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Building Nauvoo Temple

Nauvoo Temple

By April 1839, Joseph was finally free of the confines of the Liberty Jail and worked with the saints to settle what would be called Nauvoo, Illinois. By August 1840, the First Presidency issued a general epistle, stating:

" is necessary to erect a house of prayer, a house of worship of our God, where the ordinances can be attended to agreeably to His divine will, in this region of country."(Smith, History of the Church, 4:186.)

In an earlier  revelation in December 1833 the Lord chastised the Saints;

"For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble."  (D&C 101: 5-7.)

Although some construction had begun on the temple in the fall of 1840, the cornerstones were not laid until 6 April 1841

In a January 1841 revelation Joseph acknowledges the faults of the Saints. There were many things that the Latter-day Saints did in Missouri that created some of the problems. Additionally Joseph makes a significant offering that the Lord accepts.  Joseph never talked about what he offered, but it must have been a sacrifice from Joseph.

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering and acknowledgments, which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth. (D&C 124:1)

In this revelation, the Lord tells the saints that they are suppose to build a temple so that the Lord could, "restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood". He gives them a limited time to build the temple and promises them that if they don't finish it on time, "ye shall be rejected as a church, with your death, saith the Lord your God."

25 And again, verily I say unto you, let all my saints come from afar.
26 And send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messengers, and say unto them: Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your precious stones, and with all your antiquities; and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box-tree, and the fir-tree, and the pine-tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth;
27 And with iron, with copper, and with brass, and with zinc, and with all your precious things of the earth; and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein.

28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead―
30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.
31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.
32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 124:25-32)

Almost two years later (Sept. 1842) the Lord again tells us about a restoration pertaining to the priesthood.

For I am about to restore many things to the earth, pertaining to the priesthood, saith the Lord of Hosts. (D&C 127:8)

At the time of Joseph's death, the Nauvoo temple wasn't finished and therefore the Lord had not visited the temple to restore “the fullness of the priesthood”. Could that also mean that they were, “rejected as a church”?

Nauvoo Temple Chronology

Building Nauvoo Temple

In the 3 1/2 years from January 1841 until the death of Joseph Smith in June of 1844, the saints did not finish the temple. Did the Lord appoint them enough time? What did they accomplish during this time?

The saints had finished many other building projects during that time. During the 3 ½ years since the revelation (D&C 124) the saints had built a Cultural Hall, a Seventies Hall (mostly, dedicated in December, 1844), a Masonic Temple; several commercial buildings such as the Post Office, Mercantile, Browning Home and Gunsmith Shop, Boot Shop, Bakery, Tin Shop & Blacksmith Shop. Wilford Woodruffs home would be finished in 1845, Granger Kimball's home was completed (where the Relief Society was organized), Brigham Young had completed his home and was adding two wings to it. The temple had been neglected, or at least not achieved the focus that would have seen it's completion.

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1 Aug 1840 -- In Nauvoo the First Presidency issued a general epistle, stating, " is necessary to erect a house of prayer, a house of worship of our God, where the ordinances can be attended to agreeably to His divine will, in this region of country."(Smith, History of the Church, 4:186.)

Fall 1840 -- Joseph Smith "advertised for plans for a temple. He [William Weeks] said several architects presented their plans, but none seemed to suit Smith. So when he went in and showed his plans, Joseph Smith grabbed him, hugged him and said, 'You are the man I want.'"(F. M. Weeks to J. Earl Arrington, in Arrington,"William Weeks,"BYU Studies, 19 [Spring 1979]: 340.)

15 Dec 1840 -- Work in the quarry continued, but progress was slow. The workers "tithe" their time, working one day in ten. (Manuscript History of the Church, 15 Dec 1840, CA.)


19 Jan 1841 -- A revelation given to Joseph Smith, in which the Lord approved the place where the Saints intended to erect the temple, for he had chosen it. (DC 124:43.) The Lord also revealed that he would grant the Saints sufficient time for its construction and that in the finished temple he would "reveal unto the Church things hid from before the foundation of the world." (D&C 124:41)

5 Apr 1841 -- By this date workmen had laid up enough stone for the basement walls to reach ground level, five-feet high, which was sufficiently complete for laying the cornerstones. (Autobiography of William Huntington, p. 12, Lee Library, BYU.)

8 Apr 1841 -- At the General Conference Joseph Smith said that working on the temple was as acceptable as preaching the gospel to the world. He called for a renewal of contributions to the Temple and proposed calling agents to gather funds for the Temple. Eight brethren were called to travel for the purpose of collecting the donations: John Murdock, Lyman Wight, William Smith, Henry Miller, Amasa Lyman, Leonard Soby, Gehiel Savage and Zenos Gurley. (Smith, History of the Church, 4:342.)

