Nauvoo Illinois Temple

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is the 113th dedicated temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Completed in 2002, it replaces a historical temple built by Joseph Smith and his followers in 1841-46.


History of Nauvoo Illinois Temple

The current Nauvoo Temple replaces a 19th-century temple that stood on the same site. Begun in 1841, the original temple was complete enough to host services by the winter of 1845-46. The building was designed by Mormon architect William Weeks.

Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS Church, led the building effort. In 1841 he received several special revelations regarding the project: God approved the site; God would provide sufficient time for completion of the temple; and in the finished temple he would "reveal unto the Church things hid from before the foundation of the world." Smith also announced that working on the temple was equal in merit to preaching the gospel to the world.

The Nauvoo Mormon community sacrificed a great deal of money and labor for the temple, but it was used for less than a year before being abandoned.

Construction was still underway when Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the Nauvoo community and encouraged completion of the temple, even as the Mormons prepared to flee the city in the face of increasing mob violence.

Most of the Mormon community fled west from Nauvoo in February 1846, but enough workers stayed behind to enable formal dedication of the temple in May 1846. In September, the remaining Mormons were driven from the city and the temple was vandalized. The temple was sold to the leader of French utopian sect in 1849.

The Nauvoo Temple was severely damaged by a fire in 1848 and one wall was destroyed by a tornado on May 27, 1850. Two other walls were torn down for safety reasons shortly thereafter, and in 1865 the remaining west wall was demolished by the Nauvoo City Council. The stones from the ruined temple were used in various buildings throughout the city.

For nearly 150 years, the site of the Nauvoo Temple stood virtually empty. It was purchased back by the LDS Church in 1937 and turned into a historical site. Archaeological excavations of the foundations were carried out and the site was enhanced with memorials and a model of the temple.

Plans to finally rebuild the Nauvoo Temple were announced in August 1999 and construction began on October 24, 1999. The new temple was designed after the pattern of the old one, even incorporating some original construction materials and furniture.

As is customary with new Mormon temples, the completed edifice was opened to the public for six weeks prior to dedication (May 6-June 22, 2002). During this period, 331,849 visitors came to the small town of Nauvoo to tour the interior.

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple was officially dedicated on June 27, 2002, at the exact hour of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Due to its historical importance, the Nauvoo Temple attracts thousands of Mormon visitors each year and an increasing number of Mormon residents in the small town.

What to See at Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Today's Nauvoo is a small town of only 1,063 people, but it is an important stop on the Mormon Trail. The new temple is the centerpiece of a complex of 27 restored historic buildings designed to provide a sense of life during the early history of the Mormon church.

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is patterned closely after the original temple especially on the exterior, but modern enhancements have been incorporated (such as concrete walls for strength, various changes according to current safety regulations and a modern interior layout). Like its predecessor, the new temple is a unique building based on the Greek Revival style.

The exterior is rectangular in shape with a single domed tower topped with a golden Angel Moroni. Unlike most LDS temples, this one faces west, towards the Mississippi River. The walls are faced in limestone quarried in Russellville, Alabama (the quarry used for the original temple stone is now underwater).

As with the original, the exterior is decorated with symbolic carvings: moons near the base, suns with faces on the capitals and stars along the top. These were designed by Joseph Smith himself, inspired by his cosmological visions.

Bronze equestrian statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith stand next to the west facade. Both brothers were murdered in nearby Carthage Jail in 1844, while the temple was under construction.

Inside, the temple has four floors containing an assembly room, four progressive-style ordinance rooms and six sealing rooms (see photos). The floors of the temple are hardwood and decorated with rugs, runners, and furnishings typical of the 1840s. The first floor Assembly Room, with ten chandeliers, was duplicated on a smaller scale to allow space for administrative offices.

The baptistery is the largest in any LDS temple and is tiled in red brick as in the original temple. The baptismal font, supported by 12 carved limestone oxen, is also a duplicate of the original. The ceiling features a dome, and intricate moldings.

The second floor has dressing rooms and the upper floors house the four endowment rooms and six sealing rooms. Decorated with murals, these include the Creation Room, Garden Room, World Room, Terrestrial Room, and Celestial Room.

Festivals and Events

In late July and early August is the one-and-a-half-week-long City of Joseph Pageant, which draws thousands of visitors to Nauvoo.

Quick Facts on Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Site Information
Names:Nauvoo Illinois Temple · Nauvoo LDS Temple
Styles:modern; Neoclassical
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:40.550567° N, 91.384342° W
Address:50 N Wells St.
Nauvoo, Illinois
Hours:Open only to Mormons with a temple recommend.
Lodging:View hotels near Nauvoo Illinois Temple
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Nauvoo Illinois Temple – LDS Temples
  2. Temples – Official LDS Website
  3. Nauvoo Temple Page
  4. Nauvoo Temple Interior Photos - Nauvoo News
  5. Nauvoo Temple - Wikipedia
  6. Animosity simmers in a river town: Mormon roots and Mormon resentment - MSNBC, Aug. 9, 2004

More Information

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