NAUVOO, Ill. On a day of collective triumph and personal satisfaction, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared on the steps of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple that the Church has "barely scratched the surface" of the great things to come.
The comment came during a 45-minute news conference following the temple's coverstone ceremony on the day of dedication June 27. A crowd of on-lookers assembled to hear the 92-year-old Church leader answer questions put to him by reporters largely from the local area and from Utah, occasionally applauding the answers he gave.
"Yes, we'll go forward," he said. "The Church is going to continue to grow. I think we've barely scratched the surface. The great opportunities really are ahead of us. . . . I have great confidence the Lord, overseeing this work, will see to its growth."
He said he marvels at the stature of the Church today, "the breadth of it encompassing the world. It's significant when you think of our people who left here, a small group largely in poverty. . . . When you fly over these great farms of Illinois and Iowa and see this tremendous soil, deep and rich and fruitful, how dreary the valley of the Great Salt Lake must have looked when they arrived there in July."
But the future never looked better than it does today, he said. "This is the greatest season in the history of the Church, and it will only get better."
Regarding his personal Nauvoo legacy, the Church president acknowledged his grandfather was a "robust" young man of 18 or 19 in Nauvoo who probably worked on the temple. He noted that people were tithed three times for the temple: on their assets, income and time.
His grandfather married and went west with the saints, but his wife died in Nebraska en route, as did his brother-in-law, both on the same day.
"He buried them in that unknown place and carried a 3-month-old daughter to the Great Salt Lake Valley."
His father, Bryant S. Hinckley, was a mission president over an area that included Nauvoo, beginning in 1939, and had dreams of seeing the Nauvoo Temple rebuilt. The First Presidency was interested, but not all of the needed property could be acquired. It was left to his son, 50 years later, to fulfill the dream.
President Hinckley said he is confident this is "a better building than could have been built 50 years ago," in his father's day. "I'm grateful for that and very proud that we have it and that it is the wonderful and artistic and strong and lovely structure that it is."
It was "an emotional experience" some weeks ago, the Church president said of a visit to Nauvoo, to see the completed building standing here, "this magnificent building. . . ."
"The stone work, the wood work, everything in this building all speak of love and dedication and respect and honor."
He said as he "stood up there and looked out across Nauvoo and across the river into Iowa, I could see the wagons moving down there in 1846, the winter, crossing the ice a little after the initial movement. Of course it was an emotional experience. And it stands here now as a memorial to those who gave so much in that which they did when they were here 156 years ago.
President Hinckley said he chose the dedication date of June 27, "that we'd have the dedicatory service at the same hour of the day when Joseph and Hyrum were murdered in Carthage and we would dedicate this rebuilt structure as a memorial to them."
The temple faces west toward the Mississippi River "because Joseph planned it that way," President Hinckley said. "And I think he planned it that way because of the view. I think that magnificent view down across Nauvoo and the river and over into Iowa just can't be duplicated."
Noting that the Salt Lake Temple faces east, he said, "I see these two great structures facing each other across a major part of the continent and bonded together in a common purpose for the good and blessing of the work of the Lord."
President Hinckley said generous people contributed to the construction, and it was a "goodly number," including children and some of the workers who gave their labor as a donation. But it took considerable funding from the general resources of the Church, he noted.
"This represents a great gift of love on the part of many people. And every tithe payer in the world has contributed to the construction of this temple."
Asked what message he hopes people will draw from the temple open house and dedication, the Church president said: "I hope they will go with this impression: that here is a people who believe in the immortality of the human soul. Everything that will occur in this temple henceforth will be concerned with the things of eternity. Everything that takes place here, the baptismal work, the ordinance work, will all point in the direction of the conviction of our people that God has spoken, that the heavens have been parted, that the Father and the Son appeared to the Prophet Joseph and declared a system under which we believe in the eternity of the human soul, that life goes on, that this is not the end, but that we believe that our lives will continue and that as the blessings of eternity are available to us they must also be available to others who wish to accept them."
Asked if he thought Joseph Smith would be pleased with what has transpired, President Hinckley said: "I intend to say in the dedicatory services that there will be with us today an unseen audience, and that Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be in that audience and many others who gave their life and their time and their energies to the construction of that temple."
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