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New Joseph Smith Papers podcast takes deep dive into Nauvoo Temple and why it matters

An aerial view of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is pictured in Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A portion of the Nauvoo Temple was dedicated on Dec. 10, 1845. Within about 60 days, the first wagons were leaving the Illinois town and going west.

During that eight-week period of the temple’s operation, more than 5,600 Saints received their temple endowments and 2,000 couples were sealed together for beyond mortality. The temple was officially dedicated on May 1, 1846.

To accomplish that amount of temple work in such a short period of time is a remarkable feat, and something that Spencer W. McBride hadn’t considered before.

“I was struck by how much temple work the Saints did in about 60 days,” McBride said. “I was aware that it was a short period of time, but I was just taken by the faith, dedication and determination of these men and women who wanted to get their temple ordinances before they started heading west. To hear some of the stories from Brigham Young’s journal and other church leaders who recorded what was happening in the temple in that period, it really came to life for me. I was able to see myself in their position.”

What transpired in that two-month window of time is a part of church history that Latter-day Saints can learn more about as they listen to “The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast,” an eight-part miniseries and documentary-style program that features the story of the Nauvoo Temple and examines why Latter-day Saints in the 1840s sacrificed time, labor and considerable resources to build this historic house of the Lord.

“The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast” is an eight-part miniseries that features the story of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
“The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast” is an eight-part miniseries that features the story of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
Church History Library

The podcast, which will also be translated into Spanish and Portuguese, shows how the construction of the Nauvoo Temple and the restoration of temple ordinances was an essential step in the Restoration of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said McBride, the host of the podcast, a historian and a volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers’ “Documents” series.

“We cannot fully understand the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days if we don’t understand how the Nauvoo Temple came to be, because it is directly connected to those events,” McBride said. “The Nauvoo Temple is not just a neat historical temple — its construction was essential to the ongoing Restoration.”

The release of the Nauvoo Temple podcast this month comes as Latter-day Saints continue to study the Doctrine and Covenants as part of this year’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum, and follows previous podcasts focusing on the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Priesthood.

“The goal is to reach people who want to know about the research discoveries of the Joseph Smith Papers but are maybe daunted by the books,” McBride said. “This is hopefully an accessible way of bringing that research to them, and we’ve found that many have enjoyed it. We’ve had over 1 million downloads and streams of the podcast episodes to date, and it’s still climbing, which is encouraging. It suggests to us that there are people that want to engage in church history.”

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is pictured at sunset in Nauvoo, Illinois.
The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is pictured at sunset in Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“The Nauvoo Temple” podcast is available on the church’s Gospel Library, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Amazon and JosephSmithPapers.org.

Who are the featured guests interviewed for the podcast?

The miniseries features interviews with historians, researchers and church leaders. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham and Lachlan Mackay, an apostle from the Community of Christ, are among those interviewed for the podcast.

In one episode, Elder Renlund discusses the legacy of the Nauvoo Temple.

“He doesn’t have any ancestors who participated in the construction of the Nauvoo Temple, his wife does,” McBride said. “But he points out that the legacy of the Nauvoo Temple is as much his late spiritual legacy as it is hers, and that the temple represents a vindication of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days.”

President Bingham discusses the role of the Relief Society in preparing women to receive temple ordinances, then and today, McBride said.

Two couples pause for a photo with the Nauvoo Illinois Temple in the background.
Primary General President Camille N. Johnson, her husband, Brother Douglas R. Johnson, left, and Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham and her husband, Brother Bruce Bingham, pause for a photo with the Nauvoo Illinois Temple in the background during a tour of historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Two episodes explore the return of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Nauvoo, how it became a historic site and the reconstruction of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

“Inevitably, that means talking about the the shared and sometimes contested nature of that space between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Community of Christ,” McBride said. “It was great to have Lachlan Mackay join us to talk about how the Community of Christ understands that moment in our shared history.”

More than ‘fun facts and neat stories’

McBride hopes those who listen to the podcast will discover that church history is much more than just “fun facts and neat stories,” the podcast host said.

“It’s about the faith and dedication of the men and women who came before us,” he said. “For the Saints, (Nauvoo) represented a place of refuge. They hoped it would be a place of peace coming out of the persecution in Missouri. But also they built it as a city where their religion was at the center, a city designed to facilitate the worship of God. There’s something really special about walking through the streets of a city that was designed for that purpose. ... I hope the podcast brings that to life for listeners.”

Nauvoo Illinois Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Nauvoo Illinois Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

What listeners will find in each episode

Here’s what listeners can expect to learn about in each episode of “The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast.”

Episode 0: Series Introduction

“This introductory episode presents the story of the Nauvoo Temple, explaining why Latter-day Saints in the 1840s sacrificed time, labor, and a sizable portion of their meager possessions to bring about the promised blessings of the temple.”

A contemporary drawing of the original Nauvoo Temple.
A contemporary drawing of the original Nauvoo Temple.
Church History Library

Episode 1: “A New City, a New Temple”

“This episode explains why the Latter-day Saints came to Nauvoo, established a city, and built a new temple.”

Episode 2: “Revelations, Designs, and Quarries”

“This episode describes the purpose of temples, the inspiration behind the design of the Nauvoo Temple, and the arrangements that Joseph Smith and others made to acquire sufficient building materials.”

Episode 3: “A Welding Link”

“This episode explores Joseph Smith’s revelations on proxy baptisms for deceased relatives as well as the lasting impact of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles’ mission to Great Britain.”

Episode 4: “Obstacles”

“This episode explains how the principle of tithing enabled the impoverished Latter-day Saints to build the Nauvoo Temple and overcome external obstacles, including the attempted extraditions of Joseph Smith to Missouri.”

Episode 5: “Looking toward Eternity”

“This episode considers the ways that Joseph Smith prepared church members to receive the endowment and sealing ordinances in the temple, including through the founding of the female Relief Society of Nauvoo.”

Episode 6: “Martyrdom, Dedication, and Exodus”

“This episode explains how the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, coupled with hostility towards the Saints, affected the construction and dedication of the Nauvoo Temple and forced the Saints to prepare to leave the city-possibly even the country.”

A drawing of the ruins of the original Nauvoo Temple. 
A drawing of the ruins of the original Nauvoo Temple.
Church History Library

Episode 7: “The Return to Nauvoo”

“This episode describes the gradual return of the Latter-day Saints to Nauvoo, exploring the various efforts of churches and governments to designate the ‘City Beautiful’ as a historic site.”

Episode 8: “An Old City, a New Temple”

“On April 4, 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley stunned Latter-day Saints with an announcement that the Nauvoo Temple would be reconstructed. This episode considers what it means today to know that a temple once again stands in Nauvoo.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley applies mortar to the cornerstone at the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
President Gordon B. Hinckley applies mortar to the cornerstone at the Nauvoo Illinois Temple on June 27, 2002. President Hinckley died in 2008.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News