Monday, August 27, 2012

Beautiful Nauvoo

Monday, July 16:
Arriving in Nauvoo, Illinois
The sight that met our eyes when we awoke in Michigan on Monday morning.
After leaving Kirtland, Ohio on Sunday evening, we drove almost 5 hours to Sturgis, Michigan.  We'd reserved a space at Cade Lake Park Campground on the outskirts of town, but it was about 11pm when we arrived, so Ed had to park the trailer in this unfamiliar area in the dark.
The truck and trailer at Cade Lake Park in Sturgis, Michigan.
The next morning, we found that it was a nice little campground just north of the Michigan/Indiana border.  I was glad to find it since I'd never been in Michigan before, and it's unlikely I'll ever have this opportunity again.

Ed wanted a picture of this ivy-covered silo.
We took several back roads on our way out of Michigan, scenic routes lined with farm after farm, many of which were Amish.  I'd never imagined Michigan that way.
Another thing I'd never imagined was a place where the water is yellow!  At least in the part of Michigan where we were, the toilet water in every truck stop, restaurant, gas station, and campground we visited was yellow!  At first I thought nobody in that state ever flushed a toilet, but when the water remained yellow after several flushes, I finally caught on.
Preparing to cross the Mississippi River into Iowa.

From Michigan, we drove across Indiana and Illinois until we came to the Mississippi River separating Illinois from Iowa.  Although our destination, Nauvoo, is located in Illinois, the highway on our route took us across the river and traveled south on the Iowa side of the Mississippi before crossing back again just north of Nauvoo.
I was kind of glad we had the chance to spend a little time seeing part of Iowa.  Dylan's dad was born and spent his childhood in Davenport, Iowa--our route passed just 30 minutes east of Davenport--so Dylan got to see some of the state his dad came from.

The Mississippi River seen from the Iowa side.

We somehow missed our turn to Nauvoo.  We were armed with maps and directions from AAA and we had two GPSs, but not one of them was able to figure out how to get us to the bridge we needed.  We finally had to figure it out for ourselves by reading the highway signs, the old-fashioned way!
In fact, we finally realized we were too far south when we looked across the river and clearly saw the Nauvoo Temple shining white on a bluff upriver from us!

The old bridge that took us back across to Illinois, finally!

Welcome to Illinois!  (Again...)
Dylan and Ed prepare the fifth-wheel trailer to stay a few days.
It was 4:30 when we finally arrived in Nauvoo and found our reserved space at Camp Nauvoo, a nice little campground owned by the Community of Christ.  Our original plan was to stay one night and move on the next day, but by now we were exhausted and tired of being on the road.  When Penny, the gal who runs the camp, told us our space was available for the next 3 days, we decided to take her up on it.
Besides, all four of us were already feeling the spirit of Nauvoo, and we suddenly didn't feel too anxious to leave.
Tuesday, July 17:
Spirit of Nauvoo
We spent Monday night doing laundry, enjoying a leisurely trailer-cooked meal, and relaxing, but by Tuesday morning we were ready to explore Nauvoo.  We started in downtown Nauvoo, which is situated up on the bluff, behind where the Nauvoo Temple sits.  Historic Nauvoo is located on the flats below the bluff.
We began in the local drugstore to get a prescription refilled, and then we crossed the street to enjoy a delicious breakfast at Grandpa John's Cafe, a cafeteria-style restaurant that we all agreed was first-rate.
A scene from "High Hopes and Riverboats."
After breakfast, we stopped at the Visitors Center operated by the LDS (Mormon) Church.  There, we were serenaded by a group of young people dressed in 1840s-style clothing before we enjoyed a live production onstage called "High Hopes and Riverboats."  It was fun, but also inspiring.
When the play ended, we took a walk through the Monument to Women Garden behind the Visitors center, where we were just in time to hear a performance on bagpipes.  I've always loved the bagpipes.  The high school I attended was McLane High and we were the Highlanders.  Our pep assemblies often featured pipers and dancers in Highland garb.
Scenes in the Monument to Women Garden
Caryl and Ed enter Hotel Nauvoo for dinner.
By the time we were finished at the Visitors Center, had scoped out the parking arrangements for that evening's production of the Nauvoo Pageant, and had made makeshift signs to reserve our seats for the pageant, it was dinner time.  Hotel Nauvoo up in the downtown area had been highly recommended, so we decided to give it a try.
The entrance to Hotel Nauvoo

As soon as we walked in and saw the elegant decor, we should have known it was too rich for our blood.  I'd say it was a buffet, but that sounds cheap.  It was more like the buffet you find on a cruise ship, where the man in uniform slices your prime rib paper thin.
Personally, I thought the food was amazing and the variety was wonderful, but Ed did not feel it was good enough to warrant a bill approaching $90 for four people!  (Not even including the tip...) 

