When Joseph had made a sufficient “offering” and “acknowledgments,” the Lord gave another opportunity for the Saints to receive again what had been taken from them, that is the “fullness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124: 1, 28.)
To be permitted to undertake this, however, there would be a limited time appointed. After that appointment, the church would be rejected. (D&C 124: 31-32.) The time is not specified, but the work was to be undertaken by sending “swift messengers,” (D&C 124: 26) and gathering all the Saints together with their gold, silver, antiquities, and precious things to construct this Temple. (D&C 124: 26-27.)
The Saints gathered to Nauvoo and by 1844 the population had swollen to 12,000. There were shops, brick homes, stores, and a Masonic Hall constructed in Nauvoo. There was a gunsmith shop, a university, library and wide streets. Unlike other frontier towns with adobe and log homes, Nauvoo boasted brick houses and affluence. This community was superior to anything else along the western boundary of the United States at the time.
When Joseph and Hyrum were killed on June 27, 1844, the Temple walls were not completed and no portion had been dedicated. After Joseph’s death, the Saints rededicated themselves to finish the Temple. The exterior walls were completed in December, 1844 and the final sunstone put into place with some considerable difficulty.
On March 16, 1845 Brigham Young asked the Saints to rededicate themselves to building the Temple, promising them blessings if they would redouble their efforts to complete the building. On the following day 105 extra laborers showed up to help. (History of the Church 7: 385-87.) It was not until 24 May 1845 that the capstone would be laid.
Joseph was dead for 18 months before the endowment was administered in the Nauvoo Temple on December 10th, 1845. Those who had been given some instruction regarding the Temple in Joseph’s brick store, used what they had learned before Joseph’s death to perform the ceremonies. A portion of the attic was temporarily dedicated for this work, even though the structure was incomplete. The final endowments were performed on February 7, 1846. On February 8, 1846 the Twelve prayed in the Temple to be able to finally complete and formally dedicate the Temple. The following day the Temple caught fire, damaging the area that had been used for the endowment requiring repairs to be made. A week later Brigham Young’s party departed Nauvoo with the Temple still incomplete, but Nauvoo was a magnificent city that showed enormous culture, prosperity and success.
If you have visited Nauvoo since the beginning of the Church-sponsored Nauvoo Restoration, Inc. work, you know how amazing the city was when abandoned by the Saints. It was a tribute to labor, dedication, and perseverance. The Temple was incomplete and still under construction – not at all ready for dedication, but the city was a marvel. As the church leadership departed to the west, they left instruction to complete the Temple even though it would not be used.
Finally, on April 29, 1846 the Nauvoo Temple was complete enough to dedicate. The following day a private dedication service was conducted by Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde and about twenty others. The prayer was offered by Joseph Young, Brigham’s brother. The next day a public dedication service was held with those attending charged $1.00 entrance fee to help pay those who had worked in completing the structure. In this dedication ceremony Elder Hyde offered the prayer and included the following: “By the authority of the Holy Priesthood now we offer this building as a sanctuary to Thy Worthy Name. We ask Thee to take the guardianship into Thy hands…”
The following Sunday Elder Hyde explained that the Temple needed to be completed for the church to be accepted by the Lord with our dead. He commented that the work had only been accomplished “by the skin of our teeth.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 3: 43.)
By September, 1846 a mob overran Nauvoo, and the caretakers gave the keys to the Temple doors to the mob. The mob was eventually shamed into returning the Temple to the caretakers and on October 20th the keys were returned to Brother Paine. The trustees of Nauvoo then tried to sell the Temple, but the best offer received was $100,000. A Missouri newspaper reported that the Temple was sold in June, 1847 to the Catholic Church for $75,000, but that the sale failed because of a defect in the title to the property.
On October 9, 1848 the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed by an arsonist.
In March, 1849 the French Icarians purchased the hollow shell of the destroyed Temple. On May 27, 1850 a storm blew down the north wall and made the structure so dangerous that it was further torn down to make it safe. Pieces of the blockwork were then sold and some of them were transported to be used in building projects outside the community, including to St. Louis. By 1865 the city removed what little remained. The site was then used for saloons, slaughter houses, hotels, grocery and drug stores, pool halls and private houses. (“The Nauvoo Temple”, The Instructor, March 1965.)
From the time of Nauvoo until the present day, every President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints either lived in Nauvoo between January 1841 and June 1844, or descended from those who lived there during the time. (Although some were called on missions and abandoned families who resided there for some of that time.)
Church history takes the view that Nauvoo was a triumph, and the Saints succeeded in accomplishing all that was required of them, and more. The stories of heroism, sacrifice and devotion that focus on the Nauvoo era are endless. Those families who trace their geneology to ancestors in Nauvoo at that time defend the notion that the they are specially favored as families, and are among the noble and great chosen to lead others in mortality because of their great devotion and sacrifice.
The promise of a remnant holding authority and performing a central work in the establishment of Zion, as prophesied by the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, would be a dramatic change in course for the church. This is something that will occur in any event. Indeed, coalitions, conspiracies and man’s arm will be powerless to prevent it. Unlikely history is the stuff of scripture.
Prophecies will be fulfilled. Despite vanity and foolishness, error and unbelief, prophecies will be fulfilled