History of the Church Series | BYU Studies

History of the Church Series

Nauvoo Temple
August 23, 2017
History of the Church Series
Artworks in the Celestial Room of the First Nauvoo Temple
Jill C. Major

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Jill C. Major. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

Because of the scant time the first Nauvoo Temple was open for sacred ordinances, portraits of prominent Nauvoo citizens were borrowed to adorn the temple walls. Brigham Young and the temple committee also planned, commissioned, and paid for at least one other portrait for display in the temple. The presence of these images demonstrates how carefully Brigham Young and the temple committee arranged every detail of the temple experience to make it meaningful and purposeful, even while they planned to abandon the City of Joseph. Knowing about the portraits also adds to our knowledge of the importance of art in the Nauvoo culture. What follows is an identification of the portraits that hung in the celestial room, as well as analyses of the extant paintings; in addition, reasons are suggested for the absence of temple murals and a portrait of Joseph Smith. Biographical sketches of two principle Nauvoo Temple artists are also provided.