I reject the idea it is criticism or “evil speaking” to discuss candidly the church’s history. Here is a sample of one fact which I welcome anyone to correct if I am wrong:
It is my conclusion that the Nauvoo Temple was never completed. Those who worked on it, went inside it, participated in work on it, and knew its condition never claimed it was completed. Never. The words used by those who knew about it were carefully phrased. They said it was “considered sufficiently completed to dedicate.” That is much different than being completed.
Joseph Smith died before the walls were completed to the second level. The lower part of the Nauvoo Temple was essentially a copy of the Kirtland Temple. The upper levels were not fully designed. The top attic floor was largely open, a few offices at either end and a large, open area inbetween. When the attic was adopted as the location for endowments, the area was unsuitable because Joseph never lived to work with design and construction crews to adapt the facility for use in endowment work. It did not have the kind of privacy and separate rooms needed to initiate through the ordinance.
Joseph had ordered a large quantity of canvas to cover the outside bowery next to the Temple. The weather made public meetings unpleasant, and many ended early because of rain or snow. The canvas was intended to let these meetings continue despite the weather.
In the winter of 1845, when the pressure to abandon Nauvoo became so great, the decision was made to use the attic space to do the endowments. The canvas was used to partition off areas in the attic and divide the area up so the ceremonies would be possible. The attic was “tented off” into separate rooms where the endowments were performed from December through early February. As they pulled out of town, the church’s leadership prayed for the Lord’s assistance in completeing the Temple. The next day the attic caught fire and the attic area burned. The fire was extinguished, but not without considerable damage to the roof and attic area.
The roof was repaired, but since the attic was no longer going to be used, the interior was again not completed. The rest of the temple interior was never completed. It was merely “considered complete enough” and was dedicated.
A year after the dedication of the Temple and before there was any damage done by the mobs, a newspaper editor from Palmyra, New York toured the Nauvoo Temple and remarked about its condition. Among other things, he observed in an article titled “The Deserted Mormon Temple,” these things about various parts of the Temple:
“The first sight we had of it gave us a pang of disappointment, for it looked more like a white Yankee meeting house, with its steeple on one end, than a magnificent structure that had cost, all uncompleted as it is, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But as we approached nearer, it proved to be something worth seeing… [In the attic:] The chamber itself is devoid of ornament, and I was unable to ascertain whether it was intended to have any, if it should have been completed… [In the basement baptistery, speaking of the font:] It is very plain and rests on the back of twelve stone oxen or cows, which stand immersed to their knees in the earth. It has two flights of steps, with iron bannisters, by which you enter and go out of the font, one at the east end, and the other at the west end. The oxen have tin horns and tin ears, but are otherwise of stone, and a stone drapery hangs like a curtain down from the font, so as to prevent the exposure of all back of the forelegs of the beasts… The basement is unpaved… [Overall comment:] The whole is quite unfinished, and one can imagine what it might have been in course of time, if Joe Smith had been allowed to pursue his career in prosperity.” (The Palmyra Courier-Journal, September 22, 1847.)
In a 1962 Deseret Book publication, the Nauvoo Temple’s state of completion was described in these words: “Perhaps there were many rooms in the building whose walls were not covered with lath and plaster. Perhaps factory cloth, canvas, or other curtain material covered the walls and ceilings in the upper story rooms. There were some large assembly rooms and many small rooms that were not to be used in the temple ritual, so they were not put in order and beautifully decorated and furnished with the best of equipment. In all such rooms the pungent odor of fresh pine timber, uncovered by plaster, pictures or carpets, greeted the visitors. There may have been many plank floors and stairways uncovered with carpets, and many walls and ceilings presenting an unfinished condition. …Bare boards in many rooms, large and small, might have been visible, but the rooms that were necessary for the temple ritual were quickly prepared, and tne endowment was administered within the new temple though the building was not as elaborately furnished as was the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.” (The Nauvoo Temple, E. Cecil McGavin, Deseret Book, 1962, p. 56.)
The content of Section 124 is what it is, and requires what it requires. History shows the Temple was only “considered complete enough” and was not in fact complete. The diaries of church leaders commented on the incomplete condition of the Temple. It appears to be a fact that “considered complete enough” to be used in the endowment, and later for purposes of being dedicated, is not the same thing as completed. Subsequently, after the Saints abandoned Nauvoo, and after the Palmyra editor’s visit, the building was burned down. Later it was struck by a tornado. Then the remaining, partial structure was considered a hazard and demolished by the City. By the time it was reconstructed, not one stone of the original building remained on the site. Some excavation located the font area, and some artifacts were recovered, but the structure was gone.
My view is that this has some relevance to our history. I think the early Salt Lake City refugees from Nauvoo suffered through great want, difficulty and hunger. Because of their hunger, they were boiling saddles to soften the leather enough to be able to eat it. This was very real privation and seems to represent something other than God’s blessings upon them. In the context of Section 124, it is at least plausible it represented God’s displeasure, and not His vindication of the Saints. It states “If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. 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.” (124: 44-45.) This was the revelation given in January 1841, three and a half years before he death of Joseph and Hyrum. The “servants” appointed were Joseph Smith, and the new Co-President, prophet, seer and revelator who was also to be ordained to the Priesthood and given the sealing power by the word of God, Hyrum Smith. (See 124: 91-95.) The saints were warned that if they failed to complete the temple, according to the revelation that: “I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfill the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. 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.” (124: 47-48.)
It is clear we have history to help us answer the questions: Were they blessed? Were they not moved out of their place? Were they cursed? Did God’s wrath and indignation visit them?
None of this is criticism of the church. It is an attempt to understand history and to read the meaning of events through the lens of scripture, rather than through the lens of conceit. Why should scripture not be used to help us understand history? If God chastens those whom He loves (Rev. 3: 19), then why do we fear acknowledging chastening from God? Can’t that be a sign of His love? What is the powerful insecurity that prevents us even considering the possibility of an early failure and God’s displeasure? Even if the work was interrupted, we can still have faith in the Restoration. After all, the Book of Mormon predicts we will get off track. It also assures us the Lord will set His hand a second time to recover us. The allegory of Jacob 5 also foretells of the eventual return of natural fruit. What fear should we have? Why would we not want to fully understand the Lord’s work instead of some alternative carefully composed fiction, or in other words a cunningly devised fable telling us “all is well,” when the evidence strongly suggest things are not at all well?
This is not criticism. This is a labor of love to understand fully the Lord’s dealings with us and our true standing before Him. Why would we reject it? Because it requires repentance and return to Him? What right do we have to think we don’t have to repent? How much of our story is motivated by pride, contrary to scripture, and inconsistent with facts?
If you attribute ill-will to those who diligently seek the Lord, then we ought to just disband as a religion claiming to follow God, and admit we are content to be a social group instead. We would still qualify for tax-exempt status. Then we won’t be encumbered by any of the rigors of what required the lives of Joseph and Hyrum, and which requires the sacrifice of all things, including our own lives if necessary, to produce faith.
“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtain faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.” (Lecture 6: 8; Lectures on Faith.)
When we will tolerate only praise for one another, and cannot abide correction from the Lord in the revelations He gave us, we are no different than the Zoramites scaling the Rameumpton and proclaiming our conceit.
There is a great difference between pursuing truth, accepting the unpopular role of saying what needs to be said inside a group who does not welcome it, and merely criticizing the church. I utterly reject the idea. I know I am not qualified to be popular, or advance in the organization because of what I write. The organization resents me, and has made that clear. Even as I seek its best interests, I find myself the object of its ire. On the other hand, I have come to know God by the things I have sacrificed for Him, and I would never alter that bargain; even for the whole world.