What an unexpected few days we have had on our journey east.
Originally, when we decided to take this grand trip in an RV, across the length of the entire USA in just 31 days, we had to decide what route to take.
I wanted to stay away from the heat in the South, so the North seemed a fun idea to choose. Especially since the summer months would most likely provide nicer weather. I wanted to take advantage of this, so my family could finally see the beauty of these northern states.
But where to stop along the way?
Well, one of my long time bucket list hopes was to see our church’s historical sites in person. Some of my ancestors actually lived in these locations, so I have wanted to see and experience them for myself. Paul agreed!
With these sites set as stops along our journey east, we made a timeline and then set a plan to make this happen. As I mentioned before, the closing of our church’s visitors centers didn’t upset me. We have really enjoyed this simplified approach to visiting these sites; as well as the lack of crowds. 😉🎉
But one thing I was not prepared for was another version of our church’s history, through the voice of a different church, as well as this other church’s ownership of many of the historical sites we planned to visit.
I knew about this other church, but I didn’t understand just how much they were involved in contradicting my ancestor’s story. I found it challenging to arrive at our chosen destination, only to find their buildings squeezing in on our moment.
From strangely designed temples, great and spacious auditoriums, and one of their church buildings at every site, I found myself turning into a spoiled cousin, fighting over being at grandma’s house at the same time as my cousins I didn’t know very well. Well, at least not yet.
Then it hit me!
I don’t know this church. Nor do I know their members. I also don’t know their history, nor what processes/experiences they have been through to get them to what they now state they believe.
I don’t have to fight, push, or shove my way to make room for me, or my church. There is room enough for all under the love of Christ. 💕
I’m grateful I had this realization, for we ended up needing a respite from our muddy adventures in Clay County (literally, that mud is clay!). We arrived in Nauvoo, needing a place to rest after our long journey out of Missouri. Camp Nauvoo happily welcomed us home for that night, complete with a fair price ($30) to have unlimited: water, electricity, rest for the RV, 3 loads of laundry washed, 2 loads dried, RV TOTALLY cleaned, and a campfire to roast our marshmallows.
It was a peace of heaven, but it also belonged to this other church. So what!!! We never asked the other 2 RV parks what their beliefs were, so why should we care who owned this RV site? And they were so kind and gracious. It was just the break we all needed!!!
We even had signal enough to chat with our missionary and show him the Mississippi River, and a little of Nauvoo, before he called back on his cell phone line to talk to each of his siblings before he had to go. 💕
Each site we visited in Missouri and Illinois gave me a moment of reflection:
- Independence, MO Visitor’s Center parking lot – while eating lunch and being able to take a moment and see the contrast between a different church’s version of a temple, and what I know a temple to be, I was impressed to feel grateful for my ancestor’s sacrifices to build houses unto the Lord, and to make them His, no matter what. In thinking of the temples I have visited, a peace came over me to love and tolerate all of God’s children, for that is how Christ treats each of us. 💕
- The 8 Witnesses Memorial, MO. – This was not our church’s memorial, but a site we felt impressed to visit anyway. The memorial itself was covered by dense trees, and it was a bit tight to get to in our RV. But I am glad we went, for the people mentioned there might have left our church, but they never refuted their testimony of hefting the plates that were translated into the Book of Mormon. My own testimony of The Book of Mormon’s truth was added to theirs, like adding an additional light in the darkness. 💡 I hope if you haven’t taken the opportunity to read this book, that you will. And that you will do do with an open heart, asking God if what you read is true, and He will answer you . . . If you are willing to be told it is true!!!
- Liberty Jail Visitor Center, MO. – Upon arriving, 2 energetic Sister Missionaries came running out of the building (wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet away at all times) and invited us to hear the history of this great site. This story of Liberty Jail is near and dear to my heart. For “all knew Joseph was a prophet as he entered the jail, but the man who left was the man the Lord needed to do His work.” The Jail became a temple of quickening for Joseph and the others with him. I too have had my own “jail time moments” and I leaned on Joseph’s experience to see me through my own. I love his vulnerability to share the truth he earned. I hope I do the same.
- The 3 Witnesses Memorial, MO. – This is a site sponsored by our church, but it is not owned by our church. It is owned by the city, but our church maintains it beautifully. At this site I was touched to feel a dying man’s testimony that he too saw the plates and helped Joseph translate The Book of Mormon. He also testified that he had received the priesthood through the authority of God and could not deny what he experienced. I love that he could stand by his words, despite the persecution of mankind. I look forward to shaking his hand one day, along with all the others who testify of Christ, despite opposition.
- Haun’s Mill, MO. – Despite our messy trip from this site, I must say the surrounding areas were quite peaceful and filled with love and happiness, not fear, dread, or misery. The horror that occurred at this site was not felt in a negative way. Instead a feeling of joy and truth was all around, safe guarding us until we too were set free from our trial and allowed to go home. ☺️💕
- Far West Temple Site , MO. – This place was magical. Feeling the sacredness of this place and the first efforts put forth here were inspiring to me. I could feel the hope, assumptions, bickering, entitlement, and immaturity of the disciples of Christ there. It reminded me of my own journey as a disciple of Christ, so I was immediately intrigued that we “got to” go to Nauvoo after, rather than before Far West, like most travelers do!
- Adam-ondi-Ahman, Mo. – Oh how I miss going inside a temple of the Lord. If the Sacred Grove is closed to us, this place will be my Sacred Grove on this trip. It was truly an earthly cathedral of the Lord, the first of all the true “houses of the Lord”. I felt an immense rushing of joy and hope-filled love come toward me, as we drove toward the entrance of the property. I felt like I was in Eve’s garden. 💕 A truly splendid moment for me.
- Nauvoo, Illinois – This was another one of those sites that I felt the pull to battle with my earthly brothers and sisters. I refrained from such temptations and instead focused on helping my family know the history I had learned about this site. Our family loved seeing the mansion house, the temple, the great Mississippi river, and then shopping at a gift store for a little reminder of our trip (an “I love Nauvoo” bumper sticker for our memory chair & a stained glass star magnet).
- Carthage Jail, Illinois – This was probably Paul’s favorite stop of them all. A nice volunteer missionary groundsman was kind enough to give us a history of this site. He was gentle and kind as he told the fatal story of what occurred, yet there was so much joy and release that these men do not suffer. They too are happy! The feeling at this site felt similar to Haun’s Mill. One day, all will be told of the truth behind these difficult moments and the lessons offered because of them. 💕
So, that’s our Church History Sites for now. We have 3 more locations to go to. I look forward to them all, but especially hope that The Sacred Grove is possible to walk through. What a journey we have had this far!
God be thanked for the matchless gift of His Divine Son.