Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 27th commemorates the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844

We had a pretty big ta-do on Friday June 27th on the grounds of the Carthage Jail. There were probably 600-700 people attending the program that afternoon. Joseph and Hyrum were shot about 5:16 PM so we had our program between 5 and 6 PM that evening.
The young performing missionaries make up the brass band. They are amazingly talented. 

 Another set of Young Performing Missionaries presented a vignette of pertinent people and their responses to the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. Some of them included Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph and Hyrum, Emma and Mary Fielding Smith who were wives of Joseph and Hyrum respectively to name just a few. The young missionaries are all amazingly talented and the program was quite touching.

 Near the end of the program, two horses were walked through the site. I understand that this is a sign of respect when a note worthy person dies, their horses are presented without the rider showing respect for the deceased.

There were only about 650 guests touring the jail on the 27th. We had planned for about twice that many and were prepared to shorten the tour time. However, all but a couple of tours were full length.

Elder Johnson and I worked today (Sunday June 29th) We had about 360 guests which is big considering it is only open from 12:30 til 5 PM. However, it went quite smoothly. We were in charge, of course, since all of the Carthage workers trade off and only work once a month. Other missionaries from Nauvoo help us out but they usually need more direction. 

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is to tell of an experience we had today with one particular guest. He was a rather pathetic looking individual who looked like he had lived a hard life. He was probably in his 60's though he looked much older than Elder Johnson. He was slumped over and stayed to himself not saying much or acting like he wanted to go on a tour. He sat in a chair in the visitor's center for a half hour or so and then disappeared. Next I knew, he was with a tour that Elder Johnson was taking through the jail which I joined part way through. There were probably about 25-30 people in the group and he didn't stand out. In fact, Elder Johnson didn't notice him at all.

My friend didn't say anything or even look at us when we spoke, but I noticed he was getting emotional as we were finishing the tour in the martyrdom room. I had an impression that this man needed Christ and the atonement in his life. I started getting ideas of other things I should say so I offered to give the closing remarks. 

In essence, I told the group that we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints honor Joseph Smith for all that he sacrificed for us but that we worship the Savior Jesus Christ. I told them that Christ was the healer of all wounds and that no matter what we've done wrong in our life we can overcome our mistakes through the atonement. By then he was crouched over and in tears. I felt overwhelming love and compassion for him. I saw him as a relative of Joseph's assassins who is loved by Heavenly Father same as you and I. I saw him as a child of God who could still be saved from the destiny he was currently pursuing.

I have no idea what will happen to him, but I'm confident that a seed was planted deep in his heart. I am also amazed at the power in being a missionary. The Spirit is so strong and Christ like love is abundant for all we serve. My prayer every day is to be in tune to the Spirit of the Lord and to respond to others needs as directed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

In less than a minute...

Our week has been crazy again and I have to tell a story on Elder Johnson. The 45 minute tour that we offer of the jail starts with an 18 minute film. After visiting with the guests for a bit, we usually step out while the film is playing. We watch the timer and come back a minute or two before the end. So, on one of the tours last week near the end of a busy day, we entered the dark room where the film was playing and sat in the back of the room with one minute to spare. By the time it ended, Elder Johnson was fast asleep. Wow! That has to be a record even for him.

The number of visitors is still about 300 to 400 per day. However, with the commemoration of Joseph and Hyrum's death this coming Friday, June 27th, we are expecting mayhem. Friday, we will have a special program outside where we can accommodate more guests. The mayors of Carthage, Nauvoo, Quincy, and Warsaw have been invited and the sites in Nauvoo are closing at 4 PM so all can come to Carthage. Closing early in Nauvoo, almost never happens. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

We are planning to shorten the tours to about 12 minutes rather than the 25 to 30 minutes each that day. Last yea,r there were almost 1200 visitors on June 27th and more are expected this year.

Below is a weird phenomena that we notice on cloudy days when the light is just right. In the Visitor's Center there are these two pictures of Joseph and Hyrum.

The Old Jail  can be seen through the windows of the Visitor's Center across from these pictures. The picture of Joseph is reflected in the window of the jail. Can you see him below?
 Hyrum's picture is reflected in the door of the summer kitchen. My photo didn't pick it up very well, but he's there if you look close. 
 The Visitor's Center was completed years before the pictures were hung so I'm guessing it's all coincidence (we don't really believe in coincidences), but it's kind of cool and fun to point out to the guests.

Below are two of the young sister missionaries in Nauvoo. There are 20 full time sister missionaries with six at a time serving in Carthage with us. We love them! They are so much fun.

They serve for 18 months serving here only during the summer. During the winter, they are called to an "outbound" mission that can be anywhere in the country. The ones who have served outbound talk well of their experience.

That does not include the young performing missionaries. They are only here for part of the summer and include band members as well as singers and dancers. I believe there are about 20 in each group. They are absolutely amazing. Of course, being called as a missionary adds strength when needed.

We attended a "going away" party for one of the senior missionary couples yesterday. Some of them only serve for six months during the summer as teamsters due to the increase of buggy and wagon rides needed. In the winter, they offer sleigh rides pulled by horses but the number of guests is much lower so we don't need as many teamsters. Most mission calls are for 18 months starting in the spring, so, we serve two summers and only one winter. Both missionary and guest numbers will  drop drastically in the fall.

Actually,we are expecting everything to slow way down after the pageant in July. In fact, for the first time ever, there are two pageants this summer. The original pageant is about the saints leaving Nauvoo and migrating to the Salt Lake Valley, while the new one (this year only) is about the saints migrating from England to Nauvoo. 