3 Oct 1841 -- Joseph Smith was called upon to speak about baptism for the dead in General Conference. At the conclusion of his remarks he announced, "There shall be no more baptism for the dead until the ordinance can be attended to in the font in the Lord's House; and the church shall not hold another conference, until they can meet in said house. For thus saith the Lord." (Times and Season, 2 [1 Oct 1841]: 578.)

“I never shall forget the words he (Joseph Smith) spoke on the first Sunday after I came to Nauvoo. The temple was built a few feet above the ground. While preaching he pointed towards it and said, 'The Lord has commanded us to build that temple. We want to build it, but we have not the means. There are people in this city who have the means, but they will not let us have them. What shall we do with such people? I say damn them!' and then he sat down." (Recollection of Elder William E. Jones)


21 Feb 1842 -- In a letter to the Saints Joseph Smith called for a more equal distribution of workers, there were often too many on some days and not enough on others, which was retarding the work. He asked that each ward to be more particular in supplying men on their appointed day and that they should bring all necessary tools. (Smith, 

8 Jun 1842 -- Work commenced in late-Spring 1842 and progress was slow until the arrival during the month of William W. Player, a master stone mason from England, who came specifically to Nauvoo to work on the Temple. On this date he began supervision of the masonry work and under his leadership the work accelerated. (Journal History, 11 Oct 1842)

11 Oct 1842 -- At the end of the 1842 working season the walls were some four feet high, up to the window sills, and all the sills were in place, as well as the large sill on the eastern Venetian window. There were also two courses of stone on the plinths. (Journal History, 11 Oct 1842; Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 19.)

23 Oct 1842 -- The Temple Committee at Joseph Smith's suggestion recommended laying a temporary floor in the temple, so that the Saints could meet in the temple instead of the grove to the west. (Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:488.)


7 Apr 1843 -- During the General Conference, held in the unfinished temple--the walls being some four to twelve feet high--controversy arose concerning the solicitation of funds for the Temple and the Nauvoo House. Some persons were collecting funds and not turning them over to the Temple Recorder. William Clayton also charged the Temple Committee with using Temple funds for personal use. Joseph Smith urged that the "trial of the [Temple] committee be deferred to another day when Clayton could present the books with his evidence. Hyrum Smith defended the Committee and the men were sustained in their labors. Joseph Smith further said, "Let this conference stop all agents in collection funds except the Twelve." (Faulring, American's Prophet Record, pp. 342-352)

12 Apr 1843 -- A further misunderstanding between the Temple Committee and William Weeks retarded progress on the temple. Joseph Smith issued a certificate to William Weeks, stating that "the Temple Committee was to carry out the Prophet's designs and the architect of the Temple in Nauvoo, and that no persons or persons were to interfere with him or his plans in the building of the Temple." (Smith. History of the Church, 5:353.)

21 Apr 1843 -- Constructed had been delayed because of the illness of William Player, who had been sick all Winter. The necessity of fixing the runways for the crane also hindered the commencement of construction. William Player began to work on this date and continued throughout the rest of the summer. (Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 20.)

16 Jul 1843 -- Two and a half years after the revelation was given, Joseph reminded the saints they needed to complete the Temple.  “He said that he could not reveal the fullness of these things until the Temple is completed.” (The Nauvoo Diaries of William Clayton, 1842-1846, Abridged Salt Lake City; Privately Published, 2010 p. 23)

9 Oct 1843 -- At the special conference the Temple Committee reported that the lack of teams and provisions was delaying the temple's construction. Alpheus Cutler called for greater exertions, saying that the walls could be completed next year. The Saints voted to "use all the means, exertions and influence in [their] power, to sustain the Temple Committee in advancing the work of the temple "(Times and Seasons, 4 [15 Sept. 1843]: 331.)


Winter 1843 -- An early winter brought an end to work on the Temple. During the 1843 construction season the walls had risen to the arches of the first tier of windows all around the building. (Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 20.)

4 Mar 1844 -- The First Presidency, the Twelve and the Temple Committee met to discuss the Temple's construction. The brethren decide to "let the Nauvoo House stand till the Temple [was] done and [they would] put all [their] forces on the Temple" They also decided to call a special conference for April 6, 1844, where they would "call in the people to fill up the [contribution] box." (Faulring. American Prophet's Record, p. 450-451.)

