The Temple of Nauvoo


Howard W. Hunter

The Temple of Nauvoo

President Howard W. Hunter

President Hunter, with the help of an aide and a walker, at commemoration program.

I am so pleased to be here today in this special place and on this special occasion. We extend our appreciation to the Illinois State officials who have made the presentation of the sun stone possible.

Nauvoo will always be special in the minds and hearts of Latter-day Saints, because it evokes such deep appreciation and admiration for the accomplishments of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He is preeminent among all the latter-day prophets.

Joseph’s closing weeks were much focused on the holy temple which once stood on this spot. He wanted a temple completed so that there could be elders who, having received the ordinances of the endowment, could then better help establish Zion. Near this very site, Joseph spoke of the need to “build up stakes in all North and South America” (The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980, p. 364). In fulfillment of his prophetic statement, we now have 1,714 stakes on this hemisphere.

As you know, earlier this month I began my ministry by expressing a deep desire to have more and more Church members become temple worthy. As in Joseph’s day, having worthy and endowed members is the key to building the kingdom in all the world. Temple worthiness ensures that our lives are in harmony with the will of the Lord, and we are attuned to receive His guidance in our lives.

So being on this temple site today mingles memories and brings anticipations. The responsibility I feel for the work the Prophet Joseph inaugurated fills me with a determination to do all I can in the time and season allotted to me. Surely Joseph was faithful and true to his time and season!

When we sing of Joseph Smith, “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, 1985, no. 27), we remember so many praiseworthy things about him.

We praise him for his capacity to commune not only with Jehovah but also with other personages of heaven. So many visited, gave keys, and tutored that “choice seer” raised up in the latter days (2 Ne. 3:6–7). When Father Smith blessed young Joseph in 1834, he declared that ancient Joseph in Egypt saw this latter-day seer. Ancient Joseph wept when he realized how the work of the Prophet Joseph would bless the earlier Joseph’s numerous posterity.

We praise Joseph Smith, too, for his diligence and capacity to translate and to receive hundreds of pages of revealed scripture. He was the revealing conduit. Through him, it has been estimated, more marvelous pages of scripture passed than through any other human in history.

We praise Joseph not only for his capacity to endure but to “endure it well” (D&C 121:8). Early on, as a boy, there was the painful operation on his leg—without which surgery he could not have made the later arduous Zion’s Camp march from Ohio to Missouri. During the march Joseph “walked most of the time and had a full share of blistered, bloody, and sore feet” (They Knew the Prophet, comp. Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974, p. 48). Likewise, we praise him and Emma for enduring the sorrowful loss of six of their natural and adopted children to early death. Parents who have lost even one child are filled with empathy.

We praise Joseph for the capacity to endure persecution, including the long and severe deprivations in Liberty Jail. To so many everything then seemed hopeless. Yet the Lord of heaven reassured imprisoned Joseph that “the ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name” (D&C 122:1). We live in a day where there is increased inquiry about Joseph Smith and the restored gospel.

Joseph has long since fulfilled his wish that he might hold “an even weight in the balances with” the ancients (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. Dean C. Jessee, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984, p. 395). We can now sing of how Joseph has been “crowned in the midst of the prophets of old” (Hymns, 1985, no. 27).

We praise Joseph for enduring bitter and repeated betrayals and disappointments. Thus, he went to Carthage “like a lamb to the slaughter,” “calm as a summer’s morning,” and “void of offense towards … all men” (D&C 135:4). He did not go to Carthage bitterly. He did not go to Carthage complainingly. What a marvelous capacity to endure well!

Joseph knew which way he faced. It was toward the Savior Jesus Christ to whom he listened ever since our Heavenly Father first instructed young Joseph, saying, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17.)

Today, we gladly gather in Nauvoo, the City of Joseph, but we yearn for the day when we shall meet with Joseph in the Heavenly City and associate with him there (see Heb. 11:10, 16; D&C 76:66).

May we live so as to journey together and return to the presence of God. This involves becoming more Christlike. Of this journey, we should rightly sing, “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear” (Hymns, 1985, no. 30). All will be well as we, with joy, wend our way.

I bear solemn testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith as the Lord’s anointed servant in these the latter days. To his testimony of the divinity and reality of Jesus Christ I add my own, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.