After visiting many restoration-based churches in Independence, we headed east towards Nauvoo. Along the way we visited several other sites relating to the Latter Day Saint movement.
From Wikipedia: “Liberty Jail is a former jail in Liberty, Missouri, United States, where Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saint movement, and other associates were imprisoned from December 1, 1838, to April 6, 1839, during the 1838 Mormon War. Joseph Smith received revelations during his imprisonment there, which are now recorded as sections 121, 122, and 123 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants.”
The mostly-reconstructed jail is housed indoors in a visitors center owned by the LDS church. I was disappointed with the history presented to us by an LDS sister missionary, as it wasn’t very historically accurate. I don’t blame her, as she’s just working with what she’s been told. The presentation seemed very geared towards believing members of the LDS church, but she never asked us what our affiliation was. If I had never been a member of the LDS church I would have been confused at some of the terms she was using. Looking at what the jail might have looked like was interesting, though. I’m glad we stopped by here to see how things might have looked many years ago.
The LDS visitors center at Liberty Jail gave us a great map that located some grave markers of some prominent leaders of the early Latter Day Saint church.
- David Whitmer: He was one of the original three witnesses to the Book of Mormon gold plates. He split with the church after the banking disaster of the Kirtland Safety Society. He started his own branch of the Latter Day Saint movement which lasted until 1960. He was always a strong believer in the Book of Mormon but he thought all other branches of the Latter Day Saint movement apart from his own were in error. Buried in the Richmond, Missouri Cemetery.
- Oliver Cowdery: One of the original three witnesses to the Book of Mormon gold plates, and the scribe for the majority of the published Book of Mormon. He was excommunicated from the church in 1838 after a falling out with Joseph Smith over the Kirtland bank scandal and Joseph Smith’s relationship with Fanny Alger. In 1848 he asked to join the church led by Brigham Young and was rebaptized. He attempted to convince David Whitmer to return to Utah with him, but Cowdery got sick and passed away. He is buried in the same city as David Whitmer, except it’s a pioneer cemetery on the opposite end of town. His grave marker also serves as a monument to the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Several other Whitmers are buried in this cemetery.
- John Whitmer: One of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon gold plates. Like David and Oliver, he was excommunicated in 1838 over the Kirtland bank scandal. He is buried in Kingston, a city north of Richmond.
From Wikipedia: “Adam-ondi-Ahman (/ædəm ɑːndaɪ ɑːmən/, sometimes clipped to Diahman) is a historic site in Daviess County, Missouri, about five miles south of Jameson. It is located along the east bluffs above the Grand River. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), it is the site where Adam and Eve lived after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. It teaches that the place will be a gathering spot for a meeting of the priesthood leadership, including prophets of all ages and other righteous people, prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
We drove quite a ways out of our way to get there, but I figured we might never be in this part of the world again, so we better take advantage of it. As far as I could tell, it’s many acres of fields surrounded by white fences. It appears to me the LDS church is taking good care of the land. We found a place that said it had an overlook of the valley, but the view seemed to be kind of obscured by trees. I thought it was interesting the one plaque we found mentioned that Joseph Smith said the Nephites were once here, but it doesn’t mention that Joseph Smith said Adam and Eve lived here after leaving the Garden of Eden.
Haun’s Mill Massacre
From Wikipedia: “The Haun’s Mill massacre (also Hawn’s Mill massacre) was an event in the history of the Latter Day Saint movement. It occurred on October 30, 1838, when a mob/militia unit from Livingston County, Missouri attacked a Mormon settlement in eastern Caldwell County, Missouri, after the Battle of Crooked River. By far the bloodiest event in the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, it has long been remembered by the members of the Latter Day Saint movement.”
The actual location of Haun’s Mill Massacre is several miles south of a city park in Breckenridge, Missouri where this marker and mill stone are located. I had a relative, William Champlin, who survived the massacre by “playing possum” and pulling a body on top of him.