Looking Back: When the Church News Staff Got to Work in Times and Seasons Newspaper Building
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News senior contributing editor
“To report the news of the Church and publish counsel and teachings of prophets and apostles and other Church leaders was the aim of the Times and Seasons. It was ours also.” —Gerry Avant, Church News senior contributing editor
I covered many temple dedications during my Church News career. Usually, I worked solo. I had double duties as reporter and photographer, but on one assignment three Church News staff members and a Deseret News photographer accompanied me: Shaun Stahle, Scott Lloyd, Jason Swensen, and Jeffrey D. Allred.
We went to Nauvoo, Illinois, several days before the dedication of the temple there June 27–30, 2002. In addition to covering the dedication, we were to participate in a marketing campaign for the paper. However, after we arrived in Nauvoo, the project was cancelled.
The cancellation gave us the opportunity to work out of the Printing Office, home of the Times and Seasons newspaper, at the corner of Main and Kimball Streets in Old Nauvoo.
Most people who go to the building do so as visitors who want to learn about life there in the 1840s and, in particular, how newspapers of that time were published. Missionary tour guides explain the intricacies that went into publishing a newspaper back then. They point to an old press, cases of type, and racks where newspaper pages hung to dry. When John Taylor—who became the third President of the Church—was editor of the Times and Seasons, this must have seemed like state-of-the-art machinery and technique.
We were visitors for about a half-hour, and then the five of us settled in to work in the rooms where the newspaper was published until Latter-day Saints were forced to abandon their temple—and their newspaper—in 1846.
As far as I know, we were the first newspaper staff of a Church-owned publication to work out of that building for more than a century and a half. We hoped to pick up the thread of communication that once emanated from that old red brick building.
For several years, from our office in Salt Lake City, we received news of the progress of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple as it was being built. We sent members of our staff for on-site reports and photos. We were awed by the prospect of Nauvoo once again having a temple on the gentle rise of land facing the Mississippi River. Being journalists, we wanted to cover the events surrounding the temple’s dedication. Being sentimentalists, we wanted to do our part in re-creating a bit of history, even if for only a few days.
With our laptop computers, cell phones, and digital cameras we set up shop, so to speak, upstairs. We walked on wide-planked floors that creaked with every step, sometimes disturbing a tour group downstairs.
An old conference table with spindle-backed and cane-bottomed chairs served as our office furniture. We looked out windows and saw through hand-blown glass panes a wavy glimpse of pastoral settings.
In early days, the press was located on the upper floor, so we were pleased to have that room available for our use. However, Nauvoo’s almost steam-like heat drove us to other floors. The basement, where it is thought that the stereotype foundry was located, was several degrees cooler and provided more comfortable working conditions for some of our team. I found a spot in a corner on the main floor. As I worked at my laptop computer, I could hear tour guides and visitors talking about the famed building. I spent some time at a window, gazing at Brigham Young’s home and contemplating what life might have been like when the Saints lived there.
To report the news of the Church and publish counsel and teachings of prophets and apostles and other Church leaders was the aim of the Times and Seasons. It was ours also.
Back at our office in Salt Lake City, other members of the Church News staff gave us support and wrote articles based on research and telephone interviews to round out our coverage of that historic event. Those staff members were John Hart, associate editor, and staff writers Julie Dockstader Heaps, Greg Hill, and Sarah Jane Weaver (the latter of whom is now Church News editor).
My colleagues and I were grateful for the opportunity to go to Nauvoo and report from the Times and Seasons building the events surrounding the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
In the days leading up to the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple June 27–30, 2002, members of the Church News staff and a Deseret News photographer set up shop in the Printing Office, home of the Times and Seasons. From left: Shaun Stahle, Gerry Avant, Scott Lloyd, Jason Swensen, and Jeffrey D. Allred. Photo courtesy of Elder Jay Price, Deseret News.