At the "going away" party we were each asked to tell an embarrassing memory. Many of the missionaries had horse stories to tell that we couldn't really relate to or compete with. However, with the topic at hand, I told of a time when we visited Huntley's in Tennessee. I have to use quite a bit of hair product to make my hair behave and one time during a quiet moment in church (sacrament meeting), two year old Morgan said rather loudly, "Gamma, you have cwap in your hair!"

We miss our family and friends.

I suspect I will have many more embarrassing moments to tell. Elder Johnson and I have been asked to be in a vignette for Rendezvous which includes singing. I will have to sing a few lines by myself.  

Yikes! my willingness to "go and do" where ever and what ever I'm called to do is strained. I need a Nauvoo miracle or two...perhaps a sweeter sounding voice and nerves of steel would be nice.  I think I had more confidence when I was younger and knew less.

Elder Johnson, on the other hand, is delighted. He plans to "tear them up". Whatever that means. My hope is that our strengths will rub off on each other which can and has happened already.

Truth is... it's not all about me. None of the missionaries are here to shine or look impressive to others. Our purpose is to have the sweet Spirit of the Lord with us and carry a message of love in whatever we're asked to do. 

As Shakespeare said, "What er thou art, act well thy part." With a little (or perhaps, a lot) of help, it's all good.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Who says an "old" dog can't learn new tricks?

Check out the talent here. The elders worked hard on their new found skills.
 Well, it did take a few practice tries.

 Trust me, it only looks like ballet.

Elder Johnson will be learning another new trick. He has been asked to start practicing the piano to play for Rendezvous starting in September. Playing for Rendezvous is a little like switching from regular violin to fiddling. It moves incredibly fast probably so the "old" folk missionaries don't fall asleep on the job. Either that or the speed is mercy for the audience since we have talent like you may never have seen!

Happy Father's Day to men everywhere!

 On our preparation day we went to Fort Madison. The tour guide below was a good sport when the men asked how the wooden stocks worked.

See definition below:
Rather like the lesser punishment called the stocks, the pillory consisted of hinged wooden boards forming holes through which the head and/or various limbs were inserted; then the boards were locked together to secure the captive. Pillories were set up to hold petty criminals in marketplaces, crossroads, and other public places. They were often placed on platforms to increase public visibility of the offender. Often a placard detailing the crime was placed nearby; these punishments generally lasted only a few hours.

Elder Johnson was born in the wrong time and place don't you think?
 Old Fort Madison 1808-1813 is a reconstructed frontier outpost situated along the Mississippi River. I am always in awe at the scenery everywhere we go. That's one advantage of being raised in Arizona; the whole rest of world looks beautifully green in comparison.

San Francisco, you don't have the only set of hairpin turns. Snake Alley is a street located in Burlington, Iowa, once recognized by Ripley's Believe It or Not as the Crookedest Street in the World.

Lombard Street is an east–west street in San Francisco, California. It is famous for having a steep, one-block section that consists of eight tight hairpin turns. 
 Snake Alley only has five turns.

More relatives come to Carthage! Niece, Teresa, and Tyler's family along with Nephew, Phil and Julie's got a personal tour Saturday.
 We love company!

The tidal wave in Carthage has begun! We used to have anywhere between 50 and 150 guests each day. We are now averaging between 300 and 400 visitors. We currently close at 7 PM except Sundays which is always 5 PM, however, most people still think we close at 6 which is good with us since we're wiped out by then.

With the Nauvoo Pageant starting in a few weeks our life of being able to give private tours will be over.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

You Never Know Who's Watching

Elder Johnson and I had our first "mega" tour last week. There was a group of 114 graduated seniors from Salt Lake City that came to Nauvoo to celebrate the mile stone. While at the jail, they were very cooperative, respectful, and easy to teach. We divided them into three groups and rotated them through the jail and film room in about an hour and a half.

Before we finished taking the last group through, we received a call from the visitor's center in Nauvoo. Word was that a recently retired couple had crossed paths earlier in the trip with this large group from Utah. The travelers were so impressed with the youth group that they changed their plans and followed the graduated group to Nauvoo. The story was reported to a missionary at the Nauvoo Visitor's Center who passed it on to us. We, of course, congratulated the young adults and let them know what an impression they can make throughout their life. You never know who's watching and what an impact you can make on others.

My sisters, Julie and Becky, came to Nauvoo with their husbands. Below are a few shots from our performance at Rendezvous.

 During the production, actors wait for their turn on stage from the Green Room. These pictures were taken while waiting for our turn.

 During a testimony meeting last week, one of the young performing missionaries admitted that there were many "Nauvoo miracles". He claimed that without his missionary badge he would not be able to clog and sing as needed because he did not feel that he could clog and sing on his own.

The young performers really are amazing. It is fascinating to me that they too feel blessed and inspired to do what is needed to be done. I believe it's true....without the calling as a missionary, we could not accomplish all that we do.

 After Rendezvous, we (Rand, Julie, Becky, and Kent) met for some ice cream at Annie's Custard.
 Saturday afternoon was rainy enough that those who visited the jail were few and we broke away early enough to attend the Nauvoo Temple. I love this place. It is sooooo amazing.
 Just in case you were wondering, there are pines near Nauvoo that make for beautiful camping. It's even possible to camp in a dress suit as Elder Johnson can attest to.
Becky Connell reminded us that obedience to the Lord's commandments brings blessings, and exact obedience brings miracles.