For Robert Dewey, one of the most memorable aspects of helping with the design of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple was observing how the Lord quietly provided bits of critical information from unexpected sources.
"It looks like the temple the Prophet Joseph would have known," said Brother Dewey, now a retired architect in the Church's Temple Construction Department. "Bit by bit, the Lord provided one thing after another."
The day after President Gordon B. Hinckley announced construction of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple in the April 1999 general conference, Brother Dewey began scouring historical documents for design and construction details but found that much was missing. Details were often sketchy and, after 150 years, he feared the trail of discovery had grown cold.
Destroyed by arson and a tornado, the Nauvoo Temple was reduced to rubble shortly after the Saints migrated west in 1846. Over the next years, stones were hauled away to construct other buildings in the area, such as a post office across the Mississippi River, that left researchers with little physical evidence of the temple.
After plans were announced to rebuild the temple, Brother Dewey said, members soon supplied journals "that described an uncle who did this or that. I began gathering information a little here, a little there. A returned missionary with a fascination for the temple brought some out-of-print books with needed information. Many people brought artifacts. My job became one of directing this traffic of information."
One of the most significant discoveries was a rare daguerreotype believed taken by Louis Rice Chaffin, probably in 1847, who joined the Church during the Nauvoo era. The image provided researchers with a visual depiction of each stone.
This daguerreotype remained hidden for more than 150 years until Scott R. Christensen in the Church Historical Department recognized it two years ago in a museum display in southern Utah.
Blackened over the years, the daguerreotype was borrowed by the Church and cleaned, revealing a fascinating view of the temple.
"In hindsight," said Steve Goodwin, project architect for the architectural firm of FFKR, "I see pieces coming together Providentially."
Brother Goodwin's challenge was to find the design of the eastern side of the temple. "The western side facing the river is well known, but the eastern side is not," he said. After piecing together comments made by William Player, the chief mason on the original temple, as recorded in a history written by William Clayton, he learned that venetian windows were used. With this information, he was able to add the drawings from the original architect, William Weeks, and recreate the eastern side with the proper pitch of the roof.
"We've since found drawings that authenticate our design," he said.
For Ron Prince, serving as Nauvoo Temple project administrator for the Church, the miracle of the temple is seen in the number of volunteers who forsook the routines and conveniences of their lives to work on rebuilding the temple.
"About 140 people came from around the world to work at least one week or more on the temple," Brother Prince said. Volunteers were skilled in the construction trades and were willing to work six days a week. A site survey crew from Mesa, Ariz., donated its time, labor and housing expenses to survey the extensive site.
Brother Prince was impressed by how intrigued the community of approximately 1,100 residents of Nauvoo has been in the construction of the temple.
"We built an observation deck where approximately 65,000 people stood to watch construction." Most visits were made by residents from the Nauvoo area; the high number of visits indicates numerous people returned many times.
Upon completion and the dedicaton of the temple, Brother Prince plans to settle back to read the journal of his ancestor, Josiah Stout, who helped build the temple originally.
For Tiffany McIntyre, a returned missionary who served in Russia and who now coordinates the construction schedule, the miracle of the temple can be seen already in the lives of many construction workers.
Every morning she met at 6:45 with workers and volunteers in a devotional. "People became emotional and spoke about how the project changed their lives," she said. "Some workers were baptized, others returned to activity. One worker told how most construction sites have dog-eat-dog environments. But at the temple, they were friends. We not only worked together but met each other in Church on Sunday on a spiritual basis. This added to our sense of dedication," she said.
E-mail: [email protected]