On 30 November 1845 the attic story was dedicated, and the administering of endowments commenced on 10 December. Over the next eight weeks, about 5,600 Saints received their temple ordinances.
As the pressure to leave Nauvoo increased, President [Brigham] Young addressed the Saints on 3 February 1846. The plan was to leave the next day, but Saints still filled the temple. President Young urged the Saints to return to their homes and prepared for their departure.
In his history, President Young recorded: “Notwithstanding that I had announced that we would not attend to the administration of the ordinances, the House of the Lord was thronged all day, the anxiety being so great to receive. . . . I. . . informed the brethren that I was going to get my wagons started and be off. I walked some distance from the Temple supposing the crowd would disperse, but on returning I found the house filled to overflowing. Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued at work diligently in the House of the Lord. Two hundred and ninety-five persons received ordinances.” (History of the Church, 7:579)
The first wagons left on 4 February, temple work finally ceased on 8 February, and the great exodus from Nauvoo went forward. Looking back on that remarkable period, Elder Erastus Snow declared, “All felt satisfied that during the two months we occupied [the temple] in the endowment of the Saints, we were amply paid for all our labors in building it.”
As they journeyed over the Mississippi and began the trek across Iowa, many Saints cast a parting glance backward at their beloved temple and city. Priddy Meeks wrote: “While crossing over a ridge seven miles from Nauvoo we looked back and took a last sight of the Temple we ever expected to see. We were sad and sorrowful.” — Matthew S. McBride, “So Great a Cause,” Ensign, July 2002, p. 12
During the concluding moments of the [Nauvoo Temple] dedication, President Hinckley noted that it was “a very hot day” in Nauvoo. Nevertheless, he asked that those attending the dedication in Nauvoo take a few minutes to “walk down Parley Street to the waterfront,” to the landing on the Mississippi River from which the saints departed Nauvoo and crossed into Iowa on their westward trek. He asked members to leave behind the comfort of their air-conditioned cars, to walk and take time to read plaques along what is designated as the Trail of Hope – even the Latter-day Saints’ version of the Trail of Tears – and read of those who left behind the beautiful temple and the City of Joseph they had built in just six and a half years.
“Look across to Iowa,” President Hinckley said, inviting the members to ponder on those past events. He asked that they imagine that it wasn’t a hot day in June, but a day of bitter cold in February, the month when the first company of saints left Nauvoo under dire circumstances.
When the dedicatory session concluded, the doors of the temple opened. What happened next was a sight to behold: More than a thousand members exited the temple. . . found others in the crowd and joined a throng walking down the hill, with the Nauvoo Temple to their backs. It wasn’t hard to imagine the Latter-day Saints of Nauvoo leaving the temple for the last time in 1846. . . .
What unfolded on June 30, 2002, was as a spiritual snapshot, the capturing of a moment to remember forever. Members of the Church heeded a prophet’s voice. It was 95 degrees; humidity readings hovered in the 90s. The distance covered, approximately a mile, wasn’t significant, but the walk itself was. — “Members Walk 1846 Trail of Hope,” Church News, July 6, 2002, p. 4