Facebook Twitter

Nauvoo Temple: Timeline

SHARE Nauvoo Temple: Timeline

TimelineOctober 1840 -- Four-acre site for a future temple is selected by Joseph Smith.

Jan. 19, 1841 -- The Lord commands the church to build a temple (D&C 124:26-28).

Feb. 18, 1841 -- Construction begins.

April 6, 1841 -- Cornerstones are set.

Nov. 8, 1841 -- Basement rooms and baptismal font dedicated.

Nov. 21, 1841 -- First baptisms for the dead performed.

June 27, 1844 -- The main temple walls are only partially completed when Joseph and Hyrum Smith are murdered.

Oct. 5, 1845 -- General conference is held in the assembly room of the temple.

Nov. 30, 1845 -- The upper floor of the temple is dedicated for endowment.

Dec. 1845 -- The first endowments are performed in the attic of the otherwise unfinished temple.

Feb. 1846 -- The roof of the temple catches fire from an overheated stove. The fire is put out in 30 minutes with minor damage.

April 30, 1846 -- Private dedication held with a dedicatory prayer by Orson Hyde.

May 1-3, 1846 -- Public dedication ceremony, with dedicatory prayer offered by Orson Hyde.

Sept. 1846 -- Church driven out of Nauvoo, temple abandoned.

Oct. 1847-Oct. 1848 -- Mob forces desecrate the temple and some limited physical damage is sustained. Attempts fail to sell the temple, to provide funds for other church members to go west.

Oct. 9, 1848 -- The interior of the temple is consumed by an arson fire, with one bare wall left standing.

May 27, 1850 -- A tornado levels three walls of the temple shell.

1856 -- The remaining temple wall is leveled for safety reasons.


During the short, eight-week period of the temple's operation, some 5,634 Saints received their temple endowments and 2,000 couples were sealed.

Church members continued to work on and complete the temple, even though it was common knowledge they would have to eventually evacuate the city and leave the temple.

A temple roof fire on Feb. 9, 1846, raged for 30 minutes and damaged many shingles. Firefighters also caused some other damage in their anxiety to put out the fire. The cause of the blaze was an overheated stove that was drying clothing inside the temple.

Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered almost two years before the temple's completion.

Nauvoo was possibly the largest city in Illinois during the Nauvoo Temple era, with 12,000 people living inside the city and another 4,000 in the surrounding area. Nauvoo boasted some 2,500 homes and was likely bigger than Chicago.

The temple walls were from 4 to 6 feet thick. Outer wall decorations include a moon, sun and star stone to represent the three degrees of glory.

The baptismal font in the temple was originally wood, but it was soon replaced with a stone version.

The west doors likely comprised the only entrance into the temple. Ten large stones led to the entrance. Keys for the doors were hand cast, filed and polished.

Many male church members in Nauvoo "tithed" one out of every 10 work days to labor on the temple's construction. Women helped by sewing and preparing meals for the workmen.

Hyrum Smith oversaw the temple's construction until his death. Brigham Young completed the job.

As many as 100 people a day received endowments in the Nauvoo Temple. Temple endowments would last as long as six hours -- with two to three sessions a day sometimes going into the late night. Temple work was not suspended for Christmas or New Year's holidays.

Brigham Young held an informal dedication -- the first of three total dedications -- of the temple on Feb. 8, 1846, prior to heading west.

Timber for the temple came from forests in Wisconsin by route of Black River, a Mississippi tributary.

Wilford Woodruff recorded on April 30, 1846, at the temple's private dedication: "Notwithstanding the many false prophesies of Sidney Rigdon and others that the roof should not go on nor the house be finished and dedicated and the threats of the mob that we should not dedicate it, yet we have done both."