LDS Church History Tour – July 2003
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I don’t seem to have much success in making new years goals and have gradually moved to just noting impressions as the new year dawns and sort of holding them on deck to see if any energy develops around them. This year I had two distinctly good impressions as far as travel activities—one was the Tibet trip and the other was to take my parents on an LDS Church history tour. The trip was on for first of May but when it came down to it, Dad wasn’t feeling quite up to it and had started working at the temple. And, the 30 year old motor home which I had purchased to make the voyage wasn’t quite ready either.
A three-week break for Dad at the Logan temple during the summer closing gave us a window between July 7 and July 26 so we redoubled efforts for that time slot. July 3-5th was a family get together in Idaho and several major work projects for me were finalized in the last days of June. All systems were go and I left on July 1st, headed up the highway in the heat from Orem to Grace in the RV. I’m not sure what to call it. Some call it the yellow submarine, some the banana, some the Twinkie but at this point, I’m calling it the Beast.
About 8 miles into the trip, there was an accident ahead of me on the freeway and I slowed down for it. The air conditioner was blowing ice cold air one minute and the next, the cab was filling with smoke. I knew I had a fire extinguisher on board but in the panic, could not think where it was. Fortunately, it was only belt smoke and there was no flame. I pulled off on the next exit and checked things out. When I turned on the A/C, it immediately belched smoke out of the end of the compressor. I turned and headed back home thinking, “That’s why I left three days early!”
The next morning, Taysom shop called to say that I needed a new compressor. That and a tune up cost a chunk of change, but by Wednesday morning, I was heading up the freeway again with cold air blowing steady. I stopped and picked up Zan and David and we made the trip on to Idaho stopping to look at a couple of motorcycles and eat at McDonalds along the way.
The RV worked great for the reunion! I took a load of kids to Lava and we were met there by Steven/Shannon and gang, Dan and Jill, the Webbs and Don and kids. It was a great time and Dan goaded us off the top platform several times. I think he has a different psychological make up in that the more speed and danger, the more daring he becomes. He would take a full run jump, spread eagle fall and then bring everything together as he entered the water. We rode the slides, sat and talked and kept counting kids all the time.
That night, we caravanned to the Webb ranch up 8-mile canyon. Kendrick and Hayden had been there for a day or so and had mowed all of the grounds. It is such a beautiful, secluded property with open space, pines and a stream running through it. The rag tag collection of camping accommodations went from tents, to tent trailers to campers that ran from Howard’s new Ford 350 diesel to Dads 1968 Chevy. The Beast was set up with awning and slept me, Kiana, Dani and Stewart the first night.
We dined on soup and many sat around the fire while I held Maniah in the house. She is such a sweet little girl. Friday morning we all got up and went to the parade in Soda where the kids collected candy and waved to Emily and Grant on the float. In the park afterwards, we met up with the Clegg cousins (Kim and Jalayne and kids, Jeff and Audra, Robert and Kimmie and Uncle David and Aunt Shirley. Great to see them.
We all met over at Don’s where we tie died T-shirts, built a pole tower and feasted on meat, Uncle Barrie’s potatoes and all types of great food. Back to the cabin for the evening and then Saturday down to Alexander where we parked the RV with shade and enjoyed a day of water fun. The brother’s and Don’s boats were there and a few of us tried Don’s wind surfer. As the party wound down, families would load up in their cars, and slowly leave. It was a very successful reunion.
Monday morning, I set about to solving what I thought was the last problem on the Beast. There was a vibration in the rear somewhere and several that I had talked to said that if it sits for extended periods of time, the tires can get hot spots and even through they balance, they still vibrate. I had called around on Wednesday and got Best Tire in Cornish to get four new ones in and so Monday drove down to get them installed.
I was out doing a test run to see if the new tires had worked, I glanced in my rear view mirror to see a billowing cloud of blue smoke. As I pulled into the tire place, there was oil leaking all over the driveway. They guys there were really cool and helped me figure out that it was a blown oil hose. We took it off and the Colby, the 17 year old kid, took me over to Pitcher’s Implement where they pressed the old ends on a new hose. I put it back on, filled it with oil and drove home determined to switch to plan B and take the Cadillac instead. I had just dropped another $800 and should have been stark raving mad but for some reason, I felt that this was just part of the test to see if I would give up.
ON THE ROAD
Dad had just recently serviced the Caddy and it was ready to roll. Paula was there and we fixed a departure time for an hour and a half and were on the road at about 4:00 p.m. We drove to Montpelier and then to Rock Springs, Wyoming. By about 10 p.m., we had made it to Rawlins and we stayed at the same hotel that we had stayed in when we went to Colorado several years ago. I think it was a Days or Comfort Inn.
