Other than being the hometown of former United States President Harry Truman, Independence, Missouri, does not have much extraordinary history to offer mainstream America. Unless, as Craig S. Campbell rightly points out in this noteworthy book, one considers a specific religious heritage held by several related movements; then the history is “one that transcends the prosaic and is very beautiful, fantastic in fact, depending on ‘which end of the day you see it from.'” Within several blocks in this city, one can find temples, churches, and visitors’ centers belonging to over a handful of different groups all claiming this area to be sacred space. Regardless of what each of the various religious groups believe today, they all share a common history that involves a prophet, a place, and a promised future.
Craig S. Campbell, professor of geography at Youngstown State University, has contributed a fine volume to Mormon historiography with his Images of the New Jerusalem: Latter Day Saint Faction Interpretation of Independence, Missouri. In the preface, he describes the book’s objective as “a historical interpretation of the millennial geography of Independence and its surroundings as seen by the Latter Day Saint churches.” “Churches” is listed in the plural, and a hyphen is missing between “Latter” and “Day,” because the book focuses on several religious movements that claim lineage from Joseph Smith, mainly focusing on the LDS Church, the RLDS Church (now known as the Community of Christ), and the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). The result is a rich manuscript chronicling how these different people have, for almost two centuries, viewed an area that they believe has both a sacred past and a millennial future.