7 Apr 1844 -- During General Conference Hyrum Smith indicated that the Church needed 200,000 shingles for the Temple. He continued,"I thought some time ago I would get up a small subscription, so the sisters might do something." He then proposed that it would be a privilege for anyone to give a penny a week to buy nails and glass. He felt that this small subscription would bring in more than a large one and that even the poor could participate in building the Temple. He said he need $1,000. The money could be sent to him and he desired to raised the funds by the Fall. He concluded, "I want to get the windows in, in the winter, so that we may be able to dedicate the House of the Lord by this time next year, if nothing more than one room. I will call upon the brethren to do something." (Smith. History of the Church, 6:298; Times and Seasons, 5 [1 Aug 1844]: 596 ) It was at this time that the Sisters adopted Hyrum Smith's suggestion for penny subscription fund. After Hyrum Smith's death, his wife, Mary, and his sister-in-law, Mercy F. Thompson, received the donations. The Sisters were very successful in their efforts, raising over $600, but ultimately most of the money was not used for the Temple but to pay Church debts.(See entry of 5 Dec 1844.)

28 Jun 1844 -- Because of the death of Joseph Smith--Workmen suspended work on the temple to guard the temple walls. (Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 27.)

8 Jul 1844 Workmen resume working on the temple. (Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 27.)

15 Aug 1844 The Twelve informed the Church that the temple would be continued to be built according to the pattern which had been started and with all rapidity. (Smith. History of the Church, 7:250.)

26 Sep 1844 -- During the month Ira T. Miles, who had sided with Lyman Wight against the Twelve's leadership, arrived in Nauvoo. Rumors spread that he had come to burn the lumber needed for the Temple. Because of this threat to the building, the Twelve and the Temple Committee appointed four night watchmen on the temple walls. The guards were used until the Saints abandoned the building in 1846. (Smith.  7:275; Journal History, 26 Sep 1844.)


23 May 1845 -- By this date all the stone had been laid up, except the capstone. (Clayton, "Nauvoo Temple History Journal," p. 34.)

17 Jun 1845 -- In a letter to the Saints the Twelve reported that the temple walls were completed, and that the roof was nearly completed. The Twelve also indicated it wanted to follow Joseph Smith's proposal and erected a canvas tabernacle on the west side of the temple. Orson Hyde was to travel east and raise money to purchase the canvas. (Smith.< History of the Church 7:427.) The tabernacle was to be erected "in front of , and joining the Temple on the west." It was to be about 250 feet long and 125 feet wide. It was designed to seat a congregation of eight to ten thousand persons for "preaching," while the temple was to be "used for the meeting of councils and quorums, and the administrations of ordinances and blessings, and preaching to smaller congregations." (New York Messenger, 30 Aug 1845.)

14 Aug 1845 -- The last shingle was laid on the temple's roof. (Beecher, "Nauvoo Diary of Zina D. H. Jacobs," BYU Studies, 19 [Spring 1979]: 317.) The< Nauvoo Neighbor issued on this date; its publication was delayed a few hours so that it could report that the last shingles had been placed on the temple roof and that the window frames and sashes were ready to be placed. (Nauvoo Neighbor, 13 Aug 1845.)

8 Oct 1845 -- The only General Conference convened in the enclosed temple. (Smith, History of the Church, 7:457-477.) Following the conference, Sunday services were held in the temple, with some interruption for construction, until the Saints left Nauvoo.

7 Oct 1845 -- Orson Hyde arrived in Nauvoo with 4,000 feet of topsail Russian duck canvas for the tabernacle. (Smith. History of the Church, 7:483.) The tabernacle was never erected. The canvas was probably used instead for the temporary partitions in the temple attic, erected in December 1845 (Brown, "Sacred Departments," BYU Studies, 19 [Spring 1979]: 370), and ultimately for wagon covers as the Mormons left Nauvoo, beginning in February 1846. (Watson, "Nauvoo Tabernacle," BYU Studies, 19 [Spring 1979]: 241.)

9 Nov 1845 -- No Sunday service, because the first floor of the temple, which had been laid in October 1842 to protect the font in the basement during construction, had to be taken up to replace rotting timbers. (Smith. History of the History, 7:519; Bullock, "Bullock Journal," BYU Studies 31 [Winter 1991]: 31.

17 Dec 1845 -- The< Millennial Star reported Brigham Young had written in a letter that the Saints had "commenced endowments in the attic story of the Lord's House, and [were] employed therein night and day; they had, at the date of the letter [17 December 1845] given the endowment to some four hundred persons." (Millennial Star, 7 (1 Feb. 1846]: 48.)


Building Nauvoo Temple Ca. 1846 -- It was likely that during the year Thomas M. Easterly made a daguerreotype of the Temple. A copy is presently housed in the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri.

4 Jan 1846 -- Brigham Young canceled the weekly Sabbath meetings of those endowed, because the attic floor could not hold the weight of such a large congregation. (Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.4.)

3 Feb 1846 -- Last sealings of children to parents were administered. ( "Temple Ordinance Chronology," 1975 Church Almanac, pp. F5-F6.) There were 71 children sealed to their parents, and 130 persons were adopted. (Cowan, Temple Building: Ancient and Modern, p. 29.)

