The late President James E. Faust once told the story of taking a summer hike to Martin’s Cove along the Mormon Trail in Wyoming as part of a Pioneer Day celebration in 1992. The site is remembered as a stopping point for the Martin Handcart Company in the winter of 1856.
President Faust recounted how his “soul was subdued” when reflecting on those pioneers who perished from hunger and the elements as they waited for rescue wagons to arrive from Salt Lake City 136 years before.
“We went farther along the trail to the site where members of a different party, the Willie Handcart Company, were rescued,” President Faust said. “We felt like we were standing on holy ground. At that site, 21 in that party died from starvation and cold.”
President Faust’s family tree includes forbearers who crossed now-historic locations like Rocky Ridge on their way to the new Zion in the West. Two of his ancestors were not fortunate to make it that far, passing away early in the trek at Winter Quarters in Nebraska.
“As I walked over Rocky Ridge that summer,” President Faust said, “I wondered if I have sacrificed enough. In my generation, I have not seen so much sacrifice by so many. I wonder what more I should have done and should be doing to further the work.”
This month marks the debut of a feature in the Latter-day Sentinel intended to pay tribute to those who have made the sort of sacrifice President Faust so poignantly commemorated on that Pioneer Day over two decades ago. “This Month in Church History” will reflect on the events, people and landmarks that comprise the rich tapestry of Latter-day Saint heritage.
The first installment of the series provides an overview of the Nauvoo Temple, both past and present. The Prophet Joseph Smith selected the site for the temple in October 1840, not long after a gathering of Saints fled persecution in Missouri and settled in the village of Commerce, Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River. The town was subsequently renamed “Nauvoo” after the Hebrew word meaning “beautiful.”
Construction of the Nauvoo Temple began in January 1841. Light gray limestone was mined from quarries near the town to form the temple’s towering walls. Meanwhile, Mercy Fielding Thompson organized the women of Nauvoo to each donate one cent a week to buy glass and nails. The sisters’ efforts to provide supplies for the craftsmen and workers led to the organization of the Nauvoo Relief Society in March of 1842.
The Nauvoo Temple was dedicated on April 30, 1846 by Elder Joseph Young. Only two months later, the Saints were driven out of Nauvoo by angry mobs. The temple would be seriously damaged by arson in 1848 and devastated by a tornado in 1850.
On April 4, 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that the former site of the Nauvoo Temple would once again be home to a sacred House of the Lord. The prophet dedicated the new Nauvoo Temple – true in form and detail to the original structure – in June 2002.
The website LDS Church Temples.org chronicled the origins of the temple’s reincarnation:
“The idea of rebuilding the temple is not a new one. President Hinckley said that his father, while president of the mission that included Nauvoo in 1939, suggested to the First Presidency that the Nauvoo Temple be rebuilt. But the idea wasn’t accepted at that time when the country was just coming out of the Great Depression and the Church didn’t have a lot of money. His father was disappointed at that time, President Hinckley said, adding, “But I count it something of a strange and wonderful coincidence that I’ve had a part in the determination of rebuilding this temple.”
“President Hinckley continued his remarks: “This will be the House of the Lord. It will be dedicated as His Holy House. It will be reserved and set aside for the accomplishment of His divine and eternal purposes. It will occupy a special place in the belief and testimony and the conviction of this people. It will have great historic significance. It will be a thing of beauty and, I hope, a joy forever.”
For the complete story of the ‘new’ Nauvoo Temple, see the first installment of “This Month in Church History” on the Sentinel home page to the right of the Recreation Guide. If you have ideas or articles related to Church history that could be featured, please email them to Sentinel Editor Craig Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.