Paula and Mom slept in one bed and Dad and I in the other. I pulled out my earplugs to find one of them gone so cut it in half so I could sleep without hearing anyone snoring. I ended up only using them for a couple of nights as either I slept so deeply that I didn’t hear or no one snored.
Tuesday morning, we ate and were off towards Martins Cove. There were lots of people on motorcycles doing trips and Dad was always interested in talking to them. Mom, Dad and I had been to Martins Cove a few years back so we didn’t spend much time. Paula and I walked to the Veil bridge and then back to the new reconstruction of the Semino fort that had been recently excavated and added to the site. Here we begin to see as we did all through the trip that the Church does an absolutely first class job on all sites. Everything is done beautifully, clean and with as much attention to detail as possible while still accommodating large crowds of curious people. I snapped a few shots of Devil’s Gate and we drove out towards the Cove area to show Paula and looked down at the walking bridge area where the valiant young men carried people across the river in the cold.
We drove on to Casper and stopped for gas. Here we noticed that the coolant was low so bought a gallon and put it in. The weather was hot but not severe and as we drove through town, Dad pointed out the general area where he had stayed when he was on his mission. Nothing looked familiar after over 50 years.
On to Gillette and then Devils Tower. I had been there once before and Dad had on his mission but neither Mom or Paula knew what Devils Tower was. It was made famous 25 years ago by the movie “Close Encounters” as a docking station for space aliens. In real life, it’s much more spectacular. We had Mom and Paula close their eyes as we approached on the long winding road and then when it was in full view, open them.
It is a towering column of symmetrical pillars that jut straight up. According to the park information, it was formed underground in a hot blast of molten rock and then was eroded away over eons of time. We walked around the base, looking up at climbers that looked like ants inching their way up the wall. The tower is sacred to Native Americans and in several places were colorful prayer bundles were attached to trees. I was a little shutter happy with the camera and have tons of shots but I was thinking that this would be a good start at the geo-architecture art that I have been thinking about.
We drove back to the freeway and towards Rapid City, South Dakota stopping in Sturgis just to see where the big Harley rally occurs every year. Nothing really impressive and I made a mental note not to every be there for the rally.
As evening was approaching, we drove through Rapid City and straight to Mt. Rushmore. The sun was on the backside of the mountain but it was still impressive. The evening was beautiful and the crowd light. Paula and I walked the path to the views of each president and then we all went to a video on the building of it. Again, an impressive amount of work and interesting how grand visions were in those days and how they were accomplished.
We wanted to see the lighting program which began at 9 p.m. so we ate at the cafeteria and enjoyed a great meal. The concessionaire has created a great facility and good food considering the monopolistic location. Paula and I went to the car to get coats and by the time we returned, the arena was almost full. We found some seats down near the front and watched as a Boy Scout troop from Kansas (I think) presented and posted the colors. When we first arrived, a boys choir had been performing.
The program was a park ranger talking to us. I was wondering how entertaining a park ranger could be, especially as he began to talk reading his notes from his hand. It was however, one of the most moving talks I have heard. He talked of Teddy Roosevelt and his life, determination, and goodness. He closed with an appeal to all that is noble, good and right and as he finished, the patriotic music, video and our joining in the singing was incredibly moving and inspiring. The faces on the mountain were gradually illuminated and the American flag below was spotlighted. When we had gone to the car, there was a magnificent thunderhead that was painted orange, red and gray by the setting sun as a backdrop to the flag. Columns lining the entry to the mountain contained flags from every state and inscriptions on the base that indicated when the state was accepted into the Union. All in all, I was moved, impressed and inspired.
We were low on gas but wanted to head on down to Custer to find a hotel as we thought we would have a better chance of finding a room. On the way, we passed the Crazy Horse monument which was lit up. As we pulled up to the gate, a man came out to say that they were closed but that we were welcome to drive in closer and take a picture. Dad asked him to tell us about the monument and he said, “Well, there is a 30 minute video that you can come back and see that tells you that.” But then, he proceeded to give us a concise but vivid history of Crazy Horse and the history of the Indians there, their leadership culture, the breaking of the treaty by the government and the loss of the Black Hills as an Indian territory. He was kind to take the time and so informative. We would really have liked to come back if time had permitted.
We found a hotel that was quaint and clean called the Chief and settled in for the night. Next morning, we gassed up, washed the car, ate a large pancake breakfast, talked to another motorcyclist and then drove through the Black Hills heading south.
The Black Hills are beautiful! Called ‘black’ because of the dark pines that line the ridges and surround the meadows. We drove through Custer State Park hoping to see buffalo but only saw one. The grass was high and everything was green compared to parts of Wyoming. After descending down through the mountains, we were dumped out onto the rolling plains of South Dakota.
