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Destruction of the Temple

About 3:00 AM on Monday, October 8, 1848, residents of Nauvoo were awakened by alarms of ‘fire.’ It was believed that an arsonist had struck a flame at the base of the tower. In spite of immediate and heroic action by Nauvoo’s residents, it was already too late to save the building.

The Nauvoo Temple fire impacted the whole community. Joseph Smith III recorded his New Citizen step-father, Lewis C. Bidamon, was in mourning after unsuccessfully battling the fire. He mentioned the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son, how the father’s bowels yearned over his son. “I never understood that passage before,” Bidamon said. “But now I seem to feel this loss, this terrible calamity, throughout my whole body. I believe I begin to sense the meaning of that phrase in the Bible. I shall not make light of it again.”

In later years, Bidamon stated that there was also a financial loss when the Temple burned, noting business in Nauvoo dropped 75%.

On April 3, 1849, a group of French communists called Icarians (who had recently moved to Nauvoo) purchased the Temple Block. On May 27, 1850, eleven Icarians were in the basement laying stone footings to set a new first floor on, when a severe storm hit. The frightened workers ran for the southwest corner of the basement just as the north wall crashed in. Miraculously, no one was injured. The damaged east and south walls were demolished in the following days.

Falling stones made the site unsafe, and in January 1865 the southwest corner—the last part still standing—was demolished.

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