In early March, 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 sites significant in this transfer of ownership includes the famous Mansion House in Nauvoo, Illinois. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been in the process of obtaining this and many other sites for many years. To some, it may just be some house a few people lived in a long time ago, but the significance runs much deeper.

The Mansion House sits on the northeast corner of the intersection of Main and Water Streets. A man by the name of Truman Angell helped build Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo Mansion House. He also helped build the Kirtland, Nauvoo and Salt Lake Temples.

Joseph Smith Jr. and his family moved into the Nauvoo Mansion House in August 1843.

Originally designed to be a hotel, Joseph Smith tried to operate it as such. He eventually turned its operations over to Ebenezer Robinson in early January of 1844 and rented six of the rooms for the Smith family.

The house served somewhat as a social center for the early Latter-day Saints. Its 22 rooms served as a hotel, meeting rooms for Church councils and a place where important dignitaries were received by the prophet. One room was even set aside as a prayer room. Because the Nauvoo temple had not yet been completed, Joseph Smith conducted some early endowments at locations including an upper room of the Mansion House.

Arriving in the fall of 1843, The Smith’s provided the Manning family with a place to stay while they established themselves in the new city. Jane Manning James was especially welcomed warmly into the very home of the Smiths.

Jane’s account gives a valuable glimpse into Joseph and Emma’s approach to hospitality at the Mansion House.

Jane Manning James contributes to the rich history of women in Nauvoo and Utah in the 1800's

Jane Manning James contributes to the rich history of women in Nauvoo and Utah in the 1800's Photo credit: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Manning wrote, “We have now arrived to our destined haven of rest, the beautiful Nauvoo! Here we went through all kinds of hardship, trial, and rebuff, but we at last got to Brother Orson Spencer’s. He directed us to the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Mansion.

We all stayed there one week; by that time all but myself had secured homes. Brother Joseph came in every morning to say good morning and ask how we were. During our trip I had lost all my clothes. They were all gone. My trunks were sent by canal to the care of Charles Wesley Wandel. One large trunk full of clothes of all descriptions, mostly new. On the morning that my folks all left to go to work, I looked at myself clothed in the only two pieces I possessed; I sat down and wept. Brother Joseph came into the room as usual and said, “Good morning. Why—not crying, [are you]?” “Yes sir,” [I said] “The folks have all gone and got themselves homes, and I have got none.” He said, “Yes you have, you have a home right here if you want it. You musn’t cry, we dry up all tears here.” I said, “I have lost my trunk and all my clothes.” He asked how I had lost them; I told them I put them in care of Charles Wesley Wandle and paid him for them and he has lost them.

Brother Joseph said, “Don’t cry, you shall have your trunk and clothes again.” Brother Joseph went out and brought Sister Emma in and said, “Sister Emma, here is a girl that says she has no home. Haven’t you a home for her?” “Why yes, if she wants one.” He said, “She does,” and then he left us.”

Jane lived at the Mansion House for several months.

The Nauvoo Mansion House is the place where Joseph Smith said his last goodbye to his beloved wife Emma and his children before riding to Carthage.

On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith were shot and killed at Carthage, Illinois. Their bodies were brought to Nauvoo and laid at the Mansion House, where thousands passed by the open coffins. They are buried in a small family cemetery plot across Main Street, west of the old log home that the prophet lived in when he first came to Nauvoo. Emma Smith lived in the Mansion House until 1871.

The last resting place of the bodies of Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma Smith near the Smith Family Homestead in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The last resting place of the bodies of Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma Smith near the Smith Family Homestead in Nauvoo, Illinois. Photo credit: Bailee Edwards-Kevin

Our historic sites … celebrate how Latter-day Saints have lived through time, but they also celebrate those moments when heaven and earth came together in really spectacular ways,” said Matt Grow, the managing director of the Church History Department. “But the core purpose, I think, that Joseph and Emma and the early Saints would want us to use these things for is to hear again their witness of Jesus Christ so we can have a witness of Jesus Christ.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reopened this historic site on March 25 for public tours at no charge.