independence-kids-muralChurch on Sunday is one thing; a family holiday to glimpse what drives other people’s faith is quite another. For me in Independence, Mo., that circled one story told from different perspectives. I approached it four ways.

Two big church organizations shared 14 years with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the helm, branching off after his death. One considers this western Missouri town next door to Kansas City their church headquarters. Community of Christ is their name and visiting their building is also an art event.

The other calls Salt Lake City the main town but welcomes visitors to Independence with interesting history displays and video in the Mormon Visitors Center.

Vastly different tourism experiences directly across the street.

The contrast is stark. Ask the kids if their friends think differently too.

Diaries, letters explain history

The Mormon Visitors Center tells the history of the church in Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s with a recreated settler homestead, narrated by a variety of voices speaking from actual letters of the era.

independence-frontierEarly settler life is depicted in detailed settings in the Mormon Visitor Center.

Engaging stories, that come from diaries.

Historians say church founder Joseph Smith Jr. held strong opinions, and the tour tells about two 12-year-old girls, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline Rollins, who retrieved printer’s plates thrown out the windows in a raid by citizens not approving Smith’s philosophies.

Bravery and faithfulness-to-the-cause stories filter throughout the Mormon Visitors Center tour, always docent led.

So do questions, the kind with long pauses, suggesting no time is too much to wait for answers.

Art triggers contemplation

independence-churchThe nautilus seashell inspired designs for the Community of Christ church headquarters in Independence, Missouri. Across the street, the Community of Christ building soars in a spiral reminiscent of a nautilus seashell.

Organ recitals happen, daily in the summer, Sunday afternoons the rest of the year. 5,685 pipes, 102 ranks for this organ.

Daily is also the schedule for a 15-minute prayer for peace, wrapped within readings, hymns and some silence.

Docents guide tours and you can also help yourself to a booklet or headphones for a self-guided stroll.

Etched glass, sculpture of copper, iron, steel, Ikebana-style floral arrangements, oil paintings eight by ten feet, Japanese meditation garden and other art too.

Family tree

Elsewhere in Independence is the Midwest Genealogy Center with 70,000 reference books, 6,000 historical maps, 480,000 microfiche and census record categories including slavery, agriculture, mortality and manufacturers.

Build the family tree on a vacation with intention.

Walking the faith journey is an Independence possibility too. One mile with 14 plaques depicting key sites from the early settling days called the Missouri Mormon Walking Trail.

No theology questions this tour.

Christine Tibbetts is a university-trained journalist with 40+ years writing for newspapers, public relations firms, and arts and education organizations. She shares travel and life with a family blended by marriages and multiple encounters. @TibsTravell