Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Passing the Heavenly Gift/Comparing the cost and size of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples

Table of Contents

Response to Passing the Heavenly Gift

A FairMormon Analysis of: 'Passing the Heavenly Gift', a work by author: Denver C. Snuffer

Comparing the size of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples[1]

Square footage


Heber C. Kimball wrote that the Kirtland temple “was 80 x 60 feet, and 57 feet high to the eaves. It was divided into two stories.”[2] The temple also had a full attic. Thus:

3 levels x 80 feet x 60 feet = 14,400 square feet.


Nauvoo had a basement baptistery, and a first and second floor. Each of the first and second floors had a half floor or “mezzanine” on either side (labeled “a” and “b” in the table below). The temple was crowned by an attic, and a multi-level tower. A bill for temple construction reports 2,225 square feet of flooring used for the entire tower, and so I have used that value here.

Level Length (ft) Width (ft) Total area (sq ft) Source
Basement baptistery 80 120 9,600 Colvin, 182
1st Floor 80 120 9,600 "
2nd Floor 80 120 9,600 "
1st Floor Mezzanine (a) 18.5 100 1,850 Colvin, 207
1st Floor Mezzanine (b) 18.5 100 1,850 "
2nd Floor Mezzanine (a) 18.5 100 1,850 "
2nd Floor Mezzanine (b) 18.5 100 1,850 "
Front attic section 86 37 3,182 Colvin, 214
Main east attic 88.2 28.75 2,536 "
Tower (multi-level) 2,225 Colvin, 213.
TOTAL: 44,143 Colvin, 213.

The ratio between Nauvoo and Kirtland is thus conservatively 44,143 ÷ 14,400 ≈ 3.1

Costs by population

Estimates of the Kirtland temple costs vary from $40–60,000. As discussed in the main text, the 1845 Mormon population in Hancock County is estimated at 15,000. An older work estimates 25,000 Mormons in and around Nauvoo in 1844. The tables below allow readers to compare these figures:

Temple Cost Population Days to construct Cost/citizen Cost/day
Kirland $40,000 2,025 1186 $19.75 $33.75
$60,000 2,025 1186 $29.63 $50.59
Nauvoo $1,000,000 15,000 1927 $66.67 $518.94
$1,000,000 25,000 1927 $40.00 $518.94

Cost per citizen

Nauvoo Compare to Kirtland at $40,000 cost Compare to Kirtland at $60,000 cost
Nauvoo population 15,000 3.4 2.3
Nauvoo population 25,000 2.0 1.4

Even reading the data with the most favorable slant for Snuffer’s thesis, the Nauvoo temple cost 1.4 times as much per citizen as Kirtland.[3]

Cost per day

Nauvoo Compare to Kirtland at $40,000 cost Compare to Kirtland at $60,000 cost
Nauvoo at $1,000,000 15.4 10.3

The most advantageous reading of the data for Snuffer’s thesis still shows the Saints spending ten times as much per day at Nauvoo compared to Kirtland.


  1. Portions of this wiki response are based upon Gregory L. Smith, "Passing Up The Heavenly Gift Part 1 Part 2," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 7 (2103), 181–341. The text here may have been expanded, reworded, or corrected given the nature of a wiki project. References in brackets like this: (xx) refer to page numbers in Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011).
  2. Whitney, 100.
  3. Estimates for both temples typically include labor and materials. See William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church: A Brief History of the Growth and Doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, fifteenth edition revised and enlarged (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1973), 125; and Colvin, 44.