Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nauvoo Visitor's Center

This sunstone from the original Nauvoo Temple is "on loan" to the Church and displayed outside the visitor's center. It is huge. Every time I think of the work that went in to building that temple without all the modern equipment we have, I am amazed!!! This is only one of two that were left entirely in tact, the other is in the Smithsonian in Washington D. C.
This view of the Relief Society garden, taken from upstairs in the Nauvoo Visitor's Center shows the role of women through-out the world beginning with Joseph and Emma as he pledged, "With this five dollar gold piece, I pledge all that I have to give to the poor, I shall give to this society."

This mural covers one full wall on the west side of the visitor's center. This picture tells of the miracle of the quails that were sent to help those poor Saints who were driven from their homes in September of 1846, after the Battle of Nauvoo. Just as the ancient Israelites were fed miraculously by a tender and loving Father in Heaven, so the Saints of early Nauvoo in their exodus were taken care of by their Father.

This picture covers much of the wall directly across from the mission secretary's office. It reminds all of us that Jesus issued an invitation, not only to his ancient apostles but to all of us to "become fishers of men". I personally love the account as Peter, James and John straightway left their nets and followed Him. The other account I think of is after the resurrection of the Lord, when He stood at the banks and asked the fishermen if they had any meat. When he told them to cast their nets on the other side, Peter knew immediately it was the Lord. He didn't wait for the boat to reach shore, he jumped out and ran to him.

How appropriate that the "frontier prophet" should be depicted with a copy of the Book of Mormon in his hands. At the very end of his life, just prior to the martyrdom, he spoke with some of his jailers and testified that it was translated by the gift and power of God. In fact, two of the jailers, who were part of the conspiracy were convinced that he was telling the truth and they left the jail just prior to the mobs coming.

This is probably a little too far back to see, but it depicts the martyrdom of the prophet and the patriarch, but more importantly, it depicts how the work went on after the death of the prophet, Joseph Smith. They could not stop the kingdom of God from rolling forth because the keys were invested in the quorum of the twelve and God called Brigham Young to serve as the next prophet. In the pageant there is a line that says, "and they taught their children and their children's children and the work rolls on to fill the entire earth."

A person coming in to the visitor's center will see this bust of the prophet, Joseph Smith. It might be misinterpreted that we worship him, but he, himself said, "I am only a man who serves Jesus Christ." John Taylor described it best when he said, "Joseph Smith has done more for mankind save Jesus only". He was the instrument through whom the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, a witness thereof that Jesus is the Christ, that His Church has been restored to the earth and that the Priesthood authority to act in His name has been restored and is carried on through the living prophet of today.

This replica of the Christus staute originating in Denmark is so remarkable. Notice how the hands of the Savior are outstretched inviting all of us to come unto Him. When we take people through the visitor's center, we play a minute tape of scriptures wherein the Savior testified of Himself. The beginning is: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ whom the prophets testified should come unto the world..." He is our Savior, and our Redeemer. I know that He lives and because He lives, so will we.

This statue depicts one of the most significant events in all of history, the appearance of the Father and the Son in answer to the prayer of young Joseph Smith. This momentous occasion marked the beginning of the restoration of not only the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. Important lessons from this event include: that the Father does love His children and hears and answers their prayers, that the Father and the Son are two separate beings, that they are of flesh and bone. I know Joseph saw what he said he saw.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Relief Society Commemoration 2011

For several years, the sisters of the Illinois Nauvoo Mission have met on the second floor of the Red Brick Store in commemoration of the restoration of the Relief Society. Each year a different program is written but somewhere the re-enactment of the events that transpired on March 17, 1842 is depicted. What a marvelous way to celebrate the wonderous work of women. Joseph Smith stated that if we lived up to our calling that angels could not be restrained from being our associates. I believe that promise has been and continues to be fulfilled in the work of the Lord through His Relief Society. The sisters dressed in modern clothing were part of the program representing a Relief Society presidency of our day and age. We were gathered outside the carriage shed to load the carriages and go down to the Red Brick Store. Hours of preparation went in to making this program work. It must have been much like the preparation that went in to the first meeting. The sisters had already done much in the sewing and gathering of materials, little did they know the impact of what was to come as they "looked after one another, and cherished one another another".
Loading the carriages to go down to the Red Brick Store-- I'm sure instead of cameras the sisters were taking their knitting or mending or perhaps even their scriptures with them. Many of them did not have transportation, so they would have walked. They were of a wider variety of ages than this group was, but the other similarities are amazing: singles, marrieds, widows, women with children, and women without children, women who were united in one common cause: to serve the Lord.

