“What is the story behind the bell on Temple Square?” Ensign, Feb. 1981, 16
Lois Leetham Tanner, gospel doctrine teacher, Tempe Tenth Ward, Tempe South Arizona Stake I am grateful to Sister Edith Smith Eliot (now deceased) for sharing with me her personal knowledge of the history of the bell. According to Sister Eliot, the bell was donated by the British Saints for the Nauvoo Temple and sent to the United States in the care of her great grandfather, Wilford Woodruff.
The bell hung for only a short time in the Nauvoo Temple. Pressure from unfriendly neighbors forced the Saints to evacuate the city, leaving the bell behind. Thereafter, it was apparently taken from the temple and placed in a local protestant church.
We owe recovery of the Nauvoo bell to the Lamoreaux family. Shortly before they left Nauvoo for the West, according to family sources, “one stormy night the men gathered in secret and without horses pulled the wagon to the Church and lowered the Bell, pushed and pulled the wagon by hand to the edge of the Mississippi River and carefully concealed it in the water. Andrew Lamoreaux and his brother, David, were chosen to bring the Bell to Utah with their families, concealing the Bell in their wagon with their provisions.”1
En route, the bell was reportedly used to awaken the herdsmen at dawn, to signal morning prayer, to start the day’s march, and to sound during the night watches to let the Indians know that the sentry was at his post. In Salt Lake, the bell was used at the first old bowery and as a signal to the herders to take out the cattle. It was also used on Brigham Young’s schoolhouse for some time. Thereafter, it seems to have been in a Church business building for a while and then later was housed in the Bureau of Information on Temple Square. In 1942 it was placed in a bell tower on Temple Square by the Relief Society to celebrate their centennial. It remains there today.
I have always felt that the bell tower is on temple square in response to a prophecy President Brigham Young made in 1862. President Young said: “Right west of the temple … we shall build a tower and put a bell on it. … This plan was shown to me in a vision when I first came onto the ground.”2
In 1961, President David O. McKay presided at ceremonies at KSL-TV where the bell furnished a new time signal for both the television and radio stations. On that program, President McKay observed, “In its own way, the Nauvoo bell is a symbol of religious freedom in our land. … Hourly, the sound of the bell should serve to remind us that religious freedom and liberty is as much at stake in the present difficult world situation as political and economic freedom. … When we hear, henceforth, the sound of the Nauvoo bell, let it remind us anew that our nation and our community owes its existence to our trust in God.”3