Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nauvoo, The Beautiful Place

A trip to Nauvoo isn't so much something you do as something you experience. You drive down this rural highway and almost suddenly you've arrived. You look around and notice, rising above the rooftops is an image in gold, an angel with a trumpet upon his lips. There, just before the slope down to lower Nauvoo is the temple.

Rebuilt more than a century after it was first built, loved, used and then destroyed. It stands once more, a memorial to the promise that the spirit of Elijah will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers.
You can take the wagon ride from the Visitor's Center around that lower Nauvoo area. A retired brother or sister will drive the horses and one will tell you all about the city that a century and a half ago rivaled Chicago in population. You can see the blacksmith shop and watch a man forge a miniature horseshoe with a smile on his face. Go down the street a ways and learn how they made bricks, and what Nauvoo red is. At another site play games like they did back in the day.
Walk through the Browning gun shop, yes THAT Browning. Learn about the culture, the kitchens, medicines, homes, gardens, food and way of life. Yes, go to Nauvoo and you can learn a lot. But you won't even have begun to experience Nauvoo. To really experience Nauvoo you don't just see the sights, you feel the spirit of that Beautiful Place.

A grove of trees was left there, a path with the occassional plaque with journal entries dots the way. Listening there in that grove, the occassional ray of sun peaking through the clouds and leaves, you feel something.

A beautiful statue garden honoring the roles of women adjoins the visitor's center. You can see artisitc rendering of those roles, but you feel the love of God for his daughters. How He cherishes them, wants what's best for them, rejoices in their success. How He, The Father, honors them. Just close your eyes a moment and you'll feel it as you hear those soft sounds of the garden.

Then there's Parley street. The way is straight, surrounded by fields and it leads to the wide Mississippi. Here began the journey that for thousands would end not in a new home safe in the mountains, but in their death. As you walk, one step slowly in front of the other, each step crunching on the ground, you pass by plaques that tell you the story of that street. Called the "Trail of Tears" by those who first walked it, it is now called the "Trail of Hope". In early February they left, fleeing mobs who committed unspeakable crimes. They simply sought religious freedom, and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But there is no bitterness in the feel, no anger, no call for revenge. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the wind carry the words of the hymn penned from that trek, "And should we die, before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well!"

A Beautiful Place is not only a place you can learn, experience wonderful talent in sculpture, architecture, song and dance but a place where you feel peace. Where all sense of body and heart lead you to that serenity.

You can learn a lot about the way of life in the first half of the 1800s by going to Nauvoo, you can learn a lot about the history of Mormons. But something one of those old retired missionaries said on a carriage ride wrang true. You may forget the things you learned about the places and the people, but remember those feelings you felt. That is how you experience Nauvoo.

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