Former Member Burns "Temple Lot" Church After Joining Mormons
A former member of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), a small
Mormon splinter group, has been charged with burglary and arson
in the January 1, 1990 fire that destroyed the 88-year-old historic
church building in Independence, Missouri (Kansas City
Times, Jan. 2, 1990; p. 1). Arrested was 25-year-old Jordan Smith, who had been excommunicated
from the Temple Lot Church for joining the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
Smith, who had warned church leaders for months that, "God
had ordered him to cleanse the church site," had barricaded
himself inside the building and phoned police claiming to have
weapons and hand grenades. After about an hour, Smith agreed
to surrender provided he first be allowed to perform a dance
Police captured Smith while he was performing what officers
called "a native American Indian dance" on the front
stoop of the burning church. Smith, whose cheek bones were
painted with bright-colored stripes like war paint, was reported
to have smiled from the back of the patrol car as fire trucks
rushed to the already burning building.
Smith had told church leaders that Communists using chemical
warfare were about to invade Missouri and that he would burn
the church after the invasion. Smith's wife reported that his
revelations were the result of "'tremendous amounts of
research' in an effort to correlate world events with Scripture
and develop prophecies of future events," (Ibid,
Independence, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, is important
in Mormon prophetic speculation because of Joseph Smith's claims
that it was the site of the Garden of Eden and that Christ
would one day return to set up his kingdom, the "New Jerusalem"
here, (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 18, pp. 67-68).
C. LeRoy Wheaton Jr., a church elder, reported that Smith had
given the church problems in the past and was bodily removed
from the building once for "wearing a sword" to church
and threatening other members.
Smith, who had told others he was part American Indian, was
attending the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints (RLDS), the Mormon Church (LDS), as well as the
Church of Christ (Temple Lot) according to William Sheldon,
Secretary of the Council of Apostles (Temple Lot). Jordan Smith was finally excommunicated from the Temple Lot
Church after it was found that he recently had been baptized
in the Mormon Church (LDS).
All three rival churches believe in the Book of Mormon. But
each believes their own church represents the only true followers
of Joseph Smith, Jr. who brought forth the Book of Mormon.
Each group has their own twelve apostles and vary greatly on
doctrine. (see Divergent Paths of the Restoration, by Steven
Shields p. 31, 65, and 76). The site of the burned church is controversial to followers
of Joseph Smith because of a prophecy given by the Church founder
in 1835 that a Temple would be built on the plot of land adjacent
to the destroyed church. According to the prophecy, the temple was to have been built
during the lifetime of those who were alive in 1835 when the
revelation was given. The Temple Lot group owns the actual spot dedicated by Joseph
Smith, but no temple has been built yet. The RLDS have begun
construction on a temple across the street from the Temple
Lot site and the now destroyed church. (Sources for this story include live coverage from KMBC
Channel 9 News, Kansas City's ABC affiliate).
UPDATE: On May 20,
2005, Jordan Smith contacted Watchman
Fellowship wanting to clarify some aspects of this story from
his perspective. He does admit to setting fire to the church January 1, 1990. The fire caused heavy
damage to the second story. The first floor, containing the church offices and
vital records, was essentially undamaged. Originally built in 1905, the
building had no distinguishing architectural features: Church leadership
admitted that before the fire, they were considering having it razed, and built
anew. It was demolished February 1,
1990. In a jury trial which concluded January 16, 1991, Smith was convicted of a class C
felony - third degree arson - and also breaking & entering. He maintains that
this was not a violent crime, but a political protest, along the lines of
anti-war protests in the 1960s, or the protests in Eastern Europe in November & December 1989. Martial aspects of his attire & behavior
during the protests were intended to symbolize ("act out") his belief that a
World War III-type situation was coming.
Six months before the church protest, Smith hit upon the
idea of wearing a short sword-like bayonet in a sheath at his side, telling
people it was meant to publicly symbolize his belief that war ("a sword") was
coming, in keeping with the implications of Ezekiel 33:2-9 ("If when he seeth
the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people....").
He wore it to a meeting at the church, and was surprised that no one there
asked him about it. After then leaving the church, he encountered a couple of
police officers who explained that it was against the law to carry a blade
longer than 3 inches, and also against the law to "brandish" a weapon, as in
carrying a gun, or a sword. It was a cordial explanation, and Smith immediately
complied. At no time before the protest of January 1, 1990, was Smith confrontational or disruptive
towards any church member, or at any church meeting.
Correcting another mischaracterization, Smith says he was
echoing what was a relatively common theme among students of prophecy during
the Cold War, that the Soviet Union would
surprise-attack the United States,
and this would be fulfillment of various prophecies, ancient and modern.
Smith characterizes the Church of Christ Temple Lot as a
particularly backwards & xenophobic break-off of Mormonism, and summarizes
his complaint thus: "I was tired of them insulting everyone, including our
savior Jesus Christ, and told the church representative a month before the fire
that I was thinking of performing exactly that type of protest."