After almost one hundred fifty years, the Latter–day Saints have rebuilt their historic temple at Nauvoo. This exhibition celebrates this event by presenting some of the most significant nineteenth–century visual images of the temple, the city of Nauvoo, and events of the time.
In 1840 leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints acquired a piece of frontier land on a bend of the Mississippi River. They launched a construction boom to create a religious gathering place that became one of the three largest cities on the western frontier (St. Louis, Chicago, and Nauvoo). The centerpiece of the city was the House of the Lord. Because of persecution in 1846 the Latter–day Saints abandoned their temple and their beautiful city. Under the threat of mob violence, they began a thirteen–hundred–mile exodus to a new refuge in the West. The temple was subsequently destroyed but the memory of the Nauvoo Temple persisted in the hearts and minds of the Latter–day Saints.
“The sacred Nauvoo Temple was the house of the Lord, built with consecration, love, faith, and skill. May there remain ever green in our hearts and minds, and in those of all of the generations who will follow, appreciation, respect, and love for those who built here so well and with so lofty a purpose.”
“This building was to be concerned with the things of eternity. It was to stand as a witness to all who should look upon it that those who built it had a compelling faith and a certain knowledge that the grave is not the end, but that the soul is immortal and goes on growing.” —Gordon B. Hinckley,“Nauvoo’s Holy Temple,” Ensign, September 1994.
At the groundbreaking ceremonies for the rebuilding of the Nauvoo temple, on October 24, 1999, President Hinckley declared,
“A little more than 153 years ago Latter–day Saints had to abandon the temple they had recently dedicated. Soon there will grace this site a magnificent structure, a re–creation of that which existed here and served our people so briefly during that great epic [Nauvoo] period of the history of the Church. This will be the House of the Lord. . . . It will have great historic significance. It will be a thing of beauty and, I hope a joy forever."
“Groundbreaking is the beginning of a ‘happy day’”, Church News, October 10, 1999, pp. 6–7.
For over a century and a half Latter–day Saints have returned to photographically document the remaining buildings in historic Nauvoo. Among the earliest to make this trip was Elder Brigham H. Roberts, a General Authority and Church Historian. A few of his many early photographs of Nauvoo are included here.
In granting a charter for the city, the state of Illinois authorized the creation of the Nauvoo Legion. The mayor could use the Legion to enforce laws and maintain order; the governor could also call upon the Legion. Joseph Smith was elected the Legion’s first commanding officer and awarded the rank of lieutenant general. At its peak around three thousand men belonged to the Legion.
On June 27, 1844, while Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were being held in “protective custody” in the Carthage Jail a few miles from Nauvoo, a mob broke in and murdered them. This assassination set in motion a series of events that eventually resulted in the abandonment of Nauvoo by the Latter–day Saints.