During the summer of my sophomore year of high school, the youth of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had visited the magnificent city of Nauvoo, Illinois: the city of which my ancestors had thrived for nearly seven years.
The visit to the great city has had an immense impact upon my peers and upon myself because, it had allowed us to receive knowledge of a past. A past that I share with my family and receiving such a rich and cultured knowledge has helped me receive, not only a better understanding of its past but, a better understanding of myself and my heritage.
The old town was simply beautiful. These buildings ranged from a variety of homes to markets to businesses to the churches. But many have asked, “Why here, of all the places to call a place home, why did the Mormons decide to live here?”
The friendly tour guides of Historical Nauvoo explained Mormons were targeted as enemies and were told that they must either leave the state or cease to exist. Soon, a barbaric, tyrannical attack had been made at Haun’s Mill where families of the faith had called home. With no defense organized by the passive, eighteen Saints were murdered. Eventually, the Mormons had reached a swamp land where Joseph Smith had declared to be the homestead. He had there decreed the place to be named Nauvoo a Hebrew name for “beautiful”.
Clearly, such glory would not last. With the starting of presidential elections, political enemies were being made as Joseph Smith had intended to run for election.
I learned about these occurrences while I had toured the home of Joseph and Emma Smith myself. The woman who had given us the tour had explained the political aspect of Joseph’s life as he had been known to be a great leader in one of the largest towns in Illinois. I had also come to learn that with such an opposing sentiment against the saints, became gradually more intricate for Joseph to run a proper campaign. Just when it had seemed to be unbearably dire, Joseph was incarcerated in Carthage Jail.
The building itself was a lot smaller than I had anticipated it to be however, I could not deny the significant feeling that had overcome me as I had entered into the prison.
When I had left the prison, I could not help but recall the history that I was taught beforehand and to remember the overwhelming I had felt beforehand. I was reminded of the pain of the people as Joseph and Hyrum’s body had been returned to the city and to their families.
I specifically remember the trail that had led to the Mississippi River. I recall the plaques dedicated to members of the church who had recorded their thoughts before and during the parlous journey of not only crossing the river but crossing the United States and unfamiliar territory as means to continue with a new prophet Brigham Young, that many of the saints had crossed the Mississippi River in February of 1846.
I am so thankful to know that my ancestors had established a home of which many, including myself, could visit. I am thankful that I was given such an opportunity to make the trip. It was surely a journey I won’t soon forget. Between the entertainment, the stores, the tours and the friendly and engaging staff which strives to entertain people of all ages. Historical Nauvoo Illinois is surely one of the most astonishing places in the world.
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