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Monday, November 5, 2012

As Romney Vid Goes Viral, Don't Forget Missouri is Mormon Jerusalem

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 7:38 AM

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How did Mormons get to Missouri in the first place?

This all started shortly after Joseph Smith Jr. founded the Mormon religion in 1830 in religious revival-crazy upstate New York. The founding text of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon, which is said to have been derived from a set of gold tablets that were given to Smith by an angel (and returned to the same angel after Smith had translated them).

(Some) Mormons believe that texts like Isaiah 24:23 that describe God's reign over Zion and over Jerusalem refer to two different geographical locations. Smith is regarded as the Church's sole prophet and he is the one who relayed the news that Zion was in America's heartland on July 20, 1831. He was told about Missouri via divine revelation (sorry, we can't fact check that). Smith had visited Independence (the seat of Jackson County) in 1830 on a missionary trip and apparently liked what he saw--even though the land was already occupied by "enemies".

If ye are faithful, ye shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies. (Doctrine and Covenants 52:42)

In its early days, the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints was constantly under attack by hostile locals in a country that supposedly guaranteed religious freedom. After striking out in New York, and then Ohio, Smith directed his followers to keep moving west--on to Zion.

Short-sleeved button-downs weren't in Smith's plat, but are still quite popular in the faith.
  • Short-sleeved button-downs weren't in Smith's plat, but are still quite popular in the faith.

What was the plan for Independence, MO? Basically Smith and his 300 or so followers wanted to create a master-planned community where they could model their faith and await the Second Coming.

In 1832 Smith sent his followers in Missouri a plat (i.e. a plan for a plot of land) of the City of Zion that was to be located near Independence.

According to the first volume of B.H. Roberts' six-volume history of the church of the Latter-Day Saints, Smith's directions for settling the city (which had already been settled by traders and natives) were incredibly specific:

That drawing included written specifications for the city and was accompanied by a letter with a further explanation of the design. The notes on the drawing specified that all streets were to 132 feet wide. These created square blocks of 10 acres measuring 660 feet on each side. A center tier of blocks containing the storehouse and temples was wider, with blocks that measured 660 by 990 feet. Each half-acre lot was 66 by 330 feet. Smith described the curious orientation of the lots that he arranged "so that no one street will be built on entirely through the street." This system called for lots that ran north-south flanked by blocks with lots oriented east-west. Each house thus faced the side of a lot on the opposite side of the street.

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