Building "As Great a Temple as Ever Solomon Did"

By Shepard, William | Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Building "As Great a Temple as Ever Solomon Did"


Shepard, William, Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought


Building "as Great a Temple as Ever Solomon Did" Matthew McBride. A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007, 448 pp. $34.95.

It is a pleasure to review this excellent book which will be a standard work on the Nauvoo Temple among the Mountain Saints for many years to come. McBride, the manager of online development at Deseret Book Company and an avid researcher, has written an easy-to-read and well-documented history of the Mormon temple at Nauvoo.

In the opening chapter, McBride cites Joseph Smith's public announcement on July 19, 1840: "Now brethren I obligatemyself to build as great a temple as ever Solomon did, if the church will back me up" (2). McBride cites portions of LDS Doctrine and Covenants 124 concerning the temple, emphasizing verses 31, 33, and 37, which state that the temple had to be built "within a sufficient time" or the church would be rejected (35-36).

In Chapter 2, "Laying the Foundation: February 1841 to October 1841," McBride discusses the initial work on the temple foundation and cornerstones and the purchase of lumber mills in Wisconsin, providing the reader with a solid understanding of this early period and explaining why the hierarchy pleaded for members to gather to Nauvoo.

Chapter 3, covering November 1841 to April 1842, includes accounts of the dedication of the temple font and the first baptisms for the dead, also supplying an interesting essay about the temple stonecutters. He presents the first endowments, meetings of the Quorum of the Anointed, and the Prophet's letters on baptism for the dead in a thorough manner, nicely reinforced by essential background information.

Chapter 5 addresses obtaining funds for the temple, the work of the temple committee, logging operations, and the development of endowments. It also covers the introduction of celestial marriage, plural marriage, prayer meetings, and the Relief Society during the 1843 building season. The deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith headline Chapter 6, and McBride correctly describes accounts of the "last charge" (or the claims that Joseph Smith assigned the Twelve to continue his work of governing the Church) as retrospective. "The Ascendancy of the Twelve: July 1844 to December 1844" is the title of Chapter 7, in which McBride emphasizes the determination of the Twelve to continue building the temple.

Chapter 8, in part, cites the completion of the exterior walls and Sidney Rigdon's declaration that the Church was rejected because the temple was not completed. This chapter also explains that Brigham Young changed the pattern of baptizing (in which any individual could be baptized for any other) by directing that only men could be baptized for men and that only women could be baptized for women.

In Chapter 9, "The Roof and Tower: June 1845 to September 1845," McBride comments: "The summer of 1845 was perhaps the most exciting building season on the temple" (213). As the walls were completed, emphasis shifted to the interior. Under the heading "Heightened Security at the Temple," McBride acknowledges that cannons were rebored in the basement of the temple and explains the Mormons' defensive posture due to the burning of Mormon houses in the countryside by bands of Gentiles. Not included are parallel accounts of Mormon violence. On April 3, 1845, the Nauvoo police "almost beat a man to death in the Temple," an act applauded by both Hosea Stout, captain of Nauvoo's police force, and Brigham Young.1 Nor does McBride include Stout's September 30, 1845, entry describing a search of the temple by Illinois state militia for the bodies of two murdered Gentiles.2

Chapter 10, "Conference in the Temple: October 1845 to November 1845," describes the first general conference held in the temple, during which William Smith's conduct was reviewed and he was not sustained as Church patriarch. (He was excommunicated six days later. …

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