God commanded Joseph Smith in 1841 to build a temple at Nauvoo, Illinois. “Let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances1 therein unto my people.”2 For the next four years, the Saints worked mightily on the temple. “The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be,” Joseph taught the Saints of Nauvoo, “until the Temple is completed.”
The temple would serve as a house for religious assembly, instruction, and ordinances. Joseph taught the doctrine of baptism on behalf of the dead at a funeral in April 1840. This ordinance, Joseph taught, should be performed only in the temple. The news that members could be baptized for their deceased relatives was received with jubilation. In addition, the Prophet Joseph began in 1842 administering the first temple endowments3 to a small group of faithful men and women in his Red Brick Store and at other locations.
These holy ordinances, a source of “gladness for the living and the dead,”4 are performed in Latter-day Saint temples today.
Joseph Smith Quotes
“The Temple of the Lord is in process of erection here [Nauvoo], where the Saints will come to worship the God of their fathers, according to the order of His house and the powers of the Holy Priesthood, . . . and where instructions from the Most High will be received, and from this place go forth to distant lands” (History of the Church, 4:269).
“All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered unto by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged” (History of the Church, 3:29).
“It is no more incredible that God should save the dead, than that he should raise the dead” (History of the Church, 4:425).
Mercy Rachel Fielding Thompson, Early Member of the Church
“After seeking earnestly to know from the Lord if there was anything that I could do for the building up of the Kingdom of God, a most pleasant sensation came over me with the following words: ‘Try to get the sisters to subscribe one cent per week for the purpose of buying glass and nails for the Temple.’ I went immediately to Brother Joseph and told him what seemed to be the whisperings of the still small voice to me. He told me to ‘go ahead and the Lord will bless you.’ I then mentioned it to Brother Hyrum who was much pleased, . . . [and said] all who subscribed the cent per week should have their names recorded in the Book of the Law of the Lord” (autobiographical sketch 1880, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling and punctuation modernized).
George Q. Cannon, Apostle, 1860–1901
“Previous to his death, the Prophet Joseph manifested great anxiety to see the [Nauvoo] temple completed. . . . ‘Hurry up the work, brethren,’ he used to say,—‘let us finish the temple; the Lord has a great endowment in store for you, and I am anxious that the brethren should have their endowments and receive the fullness of the priesthood. . . . Then . . . the Kingdom will be established, and I do not care what shall become of me’” (Deseret News, Dec. 15, 1869, 531).
When did Joseph Smith introduce the temple ordinances?
On May 4, 1842, Joseph and Hyrum met in his store with Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Newel K. Whitney, George Miller, and James Adams to administer ordinances and communicate things “to be received only by the spiritual minded.” Though the gathering was small, Joseph taught, “There was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them . . . ; therefore let the Saints be diligent in building the Temple” (History of the Church, 5:2). “When the spirit prompted him [Joseph] that his life’s work was drawing to a close, and when he saw that his earthly days might be ended before the completion of the temple,” noted Franklin D. Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve, “he called a chosen few, and conferred upon them the ordinances of the holy endowments, so that the divine treasures of his mind might not perish from the world with his death” (“A Tour of Historic Scenes,” The Contributor, May 1886, 301).
Where did Joseph get the distinctive design for the Nauvoo Temple?
On January 19, 1841, the Lord indicated to Joseph Smith that He would show him “all things pertaining to” the Nauvoo Temple (Doctrine and Covenants 124:42). When William Weeks, chief engineer of the temple, disagreed with some of the architectural features of the building, the Prophet responded, “I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me” (History of the Church, 6:197).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“The Nauvoo Temple”—in “Sacrifice and Blessings in Nauvoo,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 58–61
“Doctrinal Developments in Nauvoo”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 251–62
“Keys to Exaltation”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 324–26
Online Resources at BYU
“The John Taylor Nauvoo Journal: January 1845–September 1845”—Dean C. Jessee, ed., BYU Studies, vol. 23, no. 3 (1983), 1–105
Includes the dedication of the Seventies Hall, construction of the temple, and increased mob violence, as well as copies of letters, public documents, and proclamations.
“‘They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet’—The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding”—Andrew F. Ehat, BYU Studies, vol. 19, no. 2 (1979), 133–66
Describes the apostasy of some individuals, the martyrdom, construction of the temple, the battle of and expulsion from Nauvoo, and the miracle of the quail.