INTERVIEWER: What was the reaction when you announced the rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple during the Church’s 1999 general conference session?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: There was an audible gasp; people hadn’t expected it. It was a total surprise, and I think a very welcome surprise.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you think there was that reaction?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: Well, because there is a great interest in Nauvoo. There always has been, there always will be, on the part of our people. The thousands who lived in Nauvoo have become tens of thousands in their descendants. They look back on their people with affection and remembrance and with a great desire to honor them and respect them. And besides that, Nauvoo is the summit of the Prophet Joseph’s experience. The temple which he began and saw pretty well to its conclusion was a great high watermark for him. His death in 1844 accentuated that interest, and the destruction of the temple after our people left all tended to make for a great interest in Nauvoo.
INTERVIEWER: What impact will the temple have on the town of Nauvoo?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: Well, of course, Nauvoo’s a small place and to have thousands and hundreds of thousands of people move in there, look at it, move through, is going to have a tremendous impact. We realize that, the town officials realize that. The mayor and the city council have been very cooperative. We have worked with them in an effort to do everything we can to ameliorate any problems that might arise.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me what that process has been like the last couple of years, because of the major construction project, the relationship with the people of the town and the Church.
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: Well, they’ve all looked on with interest and concern. They are very much interested in seeing the temple go up and are deeply concerned about what might happen there when thousands upon thousands of people come in there. Now, there will be a great crowd of people for the public showing and for the dedication. We think there will be crowds of people all through the summer. We assume that will slow down considerably during the winter. But unquestionably the reconstruction of the temple will have a tremendous effect upon the city, the community, really everything that goes on there.
INTERVIEWER: Is it fair to say, now that we’ve reached the end of this construction project, that Nauvoo is a success story, in that different groups have come together and worked together in ways that they might not have before?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: Oh, I think so. I think there’s been a spirit of neighborliness, a spirit of cooperation. I hope that when people gather there for the public showing and for the dedication and subsequent to that, that there will be an attitude of courtesy and forbearance, respect and kindness one toward another. Inevitably when you bring that many people together you have some inconvenience. I hope that we all rise above it, that we will be neighborly and good, and treat one another with the greatest deference as we gather together in this historic city on the Mississippi River.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about what you will be feeling, personally, when you go back to dedicate this building. What will go through your mind?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: What will go through my mind? A great feeling of gratitude. I’m so happy that it’s happened. My father was mission president in 1939, the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of Nauvoo. He proposed then that the temple be rebuilt. But there were obstacles; nothing could happen, nothing did happen. And now, 50 years later it is happening, and to me it’s a source of great satisfaction. My grandfather was there as a young man, my father was there as a mission president, and mine has been the opportunity to move forward the reconstruction of that temple.
INTERVIEWER: Can you explain to me a little about the effort that went into making this building as historically accurate as possible?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: Well, we’ve tried to be as faithful to what happened before as we can be. Of course, we live in a different time. Building codes are different from what they were when the temple was built, if there were any — I don’t suppose there were any. But we’ve had to comply with those codes and that’s a good thing. On the exterior the temple will be a faithful reproduction of the temple as it was in 1846. On the interior, some things will be the same to the degree that we can make them, but in order to make the temple useful — a working temple — there have had to be some modifications. But they’ve all been done with an effort to keep the style, the essence of the architecture and so on, as harmonious as possible with that which prevailed at the time the building was first constructed. The building will be built on the same site identically, the outside dimensions will be the same as they were, the view from the temple down across the city and out across the Mississippi to Iowa will be largely as it once was. We’ve tried to create this great new monument to the tremendous faith and efforts of the past.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve talked about the impact on the town and being good neighbors. What would you say to Church members who are making plans now to make their way to Nauvoo?
PRESIDENT HINCKLEY: We hope that everybody who’d like to be there won’t try to go! They simply can’t be accommodated. Nauvoo is not an easy place to get to. If you fly there you have to go to St. Louis or Chicago and take a shuttle flight up. But it’s an important place and their interest lies there. Many will come. We hope that courtesy will prevail in everything that goes on, that there will be respect and appreciation one for another, patience. All of these qualities will be required and we hope that they will shine forth.