William and Esther Gheen Home : Nauvoo Illinois Church History Travel Guide


William and Esther Gheen Home in NauvooThe home of William and Esther is a good place to make a final stop during a tour of the sites related to the Nauvoo Temple. If the William Weeks home highlights the physical architecture of the temple and the Edward Hunter home highlights the doctrinal nature of temple ordinances, then the Gheen home highlights why the temple mattered so much to Latter-day Saints then and why it continues to matter so much now.

William and Esther Gheen were baptized in 1840 in Chester County, Pennsylvania. A year after joining the Church they sold their home, leaving their lives in Pennsylvania behind to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo. They brought eight children along with them on their journey to Nauvoo. Once they arrived in Nauvoo, William worked construction shifts and helped raised funds to build the Nauvoo Temple. The Gheens looked forward to entering the temple together when it was completed, but their plans were shattered when William passed away on July 15, 1845 following a severe illness. Suddenly Esther was left alone to raise and care for their large family.

Casey Paul Griffiths, Mary Jane Woodger and Bryan Ready


Significant events at this location:
•William and Esther Gheen moved to Nauvoo in 1841 and worked diligently to construct the temple.
•William Gheen died from a severe illness in July 1845.
•William and Esther were sealed by proxy in the Nauvoo Temple in February 1846.

The temple opened the way for William and Esther’s marriage to endure even after his death. On December 18, 1845, just a few months after William’s passing, Esther entered the Nauvoo Temple and received her endowment. She returned to the temple on February 2, 1846, where she was sealed to William by proxy for time and all eternity. Just a few months later she packed up her children and her belongings and began the lonely walk out of the city. It is easy to imagine Esther shepherding her children out of the city but pausing to look back at the temple. She might have reflected on how the covenants she made in the temple gave her an assurance that her family relationships would endure beyond death and how she was promised a reunion with her husband in the eternities. Esther was just one of over six thousand Saints who received their blessings in the Nauvoo Temple and then left the temple behind to journey into the wilderness.

Esther and her younger children lived in the Salt Lake Valley until her passing in 1858. She left two children behind in the eastern United States—a daughter, Margaret, who remained with her family, and a son, Thomas, who fought and died for the Union in the Civil War. Because of the sealing ordinance, these family members were not lost. When other temples were built, the descendants of William and Esther performed the ordinances needed for all their family members.

The Gheen home stood for many years as a reminder of the sacrifices the family made for the gospel and the blessings they received in the temple. When the restored home was dedicated in 2021, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the prayer. During the ceremony he commented, “This family faced their house to the temple. The view was not important. It was the ordinances of the temple that mattered most.” Elder Cook also added that though the Gheens are not mentioned in many major history books, “they are just as important” as other more prominent Saints of that time.


LDS Church History Travel Guides

The story of William and Esther drives home why the temple was so important for the early Saints and why it remains central to the lives of modern Latter-day Saints. Every person faces the uncertainty of mortality. Those we love can be here one day and then gone the next. But the temple provides an assurance that they are not gone forever. In Nauvoo where death and disruption were constant, Saints like William and Esther found peace in knowing that death was not the end of the love they shared with the people in their lives. Places like the Gheen home demonstrate how the vision Joseph Smith had for the temple became real. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the ordinances of His temple, the Gheens’ love endures throughout the eternities.

Whether you are planning to journey to Nauvoo in the future or are interested in visiting from your own home, the Search, Ponder, and Pray series takes you directly to the location with all of the history and pictures you could ask for! I love this collection and I love having the opportunity to learn so much about a place so near and dear to the history of our church!

This immersive guide draws from first-hand accounts and the expertise of leading Church historians to guide you through the rich history of significant locations of the Restoration. For these sacred sites, authors Casey Griffiths, Mary Jane Woodger, and Bryan Ready provide the background knowledge behind each site, the importance each property has in Church history, and a short devotional that prompts reflection and invites the Spirit.

Casey Paul Griffiths, Mary Jane Woodger and Bryan Ready