My four day road trip from CC town to Chicago with the oldest of our "Fab Five" was absolutely amazing. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (to find out more about our beliefs visit ChurchofJesusChrist.org ). En route to Chicago we decided we would hit Church history sites along the way. Thankfully, I had verywise parents who took me on this trip when I was 16- it was such a testimony treasure to me- it has played a big part in the role of my own personal conversion story- one which I cherish. Taking my son to visit these same places was such a tender mercy.
We paused for a few moments on I-70 to enjoy the beauties of Castle Country. It is such a dry land, but its unique beauty is a little bit of eye candy- it took my breath away. However, in the early days of settlement it was a wild land which the Mormon Settlers would have to tame.
Thursday, Day One- We made it all the way to North Platte in Nebraska the first night. The Colorado Rockies were covered in snow and absolutely gorgeous!
Friday, Day two
Who is Sara Green Holyoak and why did we detour to the Big Blue River?
Sarah Green is my great, great, great, great grandmother on my maternal mother's side. She was born in Kings Norton, Worcestershire, west Midlands, England on July 16, 1797. She immigrated to the United States on September 30, 1854. she died near the Big Blue River in Hamilton County, Nebraska- She died coming to "Zion" before her "journey's end." Her name is now listed on a plaque in Nauvoo with hundreds of other saints who did not reach the Salt Lake Valley, but who's faith remains a legacy.
"The trek across the plains was long and weary and as they were on the plains of Nebraska their hearts became more weary than their fee. They were called to sorrow for the death of their wife and mother, Sarah Green Holyoak. a grave was hastily dug. her tired body was sewn in a quilt and she was lain to rest in the plains her weary feet had drod. George Holy oak and his children, Sarah, Henry, hannah, and Nemiah lifted their tear stained faces unto the hills from whence cometh strength and they plodded on to the west."
“The Winter Quarters area is one of the hidden treasures in the Church,” said Sister Jane Hales, a senior missionary at the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters. “Most people think the pioneers went from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley, but it is the stops in between that are filled with the wonderful stories of sacrifice, charity and dedication. Seventy thousand people passed through the Winter Quarters-Kanesville area on their way to the Salt Lake Valley. One can still feel their spirit.”
Background: Winter Quarters
With the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844 and increasing pressure on the Mormons to abandon their city of Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi, it soon became obvious to Church leaders that they would need to move yet again. In September of 1846 the Saints established a refuge in what was called Winter Quarters, near present-day Omaha, Nebraska. Winter Quarters became the headquarters of the Church, with 700 homes laid out on a grid organized into 23 wards (congregations).
With winter approaching, many Latter-day Saints were sick and exhausted. Few crops had been planted, provisions were meager and the amount of money coming from the Mormon Battalion’s wages was unknown. Over 300 people died — mostly the very young and the old due to malaria, scurvy, pneumonia, tuberculosis and poor diet — and were buried in the Mormon cemetery on the bluff.
In January 1847, Brigham Young received a revelation about “the Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West” (now known as Doctrine and Covenants 136). The revelation covered many topics, including the organization of companies in the impending spring migration. The Saints began abandoning Winter Quarters in the spring of 1848 because they had promised to leave Indian lands after two years. Most had gone west, and the rest moved back across the Missouri River to the Iowa settlements.
A Taste of the Missouri Country side...
Driving in Missouri, I pretty much felt like I was driving in circles. The Missouri landscape is lush and green and powerfully beautiful- but there are no mountains- no point of reference.
For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints this is sacred land. It is revered as an outdoor temple for the events past, present, and future which have and will transpire here. For me the spirit here was electrifying as if my soul might physically burst.
for more information visit- http://emp.byui.edu/satterfieldb/Quotes/Adam-ondi-Ahman.html
After visiting Adam-ondi-Ahman we spent the night at the Marydale Inn in Jameson, Missouri. Our Hosts Diane and Art were very gracious. The Inn is spacious and beautiful and the breakfast delicious. We also enjoyed dinner at the Country Cupboard in Jamesport- it was a delight to dine with the Amish.
Saturday, Day three- Far West, Liberty jail, and onto Nauvoo
It seemed strange to visit this place- it was almost as if it was transfixed in time- nothing much has changed here since I was 16- it was comforting- a sweet spirit- a place that was once fraught with adversity and trial for early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. (Doctrine and Covenants 115, 116,117). Missouri was a difficult time for the Saints- it was a refining fire. Far West was the headquarters for the Church in 1830 and the gathering place for Zion after the saints had been driven from Kirtland, Ohio.
"The Far West Temple Site does not house a temple, but it tells a story of dedication and faith. When early Apostles laid cornerstones there, they showed their determination to follow the Lord’s will in spite of persecution."
Liberty Jail, Missouri
Key revelations were received by the Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith while he was unjustly imprisoned here including sections 105, 121, 122, and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is a somber place, but a place of faith.
Read a great article here https://history.lds.org/article/historic-sites/missouri/liberty/liberty-jail?lang=eng
We arrived in Nauvoo after 5 Saturday evening. Unfortunately all of the historic sites were closed. However, we checked into the Beautiful Wilford Woodruff Hotel- it had the most amazing view. Looking out the balcony door, was the amazing "close enough to touch" Nauvoo temple. when I was here when I was 16- there was no temple. It was rebuilt in 2002- more than decade since I visited here as a teen. I was simply awestruck by its beauty!
We rested up a bit and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner before we meandered through the streets of historic Nauvoo. The next morning we attended Church at the Nauvoo 3rd ward- it was amazing. The meetinghouse stands in the shadow of the temple. After wards, we visited the old Nauvoo burial grounds and then the might Mississippi where the Saints fled
Nauvoo has a special place in my heart for many reasons.- 1.My grandparents serve their mission here in the early '80's- I grew up listening to their stories of faith 2. The significance it hold for the history of the church to which I belong 3. So many of my ancestors sought refuge here with the saints after having been driven from Missouri as well as gathering here from their homes in England and Wales.
It was very touching as Seleck found the name of James Rigby on the plaque at the crossing of the Mississippi. His name was listed on the plaque that honored those who followed their faith but did not reach Zion in the Salt Lake Valley. He was born on march 23, 1809 Cheadle, Cheshire, England. He married Jane Lavina Littlewood on October 7, 1832 in Stockport, Cheshire, England. He died in August, Des Moins, Iowa 1849
James died while he was preparing his family and Wagon to cross the plains to the Salt Lake valley
Visiting Carthage, Sunday afternoon
Carthage was our final destination. There really are no words to describe Carthage. It is simply a place which must be visited. Seleck and I both had the opportunity to share and bare testimony here- what a gift to bare testimony in the very room where the Prophet spent his last moments. While I am strengthened in faith by the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith- the story of Joseph and Hyrum will always hold my heart.
"On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred—killed by a mob that attacked them in Carthage Jail. Joseph “sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so [did] his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3)." https://history.lds.org/subsection/historic-sites/illinois/carthage/carthage-jail?lang=eng
Sunday, Final destination- Chicago- I didn't see much of Chicago- just the freeway. We headed straight to the airport where I boarded the plane. I hugged my little boy grown big good-bye and boarded the plane. I landed in Las Vegas near midnight. Rigby was there to pick me up. At 3:30 I crawled into my bed.
The road trip was worth it on so many levels- renewed strength in my Savior Jesus Christ, a deepened love and appreciation for my ancestors, early members of the church, and the prophet Joseph Smith, and a forever memory with my son.