Summertime means family vacation time! Here are some trip ideas to check off your bucket list. With both Church history sites and other fun things to see and do, you can be sure to plan a trip your whole family will love.
Discovering Church History in the Midwest
Road trip, anyone? If you’re planning to visit the Midwest, be sure to plan in some time to drive to these awesome places. The experience is definitely worth the trip!
Nauvoo, which translates to “the City Beautiful” in Hebrew, was established by the Saints when they fled from Missouri during the winter of 1838-1839. Though the land was originally quite swampy, approximately 16,000 Saints called it home until they fled again in 1846 because of religious persecution.
Today, a beautiful visitor’s center is located in the heart of town to provide maps and other resources for your visit. Many of the buildings, including Brigham Young’s home, the Nauvoo Printing Office, and the Webb Brothers’ Blacksmith Shop, are open to visitors and have short presentations or activities provided. Kids will love learning how candles and ropes were made and enjoy trying the gingerbread cookies at the Scovil Bakery. Visiting Carthage Jail, located a few miles outside of town, is also a great way to learn about and pay tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was martyred there in June of 1844. The Nauvoo Illinois Temple, rededicated in 2002, stands as a reminder of the faith and sacrifice of the early members of the Church.
The Nauvoo Temple. Image from lds.org.
►Related Article: Nauvoo for Every Season
If you’ll be in town during the summer months, don’t miss the opportunity to see the free summer shows. From short vignettes with music performed out on the street, to variety shows performed on the banks of the Mississippi as the sun sets, these performances celebrate Nauvoo’s history in a way that makes it seem even more real. There’s also the British and Nauvoo Pageants, which enact the history of the settlement of Nauvoo and the sacrifices that members of the Church made as they emigrated from across the ocean. Young performing missionaries also sing in Sunday concerts at the visitor’s center, as well as perform plays with song and dance that are entertaining and touching for people of all ages.
Young performing missionaries singing in the street. Photo from lds.org.
Although Nauvoo’s population rivaled that of Chicago’s in the 1800s, Chicago stands today as one of the largest cities in the United States. Chicago has all the energy of an international city with the pleasantries of a Midwestern town and is about a four and a half hour drive from Nauvoo.
View from the Chicago River. Image from tripadvisor.com.
Though it’s not common knowledge, Chicago has some connections to Church history too. In 1842, Joseph Smith wrote to John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, in response to a query about the Church. Known as “The Wentworth Letter,” the information Joseph wrote outlined the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. The letter was never actually published in the newspaper, yet still holds significance to members of the Church today—we now know it as the Thirteen Articles of Faith.
Known for its architecture, the Chicago skyline is worth the view from several different perspectives. A trip to the top of Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) is sure to bring some excitement. Architectural boat cruises along the Chicago River are also a delightful way to see the city. Navy Pier, located on the waterfront of Lake Michigan, has fun for the whole family, including the Chicago Children’s Museum and the world-renowned Ferris wheel. In addition to several large parks and outdoor theaters, Chicago also has an incredible Museum Campus, complete with Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, and Shedd’s Aquarium. Be sure to plan some time to try deep dish pizza and some Garret’s Popcorn! You can also see the brand new six-story church building on the corner of Clark and Chestnut Street, dedicated fall of 2017, and the Chicago Illinois Temple, located about 20 miles north of the city.
Chicago's new LDS meetinghouse. Image from chicagoarchitecture.org.
Jackson County, Missouri was inhabited by the early Saints from 1831 to 1839, where they experienced great trials and turmoil because of persecution. The area is also significant to members of the Church because of the prophesies associated with this land that are yet to be fulfilled, including the building of the New Jerusalem and the dedication of several different temples. Independence is about a four and a half hour drive from Nauvoo, and the four main historic sites, including the Independence Visitor’s Center, Liberty Jail, Adam-ondi-ahman, and the Farr West Temple Site, are all within 90 miles of each other.
Adam-ondi-ahman was settled by the Saints for a short period of time in 1838. Originally called Spring Hill, Joseph Smith renamed the area to “Adam-ondi-ahman” after receiving revelation from the Lord (see D&C 116). Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that this name means "the place or land of God where Adam dwelt." To get the most out of your visit to this sacred place, listen to Randall C. Bird’s audio book, Discovering Adam-ondi-ahman, as you drive.
Adam-ondi-ahman. Photo from lds.org.
Nearby is Liberty Jail, where Joseph Smith and five other men were held captive for five months during the winter of 1838-1839. The living conditions in Liberty Jail were brutal, and the prisoners suffered from illness, starvation, and bitter cold temperatures. Though this was perhaps the lowest time of Joseph’s life, it was also a time of sacred revelation. It was in Liberty Jail that the Lord revealed many sections of what we now read in the Doctrine and Covenants, including D&C 121-123. Visiting the Liberty Jail Historic Site is a wonderful opportunity to feel close to the Spirit of sacrifice and faith that Joseph and other faithful Saints demonstrated during this time. Sister missionaries guide tours about every thirty minutes, allowing visitors to see the actual place where Joseph and his companions were imprisoned.
The view of Liberty Jail today, rebuilt to allow visitors to see both the interior and exterior of the building. Image from mormonhistoricsites.org.
While you're in the area, don't miss a chance to visit the Kansas City Missouri Temple, which was dedicated in May 2012.