Temples are sacred spaces. They are theology in stone. In temples, we orient ourselves to a new vision for our lives and creation, literally walking through a model of God's sacred story and covenant with humanity.
Community of Christ has two temples, in Kirtland, Ohio, and Independence, Missouri.
Like other temples in the Restoration, the Temple in Independence is designed with symbols that draw the mind to higher things. At our historic "center place," the Temple is our symbolic mountain of the Lord which orients us to Zion and the peaceable kingdom.
As with Kirtland, the Temple in Independence is open to all people. It is dedicated to peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit.
The Temple's Functions
As Kirtland Temple did for earlier Saints, the Temple at Independence serves three functions for Community of Christ:
- Church leaders administer the church from the Temple
- The Temple is a place to gather for worship and to experience God's Spirit
- And, through an education program known as Temple School, our priesthood throughout the world receives training and instruction to fulfill their callings
In Kirtland, the House of the Lord served a special function. It was built by early church members to focus their efforts on receiving an endowment of the Holy Spirit. They were seeking to revive the pentecostal experience of the ancient church. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his followers that they would be witnesses of the gospel before all nations, but to fulfill that commision they had to "stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49b NRSV).
That clothing of power came on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), as they were empowered by the Spirit to go forth in Christ's mission. The early Latter-day Saints re-enacted this experience during the Kirtland Temple dedication which was filled with pentecostal outpourings of the Spirit.
Connecting economic justice with endowment, the early Saints also sought to share all things in common like the ancient church (Acts 2:44-45), and like the people of the City of Enoch, a people of one heart, and one mind, who dwelt in righteousness, with no poor among them. In Section 38, the revelation calling them to Ohio to be endowed with power from on high, God demanded that they respond to the needs of those in poverty as essential to being a holy people who reflect God's nature:
let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me... for what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter to them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one, Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other, Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there, and looketh upon his sons and saith, I am just.
Behold, this I have given unto you a parable, and it is even as I am: I say unto you, Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine.
-Doctrine & Covenants 38:5c-6a (LDS D&C 38:24-27)
Although we do not have a ritualistic endowment like that developed in 1830s Kirtland (and expanded in Nauvoo), we believe the Spirit continues to endow the church for mission, that we might abolish poverty and end suffering. We seek that endowment through worship in our local congregations, in our spiritual practices, at our Spiritual Formation Center at Kirtland Temple, and through our experiences at the Temple in Independence.
The Temple in Independence is a sacred place where the church gathers inward to receive the Spirit, to then go forth in mission. Indeed, at the Temple in Independence, worshippers exit through massive bronze doors emblazoned with the church seal—a peaceful lion, lamb, and child, with the word "PEACE"—and flow into the World Plaza, a symbolic representation of the entire earth.
Doctrine & Covenants 161:2
Become a people of the Temple–those who see violence but proclaim peace, who feel conflict yet extend the hand of reconciliation, who encounter broken spirits and find pathways for healing.
Fulfill the purposes of the Temple by making its ministries manifest in your hearts. It was built from your sacrifices and searching over many generations. Let it stand as a towering symbol of a people who knew injustice and strife on the frontier and who now seek the peace of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
The Worshippers Path at the Temple in Independence
Entering the Temple from the east, “The Worshiper's Path” allows participants to walk through the sacred story. Along the path, they encounter, first, depictions of the Sacred Grove and Burning Bush, and then images from the scriptures and teachings of Christ. The path progresses upward along an ascending spiral path to the inner Sanctuary. This spiral motion continues within the Sanctuary infinitely upward, drawing focus up towards the Heavens.
This spiral path eventually extends upward into a spire, centered high above the Sanctuary. The spire is the most distinctive feature of the Temple. The shape was inspired by the nautilus, a universal shape found throughout nature—in the curve of a ram’s horn, in the spiral arms of galaxies, and in the rotation of tropical storm clouds. It is a symbolic fingerprint of the Creator, and reminds us that God is in control of the universe and an ongoing creation.
The spiral is also symbolic of gathering the church inward to receive the Spirit, and then extending outward in mission, endowed by the Spirit to realize Zion throughout the entire world.
Doctrine & Covenants 161:3d
Understand that the road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.