Individuals who had lent furniture, carpet, pictures and other furnishing to decorate the attic floor of the temple began to remove their belongings. (Journal History, 3 Feb 1846.)

7 Feb 1846 -- Last day of endowments given in the attic, as well as the last day that baptisms for the dead were administered. ("Temple Ordinance Chronology," 1975 Church Almanac, pp. F5-F6.) 5,083 persons received their endowments.(Cowan, Temple Building: Ancient and Modern, p. 29.) By this date there had been 15,626 proxy baptisms performed in the temple. (Cowan, Temple Building: Ancient and Modern, p. 29.)

7 Feb 1846 -- Last day for sealings of deceased spouses to living spouses in marriage. ( "Temple Ordinance Chronology," 1975 Church Almanac, pp. F5-F6.) There were 369 deceased spouses sealed. (Cowan, Temple Building: Ancient and Modern, p. 29.)

8 Feb 1846 -- Last sealings of living spouses were administered. ( "Temple Ordinance Chronology," 1975 Church Almanac, pp. F5-F6.) There were 2,420 couples sealed. (Cowan, Temple Building: Ancient and Modern, p. 29.)

9 Feb 1846 -- The roof caught fire at 3 A.M. from an over heated stove pipe in the attic which ignited drying cloth. The fire burned for half an hour before being put out. (Smith, History of the Church, 7:581; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.29.) The fire burned "from the railing to the ridge about 16 feet North and South and about 10 feet East and West. The shingles on the north side were broken through in many places." There was about $100 worth of damage. (Bullock, "Bullock Journal," BYU Studies, 31 [Winter 1991]: 49.)

13 Feb 1846 -- Brigham Young and William Weeks signed a certificate officially appointing Truman O. Angel to be Weeks' successor as superintendent over finishing the temple according to the plans and designs given by Weeks to Angel. (Certificate, 13 Feb 1845, CA. in Arrington, "William Weeks," BYU Studies, 19 [Spring 1979]: 353.)

17 Feb 1846 -- Workmen relaid the burnt part of the temple roof and covered it with lead. (Bullock, "Bullock Journal," BYU Studies, 31 [Winter 1991]: 52.)

22 Feb 1846 -- During a Sunday meeting of the Saints in the first floor, the floor suddenly settled, causing panic and confusion among those present. Brigham Young tried to calm the congregation, but he could not, and some persons even jumped out the windows. (Smith, History of the Church, 7:594)

15 Mar 1846 -- In the evening fourteen men, who were laboring to complete the temple, met for prayer in the attic story, where they experienced a pentacostal season. Some of the brethren spoken in tongues, other saw visions, and heavenly beings in the room. Outside the Temple Chester Loveland saw a bright light and felt that the temple was on fire, but he saw that the "flames" were not consuming the building and thus concluded it was the glory of God. Another brother also saw the light, thinking at the belfry or tower was on fire. He rushed to the temple, but when he reached he found all was quiet. (Bullock Journal, 15-16 Mar 1846, BYU Studies, 31[Winter 1991]:61-62.)

1 May 1846 -- Public dedication of the temple under the direction of Apostles Orson Hyde and Wilford Woodruff. "The Temple was dedicated in the presence of strangers and all who would pay one dollar for admittance." Orson Hyde read the dedicatory prayer. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 30 Apr 1846; Samuel Richards, Journal, 1 May 1846, BYU; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.147-148; "Nauvoo Temple," 1978 Church Almanac, p. 265.)

17 Sep 1846 -- The anti-Mormon mobs occupied Nauvoo and began the forcible removal of the remaining Mormons from the city. The Trustees gave the keys to the Temple to Henry I. Young, chairman of the Quincy Committee; he promptly opened the building to the mob, who began desecrating the Temple. The Trustees' actions were clearly done under duress. (Journal History, 17 Sep 1846.)


Cedar City Daguerreotype Ca. 1847 -- During this year Louris R. Chaffin made a daguerreotype of the Temple. A copy is presently owned by the Cedar City, Utah, chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.


6 Sep 1848 -- Lightning struck the weather vane on the cupola with little damage, but left a large scar on the building. (Arrington "Destruction of the Nauvoo Temple," p. 417.)

