Traveling the Pages of Church History

by | Apr. 26, 2006

U.S.LDS Life

Through poverty and prosperity, the early members in Missouri and Nauvoo gained faith in the Lord, planting roots of legacy wherever they traveled. Let their memories become a part of you and grow from their examples using this article as a guide through the historical sites in Missouri and Nauvoo—part two of two in our LDS Living Church history tour series.

Independence, Jackson County MissouriThe Temple Lot

The plaque marking this location reads, “August 3, 1831, Joseph Smith, Jr., Prophet and Founder of the Church of Christ, with seven other Church leaders, dedicated this site for the Temple in the City of Zion, where this Church believes the Lord will come to His people in the Last Days.”

According to a revelation received by Joseph Smith in July 1831, Independence was to be the center of Zion, and soon after receiving this information, the Prophet set a cornerstone for a temple at this site. Later, the surrounding plot of land was purchased by Bishop Edward Partridge (63.27 acres for $130). The Prophet imagined a great, organized city—all to be centered around this temple gathering place.

The Prophet and his companions returned to Kirtland, Ohio at this point, but a few members stayed behind to begin preparing the land. They also began to realize both the advantages and disadvantages of being in the frontier. Turning the wilderness into an Eden proved to be no easy task and, consequently, the population of Saints in Jackson, County, Missouri remained relatively small. Escalating conflicts with earlier settlers forced the Saints to leave Jackson County in November 1833.

Today, the majority of those sixty-three temple lot acres are owned by three separate religious organizations: The Church of Christ (sometimes referred to as the Hendrickites), The Community of Christ (formerly RLDS), and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS Visitors’ Center

The visitors’ center, open again this spring after renovations, lies on the southeast corner of the Temple Lot, and holds a terrific display of rare artifacts, exhibits, and artwork. Community of Christ Temple

This temple is owned by the Community of Christ, formerly known as the RLDS church, and houses a museum containing historic artifacts including original portraits of Joseph and Emma, Joseph’s pocket watch, and Emma’s 1835 copy of her “Selection of Sacred Hymns,” among other treasures.Liberty Jail

With its modern exterior it may not look like a jail, but inside and below the visitors’ center is a replica (including some original pieces) of the jail in which Joseph and his companions (Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, and Caleb Baldwin) were housed during the winter of 1838 to 1839.Adam-ondi-Ahman

Located in Daviess County, Adam-ondi-Ahman is about forty miles northeast of Far West. Most early Saints settled south of here in Caldwell County, but a few made their homes in Daviess. In 1838, Joseph Smith visited one of these Daviess settlers, Lyman Wight, which is where and when he received the revelation that the surrounding area was, in fact, Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Apart from being a significant gathering spot for the Saints, Adam-ondi-Ahman is most recognized as being “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet” (HC 3:35, D&C 116). It was revealed to Joseph that three years before Adam died, he called together his posterity, including Seth, Enos, Cainan, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and others, and the Lord appeared to them and they blessed Adam and offered sacrifices (D&C 107). As noted earlier, it is also here that Adam will again come to hold a great council in prelude to the return of the Savior to the earth.

As you can imagine with such an important and majestic spiritual history, the Adam-ondi-Ahman valley is utterly beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring. Enjoy the feeling surrounding this hallowed ground anytime from 8:00 a.m. to dusk.Nauvoo: The City Beautiful

Sometimes referred to as the City of Joseph, Nauvoo is a truly beautiful town that through the toil of the early Saints grew out of a desolate, disease-ridden swamp. The city first began with the erection of huts and tents, but the members quickly moved on to build log cabins and, in time, sturdy and impressive brick homes. Construction was one of Nauvoo’s principal industries and several brickyards sprang up to fill the demand. The residents were also encouraged to plant trees and bushes to help beautify their lots. And the result? One of the frontier’s most prosperous cities and a new haven for persecution-weary Saints—at least for a time. Historic Nauvoo Visitors’ Center

You’ll probably want to begin your journey through Old Nauvoo here so that you can gather information on the dozens of homes, shops, and demonstrations, and to pick up tickets for the performances Just Plain Anna-Amanda, High Hopes and River Boats, and Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo (check out [Historic Nauvoo.net] for schedules). You can also watch the films Remembering Nauvoo and The Restoration.

