October 5, 2017
C. C. A. Christensen (1831-1912), The Nauvoo Temple, c.1878, tempera on muslin, 77 x 113 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of the grandchildren of C.C.A. Christensen.
Begun in 1841, the temple was the most significant edifice in Nauvoo and represented the culmination of worship and blessings for the Saints. Situated on a hilltop, it could be seen from twenty miles away. As rooms of the temple were completed, they were dedicated so that the Saints could participate in important religious ordinances. Although construction continued after Joseph Smith’s death, most of the Mormons were forced to evacuate the city before it was completed. One week following its dedication in May 1846, the temple was closed and entrusted to a caretaker.
This lofty temple—presented here to commemorate President Gordon B. Hinckley’s momentous announcement in October 1997 of plans to build smaller temples throughout the world—seems to stand on a plane separate from its surroundings. The powerful symbol elevates the viewer’s focus from the mundane terrain to the expansive and expressive sky. Although a patch of bright blue suggests the brief but glorious period when the temple fulfilled its purpose, the encroachment of the dark sky symbolizes the resumed persecution that eventually drove the Saints from Nauvoo.