Thursday, May 17, 2018

Church History Tour: Illinois to Missouri


The last day of our church history tour was spent driving from Nauvoo, Illinois to Kansas City, Missouri, with a few very important stops along the way.

Our first stop was in Hannibal Missouri where we took a ride on the Mark Twain River Boat. This is the exact boat that Walt Disney modeled his Mark Twain Boat that resides in New Orleans Square in Disneyland after!








Samuel Clemens, who is better known as Mark Twain, spent most of his early life in Hannibal, Missouri, the Mississippi river town that first gave him a taste of what it was like to live the life of a steamboat man.  It was there that he was bitten by the bug of becoming a steamboat pilot, though that lay dormant for a time before he finally acted on it.  Before Twain could pursue his passion on the steam boat, his father died, and he became apprenticed to a printer and began to write for his brother’s newspaper.  It was in 1857, ten years after his father’s death, and after having begun work in many eastern cities as a printer, that Twain decided to go seek his fortune in South America.  Before he could make it there, however, he had to go through the major port city of New Orleans.  It was here in New Orleans that Twain decided to give up his possible fortune in South America and pursue his first and foremost passion, becoming a steamboat captain. When Samuel Clemens began writing, he chose the nom de plume, or pen name, of “Mark Twain.”  “Mark Twain” is a riverboat term measuring two fathoms (12 feet) in depth: mark (measure) twain (two).

This part of Mark Twain’s life had a huge impact on his greatest writing, and it was in this time that he obtained the material he needed to write Life on the Mississippi.  Reading through the book, it is obvious how much respect Twain has for the river itself.  This is evident through the ways in which he describes its incredible size, and at the same time its minute complexities.  His detailed descriptions and picturesque use of language within Life on the Mississippi serve to prove to Twain’s audience that he is indeed a serious and well spoken author.  It is obvious that Twain affinity for the river itself is the source and backbone of this book, while Twain also manages to bring out the eccentricities of not only the river, but also of the people who populate it.  These stories of workers, farmers, and steamboat captains serve to bring the novel alive for the audience. 






It was a beautiful day for sailing, and we practically had the whole boat to ourselves. It was such a cool experience to be in the itty bitty town of Hannibal Missouri, home town of Mark Twain, sailing on the steamboat he made famous.






After our relaxing cruise down the Mississppi, we headed to Becky's Old Fashions Ice Cream Parlor to get a midmorning treat.




Then we hit the road for some travel time, we were on a pretty tight schedule to make sure we fit in all our stops and make it to our hotel at a reasonable hour.

I love road trips for so many reasons, one of those reasons are stops at the gas stations and searching for good road trip treats. I am obsessed with tootsie rolls, I think they are SO GOOD. So finding a king sized tootsie roll was indeed the best road trip treat find ever!

I taught the boys how to play the fast paced card game Slap Jack, and that is what we played for most of the hours we spent in the car. We literally played for hours and hours. I was the reigning champion of the trip, and the boys took turns trying to defeat me.



After a few hours in the car, we arrived at our next stop, the gorgeous and serene Adam-Ondi-Ahman. Here, we had a picnic and a devotional from my mom about the importance of this spot.



Adam-ondi-Ahman, a settlement in Daviess County, Missouri, received its unusual name from the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1838 when Latter-day Saints were moving into the area after they had  been forced out of Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833. The name Adam-ondi-Ahman means, "Valley of God, where Adam dwelt"

Joseph Smith received several revelations about this settlement which indicated several things about the area: (1) the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri, and after Adam was expelled from the garden, he went north to Adam-ondi-Ahman; (2) three years before Adam's death, he gathered the righteous of his posterity to Adam-ondi-Ahman and bestowed upon them his last blessing; (3) this site would be the location of a future meeting of the Lord with Adam and the Saints, as spoken of by the prophet Daniel.





After lunch, and a few minutes to enjoy the beauty and peace of this unique place, it was time to hit the road again.

Another fun road trip treat find were strawberry, peanut M&Ms, they tasted exactly like PB & J sandwiches.


After another several hours in the car, we made it to the site of Liberty Jail. This is the only church history site  we visited out of chronological order.


