NAUVOO, Ill. — Mapmakers likely use the tiniest spots from their dot supply to identify Nauvoo on an Illinois state map. The riverside city's main street boasts little more than a few mom-and-pop stores, a gas station or two and a few shops selling LDS-themed books and souvenirs.
Still, for a few hours in late June, Nauvoo snagged the attention of hundreds of thousands of Church members around the globe. Families from Haiti, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Thailand, Chile, the British Isles and dozens of other nations gathered in their respective meetinghouses to view broadcasts of dedicatory sessions of the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple. Members from myriad cultures and backgrounds became a single congregation marking the temple's return to the historic City of Joseph.
"For members of the Church the world over, this is a time of remembering and rejoicing, knowing that the sacrifices of these early Latter-day Saints were not in vain," said Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area.
Live or rebroadcast sessions of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple were reportedly transmitted, via satellite, to some 2,300 locations in 72 countries — far exceeding the reach of any previous satellite broadcast by the Church. The dedication was also translated into 38 languages.
Nauvoo "became a world focus," said Dave Watson of Church Public Affairs. "[The dedication] was the first time members of the Church in many parts of the world had seen anything from a Church broadcast."
Members in areas of Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Armenia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia watched their first-ever Church satellite transmission. Devoted men and women who will likely never see the rebuilt temple in person say they will forever feel a connection to Nauvoo.
Nearly 6,000 members in the Europe East Area were reported as among those watching a Church broadcast for the first time. A woman in St. Petersburg, Russia, said many of her fellow members wept when they saw the president of the Church on the large television screen.
"There was such a strong spirit in the room. Many members asked if it was too late to donate to the cost of building the temple," she said.
"It was a very spiritual experience watching by satellite in our stake center," wrote Simon Albert Mendez of the Las Delicias Ward, Maracay Venezuela Stake. "My wife and I were transported back to the [19th] century."
Kuen Tony Ling of Hong Kong said he and his family used family home evening to learn the history of Nauvoo and prepare themselves to participate in the temple dedication.
"The Holy Spirit [felt] while attending the meeting edified all of our family members," Brother Ling said. "Teardrops fell down from our eyes when President Gordon B. Hinckley reminded us of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, the most tragic event in the Church's early history. Our eyes were also lifted up to the great work of Joseph Smith when our living prophet said that we have not seen the end of Joseph Smith's marvelous work."
Church members in Tonga requested every dedicatory session. Only one site on the island was broadcasting the ceremonies, so hundreds filed into each of the three transmissions there.
Rodolfo Acevedo, a bishop from a ward in Santiago, Chile, said he conducted interviews for many of his ward members intent on participating in the temple dedication.
"The members know the history of the Church and the significance of Nauvoo," Bishop Acevedo said, adding the spirit of the Church's newest temple will strengthen the members in far away Chile.
Liana Lee of the Pokfulam Ward, Hong Kong Island Stake, participated in a local presentation about the Nauvoo Temple prior to the dedication. She and her family attended a dedication broadcast, bringing with them a white handkerchief they had taken to the dedication of the Hong Kong Temple in 1996.
"When we were sitting inside the Kom Tong Chapel, I had the feeling that I was in the House of the Lord," Sister Lee said of participating in the Nauvoo Temple dedication via satellite broadcast. "When I was listening to the talks and testimonies of our prophet and others I knew there was nothing more important and more valuable to me than the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Nicolas Yopan Diaz, a longtime member in the Ilha Ward, Florianopolis Brazil Stake, said, "There are no adequate words to describe the experience; it was so sublime. It was an individual feeling, one very difficult to share, for it is not easy to speak of the prophet who was in the presence of our God in the temple and described it in a plain and vital way. This reflected in the hearts of all of us."