The Church has come back to Illinois - and has been warmly received, Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy told dignitaries from Nauvoo and surrounding cities June 4.
Elder Dunn, president of the North America Central Area, spoke at a dinner attended by mayors of Nauvoo, Carthage, Warsaw and Quincy. At the dinner, Elder Dunn announced extensive renovation to the historic block around Carthage Jail, scene of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. (See June 4 Church News.)"With this development in Carthage, and with what has gone on [with restoration of Church historic sites] in Nauvoo, it is an indication that the Latter-day Saints have come back," said Elder Dunn, who is president of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. "We appreciate the warmth and hospitatlity with which we have been received by the communities and by the people, and we wish to be thought of as good members of the communities where we are involved."
Regarding the planned project, Mayor James Nightingale of Carthage said: "It's going to be a beautiful addition to our city. We've been looking forward to seeing the plans for four years. We hope the improvements go smoothly."
Nauvoo Mayor David Knowles said: "I was impressed with the plans. I think it will be a terrific addition to the present jail complex and will be a beautiful addition to the city. It will be a real plus for the entire Hancock County area."
Quincy Mayor Vern Hagstrom expressed welcome to the Church, saying: "I know I speak for all the citizens of Quincy when I tell you how happy we are to hear this wonderful announcement. We shared in your turmoil so many years ago when the Latter-day Saints were driven from Carthage and Nauvoo, and now we share in your joy during this happy occasion. The Mormons are back in Carthage and Nauvoo to stay, but they have never left the city of Quincy. You can always find refuge with your neighbors to the south."
Mayor R.W. Frank of Warsaw remarked: "I think the jail complex addition will be good for the entire community and a great uplift for Carthage. Carthage should be very proud of it."
The Rev. William Meyers, president of the Nauvoo Ministerial Association and a Methodist minister, added, "I'm very positively impressed with the commitment and dedication to Christian witness and I'm delighted that we will have this historic addition to our community, and I wish [Nauvoo Restoration Inc.] all the best."
More than 70 people attended the dinner, including Alma Leeder, assistant director of historic sites for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; city councilmen; and presidents of chambers of commerce.
Elder Dunn told of incidents in which Latter-day Saints were aided by Illinois residents amid the controversy surrounding the Church in the 1800s.
"As the saints fled Missouri in want and frustration during 1838-39, the villages and townspeople of Illinois opened their homes, hands and hearts to hapless refugees," he said." The citizens of Quincy, Warsaw, and even Carthage further inland, provided aid in many forms. Quincy authorities received them kindly, said one young Latter-day Saint, `recommending the citizens to give employment to those who were willing to labor, and to be careful not to say anything calculated to wound the feelings of the strangers thrown in their midst, which caution was very thoughtful.'"
Elder Dunn noted that one political organization took up a collection of money, clothing and provisions to help the saints.
He said James Kimball, a well-to-do merchant, helped beleaguered Church members who had been "captured" by their enemies and taken to Warsaw for "safekeeping." After the Mormon exodus, Kimball later left the Midwest for faraway Utah, where, still as a non-member, he went into the mercantile business and headed one of the largest firms in Salt Lake City, Elder Dunn said.
The General Authority also told of John Wood, a prominent Quincy resident, who, noting the plight of the last few Church members to be pushed from Nauvoo, brought them food and clothing on at least two occasions.
Earlier in the day, Elder Dunn met with Carthage city officials to explain the proposed project, which is planned to include an expanded visitors center, new exhibits, landscaping and off-street parking, and to take on a park-like appearance.
Accompanying him were Robert J. Little of the Church Physical Facilities Deparment; Bob Johnson, a Galesburg, Ill., architect who is working on the project; and James Taylor, resident manager of Nauvoo Restoration Inc.
After receiving support from the city officials, Elder Dunn appeared at a press conference, covered by representatives from five newspapers and a local television station.