Two weeks have passed and time rushes forward! I can summarize the week of July 4-9th, in a short paragraph. Our well was down for 2.5 days, so we celebrated July 4th with hours in the sun repairing it and with a barbecue and fireworks at the beach that evening. On the 6th we had a lightning strike at AOA that took out the power. Gratefully it hit during the night so by mid-morning, the pole at been replaced and power restored. July 7th was a “rain day” because we received four inches of rain in less than 24 hours. The river rose quickly and just in time for Janna and Scott’s family to see it when it’s running high. It’s impressive! They drove from Utah and arrived July 9th. After hours in the car fishing in our private pond was a hit. Ammon caught the first fish, the most fish and the 2nd biggest fish, so we had big mouth bass for Sunday dinner!
On Sunday, July 10th, we had Scott and Janna’s family and Nana (Terri Smith, Scott’s mother) here, as well as Matt and Kim Peterson and Dan and Charone Peterson and family. Darrel and I had to divide to conquer that day. I took the Smiths and Nana to Liberty, Independence, Far West, and Hawn’s Mill while Darrel gave the Peterson’s the grand tour of Adam-ondi-Ahman.
Monday the AOA missionaries and the Smiths headed for Nauvoo. Our visit this year was different that last year. We had a chance to discover Nauvoo on a deeper level than the tourist level we experienced in 2021. It was the Smith’s first visit to Nauvoo, so they had the best of both levels available to them.
Monday afternoon Darrel and I had a brief tour to some local sites by one of our missionary couples who served in Nauvoo previously. We saw the huge rock culvert built by the early saints as part of their system of ditches to drain the swamp. The transition from Commerce Illinois to Nauvoo was not an easy one and we were humbled to see the industry, visionary genius, and hard work that turned a marshy, mosquito invested flatland into the “City of Joseph.” We also visited the old pioneer cemetery where Bishop Edward Partridge is buried. Merrill and Sandra Swayze found a great-great grandmother buried there, also. She died given birth to twin girls who were buried beside her. It was touching to see the joy they felt just to be where such sacrifice was offered for the gospel’s sake.
That evening we went to the “Sunset on the Mississippi” variety show done by the young performing missionaries. We were grateful for the breeze and more temperate temperatures. We ran into two men that grew up in Mona, Utah and their families there. (Jeremy Gooch and Spencer Walker) It’s always a thrill to see how small the world is within the Church! Following the performance we journeyed to the Seventy’s Hall for a fireside with Elder Walker who came with us this year. Smiths joined us, as did Darrel’s childhood friend, Ray Lynn Hurst and his new wife, Chris. Elder Walker spoke from his heart about his lifetime of experiences with President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the prophet most responsible for the restoration of Nauvoo and the rebuilding of the temple. When Tom Brokaw, a famous news anchor man, asked President Hinckley what the most important thing he had done up to that point was, President Hinckley responded, “Rebuild the Nauvoo Temple.”
Elder Walker attended two sessions of the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. He noted from his observations over a lifetime what caused President Hinckley’s heart to swell with emotion. It was any time he spoke of the early saints. No one had greater admiration and love for the pioneers than President Gordon B. Hinckley. How blessed we felt to walk where they walked and feel the spirit that lingers because of their consecrated sacrifice.
As part of that fireside, Elder Walker asked his sweet granddaughter, Abby to sing “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” Abby recently returned from her mission to Reno, Nevada and has a gorgeous voice. She sang acapella and as her voice filled that hall, so did the Spirit. We felt we were intruding on a tender, private moment as we witnessed the look of love and devotion between a grandpa and his granddaughter.
Tuesday we began the day at the barn watching the 23 draft horses come from the pasture to the barn for grain and to get ready for the day’s work. They came when called, lining up in order at the gate. Each was announced by name as it entered the gate, and each had their own place at the trough. I had a sweet experience with the Spirit there that brought peace to my heart in regard to a difficult challenge we are facing as a family. From there we attended an endowment session with all the missionaries, Elder Walker and Abby, and the Hursts. The veil was an extra sweet experience for me that morning and I felt a reprise of comfort and peace. That afternoon, Lach McKay, an apostle in the Community of Christ Church, gave us a tour of the part of Nauvoo still owned by them. My connection with Steve Smith made that possible and it was an honor and rare treat to have someone so knowledgeable about the Smith family after the other saints headed west, as well as the history of Nauvoo from Joseph’s time to the present. That evening we attended the Nauvoo Pageant for the first time. It was not available during our two prior trips, and it was a powerful experience to see on stage the saints life in Nauvoo and hear the stories of a few key converts who joined them there. Our hearts were full that night.
Wednesday we went to Carthage for a tour with the other missionaries. There were enough that we needed to split into two groups. It was our good fortune to be in the second group with Elder Walker. That site evokes many tender feelings as events are recounted. There in the room where Joseph and Hyrum gave their lives, the Spirit was rich but solemn. As the young sisters attempted to play “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” as part of their presentation. Not only would the audio device there not work, but neither of their phones would play the hymn. Amid their frustration, someone suggested that Abby sing it. She graciously accepted and emotion fills my heart just recalling the Spirit that filled the room as she sang and the look on Elder Walker’s face. Words are inadequate to describe what we shared in those few sacred moments. As we suspected, all the equipment worked just great for the next group who followed us.
Darrel and I made our way home from Carthage so we could prepare for the company we anticipated coming. Thursday was our Adam-ondi-Ahman day with the Smiths. By dinnertime, the Hursts had joined us. Elder Hurst served with his first wife in Florida and became close to Scott and Janna and their kids. It was a sweet reunion. We had our own firework display at bedtime. We bought one for each day the Smiths had been here plus a one for the grand finale. Fireworks are a perk of serving in Missouri!
Scott and Janna’s family headed west with Nana early on Friday. It was sad to see them go, but we simply chose to look forward to seeing them again soon. That day was our day to help Ray Lynn and Chris discover Adam-ondi-Ahman. Darrel took them on the tour while I worked at the work center with the other sisters on some history projects. After lunch, I joined them for an Amish/Jamesport experience. We invited Joyce and Tim Mahr over for dinner as Joyce, Darrel, and Ray Lynn all grew up in Payson, Utah together. It was so fun to see their excitement at being together and hear them reminisce old times.
The Hursts left after breakfast on Saturday, and Darrel and I dove into the pile of tasks awaiting our attention from days of being gone and having company.
It seems like we were just experiencing our “firsts” here, and now we are beginning to experience of “lasts.” We spoke in sacrament meeting today for the last time during our missionary service. It was a bitter-sweet realization. I spoke on America. Darrel shared highlights from the life of his great-great- grandfather, Robert Taylor Burton, and the impact this noble ancestor has had and continues to have in the lives of his posterity.
It was a treat for me to review how America has been preserved and prepared to host the dawning of the last dispensation. Elder Holland summarized, “…Following the Flood of Noah, this land became…a chosen land of the Lord…A place…kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated, and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes…After meticulous preparation and precise timing, the cultural freedom of the Renaissance and religious freedom of the Reformation underscored a strong sense of enlightenment and personal freedom to provide the ideal attitudes and environment for the beginning of this new American nation.”
President Benson assured, “I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened Christian men and women who will subscribe to and abide by the principles of the Constitution.” That is my hope and testimony as well.