Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Nauvoo temple stands as a memorial

Published: Saturday, July 6, 2002

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NAUVOO, Ill. — Dedicated to the Lord by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Nauvoo Illinois Temple stands as a memorial to Joseph Smith and early Church members who sacrificed much during the opening chapters of the history of the Restoration.

Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred
Lines of people form on temple grounds prior to a dedicatory session. Nauvoo temple has commanding view of Mississippi River.

The rebuilt Nauvoo Temple was dedicated June 27-30, with 19,958 members attending in Nauvoo. The first dedicatory session began during the hour and on the day of the 158th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum at Carthage Jail. President Hinckley addressed each of 13 dedicatory sessions and conducted 12.

The special services originated in the Assembly Room of the temple, which was built on the original Nauvoo Temple site and is as near like the original on the exterior as was possible for builders to make it. Congregations throughout the world participated in the dedicatory sessions via satellite. (See page 2. The Church News published a 24-page special issue on the temple dedication on June 29, 2002.)

Several who spoke during the dedication referred to the original temple, construction of which commenced April 6, 1841, and intimated that just as Joseph Smith had overseen its construction in order to bless the living and the dead, President Hinckley oversaw the construction of the rebuilt temple and dedicated it for the same purposes. It is the Church's 113th temple in operation.

President Hinckley spoke with much reverence and emotion about Joseph Smith and Nauvoo. In the concluding dedicatory session, he said he hoped that "when the time comes" he can meet the Prophet on the other side of the veil and "say to Brother Joseph, 'I tried to hold in remembrance your life, your ministry and your death.' "

Over and over, President Hinckley, who turned 92 on June 23, expressed happiness for being able to see the temple completed. He spoke of his grandfather, Ira N. Hinckley, who lived in Nauvoo as a young man when the original temple was being built, and of his father, Bryant S. Hinckley, who presided over the Northern States Mission during Nauvoo's centennial in 1939 and "wished with all his heart to see the temple rebuilt and worked to that end."

Still speaking of "when the time comes," President Hinckley said, "I hope I may meet my grandfather and say, 'I've walked where you walked on the streets of Nauvoo. I hope I can meet my father and say, 'I went to Nauvoo where you made such great effort to rebuild the temple and have fulfilled your dream and the dreams of thousands who lived here, who worked here.' "

"It was a herculean task," President Hinckley said of the building of the original Nauvoo Temple. "I have read the history. I have combed diaries. I have relived in my mind those days that were marked by a great moving spirit of consecration." He spoke of the tithes and labor given to construct the original temple, adding that its building was "a test of faith."

He recounted his history with Nauvoo, saying that he came here for the first time in 1935 and has returned to Nauvoo many times, including in1982 to rededicate the temple site and other structures in Nauvoo and in 1999 to break ground for rebuilding the temple.

Many wept during the dedication. President Hinckley's emotions brimmed over several times; members in the congregation often experienced such overwhelming feelings that tears became the only adequate expression of their hearts and souls. Many members, especially those who trace family roots through Nauvoo, said they felt the presence of the saints of the Nauvoo era. The veil between the mortal and immortal worlds, certainly, was very thin.

Everything seemed magnified, from the words of those who spoke to music provided by members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, divided into four choirs of 80 singers each to sing during 10 sessions, and three local choirs comprised of members from the Nauvoo Illinois Stake, Peoria Illinois and Davenport Iowa stakes, and Cedar Rapids Iowa and Iowa City Iowa stakes; the local choirs sang in three sessions. In all sessions, music filled the room and then, having nowhere else to go, filled souls.

Emotions were extremely tender when congregations joined in singing "The Spirit of God, Like a Fire Is Burning" as each session's choir sang "The Hosanna Anthem."

The entire dedication was, as President Hinckley described it, "a wonderful occasion, an emotional experience.