PINE RIDGE, SD
Dad had served several months in Pine Ridge, SD and wanted to return after 50 years. In Rapid City, there were numbers for stake and wards which hadn’t been there when he was a missionary but in Pine Ridge there was no evidence of the Church. As a reservation town with a small population, there were scattered government houses and not much evidence of progress. Dad said that it looked like it was actually in worse shape than when he had been there 50 years ago. We drove around the block looking for where he had stayed but the building was gone. Coming into town, we stopped at the Catholic school which contained an art gallery with some beautiful Indian paintings. On top of the hill above the church was a cemetery with the grave of Chief Red Cloud and we saw his grave and that of his wife. He had originally forced a treaty with the government that gave the Indians all of South Dakota by attacking forts and trade routes and going to war with federal troops. With Custer and the finding of gold in the Black Hills, the treaty was broken.
While parked there, a couple of Indian women approached Mom selling dream catchers. They were made out of hand tanned buffalo skin and deer gut. We got two and mine contained beads with colors that represented the four points of the compass and the sky above and water below. They are supposed to be hung at night and allow the bad dreams to pass through but the good ones are caught and held in the dream catcher. I hung mine on the rear view mirror.
There is no main highway from north west Nebraska to Missouri so we opted for one of Nebraska’s scenic back roads. It was enchantingly empty and consisted of miles and miles of “sand hills”. No mountains but low rolling hills and mounds that were covered with knee-deep green grass. No houses, side roads or other cars for miles and miles on a two-lane road. Occasionally there would be a windmill and a herd of cattle near by but hardly any evidence of human alteration.
As we got nearer to the center of the state, the rolling hills gave way to fields of sorghum (or maybe corn). We were paralleled with railroad tracks and from time to time saw a train. More and more farms and large trees. Finally, as we turned off the scenic route and headed for Kearney, we even passed a golf course.
Kearney has all major chains and we easily found a Days Inn and ate at Perkins. Our room here was intended for handicap use I think, but was spacious and included a fridge and microwave. On leaving the motor home, we had decided to bring Paula’s cooler which was powered by either car battery power or AC power. Each night, we would pack it in and out of the hotel with food contents that we accumulated along the way. The car trunk was so full that it had to be carefully packed in a specific sequence in order to get everything in and the cooler connected to power. The Cadillac trunk has a powered closer that we found comes in quite handy. You pull it closed to a certain point and then a motorized winch compresses it shut tight. Subconsciously, each time I closed it, I expected it to reach a certain point and then explode.
Kearney also is home to a Cabela’s store (the world’s largest outfitter) and so early Thursday morning Dad and I drove over there to take a look. I needed a pair of shoes for the Tibet trip as the cheap ones I bought just hurt too much. I found a pair and hesitated to buy them but was glad I did as I used them extensively in walking around Adam-ondi-Ahman.
At Cabela’s we noticed that the car was leaking seriously—more than it would be possible to just keep adding water. I tried to locate the leak and hoped it was a hose but it seemed to be coming from behind the fan at some point in the radiator core. I had visions of trying to find a new radiator and being there for a couple of days but we had passed an auto parts store on the way out to Cabela’s and so stopped there to try some radiator stop-leak and hope for the best. I had brought mechanic clothes for the RV so went back to the hotel, changed and we found a dirt lot to take the hose off. The Cad doesn’t have a lid on the radiator—just on the overflow tank—so we pulled the hose and poured the stuff right down it’s throat. It was a 3-minute operation and seemed to work almost immediately. I think our twice-daily prayers and Dad’s continual prayer effected much.
On the road, the outdoor temperature climbed but the engine temperature remained constant. We took I-80 to Lincoln, crossed through a tip of Iowa and then into Missouri. It’s interesting how at state boundaries, landscapes subtly change. Nebraska had been relatively flat and Missouri was gentle hills with trees and farms. We stopped in Cameron and lunched in the public park. A man walking across the street saw our license plates and asked us if we were from Boise. He was very cordial and said, “Everyone with Idaho plates always seems to be from Boise.” He owned a photography shop across the street.
Missouri pace seems slow and the area a little depressed. Towns and homes, although not as junky as parts of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, needed some repair and paint. We noticed a Masonic temple for sale near the park and across the street, an old school had been converted to a church with a hand painted sign that said, “Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” We learned at the Community of Christ church (formerly Reorganized LDS) that there were nine break-away churches after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death. We followed Aunt Helen’s instructions and drove straight to Adam-ondi-Ahman. Not many signs and you need specific directions to find it.
