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For week ended May 30, 1999 Posted 4 Jun 1999

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Nauvoo's Prospects on Rise with Mormons' Temple Plans

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Nauvoo's Prospects on Rise with Mormons' Temple Plans
Chicago Tribune 24May99 L8
By Steve Kloehn: Tribune Religion Writer

NAUVOO, ILLINOIS -- The rectangular hole in the ground where the Nauvoo Temple once stood draws about 200,000 visitors a year, most of whom go to one of three competing visitors' centers in the area. Now, with the announcement that the LDS Church will rebuild the Temple, and in the wake of estimates that the area may draw as many as 1 million visitors a year, the prospects for Nauvoo and the surrounding area have improved markedly.

Real estate agents in the area have reported many calls from Utah, where Mormon retirees are considering relocating to Nauvoo. The influx will greatly expand the number of LDS Church members in the area, currently including 150 permanent residents and about 150 temporary church workers and missionaries.

For the past0 years the LDS Church has been buying property in Nauvoo, following on the efforts of individual members as far back as the 1930s. The resulting restoration has led tourism brochures to dub it the "Williamsburg of the West." Nauvoo's mayor is generally pleased, "I figured some day it would happen. . . . The buses aggravate my wife, but I tell her, just shut the windows and turn on the air conditioning. . . . I get along with the Mormons just fine. You've got to have some kind of industry, and that's our industry. If they hadn't come back, we might be like a lot of other Midwestern towns--dried up."

The temple announcement was also a blessing and a boon to Kay Walker, a Mormon who moved to Nauvoo five years ago to take over a struggling motel. Last year he expanded, doubling the size of the motel to 123 rooms. "I had many people telling me that doing this addition, we would go out of business. We were being too aggressive," he remembered. "There have been a lot of big things, big ideas in Nauvoo that have never happened. The difference is, this is being done by the church. If the church announces it, it will be done."

In addition to the LDS Church, the RLDS Church also has a presence in Nauvoo. They own the Smith family homestead, known as the Mansion House, and began sponsoring tours of the home in 1918. They also have a visitor's center in Nauvoo. RLDS leaders say they welcome the Temple.

A third visitor's center in Nauvoo, the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center run by former Mormon, now Baptist, Colleen Ralson, is also in town. Ralson also welomes the new Temple, "I'll just have more opportunity to witness to the Lord," she said. "This place will be like a Mecca for Mormons."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information