A House for the Most High: The Story of the Original Nauvoo Temple


by Matthew McBride

  • “A House for the Most High is a treasure trove of primary source material and is an enjoyable read at the same time.”BYU Studies
  • “Will be a standard work on the Nauvoo Temple among the Mountain Saints for many years to come.”Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
  • “A wealth of information about the details of building the temple and also a glimpse into the working of the Church during this same period.” — Association for Mormon Letters

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Book Description:

This awe-inspiring book is a tribute to the perseverance of the human spirit. A House for the Most High is a groundbreaking work from beginning to end with its faithful and comprehensive documentation of the Nauvoo Temple’s conception. The behind-the-scenes stories of those determined Saints involved in the great struggle to raise the sacred edifice bring a new appreciation to all readers. McBride’s painstaking research now gives us access to valuable first-hand accounts that are drawn straight from the newspaper articles, private diaries, journals, and letters of the steadfast participants.
     The opening of this volume gives the reader an extraordinary window into the early temple-building labors of the besieged Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the development of what would become temple-related doctrines in the decade prior to the Nauvoo era, and the 1839 advent of the Saints in Illinois. The main body of this fascinating history covers the significant years, starting from 1840, when this temple was first considered, to the temple’s early destruction by a devastating natural disaster. A well-thought-out conclusion completes the epic by telling of the repurchase of the temple lot by the Church in 1937, the lot’s excavation in 1962, and the grand announcement in 1999 that the temple would indeed be rebuilt. Also included are an astonishing appendix containing rare and fascinating eyewitness descriptions of the temple and a bibliography of all major source materials. Mormons and non-Mormons alike will discover, within the pages of this book, a true sense of wonder and gratitude for a determined people whose sole desire was to build a sacred and holy temple for the worship of their God.

Comprehensive Table of Contents:



Introduction: The Temple In Pre-Nauvoo Church History

Early Temple Building Efforts
Preparatory Doctrinal Developments
Ordinance Work on Behalf of the Dead
The Kirtland Endowment
Celestial Marriage
Founding the City of Nauvoo

1. All Things in Readiness: August 1840 to January 1841

Announcement of the Nauvoo Temple
Appointment of the Temple Committee
Purchasing the Land
Architect William Weeks
Impressions of the Design and Architectural Style
Tithing on Labor and Possessions
Sarah M. Kimball’s Temple Contribution
Quarry Opened
Hauling Stone to the Temple Site
The Purpose of Temples
Baptism for the Dead Introduced
Revelation on the Temple
The Nauvoo House

2. Laying the Foundation: February 1841 to October 1841

Division of Nauvoo into Wards
Commencement of Work at the Temple Site
Laying the Cornerstones
“Send Ye Swift Messengers”
Thomas C. Sharp’s Criticisms
Progress on the Foundation During the Summer
Carving the Baptismal Font
The Temple Basement
The Call to Gather
The Temple as a Public Works Project
The Purchase of Mills in Wisconsin
Deposit in the Cornerstone
October 1841 General Conference
Offers to Board Temple Workers

3. The Font of the Temple: November 1841 to April 1842

Dedication of the Temple Font
First Baptisms in the Font
Other Uses of the Font
Office of Recorder Opened
The Book of the Law of the Lord
Payment of Tithes Required for Use of Font
Work During the Winter Season
Generous Benefactors
A Year of Jubilee
A New Form of Volunteer Labor
The Temple Stonecutters

4. The Walls Rise: May 1842 to December 1842

First Endowments Given
Meetings of the “Quorum of the Anointed”
Arrival of William Player
Children and the Temple
Changes at the Recorder’s Office
The Temple Store
Joseph’s Letters on Baptism for the Dead
Temporary Floor Laid
Pleas for Increased Faithfulness
Charges Against the Temple Committee
The Temple Inspires Poets and Artists

5. The Work Continues: January 1843 to December 1843

New Arrangements for Collecting Funds
Further Tensions with the Temple Committee
Further Logging Operations
Hyrum Smith Replaces Elias Higbee
Women Receive the Endowment
The Introduction of Further Ordinances
Prayer Meetings
Contributions of the Relief Society
The 1843 Building Season
Support from the British Mission
Intention to Perform Endowments for the Dead

6. The Death of Joseph: January 1844 to June 1844

Joseph’s Plans for Circular Windows
“Let the Nauvoo House Be”
Joseph’s Last Charge to the Twelve
Land Consecrated to the Temple
The Sisters’ Penny Subscription
The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

