Nauvoo moment: Regaining the ground

The presence today of the reconstructed Nauvoo Illinois Temple on the original lot stems in large measure from the foresight of Wilford C. Wood of Bountiful, Utah, who, on Feb. 20, 1937, negotiated the purchase of the property in behalf of the Church. Brother Wood, who died in 1968, devoted much of his life to acquiring and preserving Church historic sites and artifacts.

By 1937, the temple lot had come into the possession of the State Bank of Nauvoo as part of an estate settlement and had been offered for sale at public auction a number of times, but was always retained by the bank.

Now, Brother Wood learned the lot would be up for sale again. Consulting with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, he obtained their authorization to offer up to $1,000 for the property, a reasonable amount in that Depression era. But bank officers indicated they would start the bidding at that amount.

The day before the sale, Brother Wood met with three representatives at the bank in a room with a window overlooking the temple lot itself. In his journal, he recorded the following account of the incident:

"I pleaded for the price to be within reason so I could buy the property. . . . They had previously said they could not see how they could sell for less than $1,000 to $1,500, and it seemed as though no agreement could be made as I was limited to the price I could pay. An impression came to me, and I said: 'Are you going to try to make us pay an exorbitant price for the blood of a martyred Prophet, when you know this property rightfully belongs to the Mormon people?' I felt the spirit of the Prophet Joseph Smith in that room. Mr. Anton [one of the officers] said, 'We will sell the lot for $900.' I grasped his hand, then the hand of the cashier of the bank, and the agreement was made and signed. We parted the best of friends."

Source: Improvement Era, April 1937, pp. 226-227