William Weeks and the ephemeral temple at Nauvoo

Cornell, Steven Daniel, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

Central to the early Mormon concept of the City of Zion was the temple. Confronting violent opposition in Ohio and Missouri, in 1839 the Mormons fled to their new Zion at Nauvoo, Illinois situated along a horseshoe bend on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. In 1840, work on a new temple commenced which would define and establish the permanency of Mormonism. The primitive theology and ritual surrounding the first Mormon temple in Ohio, developed and evolved for the more grandiose temple planned at Nauvoo. However, as Joseph Smith introduced new and controversial doctrines violent opposition increased from both inside and outside the Church. The temple rituals adapted with the expanding doctrine and necessitated an increasingly complex architectural program both on the temple's interior and exterior. The larger Nauvoo Temple, while generally following the established prototype at Kirtland, assumed new functions and forms not anticipated during its initial planning and construction.

The thesis will reexamine William Weeks's involvement as architect in the design and construction of the Nauvoo temple, in collaboration with Joseph Smith. In particular, as architect, William Weeks materialized a definitive moment in Mormonism's evolving cultural identity by reshaping ritual space, establishing Mormon material identity and introducing mystery and complexity in the ephemeral Nauvoo temple (1841-1846). The Nauvoo temple became the iconic symbol of Mormonism's revolutionary doctrinal teachings during the Nauvoo period.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
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