Dylan and Ed play one of Joseph Smith's favorite games, the stick pull.
(Ed won.)

After dinner, we headed back to historic Nauvoo and joined in the fun at the Frontier Country Fair that takes place before the pageant begins.  There were old-fashioned games and crafts and dancing to the tunes scratched out by a band with a fiddler.

Dylan participates in a round dance...

I was stunned when I realized that my too-cool-to-dance, 15-year-old son was out on the dance floor, not once, but several times, having the time of his life.  This is the son who has yet to attend a single stake youth dance, even though he's been old enough to go for a whole year now.

...and then he goes on to join several other dances.

The girls he danced with (performers from the pageant) were friendly and fun (and cute), and at the end of our vacation he declared that the dancing was the best part of the entire trip.  Go figure!

Dylan and his good friend Mary in Nauvoo.  Surprise!

We had some fun surprises along our way.  For instance, while we were in Kirtland, a family approached us and asked if we were from Arizona.  When we said we were, they asked if we knew any Carters.  Dylan blurted out, "We ARE Carters!"  Then a young man in the family said, "You're Sarah's mom, aren't you?"  Turns out this young man and my daughter were good friends in high school.  I'd met the family at church a few times over the years but didn't know them well enough to recognize them in a different setting.
We got an even bigger shock in Nauvoo.  While I was watching Dylan dance, I noticed a man in a bright yellow tee-shirt that had "Lakeside Ward" on the front.  Now, I realize that nearly every state has a town called Lakeside, but I pointed it out to my husband.  Ed called the man over and asked where Lakeside was, and the man answered, "Arizona."
Okay then!  Lakeside Ward is the church ward located right next-door to ours, the Rainbow Lake Ward.  As I looked around me at the country fair, I suddenly saw the Wilcocks and the Gomezes and a whole slew of people I've known for years! 
Turns out the Lakeside Ward youth group leaders had brought many of their youth (about 45 people, many of them Dylan's classmates) and some parent chaperones to Nauvoo on a bus owned by Ed's friend Dirk Lee, and just happened to arrive the same day we did.  In fact, they were staying at Camp Nauvoo just like us, although they were staying in the lodge. 
That very morning Ed had noticed all the teens in bright yellow shirts doing a service project on the camp's grounds (turns out they got a good deal on the lodge in return for service), and he even commented to me, "I wonder what group those kids are from."  We never imagined they were from home!
Dylan about dropped his jaw when he turned and saw his good friend Mary and her brother Jim standing there.  Small world!

The Nauvoo Pageant gets started.  Notice the temple in the background.
The temple was not lighted, and it disappeared into the dark as the sun went down.

A little after 8:00, the country fair began winding down and people headed over to the pageant theater area to take their seats.  The Nauvoo Pageant began at 8:30.

I had a great time at the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, New York. I enjoyed getting a taste of the history of Kirtland, Ohio. I enjoyed visiting so many places across the United States I never thought I'd see. But something special happened in Nauvoo, Illinois.

A scene in which the ladies do their part to assist in building the Nauvoo Temple.

It began in the Visitors Center, sometime during the production of "High Hopes and Riverboats," but it persisted all day long and culminated while we enjoyed the Nauvoo Pageant.  It was a sense of peace and a recognition of truth.  I haven't yet been able to fully express the feeling with words, but I was deeply impressed by the reality of the work done by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.
I love my religion.  Its precepts make perfect sense to me, like something learned long before I was born.  I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and I've come to feel their all-encompassing love for me.  Because of this testimony, I have accepted "the Joseph Smith story," as it has been called, but I never really felt it deeply in my heart.  Until now. 

After the temple onstage was completed, it fell away to reveal
the actual temple in the background, now fully lit.

Let me be clear: Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith.  We worship the members of the Godhead only: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  We revere Joseph Smith as a man called of God to restore Christ's Church to the earth, and we admire the faith and courage he had to persevere in the face of adversity which, in the end, claimed his life.  And on this day I felt the greatness of the unconditional love Joseph felt for his fellow man.
Have you heard the song by MercyMe called "I Can Only Imagine"?
         "Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
          Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?
          Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
          Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
           I can only imagine..."
I look forward to that day when I stand before my Savior and try to express my gratitude for His example and atoning sacrifice, for being there to lift me during the low points of my life.  I imagine falling to my knees and weeping, unable to speak at all.*
And when I've done that, the second person I will seek out and thank is Joseph Smith, Jr.

Wednesday, July 18:
Feeling Nauvoo's History

Waiting to load up the wagon.

