Friday, June 20, 2014

Nauvoo Day 3

I was blessed with an awesome roommate. She's a farmer which by direct translation means worker! We woke up early and made my purple girls and her blue ones breakfast burritos. We had to prepare them for the busiest and most rewarding day of the conference. Wow, we got so much done in one day.

We started with a good old fashioned pioneer trek. It had rained pretty heavily Thursday afternoon so any incline or decline on the trail had turned into thick, slippery mud. As we began the youth were mindful not to get their clothes too messy, by the end they were intentionally sitting in the mud and sliding down hills as a way to avoid complete face plants.

I've mentioned before that my purple group was awesome, but this day just testified of that. We watched two or three other groups struggle down the steepest hill. I was already at the bottom, prepared to take a video (which was horribly shaky because I kept wanting to put my phone down and go help), when I noticed my group was going to approach the hill differently than all previous groups. They created a big chain, and all linked arms, lowering two boys and the cart safely to the bottom of the hill. Then they repeated the process for our second cart. We didn't stick around to watch the other groups, but I was told each group after us followed our idea. I couldn't help but think that linking together to create one, strong and steady decline was exactly what the pioneers would have done. Our team definitely had the spirit of teamwork with them.

One other highlight of the trek was the women's pull. About 1/2 way through we were separated by gender and a senior missionary couple gave each group a special speech. The men were told to honor their priesthood and the women in their lives. They formed two big lines, making room in the middle for the girls to finish their cart-pull through. They were told to remain silent as we reached the hill and went down their line, and they were told to ponder the important women in their lives and all the sacrifices they have made for them. Many boys mentioned how emotional they got as they thought about their mothers during that time. Seriously, I am so okay with an all male priesthood considering the strong emphasis they always put on respecting women. Young Men the whole world over need to belong to some sort of group that teaches them how to honor women.

The girl's talk was on specific pioneer women who had to cross the plains without family support. One young woman joined the Church in England and her mother (a widow with 7 children) disowned her. The girl (the eldest of the 7) came with some other local Saints to the States and later to Nauvoo. When she left England she had five pairs of nice shoes with her, and most were still hardly worn when she lived in Nauvoo. By the time she reached the Salt Lake Valley she was barefoot. I'm not sure why, but that story really stood out to me. There were a couple other stories of strong women who crossed the plains without their husbands because their husbands were serving missions at the time. We also heard a story of a modern day strong women, and the girls were told they need to prepare themselves, spiritually and physically, right now for the challenges they would face.

Our purple group headed out first, and the trail seemed like it would be easy, but we quickly realized it would not be. We only had three girls on one of our carts and it took them a lot of strength to push themselves up a muddy, rutted hill. It was so hard for me not to help, but again, we were told to let the youth figure it all out on their own. They did and I could immediately see a sense of pride in their eyes.

They were given a sack lunch for the bus ride back to the hotel and then only had 1 hour to shower and prepare for the second half of our day.

We spent the next three hours touring historic Nauvoo. We started with the buildings owned by The Community of Christ Church (break off of the LDS movement) and then took our time enjoying the shops restored by our Church. The Browning Gun House, home to Jonathan Browning, was awesome times 100. Browning's history itself is amazing, as is his influence on modern day guns. But my favorite part came when we were in the garden, and the tour guide (an excellent one) showed us a little white fence where Browning's wife (whose name has escaped me) buried a toddler. The burial spot has a perfect view of the Nauvoo Temple, and I have no doubt that was intentional. The hope of eternal families must have meant so much to those women who lost so many children at too young an age.

After our leisurely tour of old Nauvoo we took a bus to a Pioneer Cemetery. The speaker there was fabulous. He had such a rich understanding of pioneer history and he shared another amazing story about shoes. I'm not sure why, but the shoe stories really stood out to me this day. Shoes are just so basic to us; I can't imagine working and saving for 8 years to buy a pair. But that is what one pioneer woman did. And just as her new shoes arrived all the Saints in Salt Lake were called together and told about the plight of the Willie and Martin handcart companies. They were asked to give all they could to help their brothers and sisters who were dying by the hundreds on the trail. After having her shoes just two short weeks, she told her husband she must send her shoes to those stranded in Wyoming. Because of their poverty they had almost nothing else they could give. With great sadness, but knowing it was right, she sent her husband to drop the shoes off to the rescue team right before they departed. As the weeks went by she waited for the two handcart teams to reach the valley, and when they did she couldn't help but look at all their feet -- hoping to find her shoes. When she saw them her eyes followed the body up and rested on one of her dearest childhood friends, who she had grown up with in Wales. She did not know this friend had joined the Church or made the trek west, but she ran to her and the two hugged, sobbing. When the shoes were removed evidence of deep frost bite showed. The original shoe owner had no doubt in her mind that her shoes had saved her friend's feet, and possibly her life. She knew that God had prompted her to work and save for those shoes, so that she could give them away to help one so dear to her.

God's knowledge is so profound. When we listen to Him, we let Him turn us into something marvelous.

After that wonderful experience (many youth's favorite stop) we headed to dinner. A traveling BYU dance team had dinner with us and taught the kids some modern dance (the night before was a barn dance with another stake and the kids were taught square dancing).

To end the evening we went on the Trail of Hope. This was definitely one of my favorite moments of the trip. We started at dusk and by the time we reached the Mississippi it was almost dark. The kids were so reverent and thoughtful as they pondered on the stories that were shared with them while we walked the same trail the Saints walked when they made their exodus out of town. Many had guns pointed at their heads, and many more had small children in their arms. Two missionaries read the journal entries of a couple who had a 3 1/2 year old and an 1 1/2 year old. For obvious reasons, my ears really perked up for that one. The older child looked back at the city and told his mother he wanted to go home; she replied that they were going home. I can't imagine looking across thousands of miles of wilderness and remaining hopeful that you were headed home, but with God by their side this little family kept faith.

Until I'd seen it, eight years ago, I had no idea how massive the Mississippi river is. I can't even imagine driving a wagon with all my belongings -- especially my young children -- across the frozen Mississippi.

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