I’ve written more about Adam-ondi-Ahman in another journal but will note some of the highlights. I felt a definite spirit of reverence there. There were miles of white gravel roads that created billowing clouds of white dust and normally, I would have roared down them at good throttle but it seemed to be wrong to do it here. I have wondered if the sacredness of a place has to do with the physical location, its beauty, or the dedication of those who take care of it. Whatever the case, the feeling was tangibly “at home”. There are 7 miles of gravel roads, most lined with fences where each post is hand painted pure white. Grass is mowed from the edge of the gravel, to the fence and underneath, and on to the edge of whatever crop is planted in the adjoining field. Crops may be soybeans, corn or hay. Uncle Glade says there are 130 acres of lawn to mow and they have three small mowers and three large ones to do it. The property currently consists of 3600 acres that is bordered by the Grand River in a big U-shape. There are 11 couples there as missionaries during the summer and 6 during the winter.
Of particular scenic beauty are the east overlook which looks over the valley and the Tower Hill area which looks over the valley as well. The geography is not dramatic in elevation and I almost think that most people probably come, see the view, say, “That’s nice,” and are gone within a few minutes. I think we had a definite advantage in being able to stay there and drink in the spirit of the place. The moon was full, the temperature was absolutely perfect and there were no bugs except for fireflies. Each night, I went for a walk in the full moon, taking Paula and Mom on a couple and we all just enjoyed the peace and tranquility. The feelings there are difficult to describe and I’m not sure if I want to even make the attempt. I don’t think the Church wants to call much attention to the place and it seems to me that it exists for intentions other than just scenic tours.
I think that a major purpose is for those missionaries that serve there and their families that come to visit them. It is a mini united order in a way where they all meet every morning in prayer, divide up responsibilities and go do work. Every Tuesday and Thursday they meet for study and on Sunday evenings, they have a fireside. Everything is orderly and they are free to enjoy associations with each other. We had the privilege of staying there for four nights total from Thursday through Sunday. We feasted on food from the garden eating tomatoes, squash, corn and onions. The Garden of Eden is supposed to be further south around Independence but we tasted it in Adam-ondi-Ahman.
Friday morning, we went with Uncle Glade and Aunt Helen in their truck which comfortably fit us all. We drove to an Amish store near Jamesport where we bought some snacks, knives and seasoning. Uncle Glade says you can tell an Amish home by the fact that there are no power lines going to the house. There were usually clothes on the line and buggies parked in the yard. I don’t understand the reasoning and didn’t have a chance to research it but they don’t believe in being hooked to the power grid. They have generators and solar panels that charge batteries which run cash registers but the lights are gas and the fans are run by compressed air coming from the generator. There are no phones in the homes but there can be a phone booth on the property. Women can’t ride in cars but some men do for work. They don’t like their picture taken from the front and they don’t use mirrors because it may make them vain. At a certain age, they can chose if they want to remain Amish and if they don’t, they are shunned by their family and community and can’t be spoken to.
Those that we talked with in buying things and shopping seemed to be extremely nice, articulate and simply attractive. I didn’t see any obesity and all appeared to have a degree of serenity. The women wore simple dresses of the same design and often the same fabric and wore simple bonnets. The men had beards, wore hats and suspenders. As I was coming out of the store, a small pony cart with four children was coming towards the store. I had my camera and they were laughing but looked away and started the horse running when I reached for it. They kept looking back and laughed, trying to stay out of camera shot but see me at the same time.
We stopped to look at an old horse drawn binder that collects grain into shocks and saw a man cutting hay with a horse drawn cutter bar. Other stops included a quilt store with beautiful quilts and crafts. Aunt Helen says the girls must practice until they can get ten even stitches per inch before they are allowed to work on quilts that are for sale. The price of a full quilt averaged about $600. We went on to Jamesport and stopped at a furniture store. All hardwood furniture and some beautiful designs. There was one that matched my living room set and would have been a nice addition to my formal dining room. Ten high backed chairs and a large oak table that seats ten was about $4000.
We stopped at a buffet for lunch and then headed down to Far West—another spot with a definite spirit. The only thing visible in all directions is a which church owned by the Remnant group and nothing left of the 4900 saint community that had existed there. The four corner stones of the temple and encased in glass in a fenced area with a monument. It was from this spot that the Twelve returned in the dead of night, a year after being driven from the place, to begin their missions to all the world to fulfill prophecy. I took a 360 view picture that I will stitch together. There was a youth conference going on and the kids were eating after a service project. There should be no shortage of service projects in this area with all the Church history sites.