9 Oct 1848 -- An arsonist set fire to the Temple. The Keoukuk Register reported that "Great volumes of smoke and flames burst from the windows, and the crash of falling timbers was distinctly heard on the opposite side of the [Mississippi] river. The interior of the building was like a furnace, the walls of solid masonry were heated throughout and cracked by the intense heat. The melted zinc and lead were dropping from its high block during the day." The Nauvoo Patriot also reported: "Our citizens were awakened by the alarm of fire, which, when first discovered, was bursting out through the spire of the temple, near the small door that opened from the east side to the roof, on the main building. The fire was seen first about three o'clock in the morning, and not until it had taken such hold of the timbers and roof as to make useless any effort to extinguish it. The material of the inside were so dry, and the fire spread so rapidly, that a few minutes were sufficient to wrap this famed edifice in a sheet of flame. It was a sight too full of mournful sublimity. . . . Although the morning was tolerably dark, still, when the flames shot upwards, the spire, the streets and houses for nearly a mile distant were lighted up, so as to render even the smallest objects discernible. The glare of the vast torch, pointing skyward, indescribably contrasted with the universal gloom and darkness around it; and men looked on with faces sad as if the crumbling ruins below were consuming all their hopes." The next morning the walls were still too hot to touch. The building was gutted, only the four walls were left standing. (Harrington and Harrington, Rediscovery of the Nauvoo Temple, p. 5)

Brigham Young later said of the arson, "I hoped to see it burned before I left, but I did not. I was glad when I heard of its being destroyed by fire, and of the walls having fallen in, and said, 'Hell, you cannot now occupy it.'" (Journal of Discourses, 8:202-03, October 8, 1860)


27 May 1850 -- During 1849-1850 the Icarians had begun to repair the Temple, placing a series of new piers in the basement, planning on refurbishing the building for their use. On this day, as they were working, a tornado suddenly arose and toppled the north wall, leaving the east and south walls severely damaged. The workmen barely escaped with their lives, scrambling out of the ruins in stinging hail, pouring rain, thunder and lightening, all accompanied by violent winds. (St. Joseph Adventure, 28 Jun 1850; Harrington and Harrington, Rediscovery of the Nauvoo Temple, p. 6.)

Spring 1853 -- Frederick Piercy visited Nauvoo in the Spring of 1853 and sketched the temple ruins, which he published in his Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley. This drawing is the only known depiction of the Temple's interior structure.

Brigham says that the Nauvoo temple was never finished:
"If the congregation will give me their attention, I will detain them but a short time. Our history is too well known to render it necessary for me to enter into particulars on the subject this morning. Suffice it to say, to this congregation, that we shall attempt to build a temple to the name of our God. This has been attempted several times, but we have never yet had the privilege of completing and enjoying one. Perhaps we may in this place, but if, in the providence of God, we should not, it is all the same." (Brigham Young, J of D 1:277, Feb. 14, 1853.)

Heavenly Manifestations

Nauvoo Temple AngelEven though the temple was not yet finished, there were some heavenly events that took place in the temple.
On March 15, 1846, many Saints in the city experienced a "Day of Pentecost."  In the evening a small group of Saints gathered in the temple to partake of the sacrament. As they were overcome by the Spirit, some of the brethren spoke in tongues and others prophesied.  While one brother related a vision, a light was seen over his head.  The face of another brother shined with great brightness. Two heavenly beings were seen in the north-east corner of the room.  The Holy Ghost rested on all present. This spiritual meeting continued until midnight. Thomas Bullock said it "was the most profitable, happy, and glorious meeting I had ever attended in my life."
While this sacred meeting was taking place in the temple, Chester Loveland was called out of bed by his mother-in-law, stating with alarm that the Temple was again on fire!  He dressed "as quick as lightning" and ran outside, seeing the temple all in a blaze.  He studied it for a few seconds and realized that the flames were not consuming the temple. He also didn't see anyone else running to the rescue and concluded that it was the glory of God.  He returned to bed.
Another brother saw the belfry on fire at 9:45 p.m.  He ran as fast as he could, but when he reached the temple he found it dark and secure. At about this time, Sister Almira Lamb, with others in her room, saw a vision of her dead child.  It appeared to her in great glory and filled the room with light. Others dreamed inspired dreams that night. "It was truly a night of spiritual feast.” (Building the Temple by David R. Crockett) (Gregory R. Knight, ed., A Journal of Thomas Bullock,@ BYU Studies 31(Winter 1991): 61-2.)

Finishing the Temple

Did the saints understand the serious nature of what God required of them? Did they understand that they would be rejected if they didn't finish the temple? Orson Hyde explained:
If we moved forward and finished this house we should be received and accepted as a church with our dead, but if not we should be rejected with our dead. These things have inspired and stimulated us to action in the finishing of it which through the blessing of God we have been enabled to accomplish and prepared it for dedication. In doing this we have only been saved as it were by the skin or our teeth.(Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Edited by Scott Kenny, Signature Books, 1983, vol 3, page 43)
However, Brigham Young didn't agree that the temple had been finished.
"We build one in Nauvoo. I could pick out several before me now that were there when it was built, and know just how much was finished and what was done. It is true we left brethren there with instructions to finish it, and they got it nearly completed before it was burned; but the saints did not enjoy it." (JD 18:304)