Joseph Smith was unjustly confined in Liberty Jail from December 1838 to April 1839 along with several other Church leaders. Joseph suffered helplessly, knowing that the Latter-day Saints were being driven from Missouri under an "extermination order" from the governor. The Prophet and his companions were imprisoned in a rough stone dungeon measuring 14 by 14 feet, with a ceiling just over 6 feet high. Only two small barred windows allowed light and air into the cell. The six prisoners suffered from winter weather, filthy conditions, hunger, and sickness.

While in Liberty Jail, the Prophet wrote letters to his family and the Saints. His correspondence contains some of the most poignant revelation found in scripture. In this miserable jail, Joseph learned that his sufferings were still not comparable to those of the Savior, as the Spirit whispered to him: "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" He was taught that in the end "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." 

In early April 1839, Joseph and the other prisoners were allowed to escape, and they fled to safety in Illinois.

The jail was eventually torn down, though some of the dungeon floor and walls remained. The property was purchased for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1939. President Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated a partial reconstruction of the jail housed within a visitors' center in 1963.


The partial reconstruction of the jail, helps visitors understand how small and confined the room where Joseph and his comrades were kept was. One of my favorite scriptures from the D&C is from Joseph's time in Liberty Jail. After suffering for so long in jail, and hearing about all the trails the saints were going through, Joseph asks the Lord how long they must endure these hardships.

“O God, where art thou? and where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place how long shall thy hand be stayed and thine eye yea thy pure eye behold from the etearnal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawfull oppressions before thine hart shall be softened towards them and thy bowels be moved with compassion towards them.”

The Lord answers back with reassurance, “My son peace be unto thy soul, thine advirsity and thy afflictions shall be but a small moment and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” The Lord also assured Joseph that “if the very jaws of hell shall gape open her mouth wide after thee, know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experiance and shall be for thy good. The son of man hath desended below them all art thou greater than he?”


After our visit to Liberty Jail, we drove the short distance to the gorgeous Kansas City temple. We arrived at the most glorious time of day, when the sky is filled with golden light. We spent quite a while walking around the temple grounds, taking in the beauty of the temple and stretching our legs after a long day of driving.

Andrew once again took the most stunning photos of the temple with his drone.










After checking into our hotel and learning that Kansas City is in both Missouri and Kansas and that our hotel is on the Missouri side, we were a little bummed. We were all excited to check Kansas off our "states to see" list since it's one of the most boring states and we couldn't think of a reason for ever traveling there. So we made sure to cross the state boarder and have dinner in Kansas so we wouldn't ever have to come back. Not that we have anything agains Kansas, there just isn't much to do or see there. (I did my third grade report on Kansas, and I literally had nothing to report on since there isn't anything there, so most of my report was about the Wizard of Oz and how it took place in Kansas... haha)


After driving around Kansas for a little while, looking for somewhere to eat, we found a Famous Dave's BBQ, perfect!



What a wonderful and memorable trip. Seeing all the church history sites, and following the life of Joseph Smith from where he was born to where he died was a huge testimony builder for me. Before this trip, I didn't have much interest in Church History, I knew the basics, but not much else. But after visiting these places, and hearing stories about so many early saints, I now have such a strong love for all of them and my gratitude for what they did and sacrificed has grown so much. I will be forever grateful to my sister Karin for organizing this amazing trip and inviting me along. Not only did I have so much fun, but my testimony and love for the gospel grew so much more then I thought it would by going on a church history tour. If you ever have the opportunity or interest in going on a Church history tour, I strongly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Church History Tour: Nauvoo




Nauvoo is a small city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States, on the Mississippi River near Fort Madison, Iowa. The population of Nauvoo was 1,149 at the 2010 census. Since Nauvoo played such a huge part in church history, I was expecting it to be a bustling city, maybe not a huge city, but bigger than a one road town. Once my initial shock at how small it is wore off, I was quite charmed with this itty bitty, laid back town. 

Nauvoo was named in April 1840 by Joseph Smith, who led the Latter Day Saints to Nauvoo to escape conflict with the state government in Missouri. The name Nauvoo is derived from the traditional Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains...” It is notable that “by 1844 Nauvoo's population had swollen to 12,000, rivaling the size of Chicago” at the time. So I guess it was a big(ger) city at one time, maybe that's where I got that idea....