Back to the property, Uncle Glade took us down through the trees to the point on the Grand River where Lyman Wight had a ferry. Near the trail was a well, about 25 feet deep, that had been dug at the time the saints lived there and lined with rocks. A BYU archeology dig in the area had turned up foundations for several homes and possibly an ancient skeleton. It seems the there is much history mixed with much conjecture to the point that now, not much of anything is said definitively. Section 116 in the Doctrine and Covenants indicates that at this place, Adam called together all of his righteous posterity three years before he died and gave them blessings, telling them of all the future events of their generations. It is also supposed to be the place where Adam will return to a vast audience of the righteous who will be gathered in the valley. Another report was that before that gathering, there would be a meeting of the leadership of the Church which most would not know about. Elder Doxy has written on it and I need to do more research before I can say anything for certain. Uncle Glade jokingly said that there were things he could tell us but he would then have to kill us. He then gave us some background material to read and told us not to tell it to anyone. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s all material I want to use in my homecoming talk!”
KANSAS CITY, STEAMBOAT ARABIA
Saturday, Uncle Glade took us to Kansas City which is a little over an hour south. Our first stop was the Steamboat Arabia—most fascinating! A couple of HVAC contractors got interested in sunken boats on the Missouri River when one of their clients had a map of old steamboats that had sunk. They started looking and located several, one which was now located in a field as the river had changed course.
They set out to excavate it themselves (being contractors they can do anything) thinking it would cost about $50,000 and they would sell the things they found to recover the cost. As the hole emptied of dirt, it began to fill with water because of the high water table and nearby river. At the hole’s lowest point, they had 20 pumps pumping 20,000 gallons a minute to keep water out and the final cost of excavation was about $1 million.
The find was fantastic! The steamboat had been headed up the river, laden with goods for frontier stores in the 1850’s. It was like uncovering that period’s equivalent of Walmart and Home Depot combined. Goods included bottled food and spirits, hardware and tools, clothing and boots—even several precut home kits with all the wood, nails and hardware to build a kit home.
Because of the water and pressure, everything had been preserved. Cotton had dissolved and wood needed special treatment to keep together but everything else was intact. The brothers and partners, their families and a few sponsors decided the find was too complete to sell off piecemeal and set their efforts to restoring it and making it available to the public. They got an old warehouse in a section of Kansas City that is being renovated and put together a fantastic display of everything that was on board. They sold nothing and although there are still 15 years of restoration work to do, there is much available for public view.
The feeling there was special. People were happy, guides were informative as they were the ones doing the restoration. Our guide had just finished up a long barrel rifle that was new to the display. There is an introductory video that describes the excavation process and at the end, one of the brothers or the partner comes out and talks to the group. We enjoyed hearing from one fo the brothers and he was so down to earth, answered every question and had such a good sense of humor. They are getting about 140,000 visitors a year and probably are grossing about $1 million. The interesting thing was that in talking to several people the next day in Kansas City, they hadn’t even heard about the exhibit. Paula had read about it and Steven and family went there. The brother that talked to us said that they didn’t have a lot of money to put into advertising but they hadn’t taken any money from anyone—completely bootstrapped it themselves and were still doing some heating, ventilation and air conditioning work. I was very impressed.
For lunch, we went to the restored Kansas City train station. At one point in history, it was a major transportation hub before the airlines. Many of the soldiers for WWI had gone through it. It is very large and no contains restaurants, theatres, shops and a museum. Across the road was the only WWI memorial in the US.
The on to Independence, east of Kansas City. Here we stopped briefly at the Community of Christ (RLDS) temple/sanctuary. An interesting building with most focus on art and architecture and meditation. Our guide was more of a tour operator than spiritualist. We were with a group of Airstream trailer caravaners that were following the Lewis and Clark trail and during questions, our guide offered to define the difference between the LDS and RLDS churches. After a lengthy dialog, I think the only concrete delineation was that RLDS has 160 plus sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and LDS has 138. With the retirement of the last descendent of Joseph Smith willing to lead, they have now selected a McMurry as their president, prophet, sear, revelator and head of the high priesthood. No more is there a direct linage from the prophet which has been the main reason for the differences between the two religions.
We had to hurry but stopped to look at the cornerstones of the Independence temple site which I think is owned by the Hedrakites—no idea of their beliefs. We were racing to get to the Harry Truman Library, president of the United States who was from Independence. Very interesting and we could have spent much more time there. He was president through the dropping of the bombs on Japan and for most of the Korean war. He was not ambitious for the presidency but was drafted as a non-controversial VP and then took over when the president died. Very interesting, his success and approach to the challenges he had such as firing General McArthur.
