Latter-day Saint Temples: History of Nauvoo Temple

Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a vision of building a temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. According to Ensign, the Latter-day Saints built the Nauvoo Temple despite knowing they would soon have to leave the city. Here is a brief history of how the temple was built.

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In Doctrine and Covenants section 124, Smith recorded a revelation from God in which the Lord told him to build a temple. This revelation was recorded on January 19, 1841, and one of the reasons God gave Smith for building the temple was the importance of the work for the dead. Latter-day Saints believe that performing baptisms and other ordinances vicariously for the dead is an important part of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—so much so that it is part of the fourfold mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day. day saints.

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Smith had a vision of the temple before it was built. In a conversation with William Weeks, the temple architect, Smith Weeks shared how he should build the temple as he saw it in vision. This conversation is recorded in Smith’s history.

Sunlight reflects off the moonstones on the limestone walls of the 65,000 square foot Nauvoo Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Sunlight reflects off the moonstones, shaped like the original decorations and carved into the limestone walls of the 65,000-square-foot Nauvoo Temple by multiple artisans, each in some sense “handmade,” Wednesday, February 27, 2002, in Nauvoo, Illinois , were carved The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints announced in 1999 that the Nauvoo Temple would be rebuilt. More than 250,000 will visit the 1,200-strong community in May and June when an open house is held.

Seth Perlman, Associated Press

After giving Weeks instructions on how to build the arch and other facets of the temple, Smith said to Weeks: “I have seen in a vision illumined the radiant, magnificent appearance of this edifice, and will have it built upon the pattern which I have in mind have shown.”

As the construction of the temple was underway, redemption of the dead was a constant theme that Smith referred to in his talks.

In a discourse published in the Times and Seasons on October 3, 1841, after Smith knew he had to build the Nauvoo Temple, Smith said: “It is no longer incredible that God should do that save up the dead than he should to lift the dead.” The Nauvoo Temple was viewed as an important part of the salvation of the dead.

While the redemption of the dead was an important part of the temple’s construction, tithing and the efforts of the living Saints were an integral part of the temple’s construction itself. According to an article published by the BYU Religious Studies Center, most of the temple materials were tithe-worn paid and the members donated their time and labor to build the temple.

The article notes that members often struggled financially, yet gave whatever they had to help build the temple. Louisa Decker had recorded her mother selling fine china and an expensive quilt to raise funds for the temple’s construction.

Construction of the temple ceased in 1844 when the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred. After his martyrdom, the exterior of the temple was completed in 1845.


Pyrography in the Nauvoo Temple

The temple was not fully completed until 1846. The temple was dedicated on May 1, 1846. In prayer at the dedication of the temple, Elder Orson Hyde thanked the mercies of God, saying, “We thank you for giving us strength to accomplish the charges that are being furnished by you. You have seen our struggles and efforts to achieve this goal.”

The temple had to be abandoned when members of the Church went west, and it was destroyed just two years after its completion. The Church of Jesus Christ Temple website states: “On October 9, 1848, the Nauvoo Temple was deliberately burned and destroyed, apparently to discourage the Saints who had recently fled to the West from never returning to Nauvoo to return.”

Although the temple was lost, on April 4, 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that it would be rebuilt. According to the Ensign, President Hinckley said, “The new building will be a memorial to those who erected the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi.” The new Nauvoo Temple was modeled on the older one.


Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, poses with a replica of the Nauvoo Temple in his office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 20, 1999. Behind hangs a portrait of Brigham Young, who helped build the temple. Hinckley recalls his father’s attempt 60 years ago to persuade church leaders to rebuild the temple overlooking the Mississippi River.

Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press

According to Church News, the first temple dedication session was scheduled 158 years later, on the day and hour of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, June 27, 2002.

President Hinckley taught that the Church must never forget the death of Joseph Smith. “His death became a testimony to the truth of what he taught and what he did, to the Restoration of the gospel and all that it entails.”

The new Nauvoo Temple still stands today.

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