We stayed at the charming Woodruff Hotel, which is a Nauvoo Hotel landmark.  Located directly across the street from the beautiful Nauvoo Temple in the Nauvoo Historic District, it is the perfect place to stay to get the feel of Nauvoo.



The Woodruff Hotel is an old historic building, which only adds to it's charm. There were signs like this around, I like that they kept some of the original elements in the building. Even if the windows didn't keep out much of the heat, this hotel was the ONLY place in town where we could fully escape the humidity and heat, they had a wonderful and powerful air conditioner. I don't think I have ever experienced humidity in my life like the humidity we experienced in Nauvoo on this trip, it was intense! I went on a 10 minute walk with the boys one morning to pick up some tickets from the visitors center, we had to stop several times in the shade to recover from the heat and I still got sick and had to spend the afternoon in the hotel cooling off. That has never happened to me before! We have had such lovely, cool, temperate weather our entire trip, so this intense heat and humidity were a bit of a surprise.


This was my lovely room


Which came with a huge, luxurious bathroom


I had a beautiful view of the gorgeous Nauvoo temple from my window.


On our first evening, we walked over to the temple after dinner to have a devotional about this historic site. Karin had asked me to prepare this devotional, and I'm so glad she did because this unique building is so full of history and beautiful symbolism I loved the opportunity to research it and share what I learned with the family. 




We got to the temple at the most magical time of day, right as the sun was getting ready to set. Since the temple is built on a hill, we had a splendid view of the sunset over the lush grounds. We watched the sunset then gathered together on the temple steps to learn about this one-of-a-kind building and the history behind it. I was super impressed by how much the boys already knew, Karin has done so well teaching them about church history. I had bought some gummy sharks at one of our gas station stops on our road trip days to hand out to anyone who answered my quiz questions correctly, which was a little bit of fun added into my educational lesson.


We stayed until the sun had completely set and the temple was all lit up, it was such a gorgeous and peaceful evening that I am so grateful I got to share with my family.

Andrew got some amazing, photo gallery worthy photos of the temple with his drone.






The next morning we walked across the street to Grandpa John's Cafe, the only place in town were breakfast is served. Our own Grandpa Johns loved the name ... 




We spent the day touring through the homes of historic Nauvoo, and seeing one of the musicals at the visitor's center put on by the Nauvoo performing missionaries.


In his Red Brick Store at Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith prepared his successors to carry on the "great and mighty work" of God. 1 Originally built in 1841, the store became headquarters for the Church shortly after its completion. A dry goods store was located on the ground floor, and Joseph's office and a meeting hall occupied the upper level.

Here, priesthood keys to govern the Church were "rolled on to the shoulders" 2 of the Twelve Apostles. The Prophet spent many hours instructing these brethren during the last months of his life so that they could lead the Church in his absence.










In the upstairs room, Joseph organized the Female Relief Society 3 of Nauvoo, "not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls." 4 Here the Prophet administered to some Church members sacred ordinances that would later be made available to all worthy Saints in holy temples. 5 And here, Joseph Smith recorded the revelation on the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, completed the translation of the Book of Abraham, and wrote the famous Wentworth letter containing the Articles of Faith.




Next, we visited the Brick Yard and learned about how bricks were made in Old Nauvoo, it was a fascinating demonstration.

In Nauvoo in the 1840s, Latter-day Saint settlers first built log homes or frame homes, but they worked toward building brick homes and shops that represented beauty and permanence. Seven brickyards were kept busy supplying the high demand, but making bricks took a lot of time and patience. Clay and sand were mixed and pressed into a mold until they held their shape. Once the forms were removed, the bricks were dried by rotating them each day for one week to remove all moisture, a process known as hacking.  Once dry, 40,000 bricks were stacked like dominoes in a hollow shape called a brick clamp.  Firewood was inserted and brought to firing temperature so the bricks could bake for about two weeks.  Once fully fired, bricks cooled for another week before they could be used. The exterior walls of the homes were built three bricks thick. 



Each family was given a small brick as a souvenir.