Then on to Liberty Jail where the Prophet spent the winter months in such deplorable conditions but provided such incredible spiritual insights. The jail floor is still there and the building has been reconstructed and is housed in a nice center. A sister Thorpe from Logan was our guide and she conveyed a wonderful spirit. The area had recently been in the path of a tornado which took off some of the roof. Some of the surrounding houses weren’t so fortunate and were missing walls and roofs. Afterwards we stopped at the best frozen custard shop and headed back to Adam-ondi-Ahman.
Sunday we attended sacrament meeting at the branch in Galliton—a very small branch that meets in a converted mortuary. The building had lots of dark wood and a good spirit. They are in the process of building a new chapel on the edge of town on the hill near the intersection. There are eight or nine churches in an alliance in the small town of Galliton but the LDS church isn’t one of them.
After meeting, we drove on back to Kansas City and across town to Olathe, Kansas where Paula’s college friend Heather Sharp lives. We had a great time catching up with her and her husband Terry and their son Shane. Steve, Ben and I had stayed with them while on our trip around the world in Hawaii and they are very hospitable. We had a great meal and listened to her visiting teachers tell how they burned their house down. Shane is an awesome young man and has a great personality and talent.
We drove back to Adam-ondi-Ahman, now very familiar with the way and the surrounding towns. We were trying to get back for the missionaries fireside and ended up driving down several different roads on the property before we got to the right place. The elder that was giving the fireside talked about how he had flown over the trail of the Mormon Battalion in southern Arizona and taken infrared photos to find more detail on the trail and Indian ruins. He flew an ultralight plane to take the pictures and I visited with him after. Uncle Glade had mentioned that he needed to get a group picture of all the missionaries so I volunteered to take it after the fireside. I took my last moonlight walk to Tower Hill and got to bed a little after midnight.
Monday morning, we cleaned up, washed clothes and sheets and packed. Uncle Glade stopped by on his way out to the fields to say goodbye and Aunt Helen came up from the genealogy center to say goodbye. She said she had to get back quickly or she would have to stay after school. The women have extracted 47,000 names already this year and did over 50,000 last year for temple work.
We drove straight east across the state to Hannibal where Mark Twain was born. The town has been turned into a Samuel Clemens memorial with Becky Thatcher’s café, the Clemens home site, museum and many other things. We took the riverboat tour which lasted about an hour and then were too hot and tired to do anything else.
The riverboat was fun. The Mississippi was wide and muddy…Paula called it the Muddy Mississippi (not mighty). We saw large barges coming up the river that could hold the equivalent of 6000 acres of grain. Our boat played a calliope, blew its horn and motored past the island where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn supposedly ran away to (Jackson Island). Official mosquito count on the island---3 billion.
Driving up through Missouri, we crossed over the border into Iowa to Keokuk and then crossed the bridge into Illinois at Hamilton. The drive up the east bank of the Mississippi from Hamilton to Nauvoo is beautiful with lots of nice river front homes. Soon the top of the temple came into view. The highway trails along the lower part of the city in the trees and then curves up the hill to right in front of the temple. It is quite a majestic building and definitely the crown jewel of the area.
Heather had given us a reference for a small hotel but we found that it was 7 miles out of town so checked at the Nauvoo Family Inn. They had an open room for three nights so we took it for two. It turns out that they own 140 of the 180 available rooms in the city and do a very good business with tours and visitors. We were in an older motel building a couple of blocks away that they had purchased. It was a small room but had good air conditioning.
Our first stop was the visitors center where we got tickets for the 6:30 performance put on by youth missionaries. As we came back for the show, we walked right into the Van Leuvens from Washington. Martin, Joanne, Kai and Misha had flown to New York to see the pageant with their cousins and were traveling west. We had been going east and just walked right into them in line. Afterwards, we all went over to Keokuk for steak dinner and had a great time talking. Myles and Cole had been in Omaha selling satellite systems and were just headed back to Washington to finish out the summer selling there.
Tuesday morning, Paula and Dad got passes for the 10:00 a.m. session at the temple. It was a great experience. There is a wonderful spirit there and the temple is so beautifully done. Lots of dark woods and all in the style of the period. As we walked in on the main level, the assembly room was open and we could see the multi-level pulpits at each end. After our session, one of the officiators showed us a sealing room and told us that the assembly room is only used by permission from President Hinckley. The session progresses from room to room and each room is painted in beautiful murals.
When in the sealing room, the officiator asked us if we would like to do sealings so we did. The sealer was Paula’s old branch president from Ricks College and also a cousin to Faye Rigby. Another officiator was a brother to Brig and Howard Young from Grace. Dad also knew a couple of the officiators from the Logan temple.