Bright and early Wednesday morning we were in line to get free tickets for a wagon ride around historic Nauvoo.  I love horses and riding, so I truly enjoyed this hour-long ride with a guide who pointed out various restored homes and businesses, as well as other points of interest.

Passing Brigham Young's home.

Heading down Parley Street to the Mississippi River.

Beautiful lilies along Water Street at the side of the river.

When the ride ended, we next took a carriage ride and listened to stories of people who lived in the area during the time of Joseph Smith. Then we drove through historic Nauvoo and visited some of the homes and businesses, such as the print shop, the gunsmith, the tin smith, and the brickyard.

18 July 2012: Dylan gets to know our horses after the ride.

The one place we didn't get to visit, which I regret, is the Joseph Smith homestead on the far southern end of historical Nauvoo, which is owned by the Community of Christ.  We rode past it in the wagon, but we simply ran out of time because we wanted to attend a session at the Nauvoo Temple.  I really wanted to see the Smiths' home and the small cemetery where Joseph, his wife Emma, and his brother Hyrum are buried.
If I ever get a chance to revisit any of the places from our trip, Nauvoo will be the place.  Maybe in autumn, when it isn't so humid!

One of the original capstones of the Nauvoo Temple.
I like this shot because I caught both Dylan and me in the picture!
Around 2:00, Ed dropped me off at the Temple Arrival Center.  I'd never seen one of these before.  It's almost like a Visitors Center across the street from the Nauvoo Temple, but it serves temple patrons who've come long distances to attend the temple.  Their children and non-temple-attending fellow travelers can stay in the center and watch DVDs or sleep or visit while the patrons attend a session at the temple.  I think every temple should have one!
As for me, I took a lovely, air conditioned shower, put on fresh makeup, and fixed my hair prior to attending the 4:00 session.  I haven't mentioned how dreadfully humid Nauvoo is, but I was wringing wet the entire time we were there--and I never sweat!  When I showered at Camp Nauvoo, I was just as wet after I dried off as I was while under the running water.  I never felt quite dry and clean.
By the way, I figured out why all the men and women of Joseph Smith's time wore those high collars.  I always thought that would make them uncomfortably warm, but the fact is, those collars soak up the sweat that would otherwise be running down their necks!
The front of the Nauvoo Temple, facing west toward the Mississippi River.
Ed and I attended the 4:00 session while Dylan participated in baptisms at 4:30 in the Nauvoo Temple.  Dylan said the baptismal font in the basement was awesome, much larger than those in other temples, almost like a small pool.  I read that the original font was 16 x 12 feet in size!  The feet of the oxen supporting the font appear to be sunken up to their knees, which was designed thus because the original oxen did indeed sink from the weight of the font on their backs.
A side/back view of the Nauvoo Temple.  Notice the sunstone capstones.
All along the top under the eaves are stars, both carven and stained glass.

The interior of the temple is beautiful.  The spiral staircase in the southwest corner was amazing and I loved climbing up, round and round, for three stories.  A sense of history seemed to permeate the very walls.  It was a lovely experience.
As we were leaving, I peeked in an open door and was amazed to see a large room that looked exactly like the ones in the first two floors of the Kirkland Temple!  I'd never seen that in a temple before.  When I asked about it, I was told that this room was rarely used, never more than once or twice a year, and only for Solemn Assemblies (important church business involving the prophet and apostles).  Apparently there is a similar room in the Salt Lake Temple.  I learned something new!

During one of the tours, it was mentioned that the Nauvoo Temple was adorned
with the sun, moon, and stars.  I found the suns and stars easily enough,
but it took me awhile to see the man-in-the-moon carvings at the base of the pillars.
After we left the temple, we were just in time to see "Sunset by the Mississippi," a humorous musical production on the outdoor stage near the Visitors Center.  It was quite entertaining.  Ed and Dylan still often joke about the Samurai skit, saying in a high-pitched oriental accent, "Corkscrew!"
By the time we left historic Nauvoo that night, the sun was starting to set.  We stopped for a few final photos before heading back to the trailer.  We knew we'd be heading on to Carthage, Illinois, early the next day, and we were all a little sad to end this phase of our journey.  Despite the humidity and endless mosquitoes, the sweet spirit of Nauvoo persisted with us.
This statue of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum stands on the bluff
before the Nauvoo Temple.  The inscription on the plaque reads:
"On the morning of June 24, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum left their families, homes, and fellow Saints for the last time. Traveling on horseback, they paused on this bluff. Joseph looked admiringly at the unfinished temple and the city of Nauvoo and declared:

This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.

Joseph and Hyrum then continued on to Carthage, Illinois, where they faced legal charges and eventual death at the hands of a mob."

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