Over spring break a few weeks ago I got to head out to Illinois to visit Nauvoo, a Church historical site. It was such a great time, and I loved absolutely every minute of it, even the 20 hour drive there (we got caught in a snowstorm). It was a strange thing to drive out of Virginia in snowy darkness, to watch the sun rise in West Virginia, see it set in Indiana, and arrive at moonrise in Illinois in the span of a day.
Considering the whole adventure has nearly twenty pages in my journal, I’ll keep it to the short story here. We spent a few days in town, exploring the shops and talking with the missionaries there who showed us the handicrafts and told us about the Saints who lived there. They were all so wonderful and excited to see us. Jenn and I were briefly “kidnapped” (‘student-knapped’?) by a couple from Alberta, because they insisted it was much too cold for us to be waiting outside for another set of senior missionaries to arrive at another shop. It was a blast talking with them, especially because Elder Olsen was telling us his favorite things about Nauvoo and kept saying, “the other day” and finishing the sentence with “in October” (or another month). It was a riot.
We spent a good amount of time in the town, but also spent an afternoon in the temple, which was wonderful, and definitely something I really needed. I loved poking around in Old Nauvoo, but I also needed a bit of a respite from my mind trying to ingest all that I was learning and feeling there. It was a lovely time we had in the temple, and afterwards a bunch of us returned ‘home’ to our condos where Sister Ellsworth made us some yummy soup as we watched a movie. The Ellsworths, who drove from out west to spend the week with us in Illinois, spoiled us to no end. So much food and love, morning, noon, and night.
Our last day in Nauvoo, we drove out to Carthage, which was a pretty emotional journey for me. I was a bit of an emotional wreck (sorry, fellow Nauvoo travelers, I know it was unexpected for me to cry like that), but really walked away with a powerful experience. I went through a lot of tissues that afternoon.
At one point, Jenn, Bev, and I went down to the Trail of Hope, where the Saints left Nauvoo to go west. Jenn and I couldn’t resist stripping off our socks and shoes and rolling up our jeans to wade into the Mississippi (holy crow, was it COLD). It was surreal, to think that so many people passed right over that piece of shore over a hundred years ago. And in February, no less. I can’t ever complain that it was cold in March, I suppose, ever again. It wasn’t snowing, the river wasn’t filled with ice, and the wind wasn’t too terribly strong. We were blessed with beautiful weather for the majority of our stay.
The thing I really loved about Nauvoo is that it’s so completely different, but extremely familiar all the same. It feels a bit empty, but so welcoming and beautiful. It’s always windy in the winter/spring, apparently, but I spotted a few crocuses pushing out of the ground, and each of the buildings were warm. It was really something to sit there and think about the experience that the people of Nauvoo had years and years ago in this exact area.
I love history, and always have, but really cherish those places where I can stand in a certain spot, touch something and know that something of immense importance in the history not only of a religion or a nation happened there, but also that the history of the world was changed to some extent. So standing in Nauvoo, along the banks of the Mississippi or outside the temple, or in Carthage had a powerful and amazing significance to me.
What made the trip as wonderful as it could have been was definitely the people. There were nine of us students from the university, Brother and Sister Rasmussen (Brother Rasmussen teaches Institute here in BV, and I’m in 2 of his classes this semester), Bishop and Sister Olsen, the Ellsworths, as well as their daughter and two awesome grandsons, Tanner and Spencer. We became close quickly – especially considering we were packed so tightly in a van for every drive – and got to know each other well by the end of the week. It was a privilege to see the usually hidden side of my classmates (and teachers!), the quirky sense of humor at terrible hours of the morning, the dorky po-jammies that we wear, the strange music we listen to… it was a treasure trove of the human discovery.
I wish I had been able to take more photographs, but I kept being distracted by all the things I was learning, the conversations I was having (or simply overhearing…), but that really just means that I get to go back again. Anywho. Enjoy them!
We stopped at Gross’ Burgers on the way. It was an experience.
This is Bev. I love her, she’s so happy and the best traveling companion.
The view of the Nauvoo Temple from the visitors’ center.
One of my favorite pieces in the sculpture garden.
The first flowers I found in Nauvoo, little snowdrops!
The view of the Mississippi River from the Smith home.
The story of the trip. Burke (Bishop Olsen) shoving cameras in our faces. :)
A moment of heartbreak for me. Having read the plaque, but finding hope in the by-chance glance at the temple.
The view of the Temple from the Trail of Hope.
Jenn standing in the Mississippi where the Saints crossed from Illinois into Iowa.
The spires are my favorite part of the architecture of temples. This is no exception.
The front of the temple. I love this wonderful place.
My absolute favorite shot of the trip. And my favorite view.
Joseph and Hyrum looking at the temple. Love it.
Photographer in me being in love with the water pattern. Sorry guys.
Seriously. Lying in the middle of the road with a camera. Meet Burke.
Crocuses outside the tin shop. They made me happy.
Half the lot of us.
One half of one of the teams we met in the carriage and wagon rides.
Just a shot in Dan Jones’ Hollow.
Another temple shot.
I just loved the juxtaposition of the hat and the suit. :)
Most nights in the condos. The adults talking around the table, kids on the floor joking around.
The quarry where the stone for the temple was cut.
The Rasmussens. I love them.
One of my favorite quotes from Carthage (by Joseph and Hyrum Smith).
I love these people!!!!!