The Far West Temple Site, is the most important site in Far West Missouri. As with most of the sites in Missouri, the Far West Temple Site feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. There are bathrooms and picnic tables at the site for those traveling long distances.
Background of Far West Temple Site
On April 7, 1837 President David Whitmer, John Witmer and William W. Phelps were appointed to superintend the building of the Far West Temple. This meeting happened in the house of Levi Jackman, and his home was two miles north of the Far West Temple Site.
Construction on the Far West Temple started on July 3, 1837 and the Latter-Day Saints had a large groundbreaking ceremony. 1,500 people gathered at the Far West Temple site and the meeting consisted of prayer, singing, speaking and excavating. By the end of the day there were 500 men using shovels and wheelbarrows excavating the area. The men had dug 80 feet wide, 110 feet long and 5 foot deep trench. Although, the temple had an exciting start, work on the temple lagged because of lack of finances.
On Independence Day a year later, 1838, the Latter-Day Saints laid the corner stones of the Far West Temple. The stones were "quarried from the ledge down west and were 7 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2 feet thick." The Saints also cut an oak tree and erected it near the cornerstones of the temple and flew the Stars and Stripes from its top for the Fourth of July celebration. This pole was known as the "Liberty Pole."
The cornerstone ceremony started at 10 am with a band and dignitaries. The crowd surrounded the temple excavation with the women in front. The southeast cornerstone was laid by the presidents of the stake, assisted by 12 men. The next three cornerstones were laid clockwise by other priesthood holders. After each cornerstone was laid the band would play a song.
Sidney Rigdon spoke. He gave a carefully prepared speech, some have titled this speech "The Mormon Declaration of Independence." This speech ended up getting the Latter-Day Saints in a lot of trouble. Sidney called out the persecutors of the Saints and said the Latter-Day Saints were ready to fight their oppressors. The beginning of Sidney's speech was patriotic, but the second part of his speech was a call to fight. He said "better, far better to sleep with the dead, than to be oppressed among the living." He went on to say "From this day and this hour we will suffer it [abuse] no more. . . That mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled. . . We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people, but shall stand for our own until death."
They ended the cornerstone ceremony with the Hosannah Shout and a song was sung by Levi and Solomon Hancock.
The next day lightning struck the Liberty Pole and splintered it. Many saints worried that this was a sign and said "Farewell, to our liberty in Missouri." The prophet Joseph Smith walked over the splinters of the liberty pole and prophesied that the Saints would eventually triumph over their enemies. One month later all the craziness broke loose during the elections at Gallatin.
Visiting Far West Temple Lot, Know Before You Go
The Far West Temple Lot is on a beautiful little hill in the middle of nowhere, Missouri. There are rolling hills all throughout the area, with only farmland for miles and miles. Today, you can see the cornerstones placed by the early pioneers and preserved in glass cases. There is a large monument in the back of fenced temple lot explaining the importance of the town of Far West and some of the most important revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith in the town.
There is also a plaque about the prophet Joseph F. Smith, the son of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith. He was born just west of the Far West Temple Site. To read more about his life click here.
There are restrooms, and picnic tables. It is a beautiful area, still mostly untouched by society today.