The Miracle of the Nauvoo Temple You’ve Probably Never Heard Before

nauvoo temple

The Nauvoo Temple was the first in which ordinances such as eternal marriage and baptism for the dead were performed. This temple, which was such an integral part of the Lord’s work, was not completed before Joseph Smith died a martyr.

Construction of the Nauvoo Temple began in the spring of 1841 on a hilltop overlooking the Mississippi River. The Saints eagerly labored to receive the blessings promised by the Lord. In the baptismal font, dedicated nine months later, the Saints performed proxy baptisms in behalf of the dead.

nauvoo temple

Work on the temple continued at great sacrifice after the death of Joseph Smith, and portions of the temple were dedicated as they were completed. Between December 1845 and February 1846, nearly 6,000 Latter-day Saints received their endowments in this house of the Lord before moving west. The temple was dedicated in the spring of 1846.

After the Saints left Illinois, the temple was destroyed by fire and a tornado. The Church reacquired the temple lot in 1937 and President Hinckley surprised the worldwide satellite-broadcast audience on April 4, 1999 by making the following statement in the closing session of general conference:

“I feel impressed to announce that among all of the temples we are constructing, we plan to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. A member of the Church and his family have provided a very substantial contribution to make this possible. We are grateful to him. It will be a while before it happens, but the architects have begun their work. … The new building will stand as a memorial to those who built the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi.”1

While much is known about the original Nauvoo temple and its rebuilding, much is not known about the miracles that transpired in order for the temple to be a precise replicate of the original exterior.

The miracle is recounted in this video below:

At the 2 October 1999 general conference, President Hinckley announced that the groundbreaking would be held later in the month. At the 24 October 1999 ceremony, he said:

“This is a solemn and sacred occasion for each of us as we gather here to begin the reconstruction of this sacred house of the Lord. …

“I look back on what I said last April—it was almost an afterthought at the close of conference when I announced that we would rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. And I have never seen anything that has elicited more excitement than this announcement. …

“My father was mission president here in 1939, in Chicago, when that mission included Nauvoo, and they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Nauvoo. As mission president he wrote to the President of the Church and suggested a rebuilding of this temple. And they replied in the negative … and he was disappointed. The Church did not have a lot of money then; all of this country was just coming out of the Depression. But I am counting it something of a strange and wonderful coincidence that I have had a part in the determination to rebuild this temple. …

nauvoo temple

“… This will be the house of the Lord. It will be dedicated as His holy house. It will be reserved and set aside for the accomplishment of His divine and eternal purposes. It will occupy a special place in the belief and the testimony and the conviction of this people. It will have great historic significance. It will be a thing of beauty and, I hope, a joy forever. …

“The exterior will look just as it did in 1846, except for a few little changes. … The interior will be somewhat different. The font will be downstairs in the basement. … The first floor will be an assembly hall as it was in the original building. The second floor of the original building was also an assembly hall. There were mezzanine floors and an attic, and the ordinance work took place upstairs. We will build one assembly floor inside, and the ordinance rooms will be on the second floor. … When it is all completed we will have a public showing, and we hope that all the people of Nauvoo will come and look it over carefully and thoroughly. We have nothing to hide in these temples, but once they are dedicated then they become sacred unto the Lord and we so regard them and try to take care of them.”

On 5 November 2000 President Hinckley returned to Nauvoo to conduct the cornerstone ceremony and made the following remarks:

“Now we have had cornerstone services for many temples, but [for] this one we are reverting to the past. …

“My wife was still asleep when I left this morning, and I left a note for her that said: ‘Have gone to Nauvoo. Will be back at 4:30 this afternoon.’ Now that is a miracle. That is an absolute miracle that we have come here, we are here, and we will be back home at 4:30 this afternoon.

If I had said to Brigham Young, ‘Brigham, I am going home this afternoon. It will take me two hours and ten minutes,’ he would say, ‘You are out of your head,’ because he never could have imagined, never could have dreamed that we would fly through the sky at 45,000 feet and 550 miles an hour in coming to this place, which they left in such sorrow and regret and misery long ago. …

“… When buildings were built as this building was first built, they dug a trench around what would become the foundation of the building. Then they laid a huge cornerstone at the southeast corner and had some dedicatory services, including a short speech and a prayer. …

The first corner [will be] presided over by the First Presidency of the Church. Then [we will go] to the southwest corner, where the Aaronic Priesthood [will] participate, and we have with us today the Presiding Bishop of the Church, Bishop David Burton, and we will also have the bishop of the ward here and a deacon and a priest who will participate in that service.

“Then we move around to the northwest corner, where we will have the stake presidents and the elders quorum presidents—these local brethren will participate there. And we should have included the patriarchs.

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple
The Nauvoo Illinois Temple

“Then we will move to the northeast corner, where President [Boyd K.] Packer, representing the Council of the Twelve Apostles, will place that cornerstone. Then we will come back to this place of beginning for a brief service. …

“Now, to me it is wonderfully significant what we do. Why the southeast corner? Brigham Young explained that this is where they first see the light of day. As the sun rises in the east, it is here that they first see the light. And that is the reason for placing the southeast cornerstone first. And in the construction of temples, the Melchizedek Priesthood is on the east side, and the Aaronic Priesthood is on the west side; and that is why the Aaronic Priesthood participates in the laying of the cornerstone on the southwest corner. …

“Now, my brethren and sisters, I invite you to join in the practice which was followed 150 years ago of uniting in a brief prayer at this cornerstone, and this will be the case at each cornerstone. …

“… I want to read to you Paul’s great words. … They are tremendously significant, my brothers and sisters. And they pertain to the cornerstone of the temple. Said he:

“‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

“‘And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

“‘In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord’ (Eph. 2:19–21).

“I would hope that every time you pass that cornerstone you will think of Him whom it represents, Him whom it symbolizes—the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of this work, and upon that foundation rests the structure of apostles and prophets, the priesthood of God with all of the authorities inherent therein. And the building of the temple on top of that all fitly framed together. …

“God bless us as we think of this project and go forward with it that we shall have ever in mind the purpose for which it is being constructed.”

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The Nauvoo Temple was the first in which ordinances such as eternal marriage and baptism for the dead were performed. This temple, which was...
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