Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 2: Nauvoo

Because we had so little sleep and so much traveling the day before, I decided we would just sleep as long as we could and then head to Nauvoo.  We must have been very tired because I woke up at 10:15 and woke Michelle up at 10:45.  We  left for Nauvoo just a little bit after was about a 20 minute drive.

Nauvoo was amazing!  We began by going to the Visitor's Center and seeing the displays there.  They explained a little about the history of Nauvoo and about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A sunstone like those on the Nauvoo Temple

Michelle in front of the Mississippi is huge

 We were able to go on a carriage ride.  The carriage was pulled by two horses.  The ride was narrated, telling inspirational stories of some of the Saints in Nauvoo.  They told about the whistling and whittling brigade, they told conversion stories of several early members of the church.  They told about how Nauvoo had been marshland and the hard work it took to plug the spring and dry the land so it could be built upon...but how beautiful it became.  They bore testimony to the faith and courage of these early men and women.

A honey locust tree...look at those thorns!

Then we began taking tours of some of the homes in Nauvoo.  One of the homes we stopped at was John Taylor's home.  They told of how as the pioneers were leaving Nauvoo, his child was crying for his rocking horse.  So he went back inside, fetched the rocking horse and tied it to the side of the wagon and it was carried to Salt Lake.  The original rocking horse is now in his home.   In each home, they would tell you about some of the items that belonged to that person (many of the items are just period pieces but didn't belong to that actual person.)  They would tell stories about that person.

Young children would use these to fetch buckets of water at the well.

A list of items pioneers should pack in their wagon.
 At the blacksmith shop, we learned about how wagon wheels and horseshoes were made.  They did a demonstration of bending metal to make a small horseshoe.  Each family got a miniature horseshoe. Then they told about prairie diamond rings.  When a young man wanted to marry a young woman, he would ask the blacksmith to forge a prairie diamond is shaped like a diamond ring but made entirely of metal.  Each person got a prairie diamond ring to keep.

At the brickyard, we learned about the process of creating bricks.  They explained how much better brick houses lasted than log cabins...thus proving the truthfulness of the Three Little Pigs.  :)  When the Church came to begin restoring Nauvoo, only 7 log cabins were still standing, but about 40 of the brick homes were still standing.  We each got a commemorative brick to keep.  They also compared the process of brick making to our lives.  In the Bible, we are taught that we must be like "clay in the potter's hand".   We will be tried in a furnace of affliction, but if we rely on the Lord, then this process will help us become what we are meant to become....just as the brick does not become a useful brick until it is fired.  We were also shown a brick that had a rock or other impurity in it.  When it was fired, that impurity caused part of the brick to break.  Just like that brick, we need to use the Atonement to remove impurities from our lives.  How thankful I am for the gospel and especially for the Atonement. I felt the Lord's love for me and for my family over and over while in Nauvoo.

We were able to see the show, "The Promise."  It was about a young girl who falls in love with a young man who is not a member of the Church.  But slowly, as he watches the Saints persecuted by outsiders and sees the calm and gentle way they respond, he comes to appreciate and admire their faith and courage.  He joins the whittling and whistling brigade to protect the saints.  (The young men would surround a suspicious stranger and begin whistling and whittling wood.  They didn't hurt anyone but just used intimidation/strength in numbers to protect the town.)  As the martyrdom of the Prophet is mentioned, tears came to my eyes.  The production was fun and moving.  I was especially touched by a song that said, "When there is purpose, there is peace."  Joseph Smith and other Saints faced such terrible challenges, but they knew their lives and sacrifices had purpose and that brought peace.  Powerful message for me to remember...

A stick pulling contest during The Promise.  A common recreational activity in those days, along with singing, dancing and other activities.

 I really liked visiting the Print Shop and the Post Office.  In the print shop, we learned how many common phrases stem from the processes used to set type back then...phrases like "cutting to the chase" and"minding your p's and q's".  Back then, paper was expensive and so they would write across the paper, then turn it sideways and write across it that way.  It was challenging to read.  Then they would fold up the paper and use the outside of the letter as the envelope.  Also, often letters would arrive that the postmark was due...the person receiving the letter would have to pay for it!  Joseph Smith received so much correspondence that he had to begin advertising that he would be unable to pay for letters that came without postage paid.

That evening, we were able to see two shows.  The first was Sunset on the Mississippi.  It was a fun musical with singing and dancing.  The young performing missionaries, the Nauvoo brass band and many of the senior missionaries were part of it.

As soon as that performance ended, we headed to the Cultural Hall for a performance of Rendezvous.  Brother Brinley was the editor of the Nauvoo Neighbor and it was about the people of Nauvoo and in particular a husband who was a bit henpicked by his wife.  This story both poked fun at and celebrated the goodness of these early church members and their neighbors.

One thing that was repeated in two of the plays we saw today.  They said "God must love ordinary people because he sure made a lot of them."  Then in Rendezvous, they went on to say, "Ordinary people often do extraordinary things."   I am pretty ordinary, but I hope that by living the best I can, I am able to do extraordinary things.

 I was very touched by a musical number near the end of Rendezvous where the Saints know they must leave Nauvoo to head west.  One person says they should stay and fight...but they begin to sing about how they will leave "willingly...because they have to" and eventually "willingly...because they want to."  The Saints migration west was the largest voluntary religious migration in our country's history.  These Saints willingly left behind beautiful homes, most of their possessions, and often even family members and loved well as the graves of those they had loved and lost...and headed west.  Because they had to.  They were being forced out.  But also because they wanted to.  They wanted to follow the counsel of a prophet and demonstrate their faith in the Savior.  They were willing to sacrifice so much to gain the blessings of freedom to worship in the way they chose to and to sustain their prophet.  Sometimes the things I am required to do feel like a burden...not often...but sometimes.  But I am going to try harder to do things willingly...because I have to in order to gain eternal life...but more importantly to do it willingly because I want to.  I want to honor my beloved ancestors and all they sacrificed.  I want to show my love for my Savior and His great sacrifice. I want to strengthen my family.  I want to receive the blessings that I know come when we do the Lord's work, especially when we do it willingly.
Words are somewhat inadequate to describe the insights I received about myself, about my ancestors and other early church members and the spirit that was felt.  When Alfredo and I went on our honeymoon, we went to Williamsburg, Virginia (as one part of our honeymoon..not the whole trip).  In some ways, Nauvoo and Williamsburg are similar...the towns are constructed to remind visitors what life was like in these two periods of history.  Homes and stores are available to tour, and visitors are able to participate in activities that help us understand what life would have been like.  But Williamsburg didn't leave a lasting impression on me.  I hope Nauvoo will.  My faith and testimony were strengthened.  I gained insights that I might not have received otherwise.  My love and appreciation for those who went before has increased.  My desire to do what is right has increased.  I am thankful for the missionaries that allowed us to have this wonderful experience and who bore testimony over and over of sacred things.   I felt the spirit over and over in just a few days bearing witness that these events did happen and that our Savior, Jesus Christ lives.  I know Michelle felt it as well.  We had some wonderful conversations and wonderful experiences and I am so grateful to have shared these experiences with her!