NAUVOO, ILL. As the Latter-day Saints of 1846 departed their beloved "city beautiful," the gleaming exterior of the temple was the last image they saw. Now, a new temple, identical in exterior design, is the first image of consequence to greet the traveler entering Nauvoo.
The world got its first glimpse of the temple interior May 1 with a news media tour followed by a series of tours for community leaders and neighbors lasting through Saturday, May 4. The public open house, expected to draw some 350,000 reserved-ticket holders, begins Monday, May 6.
Just like in the 1840s, the temple brings a commanding presence to this agrarian town of about 1,100 people. Its splendor typically evokes a gasp from travelers approaching from Keokuk, Iowa, and rounding the bend onto Muholland Street, or coming from Quincy to the east.
The temple is prominent from virtually every place in town, especially on the "flat" near the Mississippi River banks, where the Church has been restoring historic homes and shops for much of the past half century.
The temple is particularly impressive when viewed from near the end of Parley Street, where the early Church members made their exodus across the river, or from Montrose, Iowa, on the other side, where they made their landing and headed their wagons westward.
For Latter-day Saints and missionaries living and serving in Nauvoo the completion of the temple is a time for deep reverence as well as joy.
"As you walk around here, you feel their [the early Church members'] presence, and you feel like they're saying, 'Are you taking care of the things we started?' " reflected Donna Hansen, a missionary serving as a tour guide at the historic John Taylor home.
And missionary guides at the Wilford Woodruff home are apt to cite this passage from his journal: "I left Nauvoo for the last time, perhaps in this life. I looked upon the temple and City of Nauvoo as I retired from it and felt to ask the Lord to preserve it as a monument of the sacrifice of His Saints."
The original temple was desecrated, destroyed by arson and eventually toppled by a tornado. But perhaps Elder Woodruff's prayer has been answered in the faithful exterior reconstruction of today's temple.
The news media tour attracted some 120 reporters and photographers representing an estimated 70 outlets from St. Louis Mo.; Chicago and Quincy, Ill.; Davenport and Burlington, Iowa; and elsewhere, said Marilyn Snow of Church public affairs in Nauvoo.
Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy, president of the North America Central Area, conducted the media briefing, assisted by his counselors, Elders Bruce C. Hafen and Dennis E. Simons of the Seventy.
"There has been an outpouring of contributions of people worldwide to build this temple," Elder Staheli noted. "That is highly unusual. They contribute to other temples but not to the degree that has taken place here. . . . To some it was a tribute to their ancestors who were here with the original temple. To others it's their dream of coming here sometime to participate in what they feel to be a very sacred and special place."
Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the Family and Church History Department, noted that it was 156 years ago to the day that the original Nauvoo Temple was dedicated in a public ceremony.
"By then, many of those who had sacrificed and labored for the completion of the temple were on their way west, destined for the valley of the Great Salt Lake, where they would build another city and another temple. The two temples, this one in Nauvoo and the one built in Salt Lake, are the beginning and ending points of the Mormon Trail and stand as monuments to those sturdy pioneers who sacrificed greatly for their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, the center of our faith."
Reporters' questions dealt with subjects such as availability of open house tickets, eligibility to worship in the temple, and the impact the temple would have on the future of Nauvoo.
Pertaining to tourism, R. J. Snow, director of the Church's Nauvoo Restoration Inc., predicted an increase from the current 250,000 visitors a year to between 350,000 and 400,000. He said the city's current superstructure is sufficient to handle the increase.
Responding to a tourism question, Mayor Tom Wilson of Nauvoo said: "That's what we do here; we market tourism."
Open house visitors, before entering the temple, view a newly produced motion picture about temple work that features scenes from the new temple. Liz Howell, widow of Brady Howell, one of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is shown giving her witness of the importance of the doctrine of eternal family togetherness that is the focus of temple worship.
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