Wander outside to check out the remarkable Monument to Women Statue Garden of beautiful sculptures depicting the various stages of womanhood.

Below is a list of most of the historic sites you can look forward to learning more about during your trip.

  • Wagon Tour of Old Nauvoo
This little tour is a definite must-do. Senior missionaries drive horse teams on a tour through the restored town. Make this your first stop so you can make a note of which buildings or areas you’d like to spend more time on later. Similar tours are also available via carriage or oxen rides.
  • Family Living Center

Kids in particular will love this stop. Help create a rug, jugs, candles, rope, or barrels and finish it off with homemade bread straight from a brick oven.

  • Pioneer Pastimes

Located next to the Family Living Center, here you and your kids will be able to play a variety of old-time games and activities (open only during the summer months).

  • Stoddard Tin Shop
The townspeople relied on the tinsmith who furnished them with things like lanterns, candleholders, buckets, pots and pans, and many other items. Come learn how so much could be created from tin.
  • Riser Boot Shop
This restored shop was one of thirteen in the town; at the time, having a sturdy pair of shoes was essential to the labors of the day. Learn how a pair of shoes (which then cost $1.75) and boots (which cost $5.00) were created.
  • Scovil Bakery

Everyone walks out of the Scovil Bakery with a fresh gingerbread cookie after learning about baking methods and goods of early Nauvoo.

  • Printing Office
A favorite with visitors, this building was the printing office that published the Times and Seasons, the Nauvoo Neighbor, and other publications. Learn how pages were typeset and the history behind common terms and phrases such as “mind your p’s and q’s” and “upper case” or “lower case.”
  • Lyon Drug and Variety Store

This little shop provided most everything Nauvoo residents needed. Here you could have your teeth pulled by the druggist (who also served as the dentist) and purchase china or even a beehive.

  • Browning Gun Shop
Whether you’re a gun aficionado or not, this stop is a fascinating glimpse into the early work of one of America’s most influential inventors, Jonathan Browning. Jonathan invented one of the first repeating rifles, and his posterity continued the trade until the Browning name became synonymous with gunsmithing. Here you’ll see a display of some of Jonathan’s early guns.
  • Brickyard
One of the first things you’ll notice about old Nauvoo is that most of the homes are made of brick as opposed to the log variety you may have expected. Residents built 350 brick buildings before leaving in 1846. When the restoration of the old town began in the 1960s, 49 of these were still standing. Today, the brickmaker will show you how bricks were made and send you off with your own souvenir brick.
  • Webb Brother’s Blacksmith Shop
Do you know where the last name “Wainwright” came from? A wainwright is a wagon builder—a very important trade in 1840s Nauvoo. Naturally, the skill became even more valuable as the Saints began their trek west. In fact, Chauncy Webb, who owned this shop along with his father and brothers, built the wagon that brought Brigham Young across the plains. Here you’ll learn how a wagon and wagon wheels were created and you’ll even be given your own “prairie diamond” ring as a souvenir.
  • Pendleton Home and School

Get a taste of school life in old Nauvoo as you actually work through a lesson using a slate. But the most interesting aspect of this stop is hearing the story of the home and school’s faithful and hardworking owner, Calvin Pendleton.

  • Land and Records Office

If you know of ancestors who made their home in Nauvoo, then this office is certainly a place you’ll want to visit as here you can look up information of former residents.

  • Wilford Woodruff Home

The fourth president of our Church lived in this home, which he built with the intent that it would be comfortable and cozy. Consequently, there’s a fireplace in each room—eight in all.

  • Brigham Young Home

A tour through this home will demonstrate the tremendous carpentry skills of Brigham Young. Here, after assuming leadership of the Church as the president of the Quorum of the Twelve due to Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, Brigham added a wing to his home where he could hold meetings with the apostles. During these meetings they planned the final construction projects for the temple and also the trek west.

  • The Groves

Imagine holding your weekly sacrament meeting beneath a canopy of trees. That’s exactly what the Nauvoo Saints did—near the monument in the Nauvoo Groves marking the site. It was here, after the death of Joseph Smith, that Brigham Young was transfigured to take on the appearance of Joseph Smith, to show that the Lord had called him to be the next prophet.

