Temple Lot Case - Trial

Trial

On August 6, 1891 the RLDS Church filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri claiming equitable title to the Temple Lot, which was under the control by the Temple Lot church. After Joseph Smith's death, the Latter Day Saint movement had splintered into a number of separate churches; Smith's son Joseph Smith III was the president of the RLDS Church and claimed that the RLDS Church was the rightful successor to the original Latter Day Saint church. The Temple Lot church originally claimed the property on the basis of legal title, but later in the case also argued that it was entitled to the land as the rightful successor of the original church. The Utah-based LDS Church also participated in the case, providing funds and legal advice to the Hedrickites.

Perhaps to bolster their legal claim to the property, a Hedrickite conference announced Sunday, April 9, 1893 that construction of a long-awaited Latter-day Saint Temple would begin on the disputed property. Evidently on advice of their attorney, however, the strategy was abandoned, and soon forgotten in the confusion of rumors. The Chicago Tribune reported:

MORMONS TO BUILD AT INDEPENDENCE.
A Temple Will Be Erected on a Site Selected by the Angels Years Ago.

Kansas City, MO., April 9 . In Independence, Mo., are two strong branches of the Mormon Church -- "the reorganized church," or followers of young Joseph Smith, and the "Hedrickites," or those who followed William Hedrick at the time Brigham Young took up the reins of government. The former faction is the stronger in numbers in this county, having 700 members in Independence. They fight the Brigham Young crowd on every hand. The "Hedrickites" on the contrary apparently favor the Utah faction and consequently are always fighting the Reorganized church. In the City of Independence a beautiful lot, over a block of the best ground, high up was selected years ago by angels, so they say, and Joseph Smith was told in a revelation in 1833 that the design of heaven was that the church come to Independence, get this particular lot, and make it their Zion. History tells how they went there even before the death of their prophet and how they left post haste shortly after with the mob close behind. This lot was taken possession of at that time and still remains unoccupied save by the meeting house of the Hedrick faction, who are holding it as the representatives of the true Mormon Church. Today it was decided by the trustees that a costly temple would be built there. The Utah Mormons are behind the move.

After days of hearings which commenced February 7, 1894, the trial court ruled in March 1894 that the RLDS Church was the rightful successor to the original Latter Day Saint church, and that as such it was entitled to ownership of the property. The court also held that the doctrine of laches did not apply since the Latter Day Saints had been driven out of Missouri and were therefore unable to assert their rights to the property.

Read more about this topic:  Temple Lot Case

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