In the early 1830s, Independence, Missouri, was a rough and lively frontier town. It had just been established as the seat of Jackson County. It was the start of the Santa Fe Trail. Wagons carrying goods and people crowded the town square to make final preparations for the trip to the southwest. They filled their water barrels at a nearby well. Gambling, drinking, and horse racing were more common than Sabbath day observance.
Yet on July 20, 1831, the Lord revealed that this frontier town was where a holy city, the City of Zion, would be built. The place of the New Jerusalem. The place where a temple of the Lord would be built. (See D&C 57.)
By the summer of 1831, Latter-day Saint missionaries had arrived at Independence. Members began to build homes and settle there. But only a little over two years later, disobedience by some Saints and persecution by some of the other settlers forced the members to flee Jackson County to save their lives.
On the way to church each week, Julianne Burkhardt (8) walks past the site where Joseph Smith stood when he dedicated ground in Independence for the building of a temple. The site where he stood is now owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), but just a short distance away is the LDS chapel Julianne attends with her family. It also sits on part of the original sixty-three acres that Joseph Smith designated as the temple lot. Julianne feels special to know that she can worship at this sacred place. “I like the city of Independence. I like to see the temple lot. I like to see everything here.”
One of the first buildings that the Saints built in Independence was a schoolhouse for their children. Education is still very important. Even when she isn’t in school, Julianne loves getting old textbooks from a neighbor across the street and playing school with her sister Jaime (10). Although Julianne loves school and does very well in most subjects, sometimes spelling words can be a trial to her. If she gets frustrated, her sister Jennie (16) helps her learn the words.
Most of her neighbors belong to other churches, but that doesn’t stop Julianne from being their friend. She does all she can to make certain that she doesn’t have conflicts with her neighbors, like some of the early Saints did. One of her best friends is a sixty-year-old widow named Mrs. Troyer. Julianne loves to work in the garden or go for walks with her. They’ve been great friends for two or three years. “We talk about all kinds of stuff on our walks. She’s one of the nicest people I know,” said Julianne.
Always jubilant and full of energy, she loves doing things with and for her family. She’s wherever the action is. Her mother, Debbie, has tended children in their home for the past two years. Julianne loves to help take care of the children. She even wants a baby stroller for her next birthday so that she can take the younger children on walks.
One of her favorite things to do with her family is read books. Her favorite thing to read together is the scriptures. She loves the story where Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates.
Julianne is grateful to be a member of the Church living in Independence today. “When I was baptized and was coming out of the water, I felt the Holy Spirit. It felt good.” She is doing her best to build up Zion today.