“Penny by Penny,” Friend, June 2002, 24–25
On January 19, 1841, in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, Illinois, the Lord said, “Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, … with all the precious trees of the earth … and build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein” (D&C 124:26–27).
The Saints obeyed and built the Nauvoo Temple at great sacrifice before they were driven out of their beautiful city and they moved to the Salt Lake Valley. After they left, the temple was destroyed by others and lay in ruins for more than 150 years. Then, at the end of the April 1999 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that the Nauvoo Temple would be rebuilt. And in October 1999, the work of rebuilding the temple began.
The Primary children of the Nauvoo First Ward eagerly watched as the temple rose from a large hole in the ground. They wanted to help in building this house of the Lord, but they couldn’t do any actual physical work, such as cutting the stones or carpentry or electrical work. They decided to answer President Hinckley’s call for Church members to make donations for this special temple. But how? Their Primary leaders found the answer in a story* about the original temple there:
“In 1844, the Saints in Nauvoo were building the temple, as the Lord had commanded. All of them were contributing as much as they could in tithes and offerings. The men were putting in long hours at the temple site, and Mary Fielding Smith and her sister Mercy Thompson were trying to think of a special way in which the women could contribute to the temple. They couldn’t work at the stone quarry or build windows with the carpenters, but they did come up with a wonderful plan: They started collecting a penny each week from the sisters who could help. That might not seem like much today, but it was a lot of money then. Penny by penny, the sisters’ sacrifice paid for the glass and nails needed for the temple.”
A penny fund would be the perfect way for the Primary children of the Nauvoo First Ward to help! Every child could find a way to contribute pennies, and the money would be used to buy a tree to plant on the temple grounds. That way, each time the children went there, they would see a reminder of their sacrifices and contributions. And as the tree was growing, they would also be growing and preparing to enter the temple and make sacred covenants there.
To start the project, the Primary leaders created a special tree on which each class placed a colorful leaf on Sundays when they put their pennies in the Penny by Penny jar. Children brought pennies they earned by doing things like extra chores and recycling cans. Soon the pennies were pouring in, and the special tree branches were filled with colorful leaves. Even children who visited Nauvoo during the busy tourist season put pennies into the jar.
In November 2001, the temple was almost finished, and it was time to prepare the grounds so that they would be beautiful for the open house in the spring. On a cold Saturday morning, the Primary children and their parents gathered in front of the temple to plant their Penny by Penny tree.
First, they sang “I Love to See the Temple.”† The bishop gave a talk, then the children gave their pennies to Brother Ron Prince, the temple project administrator. The tree was placed in the hole prepared for it, a canister containing the written and drawn testimonies of the children was placed among the tree’s roots, then the children took turns shoveling dirt to fill in around the tree. They were very happy to have helped make the Savior’s house in Nauvoo more beautiful, and they look forward to the day when each of them may enter it.