  • Joseph Smith Historic Site Visitor’s Center

This center, along with the Joseph Smith Homestead, the Mansion House, the Red Brick Store, and the Smith Family Cemetery are owned and maintained by the Community of Christ church. At the center you’ll be able to see several artifacts from the Smith family.

  • Joseph Smith Homestead

This is where Joseph and Emma first lived after moving to Nauvoo.

  • Mansion House

Joseph Smith built this home in 1843, and later a wing for hotel rooms was added because so many people were coming to see him. It is from this home that Joseph and Hyrum left for Carthage Jail.

  • Red Brick Store

Today’s Red Brick Store was restored in 1980 to match the original that was built in 1841. The bottom floor served as the store and the top floor as a place to hold meetings—including the first meeting of the Relief Society (then called the Nauvoo Female Relief Society). It was also on the second floor of this building where Joseph Smith maintained an office, and prior to the completion of the temple, the first endowments were given here.

  • Smith Family Cemetery

This special site is the final resting place for Joseph, Emma, Hyrum, and other members of the Smith family.

The Nauvoo Temple

Nauvoo was certainly a city booming with building projects, but no project had the magnitude in the minds of the Prophet or the Saints as did the building of the temple. Their enthusiasm and hopes centered on this building and it dominated their activity for five years. On April 6, 1841 Joseph Smith placed the cornerstones of the temple and on February 8, 1846, Brigham Young informally dedicated the temple before leaving for the West. Tragically, most of the temple was later burned by arsonists in 1848, and what remained was destroyed by a tornado in 1850.

However, President Hinckley announced in April 1999 that the Nauvoo Temple would arise yet again as a memorial to those who built the first. This new temple, a near exact replica of the early Saints’ version, was dedicated on June 27, 2002. If you are able, don’t miss the opportunity to attend a session in this beautiful and historically significant temple. If you are attending in the summer, you’ll want to make reservations for a session as the summer months are very busy and sessions may be full. To do so, call 217-453-6252.

Just across from the temple and adjacent to the Temple Visitor’s Center (this is a separate center, not to be confused with the Nauvoo Visitor’s Center) is the beautiful eleven-foot bronze monument to Joseph and Hyrum, “Calm as a Summer’s Morning.” It depicts the two on horseback as they began their ride to Carthage. Recalling Joseph’s statement (as recorded in D&C 135: 4) “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men.” The Trail of Hope and the Pioneer Exodus Memorial

“My last act in that precious spot was to tidy the rooms, sweep up the floor, and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door. Then with emotions in my heart . . . I gently closed the door and faced the unknown future; faced it with faith in God and with no less assurance of the ultimate establishment of the Gospel in the West and of its true, enduring principles, than I had felt in those trying scenes in Missouri.” –Bathsheba Smith

This quote is one of thirty that line the Trail of Hope, or Parley Street—the short trail that lead the Nauvoo Saints to the banks of the Mississippi River as they began their journey West. The quotes you’ll read provide fascinating insight into what these faithful people were thinking as they packed up everything—or at least what they could—for a dangerous trek into the unknown. At the end of the trail in the Pioneer Exodus Memorial, are 2,600 names of those who passed before reaching the Salt Lake Valley.  

Carthage Jail

Over a century and a half later, the story of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum’s deaths are still heart wrenching. Despite the sadness surrounding this final location in the journey for these two valiant men, the feeling in Carthage Jail is more one of triumph than of death. Here the Prophet’s testimony, the testimony that lead the Saints all this way, was sealed in blood for eternity.

About twenty-four miles southeast of Nauvoo stands the Carthage Jail. Missionaries will guide you through the events of that solemn day. You’ll see the jail cell they would have stayed in had the jailer not seen what good men they were and allowed them a more comfortable room instead. You’ll hear the story of Joseph asking John Taylor to sing for the group (which included Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards) “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” You’ll hear of the miraculous survival of Willard Richards and John Taylor. You’ll see the bullet hole that came through the door mortally wounding Brother Hyrum. And you’ll see the second-story window from which the Prophet Joseph fell after being shot twice.

And the story, of course, certainly does not end here at Carthage. Those blessed to live in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith knew that the mission to establish a Church and spread the gospel would not end with his death. A new chapter began as they crossed the Mississippi River, and the story continues today, as we learn of them, remember them, and do all we can to spread the message for which they suffered so much, to areas of the world those early Saints could hardly have imagined.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com