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Historic

Sites

Joseph Smith Homestead and Mansion House

Nauvoo, Illinois

Introduction

Joseph Smith moved to the Homestead at Nauvoo, a log house on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, after escaping from Missouri in April 1839. He was reunited here with the Saints, who had found refuge near this swampy town site originally called Commerce, Illinois. Here Joseph determined to "make an attempt to build up a city," 1 and the Saints drained the swamps and settled the area. Within four years, they built one of the largest cities in Illinois, which the Prophet named Nauvoo, meaning beautiful.

The Homestead served as Church headquarters for about two years. Joseph enlarged the home in 1840. Here Joseph recorded instructions on vicarious baptism for the dead, 2 and the Lord revealed to him that the Saints should build a temple 3 in Nauvoo.

In August 1843 the Prophet and his family moved across the street to the Mansion House. Joseph and Emma hosted important visitors in the Mansion House, and it was here that the Saints viewed the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum following the martyrdom.

Joseph, Emma, Hyrum, Joseph Sr., and Lucy Smith and others are buried in the family cemetery next to the Homestead. The Homestead and Mansion House are owned by the Community of Christ, which provides guided tours of these historic sites.

Quotes

Joseph Smith Quotes

Joseph wrote this letter to the members of the Quorum of the Twelve then on a mission in England, October 19, 1840, while living at the Nauvoo Homestead: "I presume the doctrine of 'baptism for the dead' has ere this reached your ears. . . . It was certainly practiced by the ancient churches; and St. Paul endeavors to prove the doctrine of the resurrection from the same, and says, 'Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?'

" . . . The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them." (History of the Church, 4:226–31.)

Witnesses

Emmeline B. Wells, General Relief Society President, 1910–1921 

Upon arrival at Nauvoo, Emmeline B. Wells recounts: "I could see one person who towered away and above all the others around him. . . . Before I was aware of it he came to me, and when he took my hand, I was simply electrified, —thrilled through and through to the tips of my fingers. . . .

" . . . The one thought that filled my soul was, I have seen the Prophet of God, he has taken me by the hand." ("Joseph Smith, the Prophet," Young Woman's Journal, Dec. 1903, 555.)

Josiah Quincy, Mayor of Boston and Senator of Massachusetts 

Josiah Quincy visited Nauvoo shortly before his election as mayor of Boston. Of Joseph Smith he observed: "It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: "Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet." (Figures of the Past (1884), 376.)

Key Events

Revelations Received

  • D&C Section 124  — 

    Jan. 19, 1841. Once the Saints were gathered to Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph sought guidance from the Lord and received direction, among other matters, to build a temple.

  • D&C Section 125  — 

    Mar. 1841. After plans for a temple in Nauvoo were declared, the question arose whether the Saints across the Mississippi River should move to Nauvoo.

  • D&C Section 127  — 

    Sept. 1, 6, 1842. Performance of ordinances for the dead without any organization or record keeping led to the instructions relative to baptisms for the dead in these two letters from the Prophet.

Readings

Online Resources at LDS.org

Online Resources at BYU

 

Footnotes

[1] History of the Church, 3:375.

[2] Baptism by immersion performed by a living person for one who is dead. This ordinance is performed in temples (Gospel Principles, 377).

[3] Literally the house of the Lord. The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples, holy buildings in which worthy Saints perform sacred ceremonies and ordinances of the gospel for themselves and for the dead. The Lord visits his temples, and they are the most holy of all places of worship. Building and using a temple properly are signs of the true Church in any dispensation, including the restored Church in our day. The Kirtland Temple was the first temple built and dedicated to the Lord in this dispensation. Since that time temples have been dedicated in many lands across the earth (Guide to the Scriptures, Temple/House of the Lord).