A Documentary and Companion Volume Capture the Historic Rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple
The award-winning collaborative team of Lee Groberg and Heidi Swinton tell the remarkable story of the building of the original Nauvoo Temple, its eventual destruction, and the historic rebuilding in their new documentary and companion book, Sacred Stone: The Temple at Nauvoo.
"This is a story that resonates with people far beyond the boundaries of the LDS religion," said Swinton. "We all have a heritage of temples. We see them throughout the Bible; we speak of Solomon's Temple, and we know of the sacred esteem in which Jesus held temples. It is this common religious language to which all people can relate."
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a rich piece of the American historical landscape. Against a backdrop of religious intolerance is the emergence, survival, and eventual thriving of a new religion born on American soil," said Groberg. "It is imperative that this story be preserved and shared."
To accurately tell the story, Swinton scoured hundreds of journals and recollections of early Nauvoo residents, read all the significant newspapers from that period, and visited Nauvoo numerous times to feel of its history. "There is nothing like walking down the streets of Nauvoo early in the morning. I can hear the voices and hammers from days gone by," said Swinton. "I feel what they felt because I have experienced the feeling of both a hot day in July and a horribly cold day in March."
Groberg conducted more than fifty interviews with noted scholars and Church historians. "I chose those people who had the expertise I needed to flesh out this story. As a result, we have both LDS and non-LDS scholars who weave the fascinating fabric of temple worship with religion."
This is the first time the building of a Latter-day Saint temple has been documented to this extent. "I wanted to provide the definitive look at the Nauvoo Temple," said Groberg. "There is such an emotional thrill to see the first shovel of dirt, to be four feet away as the angel Moroni flies to the top of the tower, and to see the first sunstone set in place. I felt strongly that this story needed to be shared."
Groberg and Swinton offer an unprecedented view of this remarkable rebuilding as it spans across seven continents and eight states. They document the handblowing of the glass in France and show the English Chapel previously built by William Player, the chief stonemason. Workers in Canada use old-world techniques to cut the stones for the temple. And Israel, Greece, and Egypt hold the ancient temples of antiquity that speak to an everlasting history of temple worship.
Although the Nauvoo Temple will be a working temple like other Latter-day Saint temples, there is a special historic significance that is creating a heightened state of excitement. "The rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple is an acknowledgement that this is sacred ground and has been since it was first dedicated," said Swinton. "It becomes a tribute to the devotion and dedication of those Saints who built the original temple under incredibly difficult conditions."
Both Swinton and Groberg agree that a documentary gave them the most freedom to tell this story. "The value of a documentary is that you help people visualize the story as if they had done all the research themselves," said Swinton. "The past and present are laced together to allow the story to unfold as it happened." Groberg emphasizes that the documentary lends a historical credibility and maintains the dignity of the story.
The companion book of Sacred Stone: The Temple at Nauvoo will be available in bookstores in May, and the documentary will air on public television stations this fall.
Sacred Stone: The Temple at Nauvoo, based on the film by Lee Groberg and written by Heidi S. Swinton ($29.95 in a 9 x 12 hardcover), is published by Covenant Communications and is available at bookstores everywhere.
About the Producer and Author
Heidi S. Swinton is an award-winning author and screenwriter of LDS life and history. Sacred Stone: The Temple at Nauvoo is her third in a trilogy for PBS, which includes American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith, and Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail. A journalist by training, she has written numerous books, articles, and films. She is a member of the BYU-TV Advisory Committee, the BYU Women's Conference Executive Committee, and serves on the LDS Curriculum writing committee.
Lee Groberg is an award-winning producer/director whose documentary films include
American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith, and Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail, both of which garnered several prestigious awards.
Hal Holbrook is the narrator for the documentary. Holbrook has dozens of television series, mini-series, motion picture, and stage performances to his credit. He is best known for his remarkable one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight! He has won four Emmy Awards, the Peabody Award, and the Ace Award.
Gary Smith is known nationwide for his paintings that depict rural America from the turn of the century to the present. It is this talent that he used to draw the numerous original sketches used in both the book and the documentary. His simple, yet poignant pictures bring the original building of the Nauvoo Temple to life. He lives in Highland, Utah.