Searching for Utopia in Illinois

A Massive Limestone Carving From a 19th-Century Mormon Temple Reminds Us of Americans’ Many Quests to Forge New Communities

Clark Smith sunstone

Twelve massive blocks of limestone, each carved with a shining sun and heralding trumpets, once ornamented a temple constructed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois. The temple was built in the early 1840s, after Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his followers left New York in the 1820s and were forced out of Missouri in the 1830s. The stones’ design expressed the Mormons’ millennial hopes for the second coming of Christ, and the imposing temple itself embodied their hope for a new stability.

But …

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