“Visitors’ Center Reopens in Independence,” Ensign, July 2006, 76–77
Just about everything is different than it used to be inside the Independence Visitors’ Center in Independence, Missouri, which recently reopened after more than a year of renovations.
Closed for 13 months, the visitors’ center opened its two new theaters, 23 exhibits, and unique interactive children’s area to the public in March. The new features give more than a historical context of Independence.
“It’s really almost completely different,” says Sister Stacy Jorgensen, who served as a full-time missionary in the center prior to its closure. Before, she says, missionaries did most of the tour, which emphasized the background of Independence. And that was for a good reason—the center stands 70 miles south of Adam-ondi-Ahman and across the street from the site consecrated for a temple by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Needless to say, the center still retains a historical presence, with features such as a log cabin exhibit of frontier life and a replica of the William W. Phelps printing press used to print the Evening and Morning Star, the Church’s first newspaper. But it also incorporates the rich historical background of Independence with its marvelous future through a focus on Christ and His role in the eternal plan of happiness for Heavenly Father’s children.
Many who visit the center comment about a replica of the Christus statue standing at the entrance. It replaces the 28-foot (8.5-m) mural that once stood in the entryway.
“You see Christ is the centerpiece of our religion—it is just so clear,” says Jose Mendoza, a member of the Independence Third Ward. He received a tour of the center in Spanish along with his father-in-law. “My father-in-law does not easily express his feelings,” Brother Mendoza said. “But after the tour, he said to me: ‘I have no doubt that God exists.’ It was incredible—to see him almost in tears over what he saw and felt. Whether you are a Church member or not, you can be touched by the message delivered there.”
The center’s three missionary couples, 16 sister missionaries, and additional volunteers are eager to share the gospel through the center, where interactive media exhibits answer questions about the gospel and the Lord’s plan for families. Visitors can also see some 30 different Church films on request, including the new production, Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration.
“Before, we were telling people about the plan of salvation,” says Paul Tonga, who worked as a host in the old center. “Today we show them.” After visiting the center with his wife, Brother Tonga could not wait to return with his 7 children and 18 grandchildren. “The message is there for families and individuals—whoever decides to follow Christ,” he said.
The Independence Visitors’ Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week, free of charge.