Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are We There Yet? Faith in Every Footstep


It was such a beautiful break to not have to pack up and load everything in the van.  We had two glorious nights in the same hotel while we experience the wonders of historic Nauvoo.  The quaint little city is fun for visitors of all ages . . . and best of all, absolutely everybody is soooo nice and everything is completely free!
This place is a sort of unofficial rite of passage for Latter-Day Saints, or at least the ones who do much cross country travel.  There are tours and plays and lectures and music and country fairs and wagon rides and games and musicals, all of which recreate what life was like in Nauvoo during the 1840’s when Joseph Smith was living there with other Saints who wanted to build a fair city free of religious persecution.  That part didn’t work out so well for them, but they were brave souls who weren’t afraid of sacrifice and starting over.  Or if they were afraid of those things, they faced them anyway and emerged all the more faithful because of it.  Nauvoo may be a little known Mormon tourist town, but Salt Lake City is huge and thriving.  Those brave souls were well acquainted with doing hard things and not giving up.
We started our day with a ride on a covered wagon, pulled by two enormous oxen.  Next up was the Scoville bakery tour so we could get a gingerbread cookie . . . umm, I mean so we could learn about century old bakery practices.  Interestingly, this bakery tour and the accompanying cookie are the only things K remembers about the last time we visited Nauvoo when she was 3 or 4. 
We took a detour to go discover some pioneer pastimes.  That was not a quick stop.  There was way too much to do.
At one point, B looked like she was getting hot, so I tried to take the bonnet off. She would have none of it. She wanted that sucker to stay on!
Then we walked down the street and stopped at the John Browning gun shop.  Thanks to Shaggy, we can never come to this city without going on this tour.  John Browning, apparently, was legendary and innovative.  He invented the semi-automatic weapon and forever changed weapons and warfare for the whole world.  His son carried on his legacy and invented the fully automatic machine gun.  Both men were devout Latter-Day Saints and left a legacy of faith as well as innovation.  This place is like Mecca for Shaggy.
J enjoyed looking at all the cool and very old tools that they used to make guns back in the day.  Those people weren’t afraid of hard work, either.

We couldn’t have had better timing if we’d tried for it—right after we were done with gun Mecca, my big brother and his amazing wife showed up with fried chicken and a cousin.  What could be better?
Yes, my big brother's name is Chauncey.  Or at least he wishes it was.
Our afternoon stops included the blacksmith shop where the kids were all eager to get a prairie diamond, and the seventies hall where Shaggy found the names of some of his ancestors listed there in the old records. 
B took a well-timed nap in her stroller which let me sit down and enjoy some lovely air conditioning and a little quiet.  Then we ran over to the visitor’s center to catch a show about high hopes and riverboats, which was created based on actual letters from the time. 
As we wandered around in the gardens among the same statues that I remember coming to see as a kid, I was struck by the timelessness of this place.  They’ve built it up a lot over the last several decades, but it remains essentially the same.  A place to remember and honor those who have come before, those whose sacrifices make mine look trivial, those whose strength I want to emulate, those who chose faith no matter the consequences, those who laid down their lives as a testament to their beliefs.
After all that, we really needed some fudge.  So we made the trek up the hill to the little Nauvoo main street that houses the fudge shop that I’ve visited every single time I’ve come to this city. 
And of course, we wandered the temple grounds.  I remember when the church decided to rebuild this temple.  It was very exciting.  We were living in Chicago at the time and had the chance to come down and volunteer during the open house (which the church has at every temple before they dedicate it so that the general public can catch a glimpse inside and feel the spirit that resides there).  It is simply stunning in there.  I wish we'd had the time to go inside for a session.
But we had to make it back down the hill for the fair that the kids were dying to go to. 
And then for the pageant, the whole reason J and R drove all the way down to meet us here.  It was such a full day, and exhausting.  But so very worth it.  The show was fabulous.  I found myself wishing I could sit back and enjoy it without being interrupted by B every 2 minutes and without offering an all you can drink stop for mosquitos.  They adored my ankles, unfortunately for me.  But the show was inspiring, even if I didn’t get the chance to soak it up.  I just hope that K and S did get that chance.  These are the experiences that will forever change them, that will open their minds to the lives and experiences of others.  Others who are simultaneously completely different and totally similar, young people who lived in faith and continually chose that faith even through the most difficult of times.
I know what it’s like to leave your home, to leave the familiarity of a life you’ve built to make a fresh start somewhere very far away.  It’s not easy.  But I can’t imagine what it would have been like for those early Saints to leave in such a hurry out of fear for their lives, and their family’s lives.  I don’t know how hard it would have been to hastily gather some meager provisions and set out into the wild with only a wagon and a heart full of faith for protection.  And then to bury so many dear ones along the way.  It seems that it would simply be too much.  But they did it.  And they not only survived it, they were strengthened by it.  Despite their loss, they built a city of peace and faith and freedom. 

I can only pray that I will follow in their footsteps if I am ever called upon to face so many difficult days.  I hope that I am not, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings, because we’re not there yet.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Nauvoo is awesome - far better than Williamsburg. You can feel the faith and courage of those early church members who endured incredible hardships for their beliefs. It's one of my favorite places even though I haven't been there for years.