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Sent on Mormon-News: 14Mar01

By Mark Wright

Nauvoo Temple Brings New Tension to City

NAUVOO, ILLINOIS -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the city of Nauvoo have a long history together. Unfortunately, some of that history is very painful and awakens troubled memories for all concerned. However, like it or not, it's time for round two of the "Meet the Mormons" in the city of Nauvoo.

Ever since President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the reconstruction of the Nauvoo temple at April General Conference in 1999, emotions have been running high on both sides of the relationship. Faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ are excited about reclaiming an important symbol of the Church's early days. Many of the non-member residents of Nauvoo, however, worry that their town will become a Latter-day Saint version of Mecca. The families who have been here for generations fear that their lives will become a mere afterthought in a setting dominated by the presence of the Temple and the influx of the faithful who make the trek to Nauvoo.

The uncomfortable situation in Nauvoo stems from the expulsion of the saints more than 150 years ago by the ancestors of many of the modern-day residents. Like most any story, this one has two sides and the passage of time hasn't clarified much. The present residents of Nauvoo believe that the original saints were an unsavory lot and responsible for creating their own problems by antagonizing their neighbors.

On the other side of the story, official Church history tells of murderous mobs destroying homes, driving out men, women, and children, pillaging and eventually destroying the original temple. Given the strained relationships that seem to exist, it seems somewhat ironic that the economic future and probable survival of the area is now inextricably tied to the growth of Church-related tourism in the area. While approximately 250,000 tourists visit Nauvoo during a typical summer season, estimates for visitors once the temple is completed go as high as 1,000,000 per year. This is bound to be disruptive to a small town in Illinois that currently has about 1,300 year-round residents.

As part of an effort to minimize the impact of the rapid growth associated with the temple, the Church agreed to bring in a city planner to coordinate the construction effort. Ken Millard was appointed by the Church to work with the mayor and town council but only lasted on the job for about 7 months before being suddenly removed. While both the city and the Church note that Millard had some difficulties in reaching consensus, he seemed determined to move forward and get things resolved. However, just like the earlier stories about the Church in Nauvoo, the facts of this situation are somewhat difficult to pin down. While everyone acknowledges the change in assignment for Millard, no one can quite put their finger on exactly what happened. Apparently the people who know, including Millard, aren't talking.

Given the rapidly-growing interest in the temple and the ever-increasing number of visitors destined to make the pilgrimage to Nauvoo, the now-simmering emotions will certainly come to a rolling boil in the near future. An old adage proclaims that those who refuse to learn from history are destined to repeat it. It appears that the world will soon see if the Church and the residents of Nauvoo have been diligent students.


After 154 Years, Old Nauvoo, Mormon Faithful Still at Odds
Salt Lake Tribune 11Mar01 D1
By Dan Egan: Salt Lake Tribune


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