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Nauvoo is situated at an elevation of 610 ft (185 m) in Hancock County in western Illinois at the Mississippi River which forms the border to Iowa. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 1,063.
The city was founded in 1839 by Latter Day Saints who had fled Missouri as a results of the 1838 Mormon War.
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saints movement, escaped from prison in Liberty jail in May 1939
and after rejoining his group named the new town Nauvoo from the Sephardi Hebrew word
However, whenever Latter Day Saints gathered in numbers, they met with opposition from neighbors who feared that Mormon block-voting would lead to theocracy. (In Nauvoo, Smith was not only President of the Church, he was Mayor, head of the municipal court, and general of the militia.) Dissatisfaction with the theocracy also arose from within. Smith was assassinated in 1844 by mob attacking the jail in Carthage where Smith had been imprisoned. In 1845 the Nauvoo charter was repealed by state legislature. After a succession crisis, Brigham Young assumed control of Nauvoo. By the end of 1845 it became clear that no peace was possible, and Mormon leaders negotiated a truce so that the Latter Day Saints could prepare to abandon the city. Most of the Latter Day Saints left Nauvoo in February of 1846. One year later they founded Great Salt Lake City which became their new headquarters. On April 1, 2004, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution of regret for the forced expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo in 1846.
Smith's widow continued to live in Nauvoo with her family after the departure of the majority of the Latter Day Saints. In 1860, their son, Joseph Smith III claimed to receive a revelation to take his place as Prophet/President of a New Organization of the Latter Day Saint church. He continued to live in Nauvoo, which functioned as headquarters of this church (now known as the Community of Christ) until 1865. The Community of Christ still owns and maintains historic sites in Nauvoo, including the homes of Joseph Smith Jr., his store, and the Nauvoo House. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also owns a number of historic sites in Nauvoo, including the homes of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.
The Nauvoo Temple was the second temple to be completed by members of the Latter Day Saint movement (the first one to be completed was at Kirkland, Ohio). The cornerstone was laid on April 6, 1841. The foundation was 88 by 128 ft and, when finished, its steeple rose to a height of over 100 ft. The Nauvoo Temple was designed in the Greek Revival style by Mormon architect William Weeks, under the direction of church founder Joseph Smith Jr. It made use of distinctively Latter Day Saint motifs, including Sunstones, Moonstones, and Starstones, representing the Three Degrees of Glory in the Mormon conception of the afterlife. Construction was only half complete when Smith was assassinated in 1844. Construction was only half complete when Smith was assassinated in 1844. Brigham Young encouraged the Latter Day Saints to complete the temple prior to their expulsion from the city. The building was dedicated in 1846 while still not entirely finished. Vigilantes from neighboring Carthage, Illinois entered the near-empty city and vandalized the temple. Brigham Young's agents tried to sell or lease the structure, but found no takers. On 19 November 1848 the vacant temple was set on fire by arsonists. Nauvoo's residentsmostly non-Mormons and former Mormonsvainly attempted to put out the fire, but the temple was entirely gutted. On May 27, 1850, the temple was struck by a tornado which razed several walls, and the City Council eventually ordered the demolition of the remaining walls in the interests of public safety. Many of the original stones for the temple were used to construct other buildings in Hancock County. In 2002, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints built a new temple on the site of the original. The exterior is a replica of the first temple, but the interior is laid out like a modern Latter Day Saint temple.