My parents live 4 hours away from an historic city called Nauvoo, IL. Perhaps you’ve heard of it when you studied American history in school? Joseph Smith? The Saints? Nauvoo, IL? One political figure of the time said it best:
“It is by no means improbable that some future text-book for the use of generations yet unborn will contain a question something like this: ‘What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen?’ And it is by no means impossible that the answer to the interrogatory may be thus written: ‘Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.'”
~Josiah Quincy, mayor of Boston, 1844
I visited Nauvoo many times as a child and into my teen years. I even took Phoebe there when she was a small baby to tour the re-built temple before it was dedicated. Mormon Temples are open to the public to tour before they are dedicated (prayed over). Last week was my first time back in 9 years.
I expected to see a lot of restored buildings, missionaries (old and young) dressed in pioneer clothes, doing pioneer things. I thought the kids would get a kick out of taking a step back in time. I did see all of those things, but I came away with much more.
The historical site of Nauvoo, Illinois is quite sparse. It’s a lot of open land with a building here and there. There is a huge hill that separates the town from the Temple. It feels like a small country village. I kept my eyes and ears open on this trip and I learned that 12,000 Latter-Day Saints populated this CITY! Each family was given only 1 acre to build and farm on, and they were right next to each other. The city was a grid just like MY CITY now. There were 13 shoe shops and 7 brickyards. This was an industrial, dare I say, urban establishment.
My appreciation for what these people sacrificed and for what was accomplished grew a hundredfold on this trip.
“In late 1839 arriving Mormons bought the small town of Commerce and in April 1840 it was renamed Nauvoo by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. The name Nauvoo is derived from the traditional Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains…” It is notable that “by 1844 Nauvoo’s population had swollen to 12,000, rivaling the size of Chicago” at the time.”
~Wikipedia (sources are listed there)
I never realized just how extraordinary it was that these people listened to their Prophet, uprooted themselves, drained the swamp land on the banks of the Mississippi River, and built a city in only 5ish years. Incredible.
The pageant of Nauvoo has been going on for 7 years. I had never seen it before, and it was extremely well done, uber professional and solidified my feelings of awe towards the Pioneers of the church that I am a part of. The legacy is astounding. I am especially grateful that all of this happened in my home state. Illinois!