This view was taken to show the corner on which I used to live and the view I had of the Nauvoo Temple as it now stands. I think of Sarah Granger Kimball looking out of her window every day, watching the men work on the original temple as it rose on the bluff. I think of Miss Cook, who sewed the shirts from the material that Sarah provided. I think of that group of women who gathered in her living room not only before the organization of the Relief Society, but also afterwards. They were so excited to be a part of "something extraordinary".

This isn't particularly part of the Relief Society program, but it was along the way. I love the sunsets in Nauvoo. This one is not as pink as it is in the summer, but it had such an amazing contrast as we rode along. I wondered what the early sisters thought of as they were on their way to the Red Brick Store, were they worried about children or husbands or finances or food or sickness or were they thinking of the blessings of meeting with a prophet--that he cared enough to meet specifically with the sisters? Joseph told Emma that the Lord had accepted their offering and that Eliza's constitution was the best he'd seen, but the Lord had something better in mind. Did the sisters know what that was? Could they ever have imagined to have been organized after the manner of the Priesthood?

Unloading the wagons and entering the Red Brick Store is a time of great anticipation. For many of the sisters this is the first time they have been in the store and for others, it is a time of memory and reflection, but whatever position one is in, it is a great time, as I am sure it was for the early sisters as they prepared to go upstairs and meet with the prophet, Joseph Smith. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the store, so now I'll jump to the end of the program.

This year's version of Joseph Smith--Elder Lamar Taylor of North Ogden, Utah. Joseph took a five dollar gold piece from his pocket and gave it to Emma, as the Relief Society President. He stated at the time, "All that I have to give to the poor, I shall give to this society." Joseph also stated that "the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized."

Getting ready for the group picture is always an interesting experience because there are always people who are talking when they should be listening and in a group this size there are always a lot more chiefs than braves. I think one of the greatest indicators of a non-posed picture is the expressions of the people.

Just before we loaded the carriages to return to the Visitor's Center, the two of them met at the road to pick us up. The wagon on the left cut across the grass. Just as these two wagons are meeting to take the sisters on to their next assignment, we can look at this point in our lives as a crossroads of the many opportunities to serve others. We can be empty or we can fill our lives with great joy as we do the work of angels--"the errand of angels is given to women and this is a gift that as sisters we claim to do whatsoever is gentle and human to cheer and to bless in humanities name".

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oldest Courthouse West of the Mississippi

Van Buren county's courthouse, built in 1840 is the oldest operational courthouse west of the Mississippi and the second oldest in the United States. The federalist styles structure was completed in 1843 and was the largest building west of the Mississippi then. It was placed on the national historic register in 1877 as is stated on the plaque near the front door. Notice the glass window at the top, it was built very much after the style used for the Nauvoo Temple.
The plates you see on the outside of the building just above the windows are the ends of the tie rods. As you go up the stairs into the courtroom, you can see the tie rods.
A view from the judge's seat in the courtroom. The walls of the building are 22 inches thick at the first story level and 18 inches thick on the second level. One foot square heavy oak timbers support the floors. The interior is furnished in walnut and other wods taken form trees hewn near the building site, which is amazing because the wood in Nauvoo was found to rot too quickly so they had to import the wood from Wisconsin. The second story courtroom held hte distinction for many years of being the largest auditorium in Iowas wich was unborken by columns or pillars

This is the judge's desk. The lady who was giving the tour said, "We just need a gavel so people can take pictures." I decided that's the closest I will ever be to being a judge, so I took advantage of getting my picture taken. One of the first legal death penalty cases in Iowa and hte only one in Van Buren County was handed down in this courtroom in 1845. The other interesting fact is that you can see the hallow where the gallows were as the man was hanged for the death of a man and his child in a "lover's triangle". Our guide told us the actual gallows are in the attic of the building.

They have names and pictures of prominent people all around the courtroom. It's intriguing to me to walk about and read the stories that were included.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ice chunks on the Des Moines River

To appease my sister-in-law who complains that I never include myself in the pictures, here is one of me pointing to the bridge that has since been built over the spot where the early Saints crossed the Des Moines River. We were lucky to be out on such a warm day as it has been down below zero for many weeks. The ice chunks that have been thrown from the River were so huge, I could hardly begin to imagine what icebergs must look like. I thought of the early Saints walking across the Mississippi on the ice with their wagons being pulled by oxen and then seeing the force here, it made me really appreciate what a miracle that was.
The river had just flooded a day before we came and the people were trying to get things back to normal. I wish I'd taken a picture of a balcony that was standing somewhat askew because the ice had hit the poles with such force that it had left it in quite a mess. The old phrase "Don't mess with Mother Nature" becomes very clear when you see the ice chunks on the Des Moines River.

