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.

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