Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Great American Road Trip: the Mormon Trail

After about 10 days on the East coast, it was time to head out on part two of our US trip: the road trip.

We loaded up the rented minivan and headed for our first stop in Kirtland, OH. Neither Rob nor I had ever visited some of our Church's most historical sites, so we planned to do that on this portion of our trip.

Beginning in 1831, Mormons began to gather in the little town of Kirtland, OH.  In 1833, Joseph Smith received revelation that the Saints should build a temple. The temple was completed in 1836.  It is different from other LDS temples in design and purpose and was mainly used for worship services. By 1838, Joseph Smith was forced to flee from Kirtland.  There was a division in the Church membership with many moving on to Nauvoo, IL with the prophet, and some staying behind. The temple was used for other purposes and is now owned by The Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which split from the main Church after the death of Joseph Smith.)

Anyway, we walked around the temple grounds briefly and perused the bookshop. Charlotte was really tan after our time at the shore!

We then headed over to the historical sites owned by our Church.  We visited the Whitney store, but had limited time, so we weren't able to visit all of the historical buildings there.

Newel K. Whitney was an early convert to the Church.  He was a business man and not only ran this store in Kirtland, but also served as the first Bishop of the Church, and housed the prophet, Joseph Smith, and his family in rooms above the store while they lived in Kirtland.  The storefront in outfitted as it would have been in the 1830s.

The upstairs living area has some original pieces of furniture and some period pieces. The upstairs rooms were also used to hold the School of the Prophets, and are where Joseph Smith received the revelation that we now refer to as the Word of Wisdom.   So this is a pretty significant place in our Church's history.

After just a few hours in Kirtland, it was time to head to Dover, OH to visit Rob's cousin Nathan.  His family was away visiting his in-laws, but he graciously agreed to entertain us over the 4th of July.  The kids were fascinated by his pet albino corn snake.

Rob and Nathan were roommates in college, and I'm glad they got to spend some time catching up and playing board games.  We went for a short walk in the woods to a super cute waterfall, the kids played video games, and we enjoyed a cookout together.

Nathan also introduced us to using Reese's peanut butter cups in S'mores.  Life will never be the same again.

The next day we continued our church history tour to Carthage, IL.  After leaving Kirtland, the early Mormons moved on to Nauvoo, IL. They built a city and a temple there (which we would visit the next day) but trouble was not far off.  In 1844 Joseph Smith was arrested and held in Carthage Jail (pictured behind the statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith above.) Hyrum went with his brother, as well as two other men, John Taylor and Willard Richards.  By all accounts, the jailer was a good and honest man.  When an angry mob came to kill Joseph he did his best to protect his prisoners, even moving them to his own quarters. In the end though, both Joseph and Hyrum were shot and killed.  John Taylor was severely injured, but later became the third prophet of our Church. Most people have at least heard of Joseph Smith, but I really love Hyrum Smith too. He was Joseph's older brother and believed him and stood by him through thick and thin. 

We stayed at an airbnb in Carthage and drove the next day to see the Church History sites in Nauvoo.  I had no idea that there was so much to see and do in Nauvoo!  We could have spent 3 days there easily, and everything was free and geared toward families. Our first stop was the Visitor's Center, where we picked up a map and free tickets for a wagon ride and a children's theater performance later in the day.  Then we went to this building, the Family Living Cente.  Here we saw how yarn was spun, and other important commodities, like bread, candles, barrels, and rope, were made.

The kids made a "family rope" with 6 strands of twine. They learned that like a family, a rope's strands are stronger together than they are individually.

Rob and I enjoyed seeing the band wagon traveling around town playing old tunes.  We also stopped in the Scovil Bakery for a cookie, went to the Brickyard to learn how bricks were made and got our souvenir Nauvoo brick, visited the Printing Office, and Brigham Young's home. We also watched "Just Plain Anna Amanda" at the Nauvoo Cultural Hall, which the kids enjoyed.

 At the Blacksmith Shop, we saw how horseshoes and oxen shoes were made and received a souvenir horseshoe and "prairie diamond" rings.  The kids absolutely loved getting all of these trinkets.  (Now I have to figure out what to do with them.)

We next took a tour of the historical sites owned by the Community of Christ: The Joseph Smith Home, Mansion House, and Red Brick Store.  We were getting pretty tired by this point and I didn't take any photos.  It was in the 90s out and Rob and I were taking turns carrying Amelie around.  When we left the Joseph Smith house, we each thought that the other had her, and long story short, she ended up locked in the Joseph Smith house. We realized it pretty quickly (across the street) and Rob ran back with our guide to retrieve our screaming 3 year old.  She was fine though, as evidenced by this picture taken playing dress up 30 minutes later.

Jake didn't want to dress-up, but he put on a pioneer boy hat for me.

This was back at the LDS side of the sites, where we finished our time in Old Nauvoo with some old time fun and games.

At this point we had thoroughly exhausted the kids and had only fed them a few snacks as there was nowhere to really buy food in Historic Nauvoo.  We drove up the hill to modern day Nauvoo and walked around the Nauvoo temple grounds.

Too hot and tired for a selfie, but we tried anyway!

The early Saints began building the Nauvoo temple in 1841.It was only halfway completed when Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. Brigham Young encouraged the Saints to complete the temple, even as they prepared to flee Nauvoo.  The temple was completed in 1846 and was only fully used for 3 months before the final Saints left Nauvoo to continue West. The Church attempted to sell the structure, but it was gutted by a fire set by an arsonist in 1848 and then completely destroyed by a tornado in 1850.  In 1937 the Church was able to reacquire the original site, and in 2000 announced the temple would be rebuilt on the original spot.  The new Nauvoo temple was completed in 2002.

It looks over the Mississippi River and this statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. 
I am so glad that we got to visit these special places and share some of the history of our Church with our little ones.  I truly believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he translated the Book of Mormon. Everything that we saw and learned in Kirtland and Nauvoo only strengthened my faith.  I don't worship Joseph Smith, but I do recognize the incredible sacrifices he and his family made in order to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to establish the Church.

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