Nauvoo, Illinois was a city built up by members of the Mormon church after they were forced to flee from Missouri. They turned swamp land on the Mississippi River into a beautiful town. At one point it's population rivaled that of Chicago. The church has preserved and rebuild many structures that you can visit to see what it would have been like to live there in the 1840's. My kids loved the bakery (they got free cookies), the blacksmith shop, the gunsmiths, and the family living center where they got to make rope, shear sheep, and make (taste) homemade bread. We also got to see Joseph Smith's grave and many other significant buildings from when Joseph was alive. We even got to see a cute musical show put on by the missionaries serving there and the kids loved that.
I have been to Nauvoo a few times before but this home was new and was so awesome to visit. This is where my great-great-great-grandmother lived as a young girl. As a child I learned stories from her life history, my favorites were about when she crossed the plans and the significance of her death.
If you can't read the plaque - she had long red curly hair that attracted the attention of a Native American Chief while she was crossing the plains. It was only through promptings from the spirit that her mother was able to keep her from the persistent chief. My little red head loves that story.
It was wonderful to visit the home and share what I knew of this special woman with my kids and to see them humbled by imagining all of us living in that small one room house. It was a great experience. Then as we were leaving a missionary sister started talking to us. When she learned I was a descendant of Mary she taught me more about being "The Last Leaf". Apparently, in General Conference they used to have a special area set apart for those who had met Joseph Smith. These members would bare their testimony at conference. As the years passed the number of those who knew Joseph grew smaller and smaller. They started calling the group " The Last Leaves" Eventually Mary was the last person able to bare testimony that she had personally known Joseph Smith; earning her the title - "The Last Leaf". She died at 107 still testifying of the truth of the gospel. I love her story and loved being able to visit her home and learn more about her.
Before leaving Nauvoo we had to walk (Mack had my phone and took a ton of selfies and Lily pics) the "Trail of Hope" that leads from town down to the river where they began their trek west. Along the way there are dozens of quotes that tell the thoughts and experiences of different individuals who took that path. It is humbling to read of their faith and hope in the mists of the persecution, violence, and hatred that forced them to leave their beautiful homes.
I remember coming to Nauvoo as a child and seeing a big empty field where the temple stood before vandals burned it to the ground. I love to see the temple standing there again; it is beautiful.
We had a great day in Nauvoo but it ended in tears - Kate's eye got worse and worse and spread to the other eye. We called her doc, bought eye drops (which of course she refused to try), and used a lot of hot rags but she wasn't feeling very well. Then the dreaded dinner hour. Finding a place to eat that makes everyone happy is nearly impossible. We thought Chinese take-out would go over okay - not so much. After 15 solid minutes of screaming we started praying Emily would cry herself to sleep. No luck, but she eventually stopped and ironically ate lots of rice and sweet and sour chicken for dinner.
The next morning we went to Carthage Jail where Joseph was killed. Greg met Elder Bowler, a senior missionary, who we learned knew Greg's dad and uncle. It was a little tender mercy for Greg to get to talk with him.
There is a special spirit in Carthage. I love to listen as they retell the story of what happened there and to feel the witness that it is true. Joseph was killed because he was a prophet of God; he gave up all to follow the direction of the Lord.
The missionary closed the door and took a picture of our family through the bullet hole in the door. I hope my kids remember the feeling they had here.
We loaded up and headed to Hannibal...