Townsite History: During the winter of 1838-39, 10 to 12 thousand Latter-day Saints fled their homes in northwestern Missouri after the governor issued an order to have them "exterminated or driven from the state." Walking 300 miles northeast across the state in the middle of winter, the refugees found kind hearts and welcoming hands in the environs of Quincy, Illinois. Church leaders sought property on which to resettle the people and found it some fifty miles north where a "paper town" named Commerce had not yet taken hold. On 1 May they purchased from two brothers 660 acres of swampy ground bordering the Mississippi River. They renamed it Nauvoo and began draining the swamps.
To Nauvoo, which Church founder Joseph Smith
said was a Hebrew derivative meaning "a beautiful location, a
place of rest," came the great majority of all Latter-day Saint converts for the next seven years, greatly swelling the population. Mounting opposition in the area forced the Latter-day Saints to begin their exodus from Nauvoo, and their 1,300-mile journey to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in the Rocky Mountains, in February of 1846.
Temple History: In October of 1840 a limestone quarry is begun on the north end of Main Street, and the following March the first foundation stones of the future temple are set. The ceremony to set the cornerstones is held on 6 April 1841. By the spring of 1842 the temple walls are above ground level. In July interior framing begins (with wood harvested north of the city and, later, from pineries in Wisconsin) and the first church meeting is held on the unfinished-plank first floor on 30 October. Additional "special conferences" are held in the building each April through 1845 and each October through 1844. Interior framing extends into the third story of the building by April 1845 and glass windows begin filling the framing holes in July. In September the roof is completed and interior framing on the attic level begins.
In December, the first temple rites for which
the building is being constructed are given and in January the first
marriage is performed. On 4 February, the Latter-day Saints begin their exodus from Nauvoo. While perhaps
12,000 people are making their way across wintry Iowa, several hundred workmen remain in Nauvoo, completing
the temple. It is dedicated 1 May 1846. By September, surrounding communities are besieging Nauvoo with
cannon and armament, and all but a handful of Latter-day Saints have bid farewell to their once peaceful and
thriving city. Subjected to arson and a violent windstorm, the Nauvoo Temple, costing more than one million 1846
dollars, is a heap of rubble by the summer of 1850.
Church Worldwide in 1844
Church Worldwide Today
Church in Nauvoo in 1844
Members: Approx. 11,000
Church in Nauvoo Today
*The two congregations meeting in Nauvoo are two of ten congregations (and approximately 3000 members) comprising the regional Nauvoo "Stake," which includes ecclesiastical units as far west as Kirksville (Missouri), to the north as far as Burlington (Iowa), as far east as Macomb, and to the south as far as Hannibal (Missouri).
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