I took this picture as an example of what the bricks they made looked like.




We didn't have enough time to visit every, single house and shop, even though we would have loved to! But we made sure to slip into the Tinsmith right before they closed for the day.





 Tinsmiths in Nauvoo were very popular craftsmen because they made many of the items used in homes and farms. Lanterns, candle safes, candle holders, buckets, pots, pans and many other articles could be made quickly and economically from tin. A good Tinsmith could make a tin pan in about 15-20 minutes.

All the metal pieces hanging in the picture below are patterns for different items that can be made out of tin. A senior missionary couple gave us a short demonstration on how a couple of different tin items are made.




The next day we visited Carthage Jail,  the site where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed. Visiting this sacred place is a very emotional experience, the grounds are beautiful and the walk ways are lined with plaques engraved with beautiful, inspiring quotes. The feeling there is somber yet peaceful.

"Patience is heavenly, obedience is noble, forgiveness is merciful and exaltation is Godly. And he that hold out faithful to the end shall in no wise lose his reward. A good man will endure all things to honor Christ. And even dispose of the whole world, and all in it, to save his soul."
                  -Joseph Smith Jr. & Hyrum Smith 1844


"When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain."


At the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who thus sealed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.

Several days earlier, the Prophet and others voluntarily went to Carthage, the county seat located about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo, to answer charges of civil disturbance. Joseph and Hyrum were held in Carthage Jail pending trial and were guaranteed protection from mob violence by the governor of Illinois.

Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were in the jailer's upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail shortly after five o'clock. The Prophet and his brother were shot and killed, John Taylor was seriously wounded, and Willard Richards escaped unharmed. The mob fled, and the martyrs' bodies were taken back to Nauvoo the next day.



We were greeted by two sister missionaries in the visitor's center, where we discussed that last few days of the prophet Joseph Smith's life. This paining is depicting the last time Joseph and Hyrum will see Nauvoo. The temple wasn't completed before they died.


Then we were led on a tour of the jail. The lower level was where the jailer and his family lived.



This was another jail cell on the same floor that Joseph and Hyrum and the others were held in.



Willard Richards, an eyewitness of the assassination of the Smith brothers, wrote these words the same day: "A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. . . .

"A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet. . . .

"Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap the . . . window, . . . when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he feel outward, exclaiming, 'Oh Lord, my God!' As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side.





That night, the sunset was glorious. It was the perfect backdrop for the beautiful experience of walking the Trail of Hope in Historic Nauvoo.






Parley Street in Nauvoo leads to the banks of the Mississippi River from which thousands of Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo in February of 1846. Parley Street is now known as ‘The Trail of Hope’ and all along its length are 30 historic marker boards containing quotes from those who left their homes in Nauvoo to begin the long trek to their Promised Land. To walk down Parley Street and read the boards is memorable and moving.

This trail was originally called the Trail of Tears, since the saints were forced to leave behind their beloved temple, beautiful homes, prospering businesses and the lovely lives they had built in this city. President Hinckley asked for the trail to be renamed to the Trail of Hope, as a more optimistic view of this new beginning for the early saints.

Every Sunday evening, the performing missionaries act out the individual stories written on the plaques along the trail. We were lead down the road in groups of around 15, we were asked not to talk or take pictures or videos. We were lead by a guide with a lantern, as it was getting dark. This is such a beautiful and powerful experience, it was my favorite part of our stay in Nauvoo. 



The trail ends at the Mississippi River which was frozen when the saints left on that freezing day in February.  We had a few moments to reflect on the stories we had just heard on the banks of the river. It was a beautifully clear night at the moon was casting a bright, glittery reflection on the water.



We had to say goodbye to the precious town of Nauvoo the following morning. When we crossed the street to get breakfast from Grandpa Johns' as usual, we were quite dismayed when we discovered it wasn't open! How could it not be open?! It's the only place that serves breakfast! Thanks to Yelp we found, The Apron, an adorable bake shoppe on the edge of town that had only been open a couple of weeks that serves breakfast! 

The food at The Apron is delicious, we were a little bummed we didn't know about it during our entire stay in Nauvoo. It was the perfect way to end a perfect stay in the beautiful and historic town of Nauvoo.