The prophet's son Joseph Smith III lived in Nauvoo and visited the temple site many times. He testified that he knew,
from actual personal observation that the temple at Nauvoo was not finished. I know, too, that it was a matter of common talk among members of the church that changes were made in the designs, after the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith; and that those portions that were completed so as to be occupied were not in accordance with the original plans.” (Joseph Smith affidavit, Lamoni, Iowa, June 26, 1897)

The prophet Joseph's other son Alexander also testified,
“The auditorium or main meeting room was temporarily finished; the seats and pulpit were only temporary.
      The upper auditorium; the plastering was not done, the floor was only the rough boards, intended only for the lining, was laid, and this floor upwards the stars, except in the tower, or circular main stairs, were also temporary; the upper floor which was to be divided into numerous rooms was laid, and partitioned off with cotton factory cloth, and used for some purposes before the saints were driven away.
      I was told that the cloth of those partitions was subsequently used for wagon covers, by the saints on their journey across the plains.
      To my knowledge the temple never was finished and those who have been led to believe it was have been deceived. I make this statement freely for the benefit of the present and future generations.” ( Alexander H. Smith, Audubon, Minnesota, July 2, 1897)

Joseph Fielding Smith acknowledged that the temple hadn't been completely finished:
I now reaffirm what has previously been said ; that it made no difference, so far as the Church and its authority is concerned, even if the Temple had not been completed, or finished, in the technical sense of that word. Some of the embellishments, the ornamentations and fixtures, may not have been placed in the building according to the original intention, and in that technical sense the building may not have been "finished completely." But if so, what difference would it make? The Lord, thank heaven, is not as technical and peevish as men are, or woe be unto all of us. The revelation does not say that the Church would be rejected with its dead if every identical board and plank or fixture was not in the building according to the original design. The thing the revelation does require is that a place be prepared, or built, where the Lord could reveal the Priesthood and its ordinances which had been taken away or that had not been restored. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Origin of the "Reorganized" Church and Question of Succession, Deseret News, 1913, p. 47)

Orson Hyde explained:
If we moved forward and finished this house we should be received and accepted as a church with our dead, but if not we should be rejected with our dead. These things have inspired and stimulated us to action in the finishing of it which through the blessing of God we have been enabled to accomplish and prepared it for dedication. In doing this we have only been saved as it were by the skin or our teeth.(Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Edited by Scott Kenny, Signature Books, 1983, vol 3, page 43)

So the question is whether they actually were “saved as it were by the skin of our teeth” We can examine the many ways that the Nauvoo temple was not finished such as the scorched roof, rough unfinished floor, cracked walls, doors wouldn’t shut, etc. But, can we determine what the Lord thought?

How can we tell if the Lord thought the Temple was finished?

Joseph Fielding Smith gives us a criteria: "the thing the revelation does require is that a place be prepared, or built, where the Lord could reveal the Priesthood and its ordinances which had been taken away" So did such a restoration take place? All Joseph Fielding Smith needs to do, to quickly silence any critics is to show that the restoration took place and that now we have the priesthood which D&C 124:28 says in 1841 that the church DID NOT have. It tells us that, "there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood."

The saints were very concerned about being “rejected with our dead” if they didn't finish the temple. But did they succeed in avoiding the curse? We can look at the other promises that the Lord gave that would go along with the completion of the temple and by looking at them we can we should be able to tell if the temple was completed as required.

40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;
41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
42 And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.
43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.
44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.
45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.
(D&C 124:40-48)

28 - Did the Lord "restore again that which was lost"? - No

40 – Did the Lord reveal any ordinances in the Nauvoo temple? – Not in Nauvoo or at a later temple

41 – Did God reveal in temple things “hid from before the foundation of the world?” - No

44 – Were the saints moved by their enemies? - Yes

45 – Were they “moved out of their place?” - Yes

46 – Did they get the blessing? - No

47 – Did the saint do what was asked and bind the Lord to bless them? - No

48 – Did they receive cursings, wrath, indignation and judgements? - Yes

By all the measured provided in this revelation, it appears that the saints didn't fulfill their requirements, nor did the Lord fulfill the covenants that he had promised if it had been completed on time.

The only conclusion we are left with is that the Saints didn't finish the temple, they didn't get the blessings that were promised from the temple and in fact were only left with the results as outlined in verse 32 that they “shall be rejected as a church, with your dead”. A very sobering thought.

But weren't they successful in getting it dedicated?

Nauvoo Temple Dedication

Nauvoo Temple Key

1 May 1846 -- Public dedication of the temple under the direction of Apostles Orson Hyde and Wilford Woodruff. "The Temple was dedicated in the presence of strangers and all who would pay one dollar for admittance." Orson Hyde read the dedicatory prayer. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 30 Apr 1846; Samuel Richards, Journal, 1 May 1846, BYU; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.147-148; "Nauvoo Temple," 1978 Church Almanac, p. 265.)

