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 located 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.
As Kirtland Temple did for earlier Saints, the Temple at Independence serves three functions for Community of Christ:
"The temples, places of beauty, worship, education, and church guidance, are compasses and lighthouses for our faith journey. They serve as constant reminders that we are called to live counter to the cultures of isolation, individualism, greediness, and suspicion that surround us. They constantly point beyond themselves to steer us to our true calling to become God’s spiritual house, built on the witness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ—a household that unites, heals, restores, and frees people through community to express their best selves no matter who they are...a household in which Jesus would truly feel at home!"
—President Stephen M. Veazey, June 10, 2007, dedication of the Kirtland Temple Visitor and Spiritual Formation Center
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 sought to revive the Pentecostal experience of the ancient church. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his followers they would be witnesses of the gospel to all nations. Then he instructed them 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 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, God called them to Ohio to be endowed with power from on high, and further instructed them that meeting the needs of those in poverty was 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 Doctrine & Covenants 38:24-27)
Although we do not practice 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 temple where the church gathers inward to receive the Spirit, and then go forth in mission. Worshippers act this out as they exit the Temple through massive bronze doors emblazoned with the church seal—a peaceful lion, lamb, and child, with the word "PEACE"—and walk out onto the World Plaza, a symbolic representation of the entire earth.
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.
—Doctrine & Covenants 161:2
Entering the Temple in Independence, Missouri, from the east, "The Worshiper's Path" allows participants to walk through the sacred story. The first encounter along the path are depictions of the Sacred Grove and Burning Bush, followed by images representing the scriptures and teachings of Christ. The path progresses gently upward along an ascending spiral path all the way to the inner Sanctuary. This spiral motion continues into the Sanctuary where it rises into the space above, moving infinitely upward drawing focus towards the heavens.
This spiral path culminates in the Temple spire, centered high above the Sanctuary. The spire is the most distinctive feature of the Temple. Inspired by the nautilus, it is 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 reminding us that God is in control of the universe and divine motion of creating never ceases.
The spiral also symbolizes the inward gathering of the church to receive the Spirit, then being sent by God outward in mission, endowed by the Spirit to realize Zion throughout the entire world.
Understand that the road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.