Nauvoo Temple Milestones, 1840–1850
July 2002

“Nauvoo Temple Milestones, 1840–1850,” Ensign, July 2002, 10–13

Nauvoo Temple

Nauvoo Temple Milestones, 1840–1850

31 August 1840
The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled the Saints to give attention to building a temple in Nauvoo.

October 1840
During general conference, the Saints unanimously accepted a proposal to build the temple. Leaders formed a temple committee. Later that fall, leaders chose a site for the temple on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

January 1841
The Lord officially instructed the Saints to “build a house to my name, even in this place [Nauvoo]” (D&C 124:55).

February 1841
Leaders selected a young New England convert by the name of William Weeks to be the chief architect, and construction began.

6 April 1841
Cornerstones for the sanctuary were laid.

8 November 1841
President Brigham Young dedicated the baptismal font.

27 June 1844
The martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith forced a suspension of all labors. By 7 July, work resumed and, in fact, intensified.

30 November 1845
The attic and other portions of the upper level of the temple were dedicated.

10 December 1845
The first endowments were administered, and soon the temple was operating virtually around the clock.

4 February 1846
The first wave of wagons began to roll westward from the city.

9 February 1846
At about 3:30 P.M., fire erupted on the roof of the temple. The blaze was extinguished quickly and caused only minor damage. It was suspected that enemies of the Church had started the fire, but the Saints soon learned that a stovepipe had ignited clothes drying in an attic room.

30 April 1846
Joseph Young dedicated the temple in a private ceremony. The next day Orson Hyde offered the first of several public dedicatory prayers, the last on 3 May.

9 October 1848
Fire destroyed the temple. A local newspaper reported, “The fire presented a most sublime spectacle. [The flames which] shot up to the sky … threw a lurid glare into the surrounding darkness.”1 By morning only the west-facing wall and parts of the other three walls were left standing.

April 1849
The Icarians, a newly arrived religious communal group, purchased the temple block, which included the charred remains of the temple.

27 May 1850
A tornado struck, and debris fell around workers who were repairing the walls of the temple. The St. Louis–based Daily Missouri Republican recorded, “This frightful hurricane, the most terrible experienced in the country in many years, burst suddenly on the hill of Nauvoo, where lightnings, thunder, wind, hail and rain, seemed united to assail the building.”2


  1. Keokuk [Iowa] Register, 12 Oct. 1848, quoted in Joseph Earl Arrington, The Destruction of the Mormon Temple at Nauvoo, 5–6; reprinted from Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Dec. 1947, 418–19.

  2. 27 May 1850, quoted in Don F. Colvin, The Nauvoo Temple: A Story of Faith (2002), 270.

  • Robert Freeman is a member of the Springville Seventh Ward, Springville Utah Hobble Creek Stake.

Left to right: Paintings by Ted Gorka, William Whitaker, William Warner Major, William Maughan, Lynn Fausett

Left to right: Paintings by Sam Lawlor; unknown; C. C. A. Christensen, © courtesy of Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, all rights reserved; Sam Lawlor