3 May 1846 -- The third day of dedicatory services, when the "dedication of the Temple closed." (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 3 May 1846; "Nauvoo Temple," 1978 Church Almanac, p. 265.) The Hancock Eagle reporting that 5,000 persons attended on the third day, which was reserved for the Latter-Day Saints. During these services the Saints approved a resolution to sell the Temple and use the funds to help the poor in their move West. (Colvin, "Nauvoo Temple," p. 140.)

What is the purpose of a dedication? It is to set apart the building for the purpose of the Lord, it is to give it back to the Lord for his purposes and use. Did the saints attempt to do that?

As the saints were working to finish the temple after the death of Joseph Smith, why were they trying to finish? Did they expect to use the temple after it was dedicated? No, they were working for several months before to sale the temple. Even while it was being dedicated, the church passed a resolution to sell the temple. How can you dedicate a building with the goal to not use it as a temple but to sell it to the Catholics (one of the possible buyers)?

Aren't we left with the only possible conclusion that the preparations and dedication of the temple was all a sham. Didn't they know that God would know their true purposes? Didn't they understand that He would not accept a temple that wasn't truly offered as a house of the Lord?

Selling the Nauvoo Temple

Building Nauvoo Temple

While the saints were hurrying to finish the temple and get it dedicated, they were at the same time trying to sell the temple. Why would you dedicate a building only to sell it or let other people use it. In such a case, what is the purpose of the dedication?

Brigham Young dispatched his lawyer Almon W. Babbitt to the Catholics with a formal letter for them to come and visit Nauvoo. 

Towards the close of this month, the Bishop was waited on by a gentleman of the name of Babbit from Nauvoo who represented himself as the agent of the Mormons to [this] city and authorized to make sale of their property to the Catholics. The Bishop wrote to Rev. Misters Hamilton of Springfield and Tucker of Quincy to go to Nauvoo and see what arrangements could be made regarding the leasing, if not purchasing, of the Mormon Temple. (Diary of Bishop William Quarter, 26 Nov. 1845)

1 Dec 1845 -- The Twelve, the Temple Committee and the Trustees met. Agent Almon Babbitt, who had traveled to St. Louis, Cincinnati and Chicago in seeking buyers for the Temple, reported on his trip, bringing letters from the Catholic Church. Brigham Young read letters from interested Catholic bishops. Babbitt reported that the bishop of Chicago was sending agents to meet with the Twelve. (Smith. History of the Church, 7:537; Kimball, On the Potter's Wheel, p. 155.)

2 Dec 1845 -- Brigham Young received a letter from Duncan and Co, indicating that a firm in Philadelphia was interested in purchasing the Temple. A return letter was drafted saying that if the firm sent an agent the Church would gladly show him the property for sell in Nauvoo. (History of the Church, 7:537-538.)

The Warsaw Signal reported on Almon Babbit's trip to Cincinnati to met with the Catholic Church about the sale of properties in Nauvoo, including the Temple, and that he was now in Warsaw, meeting with Bishop Purcell for the same purpose. (Warsaw Signal, 3 Dec. 1845.)


7 Jan 1846 -- The Twelve received a letter from Father Tucker, saying the Catholic Church could not raise enough money to purchase the Church's property and proposed to lease only one public building, presumably the Temple, but they would not insure it against fire or mobs. The Twelve felt the offer was insulting and decided not to respond to the letter. (Kimball, Journal 1845-1846, 10 Dec 1845; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.7.)

18 Jan 1846 -- The Twelve appointed Almon Babbitt, Joseph L. Heywood, John S. Fullmer, Henry W. Miller and John M. Bernhisel Trustees-in-Trust to dispose of Church property, including the Nauvoo Temple. They were also instructed to the complete the first floor of the temple. (Smith, History of the Church, 7:569; Journal History, 18 Jan 1846; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.14.)

Feb 1846 -- James J. Strang, who claimed to be the successor to Joseph Smith, complained in his newspaper that the temple was being offered to the Catholics as a cathedral or nunnery. (Voree Herald, 1 [Apr 1846]: 8.)

Apr 1846 -- James J. Strang's followers approved resolutions in their conference that the Trustees were illegally formed and that they possessed no legal authority to sell the temple. He cautioned anyone in making a purchase from them. (Voree Herald, 1 [Apr 1846]: 20.)

10 Apr 1846 -- The Trustees issued an advertisement in the Hancock Eagle, offering to lease the temple for favorable terms for twenty years, to be used for educational or literary purposes.(Hancock Eagle, 10 Apr 1846.) The Trustees published formal announcements in the press of the Temple's three-day dedicatory services, beginning at 11:00 A.M. on 1 May 1846. The public was invited to attend for one dollar in order to help pay the salaries of the workmen who completed the building. (Hancock Eagle, 10, 17, 21 April, 1846.)

