Use of the Nauvoo Temple was brief but significant

The last few months that the Saints were in Nauvoo were troubled times at best. Yet during this time, significant things were accomplished in the Nauvoo Temple.

The martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844, inflicted great sadness on the Saints but did not slow the effort to complete the temple. On Aug. 6, 1844, the members voted to sustain Brigham Young and the Council of the Twelve as leaders of the Church. Under that leadership, despite increasing mob attacks and at great sacrifice and danger, the Saints completed portions of the Nauvoo Temple and began receiving their endowments.In his book, The Holy Temple, Elder Boyd K. Packer noted: "Those who joined the unholy power to prevent temple work seemed to win. Time after time they had their way. . . . In Nauvoo the temple was hardly completed when it was taken and defiled in the most offensive way by the mobs. But not before the Saints, in great numbers, had received their endowments. . . .

"The Saints knew that they might not retain the temple. Even though they knew that, they gave of their means - not just of the surpluses - for the construction of the Nauvoo Temple. When it was ready for ordinance work, they labored around the clock to give and to receive the blessings of the temple.

"Brigham Young reported that because of the pressures of persecution, it was felt necessary to close off the work. The Brethren had been working, performing endowments for endless hours with great fatigue. The Saints understood something of the significance of the temple. They stood by pleading with the Brethren not to stop. . . . On Feb. 3, 1846, Brigham Young recorded:

" `Notwithstanding that I had announced that we would not attend to the administration of the ordinances, the House of the Lord was thronged all day, the anxiety being so great to receive, as if the brethren would have us stay here and continue the endowments until our way would be hedged up, and our enemies would intercept us. But I informed the brethren that this was not wise, and that we should build more temples and have further opportunities to receive the blessings of the Lord, as soon as the Saints were prepared to receive them. . . . I also informed the brethren that I was going to get my wagons started and be off. I walked some distance from the Temple supposing the crowd would disperse, but on returning I found the house filled to overflowing.

" `Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued at work diligently in the House of the Lord.

" `Two hundred and ninety-five persons received ordinances.' " [HC, 7:579.T (House of the Lord, pp. 175-76.)

Then, 19 months after the martyrdom, the first Saints crossed the frozen Mississippi River to find refuge on the frigid western prairie and prepare for their trek to the Rocky Mountains.

Within a few months the temple was in the hands of the mob. Knowing the importance of the temple to the Saints, the mob quickly defiled it. They wanted to weaken the strongest link between the former inhabitants and their city. The temple was burned by an arsonist in 1848.

Brigham Young later commented: "We completed the the temple, used it a short time, and were done with it. On the 5th and 6th of February 1846, we committed the building into the hands of the Lord, and left it; and when we heard that it was burned, we were glad of it." (Deseret News, Vol. 2, March 13, 1861.)


Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by Julie A. Dockstader, Greg Hill and John L. Hart.

Sources: The Holy Temple by Elder Boyd K. Packer; Temples of the Most High by N. B. Lundwall; Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants by Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell; and the April 1991 general conference report.

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