The Missouri Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In 1831, Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that the righteous would gather in Independence, Mo., to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ — just one of the prophecies that estranged his faith from traditional Christianity.
Thousands of converted Mormons moved from Ohio and upstate New York to claim their New Jerusalem. Disputes with Missourians led to a bloody Mormon War that ended only when the state's governor issued an "extermination order" to expel Smith's followers.
Today, few places are better to contemplate the evolving — but still uncertain — relationship between Mormonism and the country where it was founded.
On the one hand, Missouri symbolizes how far Mormons have come. At least 66,000 Mormons now live in the state, more than triple the number of just three decades ago. Most recently, the LDS church has built a temple in Kansas City, Mo., near the epicenter of the Mormon War.
But Missouri also serves to highlight the intractable differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon theology.