cleanse the church site.” He barricaded himself within the building as he set it on fire and then came out of the building while performing a dance with his skin painted “Native American style.” The fire crew did manage to save the original Temple cornerstones from the building. Visitors are welcome to tour the site freely and even meet with one of their current apostles, as well as view the original comer stones.

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