Or did they get distracted, preoccupied, and diverted from their God-given task? Did the early saints take advantage of the extended time Joseph purchased for them? Did they take seriously Joseph’s intercession and his sacrifice in their behalf? Or did they carelessly let the time pass, fail to receive the fullness of the priesthood, and loose the opportunity to obtain Zion?
The saints in Nauvoo seemed to be enjoying this time of peace and security. It was a time of building homes and accumulating wealth. “The city was soon a bustle of activity and commerce as Saints gathered there from all parts of the United States, Canada, and England. Within four years, Nauvoo had become one of the largest cities in Illinois. Church members lived in relative peace, secure in the fact that a prophet walked and labored among them.” Our Heritage
As the temple remained unfinished, homes, businesses, and enterprises were popping up everywhere in Nauvoo. Remodeling with upgrades and perks was common among the saints. I don’t imagine they thought time would actually run out, at least they did not seriously consider the consequences. I doubt they knew exactly how much time they had, but their homes and personal interests seemed to take priority over building the Lord’s house.
At Joseph’s death, on June 27, 1844, the Nauvoo Temple was still in the early stages of construction. Prior to his death, Joseph pleaded with the saints to quickly build the house of the Lord in preparation for Zion. This would provide a place for God to come, open the heavens, and restore the fullness of the priesthood again. D&C 124:28, D&C 124:39
“The Church is not fully organized, in its proper order, and cannot be, until the Temple is completed, where places will be provided for the administration of the ordinances of the Priesthood” History of the Church, 4:603; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 28, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois
“Hasten the work in the Temple, renew your exertions to forward all the work of the last days, and walk before the Lord in soberness and righteousness. Let the Elders and Saints do away with lightmindedness, and be sober.” History of the Church, 6:52; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Oct. 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois
“President Joseph suggested that it was best to let the Nauvoo House remain as it is until the temple is completed, as we need the temple more than anything else . . . We will let the Nauvoo house stand until the temple is done, and we will put all our forces on the Temple” History of the Church, 6:230; from a Joseph Smith journal entry, Mar. 4, 1844, Nauvoo, Illinois.
However, the people seemed to drag their feet and were slow to respond to the Lord’s offer. Joseph lamented over the fact that the saints were unprepared and unwilling to meet the Lord’s conditions. It grieved Joseph that the people didn’t follow the Lord’s commandment to build the temple. Joseph sacrificed his life. The people collectively did not come into the presence of God and have the fullness of the priesthood restored again. Zion was not obtained because there wasn’t a place prepared for the Lord to come. The saints didn’t qualify by “build[ing] a house to my name, for the most High to dwell therein.” D&C 124:27
Is Deity the only source from which to obtain the fullness? Was the Nauvoo Temple the chosen place for this to happen? Was Joseph the chosen vessel through whom this was to occur? Since Joseph is dead and the temple is not complete, what now? After Joseph’s death, the saints hurried to complete the temple.
This reminds me of a similar situation I sometimes have with my children. I give them a job to do in the morning. I tell them that if they get their morning work done, we’ll have some special activities in the afternoon. I also let them know what will happen if they don’t get their job complete. I don’t nag them, but let them choose how to spend their morning. Some children follow through and receive the promised blessings, but that is not the case with all of the children. Some will play, tease others, or pursue their own interests during the morning. When they realize that the time is up, they panic, scramble, and try to finish the job that they should have been diligently working on all morning. They hope I will go back on my word and give them another chance. They may even think that I am not a kind and merciful parent when I follow through and do what I said I would do.
Like my children, the saints in Nauvoo scrambled and tried to finish the Nauvoo temple after Joseph was dead. Was there still time left to claim God’s blessings? Or had the offer expired? From then on, things seemed to go “south.” Was God’s hand of protection removed?
Were ordinances ever performed in the Nauvoo temple with God’s approval and seal? Did the Most High God dwell therein? Was His comfort, power, or presence felt there? Did God protect, care for, and guard the temple? If not, why? Did the hand of God protect the saints? Did they get moved out of their place and driven from Nauvoo? Why? D&C 124:45 Did they witness blessings and protection from God? Or did they experience cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments? D&C 124:48
Did they find peace, glory, and power from heaven, or were they driven into the wilderness like the children of Israel? Was Joseph taken from their midst like Moses was taken from the children of Israel? Were they left only with the lesser priesthood? D&C 84:25-26 Did they succeed in obtaining Zion? Did they receive conversations with heaven, revelations, glory, honor, and endowments from the Lord? Did they find the Nauvoo temple to be the place where God came to them, talked to them, and ministered to them? Did He reveal His ordinances unto them and things that had been kept hid from before the foundation of the world pertaining to dispensation of the fullness of times? D&C 124:39-41 Did the Lord perform the oath and fulfill the promises that they expected at his hands? Did God restore that which was lost? D&C 124:47
“Around midnight on 8–9 October 1848, the Nauvoo Temple was set on fire.” This is a different type of fire than what was experienced by the saints in Kirtland. When the Kirtland temple was dedicated, it was filled with fire, angels, and power from heaven. The whole building was full of light. The only fire that visited the Nauvoo temple was a destructive fire.
“On 27 May 1850, the temple was struck by a tornado, which toppled one wall, and Cabet ordered the demolition of two more walls in the interests of public safety, leaving only the façade standing. In February 1865 Nauvoo's City Council ordered the final demolition of the last standing portion of the temple—one lone corner of the façade.” Soon afterwards, all evidence of the temple disappeared. It was utterly destroyed. What message does this convey?
Does this sound like a spot that was made holy?
To be continued . . .