Era of restoration ends in Nauvoo

Amomentous chapter in the history of Nauvoo, Ill., has closed with the completion of nearly three decades of construction and restoration in the city founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and in neighboring Carthage, the site where the prophet was martyred.

The completion coincides with a change in assignment on Oct. 1 for Elder Loren C. Dunn and his counselors in the North America Central Area presidency, who have directed the final stages as officers of Nauvoo Restoration Inc.With the release of the area presidency, all planned projects have been finished for the present, said Elder Dunn, a member of the Seventy, in an interview in Salt Lake City.

"This has been a most spiritually uplifting and rewarding experience for all of us who have been involved with this particular era of time in Nauvoo," Elder Dunn said. "This is so, especially since the restorations and other related developments have been connected with the sesquicentennial of Nauvoo."

That sesquicentennial observance last year included the renovation and dedication by President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, of the Carthage Jail complex. Other events last year were restoration of the Riser Cobbler Shop, Stoddard Tinsmith Shop and the Old Nauvoo Burial Ground, and completion of a new, two-story barn near the Browning home, which were also dedicated last fall by President Hinckley.

Since then, Elder Dunn reported, the Pendleton log cabin has been constructed as a means of showing an additional wood building, since many of the structures in Nauvoo were wood at the time the saints lived there.

"We have also completely refurbished the Lyon Drug interior," he said. "While originally the owner dealt with herbs as a means of treating disease, later on he made the establishment a general merchandise store. The refurbished Lyon Drug will show a merchandise store equipped with the kinds of items that would have been in the store at the time."

The interior has also been refurbished in the Times and Seasons building, which was probably called the Print Shop in Joseph Smith's day, Elder Dunn said.

"We have also been able to secure another printing press of that era of time that will go in the Print Shop," he said.

"We find on closer historical examination that the building that up to now has been referred to as the Print Shop was probably the Ivans Store, and we have a display of pottery and other items in there that would be similar to what was sold at the store during the Nauvoo period of the Church."

Probably the most striking accomplishment in the past year, according to Elder Dunn, is the remodeling of the Nauvoo Visitors Center interior, completed this past summer.

One wing of the center tells where the saints came from and recounts the story of the Restoration.

"The center wing is devoted to what the saints did while they were in Nauvoo - everything from the social, economic, religious and government life to the construction of the temple and what it meant to the Latter-day Saints," Elder Dunn explained.

The remaining wing is devoted to telling where the Latter-day Saints went when they left Nauvoo and what happened to the city in the years since.

"The centerpiece of the visitors center exhibit is a 15-by-15-foot model of Nauvoo in 1846," Elder Dunn remarked. "It is authentically done with the help of the people at the Museum of Church History and Art."

In fact, Nauvoo Restoration Inc. assembled a team consisting of Jay Blair from the Exhibits Division of the Missionary Department, and Glen Leonard, Don Enders and James L. Kimball Jr. from the Church Historical Department to do the visitors center interior and some other related work, Elder Dunn said.

At the rear of the center is a Christus statue silhouetted against the window that overlooks the Monument to Women gardens.

The effectiveness of the remodeling is demonstrated in the fact that as of August of this year, the center generated 855 missionary referrals, compared to 155 in all of 1989.

"The missionary couples working at the visitors center tell us that it is easier to get referrals with the new interior exhibits," Elder Dunn said. "The exhibits are such that the visitors don't seem to feel threatened. The emphasis, of course, is to bring people in through the door of history. The history of the Church, properly told, can create great interest. And when you tell the story of Nauvoo, you tell the story of the Church."

Helping tell that story is a popular history of Nauvoo, titled Nauvoo Panorama, which will go on sale this winter at the Nauvoo and Carthage visitors center. The author of the book is Janath Cannon. In addition, a definitive history of Nauvoo is being prepared by Glen M. Leonard, director of the Museum of Church History and Art. Is is expected to be completed in the next two years.

Elder Dunn and his counselors, Elders Jacob de Jager and Lloyd George, also of the Seventy, were the officers of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. That responsibility now passes to the new area presidency, Elders H. Burke Peterson, Gene R. Cook and Ronald E. Poelman.

"We have completed the commission that has been given to us," Elder Dunn said. "For the future there will be the maintenance and ongoing operation of the historic buildings and sites in Nauvoo and Carthage, and also the operation of the farm."

That farm - a 1,000 acre operation - helps preserve the rural atmosphere that existed at the time of the saints in Nauvoo. Elder Dunn said it includes some 150 head of cattle, pasture land and crops such as corn and soybeans.

The farm is a break-even operation, he said. He added that except for a handful of paid personnel, the labor at Church sites in Nauvoo and Carthage is done by missionaries on a Church-service basis.

"It is truly a labor of love, and it helps to contribute to the spirit of Nauvoo as the people come to visit."

The restoration work has been funded with donated, non-Church money, Elder Dunn pointed out.

Bill Isom is the resident manager of Nauvoo Restoration Inc., and Elder and Sister Garth Andrus supervise the missionaries who work at the visitors center, which is under the direction of the Illinois Peoria Mission, with Fenton P. Burgess as president.

"There has been a new relationship evolve between the people in the community and those involved with Nauvoo Restoration," Elder Dunn said. "While that relationship has been building over the years through the efforts of Dr. J. Leroy Kimball, the first president of NRI, in the last three or four years, it has made some major steps forward."

Nauvoo Restoration Inc. dates back to 1962. But as early as 1937, descendants of the saints in Nauvoo began buying back their ancestors' properties. Among the descendants were Wilford Wood from Bountiful, Utah, who bought the first pieces of the temple site and several buildings on "the flat," and Dr. Kimball, a Salt Lake City physician, who bought the home built by his great-grandfather, Heber C. Kimball.

In 1962, the Church organized Nauvoo Restoration Inc., and named Dr. Kimball as its first president. Since then, the organization has acquired some 1,000 acres of land and restored or reconstructed 17 buildings.

The restoration, Elder Dunn said, helps fulfill Joseph Smith's promise to Nauvoo residents made in 1841: "Your names will be handed down to posterity as the saints of God and virtuous men [and women]."

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