This is the Des Moines River. The Saints crossed near here on their way west. It doesn't seem like much but the ice was about 8-10 inches thick and some of these chunks floating down river were 8 feet long, and 5 or 6 feet wide.

Notice how the ice chunks are just thrown up on the bank. Some of them are thrown by the force of the river 15 to 20 feet and there are some that were 15 feet across. While we were watching, one chunk caught on the other chunks and was thrown into the air, but of course, we didn't have our cameras poised to take the pictures, but it was amazing to watch.

This shot is taken through the water wheel at the Bonaparte Retreat Cafe. Notice the chunks of ice. They look quite small, but they are in reality about 3-5 feet chunks of ice. When we asked the hostess how they moved the ice, her response was, "God does it."

Snow in Nauvoo

When you get two feet of snow and then try to shovel the sidewalks and plow the streets, you get a much higher pile of snow. This was one of the largest snow storms the midwest has received in recorded history. Nauvoo, that never closes had sites closed for two days, half of Tuesday, all of Wednesday and half of Thursday. It was amazing! (Not being closed, having that much snow)
Although this doesn't show the depth of the snow, what it does show is how beautiful snow can be, especially when it is the frame for the magnificent Nauvoo Temple.

Exocus Commemoration 2011

Each year on February 4th, the missionaries of the Illinois Nauvoo Mission, along with community members and people who travel to Nauvoo specifically for the commemoration make the walk down Parley Street. They think of those early Saints and the sacrifices that they made and take one last longing look at the temple. There's no way to describe all the emotions that occur, but I am including a few pictures and some of the journal entries in hopes that some of those feelings may be conveyed to the hearts of all who read. The Nauvoo Legion led us down Parley Street. They also raised the American flag at the end of Parley Street and led us in the pledge of allegience. Although the early Saints were not given the full rights and protections of this country, they loved America, and it was hard to leave the country they loved. What a great blessing when they were once again allowed to call themselves citizens of the United States!!!
The man in the red cap is President Condie, president of the Nauvoo Temple, and an emeritus member of the Seventy. How appropriate to capture him as there were about 2000 seventies that left Nauvoo during 1846--men called to proclaim and declare the message that the Church of Jesus Christ had once again been restored to the earth with the Priesthood authority to administer all the ordinances in the name of Jesus Christ.

Coming down Main Street getting ready to turn on to Parley Street. We only had about 250 people participate in this event. During the months of February, March, April and the beginning of May more than 5000 left Nauvoo and camped at Sugar Creek, Iowa. In 1846 it was the largest city in Iowa. In fact, just before the Saints left, it was bigger than Nauvoo in population.

One of the things I have repeatedly pondered since our commemoration was the fact that we left from warm and comfortable circumstances, walked down a cold and snowy Parley Street, stood in the cold for about 30 minutes, then went back to our nice warm houses or sites where we had plenty of food and water. They, on the other hand, crossed the river, and stayed by a campfire for the only warmth they could find, crawled into the wagons or slept on the cold, hard ground. Jane Johnston Black recorded in her journal when she left there were 9 babies born that night and she was the midwife that delivered them.

My part of the Exodus was to get the names prepared that people could wear in representation of their ancestors, and for those who did not have ancestors, to represent someone who left Nauvoo sometime in 1846. I represented my fifth great grandmother Hannah Workman Chadwick. As I prepared the names, I saw many who died along the way, others who suffered much loss. There was a man who lost two wives--one died, he married another to help raise his child, she had two children and died and he also had three children die, but he continued faithful all the days of his life. These were not just names on a card to me, but real people with real stories of faith as they followed a prophet of God.

Although we used horses on our re-enactment, most of the Early Saints used oxen. They were must cheaper, they were stronger, they could eat a variety of grasses without becoming bloated, and if they died along the way, they could be used as food. They also walked slowly enough that a person could walk alongside them and keep them on track. There wasn't much room for people to ride with everything they had to take on their journey.

I'm sure the early Saints would have loved the feast we enjoyed as we commemorated their exodus. Mary Field Garner recorded in her journal that her mother had just mixed up bread, but didn't have time for it to rise, so she put it in the pot and let it rise along the trail. Just so you know, they didn't leave in February, but their sacrifices were great nonetheless.

Brigham and Mary Ann Young as portrayed by Elder and Sister Layton. Their driver was President Kirkman from the mission presidency. I told him it took someone important to take Brigham on the trek. He laughed.