Sunstone is unveiled at temple site

One of what is believed to be three remaining sunstones - a unique architectural feature of the Nauvoo Temple - was unveiled during a program at the temple site Sunday, June 26.

Speaking at the program were President Howard W. Hunter; President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve; and Illinois state Sen. Laura Kent Donahue.The program was conducted by Elder James M. Paramore of the Seventy, president of the North America Central Area. His counselors in the area presidency, Elders William R. Bradford and Hartman Rector Jr., also of the Seventy, gave the invocation and benediction.

A choir made up of members of the Nauvoo Illinois Stake and Illinois Peoria Mission, conducted by Maughan W. McMurdie and accompanied by Martine H. Putnam, sang three hymns.

President Hunter began his talk by referring to his recent call to be president of the Church, on which occasion he expressed "a deep desire to have more and more Church members become temple worthy."

"As in Joseph's day," he said, "having worthy and endowed members is the key to building the Kingdom in all the world. Temple worthiness ensures that our lives are in harmony with the will of the Lord, and we are attuned to receive His guidance in our lives.

"So, being on the temple site today mingles memories and brings anticipations. The responsibility I feel for the work the Prophet Joseph inaugurated fills me with a determination to do all I can in the time and season allotted me. Surely Joseph was faithful and true to his time and season!"

President Hunter then mentioned the LDS hymn "Praise to the Man," which refers to the Prophet Joseph. "There are so many praiseworthy things about him," said President Hunter. He enumerated five.

"We praise him for his capacity to commune not only with Jehovah, but also with other personages of heaven. So many visited, gave keys and tutored that `choice seer' raised up in the latter days.

" . . . We praise Joseph Smith, too, for his diligence and capacity to translate and to receive hundreds of pages of revealed scriptures. He was the revealing conduit. Through him, it has been estimated, more marvelous pages of scripture passed than through any other human in history."

"We praise Joseph not only for his capacity to endure, but to `endure well,' " President Hunter continued.

"We praise Joseph for the capacity to endure persecution, including the long and severe deprivation in Liberty Jail. To so many everything then seemed hopeless. Yet the Lord of Heaven reassured imprisoned Joseph that `the ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name.' We live in a day where there is increasing inquiry about Joseph Smith and the restored gospel.

" . . . We praise Joseph for enduring bitter and repeated betrayals and disappointments. Thus he went to Carthage `like a lamb to the slaughter.' . . . He did not go to Carthage bitterly. He did not go to Carthage complainingly. What a marvelous capacity to endure well."

President Hunter declared, "Today, we gather in Nauvoo the City of Joseph, but we yearn for the day when we shall meet with Joseph in the Heavenly City and associate with him there. (Heb. 11:10, 16; D&C 76:66.)"

President Hinckley traced the history of the Nauvoo Temple. "This building was to be concerned with the things of eternity," he said. "It was to stand as a witness to all who should look upon it that those who built it had a compelling faith and a certain knowledge that the grave is not the end, but that the soul is immortal and goes on growing."

President Hinckley noted that the temple was finished and dedicated even though the members who built it were in the process of vacating Nauvoo.

"They knew they would have to leave if they were to find peace. And they knew they would have to abandon this sacred house of the Lord. Nevertheless, they were determined to complete it and then leave it in the hands of the Lord."

He described the architecture of the temple, including the engravings of the sun, moon and stars, which he said were undoubtedly inspired by Paul's writing in 1 Cor. 15:40-42, in which the kingdoms, or gradations of celestial glory, were compared to the sun, moon and stars.

"There were 30 of these sunstones on the walls of the temple," he noted. "Only three are left - this one, one in the Smithsonian Institution and one, I understand, is in possession of the Reorganized Church."

Elder Ballard spoke of the legacy of Hyrum Smith, his great-great-grandfather, and said, "There is much in this noble man's character that is worthy of emulation."

Among the ways Elder Ballard said he would like to follow the pattern of his ancestor were his loyalty to his family and friends.

He quoted President Joseph Fielding Smith as saying, "It seems almost, from the tender solicitude Hyrum displayed for Joseph, that he felt in some way that there had been placed upon him a guardianship for his younger brother." (Life of Joseph F. Smith, p. 39.)

Also worthy of emulation, Elder Ballard said, were Hyrum's visionary leadership and his powerful example in the way his faith was reflected in his behavior.

"Hyrum was absolutely true to his convictions. One could clearly see what he believed in was the way he chose to live his life," said Elder Ballard.

"He was the first to extend a hand of friendship to a visitor, the first to attempt to moderate a dispute, the first to forgive an enemy."

Sen. Donahue said the sunstone represents a significant part of the state's past.

"We are rich in our history, and it is important that we preserve that history for generations to come," she said.

Describing the artifact, Sen. Donahue said: "Carved in a light gray limestone and quarried only a few miles from here, the sunstone is one of 30 original sunstones placed as capitals atop each of the 30 columns that were supported by the four columns of the temple. Above each of the sunstones were the starstones and at the foot of each column were the moonstones. The significance of theses stones to the builders and the creator of the temple has never been made known. However, the face of the sun rising above the horizon may have illustrated a concept expressed in the words of a very popular hymn of the 1830s which we just heard."

The hymn to which she referred was "Dedication Hymn," performed by the choir, which tells of the restoration of the gospel.

The senator said the figure of the rising sun "helped the Latter-day Saints of Nauvoo remember God's new revelation to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith."

She said the original sunstone being unveiled at the program had been under the care of the Illinois State Department of Conservation for the past four decades and was last on display in the Nauvoo State Park. The Church and the department had become concerned about the sunstone's constant exposure to the elements and susceptiblity to vandalism. In 1992, the Church was made "custodian" of the stone. She thanked the Church and the department "for working together to preserve a significant part of our heritage right here in Nauvoo."

The temple sunstone was unveiled by President Hinckley. The gray stone was renovated and sealed in a clear container for visitors to see.

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