Mom, Paula and I went to the visitors center while Dad rested. We walked through the Women’s Garden created by the Relief Society. When I was there 25 years ago, it was new and the trees were all small. Now they are all grown and the landscaping and flowers are beautiful. Throughout the day and the evening before, I had been taking pictures like crazy and shot up an entire card with about 200 shots. Somehow, I lost them all so there are no evening pictures of the temple, Carthage or the Women’s Garden.
We went back, got Dad and drove to Carthage. It is about 12 miles as the crow flies but about 26 by major highway. The missionary at the Nauvoo visitors center gave me a map of the route Joseph and Hiram took. He was a retired doctor from Chicago and had all kinds of good information. He showed us the model of old Nauvoo and told us how that the swamp that the saints drained was not a swamp because of high water table. There is actually a layer of limestone in the low area basin that prevented the water from percolating and the streams running from up above filled it. The saints diverted the streams off to the river and the swamp area dried out.
The Carthage jail is very much intact in it’s original form. Even the bullet holes in the door from the shot that killed Hiram are still there. A beautiful new visitors center with impressive original art has been constructed. Dad kept saying that things were just not quite like he imagined. My recurring thought was that the early saints and the Prophet were so progressive. Building, creating, organizing, and doing on a grand scale for the time. To see the temple and imagine it being built by hand cut stone, hand finished wood and to have the people as a community focused on it was impressive. Also, the fact that they could leave it with the hope of building something newer and better in another place—especially after having started on many other attempts in Missouri.
With having visited the temple and gone to Carthage, Dad was ready to go home. We prevailed on him to spend a little time in Nauvoo and that evening attended the Sunset on the Mississippi program put on by youth and senior missionaries. It was a delightful program of music and entertainment that depicted the fun that the saints had in Nauvoo and on the journey west.
The next morning, we drove out of town a couple of miles to the old Nauvoo Cemetery where we found the headstone of Edward Partridge. To my knowledge, he and Brigham Young are the only direct ancestors that we came across during the trip. There are quite possibly others but those are the only names that are familiar.
We also toured the Brigham Young house, noting the fine craftsmanship and the feather painting of the wood so it looked like oak. It was interesting to see the fine china which was buried in the back yard during the exodus. We stopped at the family living center where we saw how they made rugs, candles, spun cotton, wool and learned how they made flax. We saw how rope was made and clay pots and weaving. Everything was set up in working displays where people can try their hand at the crafts.
Our final Nauvoo highlight was the tour that we took of the Community of Christ properties. We had tried to get in on a tour of the Mansion House the day before but the guide said we needed to go to their visitors center first. We started with a tour of their museum and a video. The museum included several paintings by David Hiram Smith, the son of the prophet who was born after he was killed. The paintings included several scenes of the properties during the period and provided a good insight as to how they may have looked.
Our guide was great. His name was Josh Peterson and he was a young man who had only been doing it for a few months but had done a great deal of research. He said that he wasn’t a tour guide but a historical interpreter and he gave us a great deal of personal historical information on the prophet’s family after he was killed. We passed the foundation of the 60 horse stable that the Prophet had constructed for guests and then on to the Nauvoo House. The Nauvoo House was to be a great hotel for visitors to the city and was instructed to be built by revelation. Josh said that the Joseph had been concerned that all the effort was on the temple and not enough on the hotel. It had a stone foundation and red brick that went up three stories, eventually going to four but was never finished. Emma’s second husband (Bidamon) tore down part of what was constructed and created the current three story building on a much smaller footprint. It is still used as a hotel for guests to the city and can be rented for groups larger than 20 at $10 per person per night.
The Mansion House was also much larger at one point (things I didn’t know). It had been the Prophet and his family’s resident for 9 months before he was killed. It was a temporary hotel which Emma ran and continued after the martyrdom but was of wood and all but the family living quarters were later torn down. Josh said that the CoC church would like to rebuild it if they had the money.
He said that Joseph never had slaves (as some reported) but that a black family had joined the church and came to Nauvoo with nothing. The Prophet invited them to live at the Mansion House and gave them board and room in exchange for helping out. He also had stories about Lucy Mack Smith living there and told how Emma entertained political candidates.
The third property was the old homestead which was a log house that Joseph had purchased already standing when he came to Nauvoo. He had built on to it a room and his son had built on two more. His parents had lived in the little adjacent cabin that was a summer kitchen. In all of the properties, there was no photography allowed. I asked Josh why and he said that it was because many of the artifacts were on loan and had been copyrighted by the owners so no one could legally take pictures and perhaps sell them.
We had also visited the Red Brick Store which the Prophet owned the day before (owned by the CoC). It was here that the first temple ordinances were given in the upper room and where the Relief Society meetings were held. The basement contained many artifacts that had been found in excavations, particularly outhouses. Other artifacts we saw at the museum that interested me were hats worn by Joseph and Emma and a picture of all his sons with Emma’s second husband.
