Earlier this month, Church Newsroom announced the transfer of the responsibility and ownership of sacred sites and documents from the Community of Christ to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the significant sites in this transfer of ownership includes the famous Red Brick Store in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Just down the road from the Smith family homestead, along the banks of the Mississippi, the Prophet Joseph Smith owned and operated the Red Brick Store on Water Street in Nauvoo, Illinois. It served as the Church’s headquarters for a time and was a social hub of activity, making it one of the most important buildings in the Nauvoo period.

This brick building did not only serve as a general store, but it also became a center of social, economic, political and religious activities. The first floor housed dry goods along with Bishop Newel K. Whitney’s office. A large assembly hall on the second floor served as Church headquarters and held community events and classes for the University of Nauvoo, political conventions and Masonic meetings.

The Red Brick Store also functioned as a bank, providing loans, selling city lots through the prophet and collecting tithes for the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.

Many significant events occurred at the Red Brick Store during the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before the Nauvoo temple was completed, the first full endowments were given in the upper room of the store on May 4, 1843.

Just down the road from the Smith family Homestead, along the banks of the Mississippi, the Prophet Joseph Smith owned and operated the Red Brick Store on Water Street in Nauvoo, Illinois

Joseph Smith owned and operated the Red Brick Store on Water Street in Nauvoo. Photo credit: Joseph Smith Papers & Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Joseph Smith also organized the women of the Church into the Relief Society, instructed the Quorum of the Twelve to investigate the possibilities of going West in a meeting and completed the translation of the Book of Abraham here. Smith maintained an office on the second floor.

When the Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842, the 20 women gathered upstairs in the Red Brick Store had two missions — to relieve suffering and to save souls.

The Relief Society has continued to be a large part of participants in humanitarian efforts across the globe representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1841, the Lord commanded the Saints in Nauvoo to build a temple. The Church required an ordinance known as the endowment, which expounded upon the washing and anointing ceremony introduced five years earlier in the Kirtland Temple.

With the rise of persecution among the saints, Joseph Smith feared his life would be taken before the temple was completed.

Many significant events happened here in the upper room of the Red Brick Store

Many significant events happened here in the upper room of the Red Brick Store. Photo credit: Ensign Peak Foundation

On May 3, 1842, Joseph Smith called a handful of men to arrange the upper room of his Red Brick Store. The next day, he administered the endowment for the first time to a group of nine men.

For the next two years, the final years of his life, Joseph Smith gave the endowment to a small group of men and women. He instructed and prepared them to officiate the ordinance so other worthy saints could receive it when the temple was finished.

The endowment taught participants by inviting them to symbolically reenact key aspects of the plan of salvation. During the course of this reenactment, they made promises to obey God’s commandments, committed to fully devote themselves to His work and acquire the knowledge needed to enter into God’s presence.

Willard Richards, who was among the few to receive the endowment from Joseph Smith, testified that the ordinance was “governed by the principles of revelation.

Later generations of Church leaders sought divine guidance to streamline the ceremony to make it easier for members to perform proxy endowments for those who were unable to receive their endowment during their earthly lives.

Modernday Latter-day Saints continue to participate in this ordinance today in local temples and languages.

The original Red Brick Store was demolished in the late 1890s and the Community of Christ rebuilt the store in 1978-79.