Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nauvoo, Illinois

Sunday, May 5

It’s getting too far out for me to remember this in as much detail as I would like. Nauvoo was the centerpiece in this road trip and it lived up to every one of our expectations. 

While the weather was cold, windy, and rainy the two days before we arrived in Nauvoo, we arrived to perfect weather. We woke up and went to the Fort Madison branch in Iowa before going back to our hotel and heading into Nauvoo for the day. We got over to Nauvoo and the skies were just perfect. Hardly anyone was in town for the entire time that we were there. It was just perfect.

It’s amazing to me to think about the history of this place and how for anyone not associated with the church, Nauvoo, Illinois isn’t even a blip on their radars. They have no idea what it means to us as a people, and in the grand scheme of things, it is such a place of great importance in the history of the kingdom of God. I thought often about the blessings that the local people, not just the saints, lost in driving the Church from out of this area. Today it’s a totally insignificant little city that sits on the banks of the Mississippi. While some might debate about how important Salt Lake City is to the entire world, I can assure you that the blessings of urbanization, growth, and prosperity that are had in Utah are definitely not present to any degree in Nauvoo today.

We took pictures and walked around the temple. The edifice is just gorgeous. For the me, the only temples that really blow me away that I’ve seen in person are San Diego, Manti, and Salt Lake. Nauvoo probably supercedes all of those for me now. It would have been nice to go inside the building and actually perform ordinance work, but we came on a Sunday and left on a Monday, while also having an 8 month old baby so it just wasn’t going to happen this trip for us.

The highlight of the Sunday was visiting Carthage jail. As you can imagine, Carthage is just a tiny little town. It would bear no significance otherwise if it weren’t for its notorious connection in being the martyr site for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The prison itself consists of only 3, maybe 4 rooms. It has been restored to resemble what it did in 1844. There is a distinct kind of spirit about the place that you can’t really sense anywhere else. Amy mentions in her post about this day thinking about this idea of whether the spirit is actually present, whether others can feel it, or if it holds significance and feels that way only because we’re members of the church. Obviously, I don’t know, but I tend to believe that the spirit can only attest to that kind of truth for someone open to its influence.

That evening we went out to eat at some bar and grill restaurant that turned out to be pretty good. Jane did much better that next day as we visited Nauvoo again. This time we stopped into the buildings and listened to the senior missionaries share with us the stories of those buildings and their part in contributing to the Nauvoo community. They were really all so sweet to talk to. You could just tell they had been starving for someone to visit with and tell their stories to.

The best part of the morning was walking down the Trail of Hope that has placards inscribed with journal entries of some of the pioneers who were forced to leave their homes and start new lives by trekking west. It was so sad to read. All of it makes me wonder about a lot of things. It’s kind of hard to put into words now.
Visiting Nauvoo was really powerful to me. This trip has been really neat for me just because I have never had the opportunity to go and visit any of these church history sites, besides what’s available in Utah. It’s incredible to walk in that city and think about how those trees were witness to all of those trials and difficulties that the saints faced. You can actually walk the ground and look across the river to the other side where these people looked and think about what a bleak future that must have been in their minds, even if they were looking with an eye of faith. There had to be many moments of doubt. There had to be so much fear about what lay ahead for them, particularly as they were being forced out in the dead of winter to a frontier part of the America that was wild and mostly unknown to anyone.

I just totally fell in love with Nauvoo. I would love to revisit it someday with my own family, anyone who is close to me. Being there made me excited to learn more about church history. Even though it’s not exactly my family that has passed through their, it was so exciting to me to think that my wife’s forbearers had a place in Nauvoo. It all becomes so real and that’s where I think the real value lies in being able to visit these kinds of places and stand in the places of such importance.

I am so grateful to be a member of The Church. I know it is the true church of Christ and our Father. I am grateful for the history of the saints and the sacrifices that they made so that I could benefit from their faithfulness 150 years later when I would be able to partake of the blessings of the gospel myself.

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