Dear Sisters

Dear Sisters
Highland 12th Ward Sisters

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Old Nauvoo Angel...a Mystery!

The Nauvoo Angel
Hello, Sisters!  Sorry I haven't posted for a bit...I had a good excuse though! This past weekend I was able to take a quick trip to Nauvoo.  George and I were on a "road trip" to pick up an expensive and unwieldy piece of painting equipment in Davenport, Iowa.  I looked up Davenport on the map and found it was located on the Mississippi River and only about 100 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois.  I was so excited!  Nauvoo had always been on my "bucket list" of places I wanted to see in my lifetime.  Funny about was raining buckets on Saturday, my only chance to go!  When life hands you make the best of it!

Beautiful Temple in the Rain.

I have long been fascinated by the history of the original Nauvoo Temple.  I always loved pictures of the temple so graceful on its hillside overlooking the Mississippi River.  I often marveled that the Saints were able to leave this lovely temple behind just as soon as it was completed.  A 1992 article written by Don F. Colvin in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism tells us...

"As most of the Saints left Nauvoo under threat of mob violence in early February 1846, a special crew stayed behind and completed the temple. Three months later the building was considered complete and was publicly dedicated on May 1, 1846. Dedication services were repeated over a three-day period and witnessed by thousands. Visitors paid a one-dollar admission fee, and the funds were used to help workmen move their families and join the main body of the Church on the plains to the west.

Tintype photo of completed temple.

"When most of the remaining Church members were driven from the city in September of 1846, the temple was temporarily abandoned. Mob forces desecrated and defiled the sacred structure. Some physical damage, though not extensive, was sustained. Attempts were later made to sell the temple, but these proved unsuccessful. The building was consumed by fire in October 1848, by the deliberate act of arson. Only the bare walls were left standing. A French Icarian community purchased the site and was preparing to reclaim the structure when it was struck by a tornado, which knocked down some of the walls and damaged others so severely that they had to be razed. Much of the structural stone was later reused in other Nauvoo buildings."

Damaged and Desecrated.

Doesn't this old photograph break your heart?  I know mine aches to think of it.  I picture one of my pioneer ancestors looking back across the wide expanse of the Mississippi for one last glance at the temple on the hill...perhaps catching the glint of sunlight on the gold leaf of the angel weather vane. Did she wipe away a tear as she turned away?   How I wish I had been there to see it in its glory!  So much had been suffered and sacrificed for that sacred building.  But thankfully, many Saints were able to receive the blessings of the temple before leaving...they would need that strength for the journey.

The First Angel...and a Mystery.
Old Print with Angel
The angel atop the old Nauvoo temple fascinates me.  I have always enjoyed the primitive folk-art of the 1800's...especially the figures carved as weather vanes.  The Nauvoo angel was part weather vane and lightning rod.  The Perrigrine Sessions Journal described it as a "representation of an angel in his priestly robes with a book of Mormon in one hand and trumpet in the other which [was] over laid with gold."  The angel, flying in a horizontal position, represented the "angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel." (D&C 133:36, Rev. 14:6)  If you want to know more about the symbolism of the weather vane, Nauvoo Temple Exterior Symbolism is a really interesting site.

30" Nauvoo Angel
I bought this at Zion's Mercantile in Nauvoo.
May be available from Deseret Book.
The Mystery at last!
What happened to the angel figure which crowned the Nauvoo Temple?  Many people assume that the statue was destroyed in either the fire or windstorm that brought the temple to ruin.  But is it possible that the original Angel Moroni from Nauvoo flew over the city of Cincinnati atop another church for 100 years?  Some people say "Yes!"  The story is from a Nov. 25, 1999 article on the KSL News Website.
In the late 1960's an LDS Stake President, John Taylor, who worked for Proctor and Gamble, would look out his window and see a "beautiful figure, shining in the sun, because it was covered with gold leaf."  A genealogist in the area told him that she had seen in the records of the Salem Evangelical Church that a delegation had gone from Cincinnati to Nauvoo.  They bought the figure from the destroyed temple, called it "Gabriel" and put it on their steeple.
One day a windstorm toppled the angel from it's steeple.  The Cincinnati church commissioned another one and gave the damaged one to John Taylor.  He called a man from Nauvoo to come in his pickup truck and carry the angel back to Nauvoo.  Before it left, President Taylor took pictures of the angel.
Unfortunately...a prominent Church historian looked at the pictures and told Taylor that although it was definitely folk art of the mid 1800s...he doubts that it was the angel on the Nauvoo Temple. He gives some of his reasons in the article.  But in the meantime...where is the angel that left for Nauvoo?  No one knows.  It may have been destroyed or is in someone's barn somewhere.  Many people to this day still believe that "Gabriel" is Moroni and that someday he (the angel figure) will return.  I sure hope so!  Until that day, I will enjoy my small copy hanging in my living room. 
Temple view from across the Mississippi.
The picture I would have taken if weren't raining cats and dogs!
Of course it wouldn't be autumn...sigh!
Hope you enjoyed this journey...
I hope to return some (sunny) day!


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