If you have read our history you will see that it was at times a violent story during the early days. Persecution in the 1830s became too much for many early church members and they began to retaliate in the late 1830s in Missouri. They were expelled from Missouri. When they gathered to build Nauvoo, Illinois they formed a militia, a kind of city army. In the 1840s, it was the largest army outside the US army. Although it was legal, it still made non-church member neighbours very nervous. In 1844 Joseph Smith Jr. was arrested peacefully and assassinated whilst in prison. The church members to many people's surprise did not retaliate. Later they were driven out from Nauvoo with further threats of violence, including the firing of canon into Nauvoo.
Members of the Reorganisation have tended to feel quite ambiguous about the violent retaliation of early church members in Missouri and the later large Nauvoo army. In 1874 the Reorganisation, perhaps in reaction to their earlier violent history, adopted the scene from Isaiah 11 as the church symbol.
This choice of a picture of a lion lying down with the lamb and a little child leading them in peace may have have been inspired by the Quaker artist Edward Hick. Hick was a contemporary of Joseph Smith Jr., although it is thought that they never met. Hick lived in Pennsylvania and painted this peaceable kingdom scene from Isaiah 11 about a hundred times. It is possible that one or more Reorganisation church members were inspired by the Isaiah scene from one of Hick's paintings.
The church seal has become a very important symbol in the Reorganisation, perhaps as important as the cross. It has become an even more important symbol since the 1960s when the church became much more an international movement.
The call to build a temple in Independence, Missouri goes back to the earliest days of the church in the 1830s when Joseph Smith Jr. dedicated the spot on the highest hill in the young city. In 1968 W. Wallace Smith, then prophet of the Reorganisation and Joseph Smith Jr.'s grandson, was inspired to call for the beginning of fund raising for the building of the temple in Independence. In 1984 the next prophet leader of the church Wallace B. Smith gave the following as an inspired message to the church:
The temple shall be dedicated to the pursuit of peace. It shall be for reconciliation and for healing of the spirit.
By 1994, ten years later, the 300 foot high temple had been built, paid for and dedicated.
In June 1997, W. Grant McMurray, the prophet-president at the time, affirmed his commitment to lead the church to fulfil its calling to become a peace church. To a conference of elders and congregational leaders in Independence, he said:
We will become a world-wide church dedicated to the pursuit of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit.
He announced this at a conference that began 19 June 1997, a hundred and sixty three years after the end of Zion's Camp the church's first military expedition in 1834.
God is calling us, a people with a violent history, to change and be transformed into an international movement dedicated to the pursuit of peace. It does not matter if you also have a violent history. We invite you in Jesus Christ's name to join us in this change that God is working in our midst. We can speak of his forgiveness and healing and want to share it with you. This is the meaning of the cross he suffered for all of us.
The little blue church on Abbey Lane