The tour with Josh was a nice finish to our time in Nauvoo and we headed north to Fort Madison to cross the river and then followed the historic auto route Mormon Trail on Highway 2. Markers indicated where the trail crossed the highway we were on and also where the new road was on the actual trail. The first section of Iowa was very hilly and covered with lots of trees. It would have been very difficult to travel through even if it wasn’t cold, raining and muddy which it was.
We stopped at Garden Grove where a monument has been erected. This was the first permanent settlement that was built as a way station for saints traveling west. The town today is very small but boasts it’s early settlement date by the Mormons.
WINTER QUARTERS, NB
We went on across Iowa, following the trail as much as we could until we arrived at Council Bluffs. We followed our map book and drove straight to the Winter Quarters temple. Again, another example of first class with beautiful grounds, visitors center and the temple itself. It was closed for cleaning but we were able to take in the center tour. Our guide was a cute sister named Garns who happened to be in Michael’s zone and he is her zone leader. I was debating over whether to find him and really wanted to see how he was doing but didn’t want to disrupt his mission in any way. After the glowing report from the sisters in his zone, I was overjoyed that he was doing well and figured I would see him in a few weeks.
In our group was a Jewish family from Chicago with four cute kids who were on their way out to Colorado on a five-week vacation. We were all wondering what they were thinking but afterwards the father said it was wonderful. The next day as we were cruising across Nebraska, we came upon their van, pulled up and honked and they waved to us.
Our hotel that night was the worst of the trip (although it wasn’t that bad). It was called the Mormon Trails Motel and he offered to give us a discount if we had temple recommends. He gave us two rooms and said that they were non-smoking but that someone had smoked in one but it wasn’t bad. There was an ash tray in the room—put there by the hotel—so it probably wasn’t a non-smoking room. Paula and I slept in it and had a good nights sleep anyway.
Thursday morning, we got up and drove over the river to Council Bluffs (crossing the Mormon Bridge that President McKay dedicated) and found the Kanesville Tabernacle. It is a log structure that was built when Brigham Young came back from his first trip to Utah and was erected in three weeks for the meeting where the First Presidency was organized for the first time since the death of Joseph Smith. A very nice memorial and it was amazing that they were able to fit 1000 people in a building that size.
Finally on the road for home. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then cruised across Nebraska. The temperatures during the entire trip had been very moderate with no extreme heat or humidity. As we crossed Nebraska the temperature increased to 105 and when we stopped at North Platte, we almost melted. On through Nebraska to Wyoming with Dad doing some of the driving.
Our goal was Cheyenne for the evening but we still had plenty of light. After stopping at Sierra Trading Post and cleaning up on some good clothes deals for the Tibet trip, we drove on to Laramie where we found a nice, new Days Inn which we really appreciated after the hotel from the night before. Paula had wanted to eat Chinese food at some point on the trip and the front desk recommended a good restaurant where we filled up on curry and chow mein. After being in the car for such a long time, things began to get funny. Dad had said that cruising at 75-80 miles and hour, “You would have a hard time keeping up in a Piper Cub”. Mom thought he said “paper cup” and was laughing so hard she couldn’t tell us what she was thinking. I was trying to read my fortune cookie and couldn’t because it wasn’t light enough. As it was, I had the paper turned over and was trying to the back side. When I turned it over, it said, “You are standing in your own light.” We had a good laugh over that.
Friday morning, we drove across Wyoming with little to please the eye except for the windmill farms. We came around Bear Lake and drove by the Burr cabin/castle and then stopped at the Paris cemetery so Mom could show us Aunt Jamie’s grave. We stopped in Montpelier for a late lunch and then on home after stopping at Don’s for a few minutes.
All in all, the trip was very successful and we were blessed to be able to take it. It’s amazing that today a trip can be made in such comfort over so many miles with hardly any problem. Our only moments of anxiety were with the radiator leak. It was a wonderful time. Mother created a great context by reading history as we went. Our time together was very enjoyable. I came away feeling rather insignificant to a degree as my challenges and accomplishments are minimal but I felt a great spirit of a work that I want to be a part of. It was comforting to hear President Hinckley in the pioneer fireside on Sunday say that our challenges today are great in ways unlike those of the pioneers. I have a much greater appreciation of the lives and sacrifices of those who have gone before me. I also have a much richer context for which to study the history and revelations of the early church. And, the feelings that I had for the Prophet Joseph Smith, his insight, vision, ability to face adversity as well as his humanness and sorrow have been greatly intensified.