Looking Back: President Kimball’s Visit to Far West Temple Site in Missouri
Contributed By Gerry Avant
We sustained President Spencer W. Kimball as a prophet, seer, and revelator. I could add “teacher” to those titles.
President Kimball taught me, and others, about a key location in Church history when we visited the Far West Temple site in northwestern Missouri on September 2, 1978. He had gone to Missouri on September 1 to dedicate the Independence Missouri Stake Center on September 3. He and Sister Camilla Kimball and others visited some Church sites on the day in between. (See related article.)
A little background: Many Saints had gathered in the wilderness area of Missouri’s Caldwell County by the mid-1830s and built the city of Far West as a temporary place of refuge. Joseph Smith and his family arrived at Far West in March 1838. “The following month, God revealed to the Prophet that Far West was located on holy ground, and the Saints were commanded to build a temple [there]. Cornerstones for the temple were laid during a celebration in early July” (“Far West—Caldwell County, Missouri”).
The planned temple’s cornerstones were still in place and visible when we visited; however, the rest of the land at Far West had returned to its natural state with grass, trees, and shrubs. The cornerstones and inscriptions on stone markers provided the only clue that this was an important historic site. One inscription, titled “Prophecy Fulfilled,” read:
“On July 8, 1838, a revelation was given to Joseph Smith concerning a future mission of the twelve apostles, beyond the seas. The date of their departure, April 26, 1839, was set, and they were to leave from this spot. The prophecy was fulfilled despite the efforts of the enemies of the Church to prevent the meeting that was held on this site agreeable to the prophecy.”
President Kimball told us about some of Far West’s history. He looked over the landscape and said: “I have been very much interested in traversing these areas. It is interesting to be on the Far West site where the Twelve received their call to go to foreign lands. My grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, who was in charge, was called to go to Britain.”
He then shared with us some of his rich Missouri heritage. “Camilla’s grandfather was here in 1855; it was the Indian Territory Mission based in Oklahoma then. My father came about 1882 to 1884; I came in 1914 to Independence.
“As a missionary I did not see this area. I had heard of it but, in 1914, much of the history of this area was lost.”
President Kimball served as a missionary from 1914 to 1916 in the Central States Mission, headquartered in Independence. It was the same area where his father had served (and later presided over as a mission president, but doing so based in Utah), as well as his stepmother and an older brother.
As we traveled along the highways and narrow dirt roads of northwestern Missouri, someone in our van read from journals of some of the early members of the Church who had been at Far West and nearby sites.
President Kimball said: “It’s great to think that they—Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others—were actually on this same ground. Of course, most of their traveling was done by walking.”
As we rode along, I wrote in my notebook about being in such significant places in Church history and being taught about them by a prophet of the Lord.