7. The Ascendancy of the Twelve: July 1844 to December 1844

Work on the Temple Resumes
Appointment of New Trustees
The Devil and Charles Lambert
Setting the Sunstone Capitals
A New Location for the Donations Office
Carpenters Hired

8. Setting the Capstone: January 1845 to May 1845

Agents Again Designated
A Covenant to Complete the Temple
Completing the Exterior Walls
Sidney Rigdon’s Prophecies Against the Temple
Materials Purchased for the Temple
Baptisms for the Dead
The Vestibule and Stairways
Laying the Capstone

9. The Roof and Tower: June 1845 to September 1845

Work of the Carpenters, Framers, and Joiners
Heightened Security at the Temple
Contribution of Joseph Toronto
Completion of the Roof
The Temple Tower
“A Grand Observatory”
A Bell for the Temple Tower
Work on the Stone Font
Design Changes and Improvements
Plans for a Tabernacle
Dreams about the Temple

10. Conference in the Temple: October 1845 to November 1845

First Meeting in the Temple
First General Conference in Temple
Continued Meetings in the Temple
Appearance of the Finished Halls
The Attic Story
Tithing Settlement

11. Endowed with Power: December 1845 to February 1846

Final Preparations of the Attic Story
Attic Story Dedicated
Initial Efforts to Sell the Temple
Endowments Administered in the Temple
Rules Drafted for Conduct in Temple
“We Danced before the Lord”
Bogus Brigham
The First Temple Workers
Young People Receive Ordinances
The First “Temple Marriages”
Other Ordinance Work in the Temple
Dedication of the Altar
Sunday Lectures in the Temple
Work Continues on the Temple
The Departure of the Twelve
Ordinance Work Ceases in Temple
Fire in the Temple
Truman O. Angell Replaces William Weeks
Expressions of Disappointment
Expressions of Satisfaction

12. Monument to a People: March 1846 to August 1848

Spiritual Manifestations in the Temple
“A Farewell View”
Work on the Temple through April
Plight of the Workers
The Private Dedication of the Temple
The Public Dedication of the Temple
Was the Temple Completed?
Continued Efforts to Sell the Temple
The Bell and the Angel
The Battle of Nauvoo

13. The Temple’s Fate: September 1848 to 1937

The Temple Burns
The Arsonist
Tornado Destroys Temple
Fate of the Stones and the Lot
The LDS Temple-Building Tradition Continues
Epilogue: The Temple Resurrected
Temple Lot Purchased
The Excavation of the Temple Site
Plans to Partially Reconstruct
Improvements to the Site and Other Developments
The Nauvoo Temple Resurrected

Appendix: Eyewitness Descriptions of the Nauvoo Temple



Praise for A House for the Most High:

“McBride has basically taken every imaginable contemporary textual source related to the Nauvoo Temple and has linked them together chronologically with an easily flowing narrative. A House for the Most High is a treasure trove of primary source material and is an enjoyable read at the same time.” — Stanley J. Thayne, BYU Studies

“This excellent book . . . will be a standard work on the Nauvoo Temple among the Mountain Saints for many years to come. . . . It is unquestionably an excellent book in many ways and for many reasons.” — William Shepard, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

“In a truly crowded field of Nauvoo scholarship, A House for the Most High demonstrates the viability of new research on Mormon Nauvoo. In competition with coffee-table books on the Nauvoo Temple, McBride shows balance, fairness, and thoroughness unsurpassed by these other works. Interested readers and historians of Mormonism’s early period will find McBride’s book a helpful reference work for years to come.” — David Howlett, Journal of Mormon History

“Although the focus of this book is about the original Nauvoo temple, it is much more than that. This is a rich source of information about the beginnings of the Church and all that was involved to raise a temple in this frontier community. . . . This book provides a wealth of information about the details of building the temple and also a glimpse into the working of the Church during this same period. I recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the time period and the actions of the Latter-day Saints as they worked to complete this massive temple at a time of some poverty for many.” — Russell Anderson, Association for Mormon Letters

About the Author:

Matthew McBride is the web content manager with the LDS Church History Department. He has written for both the Ensign and the Journal of Mormon History and is an obsessive reader. 

More Information:

Pages: 448
ISBN: 978-1-58958-657-4 (Paperback)
Published in 2002

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