From the days of Adam, temples have always been important to the followers of God. In the ancient world, temples were often at the center of city life. This also is how some modern cities are designed. A good example of this in our day is Mesa Arizona. The temple is built on Main Street and very close to Center Street – right in the middle of the city. The city radiates out from that point. Salt Lake City is designed in the same way. Wherever the saints of God lived, they built temples. Moses was commanded to build a tabernacle – a portable temple. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that was alternately destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Shortly after Nephi and his family reached the Promised Land, they built a temple. Following the Restoration, the prophet Joseph was commanded to build a temple. The saints built one in Kirtland, Ohio (some of my ancestors were heavily involved in the building of that temple as well as others). The saints fled Ohio following persecutions – leaving behind the precious house of the Lord. Land was dedicated in Missouri for a temple. That structure has not yet been built.
Once in Nauvoo, the saints built a temple, finishing it with a trowel in one hand and a wagon in the other as they fled the state to head to the Salt Lake Valley. The Nauvoo temple was dedicated before it was fully completed so some of the saints could receive their temple blessings before they had to cross the plains. I’m sure those blessings gave courage and strength to many who faced the grueling journey ahead. The Prophet Joseph stressed the importance of temples: “The main object [of gathering the Jews, or the people of God, in any age of the world] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose” (as cited in R. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 218).