23 Apr 1846 -- The Sangamo Journal reported that "a rich old bachelor from the South" was negotiating for the purchase of the Temple, intending to turn it into "a retreat for poor widows and other females." (Sangamo Journal, 23 Apr 1846.)

26 Apr 1846 -- Brigham Young received a letter from Orson Hyde, who wrote that a wealthy Catholic benefactor had offered to buy the Temple for $200,000. Hyde offered to lease the Temple to him instead, but he refused and the offer fell through. Hyde asked if it might not be better to sell the Church's two temples at Kirtland and Nauvoo, and use the money to help the poor move west. (Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.143.)

27 Apr 1846 -- Apparently acting on Orson Hyde's suggestion, the Twelve determined to sell the Temple and use the funds to help the poor move West, reasoning that if no Saints remained in Nauvoo the Temple would be of little use to the Church. Brigham Young wrote a letter to Hyde with the Twelve's decision. (Journal History, 27 Apr 1846; Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.145.)

3 May 1846 -- The third day of dedicatory services, when the "dedication of the Temple closed." (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 3 May 1846; "Nauvoo Temple," 1978 Church Almanac, p. 265.) The Hancock Eagle reporting that 5,000 persons attended on the third day, which was reserved for the Latter-Day Saints. During these services the Saints approved a resolution to sell the Temple and use the funds to help the poor in their move West. (Colvin, "Nauvoo Temple," p. 140.)

6 May 1846 -- The Quincy Whig reported on Strang's resolutions, which claimed that the Trustees had "no right to convey title to any property of the Church and caution[ed] all against buying of them." (Quincy Whig, 6 May 1846.) Strang's assertions made the Trustees' work much more difficult, especially when Strang published information from the Hancock County Book of Mortgages and Deeds, attempting to show that Joseph Smith's successor was the President of the Church, who was the Trustee-in-Trust, and only he had the right to convey title to Church property. (Hajicek, "Burning the Mormon Temple," p. 4.) Apparently when Strang raised the question of who held legitimate title to the temple, it clouded the issue and often prevented the temple's sale.

15 May 1846 -- The Temple Trustees placed the following advertisement in the Hancock Eagle: "Temple For Sale. The undersigned trustees of the Later Day Saints propose to sell the Temple on very low terms, if an early application is made. The Temple is admirably designed for literary and religious purposes. Address the Undersigned Trustees, Almon Babbitt, Joseph L. Heywood, John Fullmer. Nauvoo, May 15, 1846." (Hancock Eagle, 15 May 1846.) They also ran the same advertisement in the Nauvoo New Citizen from May 15 until December 23, 1846, without resulting in a sale of the temple. 25 Aug 1846 -- Brigham Young sent word to the Temple Trustees not to sell the Temple for less than $100,000. (Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.349.)

2 Oct 1846 -- Trustee Heywood wrote the Twelve that Mr. Paulding of New Orleans was still considering buying the temple. (Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p. 432.)


20 Jan 1847 -- The Twelve received a letter from the Trustees which reported that Isaac Galland had sworn out an attachment on the Temple and Church property for $25,000. (Watson. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, p.507-508.)

12 Jun 1847 -- The Warsaw Signal reported that the Catholic Church had agreed to purchase the Temple for $75,000. (Warsaw Signal, 12 June 1847.)

7 Aug 1847 -- The Warsaw Signal reported that the sale of the Temple to the Catholic Church had collapsed because of a defective deed, perhaps referring to Strang's assertions or to Galland's liens. (Warsaw Signal, 7 August 1847.)


11 Mar 1848 -- The Trustees sold the Temple to David T. LeBaron, the brother-in-law of Trustee Almon Babbitt. (deed recorded 12 Nov 1848) for $5,000. (Hancock County, Deeds, Book V, p. 93.) During 1848, LeBaron and his brother-in-law, George W. Johnson, conducted visitors through the Nauvoo Temple. LeBaron attended it one day and Johnson the next. (George W. Johnson, Autobiography, typescript, BYU.)

27 Sep 1848 -- A newspaper reported that a Mr. Bower of New York had made a contract to lease the temple for fifteen years and convert it to a college for the Home Missionary Society of New York. The contract was to close on 1 Oct 1848. (Oquawka Spectator, 27 Sep 1848.)


2 Apr 1849 -- David T. LeBaron conveyed the fire-damaged Temple to Etienne Cabet, leader of the Icarian Community, for $2,000. (Hancock County, Deeds, Book V, p. 408.)

Was the Church Rejected?

And if they were rejected, what does that mean?