NAUVOO, Ill. Saying he felt the presence of heavenly beings "who smile upon us with approbation," President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Nauvoo Illinois Temple June 27, the 158th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith.
Joining President Hinckley in the historic event, the first temple dedicatory session to be broadcast by satellite internationally, were President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency; President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and other General Authorities and officers of the Church.
Emotions were close to the surface as President Hinckley spoke and 80 members of the Tabernacle Choir sang during the first of 13 sessions to dedicate the temple; the final dedicatory session will be held Sunday, June 30.
The first service began at 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time, which President Hinckley noted would have been 5 p.m. in Joseph Smith's day. "At this hour 158 years ago in Carthage the murderous mob climbed the stairs, fired their pistols, and forced the door to the jail room," said President Hinckley as he recounted events leading to the martyrdom.
President Hinckley said, "The construction of the Nauvoo Temple became the crowning objective of Joseph's life. The endeavor came as a result of the revealed word of the Lord. His faithful people shared his vision of this truly magnificent building, the finest of its kind in this part of the country. Even after his death [in 1844], construction went forward."
The original Nauvoo Temple was dedicated in a private service on April 30, 1846, and in a public ceremony the next day.
President Hinckley said that he felt the presence of the Father and the Son, "who have revealed Themselves to the Prophet Joseph who gave his life for this work. I think he must rejoice."
President Hinckley said that he felt the presence also of his grandfather (Ira N. Hinckley) who lived in Nauvoo as a young man, and of his father, Bryant S. Hinckley, who served as president of the Northern States Mission, which included Nauvoo. He expressed confidence that "so many of you feel your forebears are with us."
He said that his father led a great celebration in 1939 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Nauvoo; some 700 people gathered from over the mission. "He wished with all his heart to see the temple rebuilt and worked to that end," President Hinckley said, adding that he considered it "a wonderful privilege to have some part in accomplishing that for which he worked but could not bring to pass."
He commented on the vast number of people attending the dedicatory service in person and in designated meetinghouses throughout the world. In attendance at the temple were 1,631 members; proceedings were carried via satellite to approximately 2,300 locations in 72 countries. Of the congregation in the temple, he said, "I am sure there is a great unseen audience looking upon us, those who passed to the other side and see in the structure which we dedicate today a fulfillment of their hopes, their dreams, and some compensation for their tears and their indescribable sacrifices. They must have a profound love for us who have found it possible to create this magnificent building which stands as a memorial to them."
Music for the session was provided by members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Musical selections honored the Prophet Joseph and Latter-day Saints of the Nauvoo and pioneer eras: "Come, Come, Ye Saints;" written by William
Clayton on the plains of Iowa during the Pioneers' trek; "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," which the Prophet requested John Taylor sing shortly before the martyrdom at Carthage Jail; "The Seer, the Seer, Joseph the Seer," an anthem written by John Taylor; "Praise to the Man," a hymn written by William W. Phelps in honor of the Prophet. Most majestic and emotionally moving was "The Hosanna Anthem." Upon a signal from choir director Craig Jessop, the congregation joined in singing "The Spirit of God, Like a Fire Is Burning," which was sung at the Kirtland Temple dedication in 1836.
Following Thursday's dedicatory session, members filed out of the temple, filling the spaces outside the building's west entrance. Then the flow seemed to stop. Many who were walking away from the temple turned 180 degrees, stopped and once again faced the temple. Some stood arm in arm with a spouse, or a child or friend. Despite the growing crowd, no one seemed eager to leave.