It all starts innocently enough. My wife's parents are on a mission in Nauvoo, Illinois. My father-in-law is an accountant, but ran horses his whole life. Now he works with the teamster missionaries in Nauvoo for our favorite church. They are having a great time and my wife wanted to visit them. This is allowed and encouraged by the mission presidency which is really nice. This is my first entry and at least one more is forthcoming.
This weekend was, in part, my gift to my wife who didn't want to go alone in winter. Luckily the roads are entirely clear despite the snow everywhere else. Nauvoo would be nothing without the involvement of the LDS church. It's quite rural. Deer loitered in the front yard of the house where my in-laws are staying. The forest is right up to the edge of town.
Thursday, January 30
We went on sleigh ride with my father-in-law which was certifiably fun. They have two sleighs which they run when enough snow is around. The mission owns about 17 enormous horses. Most of them are Percherons and Clydesdales. Virtually all of them are 7 feet tall at their ears and have enormous hooves. Most of the year they pull wagons and carriages for visitors.
I was bummed to see that the Community of Christ closes up their exhibits from October to March. They acknowledge that the low number of visitors makes it hard to staff their part of town. My mother-in-law is confident that the LDS church will buy up their property within a few years. This would include the Mansion House, Red Brick Store, and the Smith family burial plot with the graves of Hyrum and Joseph. But these places were all closed for the winter when I arrived.
That night we attended a Teamster farewell dinner for a senior couple. It looked and felt like a ward party for the over 60 crowd. It was sweet and had too many sugar based refreshments. They told corny Dad jokes and did song parodies. It's a good group and I appreciate the camaraderie that this group of men and women enjoy with each other.
This group truly enjoys serving together and I pointed this out to my in-laws after the party. They obviously agreed and this prompted my dear wife to state that she is absolutely going on a senior mission eventually. This was stated with the undercurrent of a challenge to my lack of testimony. But we were sitting with my mother-in-law at her house. This is not the time to discuss this option publicly nor the state of my testimony. Instead, it was a "safe space" for my wife's testimony and beliefs.
Friday, January 31
My mother-in-law has had a low level and polite disagreement with the mission president. Missionaries have a script they are supposed to work from and actually avoid going off script at all. They are allowed to answer any questions, but they are not supposed to bring up other issues. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law had produced copies of the Book of Abraham facsimiles to show visitors and point out how this shows that Joseph is a prophet. She would mention that Lucy charged money to show off the mummies.
The mission president and the most "obedient" missionaries cautioned her to not go outside of the script. She countered by showing that the script actually had a preface with a picture of the mummies so they let her continue this practice. I did not at all point out the obvious translation issues she was stepping into. This was my wife's weekend and I did not want to introduce this level of heresy.
But my mother-in-law also volunteered her own apologetic of the whole issue of the Book of Abraham. Apparently this guy named Bruce Porter was commissioned by the church to go to Egypt and research the connections between the LDS temple endowment and the Egyptian temple ceremony. Seriously, there is this idea that the Egyptians had the temple ceremony, but did not have the priesthood because of Ham and Egyptus. I think this is capital baloney, but once again, it's not my weekend to point out the silliness being relayed by my extremely faithful mother-in-law.
My wife and I visited several Nauvoo sites including the printing office, tin shop, bakery, civic hall, drugstore, and the John Taylor home. I enjoyed the discussion of practical issues of dealing with frontier life and their technology at the time. But there was always an undercurrent of how this all implies that Joseph was totally a prophet.
My mother-in-law admitted that Joseph married and totally slept with Sylvia Lyon, but she and her husband were broken up at that point. My mother-in-law even knew about Sylvia having a daughter named Josephine and the rumors that it was Joseph's daughter. It was a lot of apologetics about polygamy in general. Several points became clear:
- The Saints believed they were following God
- They were imperfect people who may have messed up the implementation of plural marriage at times
- Polygamy was in place to test the Saints and build up a strong, obedient church
- If Joseph told you to take a plural wife then it was a command from God
- If anyone else told you to take a plural wife then it was OK to say no, or maybe the command was given in error
I attended a session in the Nauvoo temple and saw the newest movie which was a slide show of the "2013 A" movie. Many of the stills of people are extra shots from the original filming. It's not an improvement. This is the one with the shorter guy playing Satan. It's funny because the slide show makes him look like a bigger dweeb than usual.
Peter comes to cast out Satan saying, "Satan, we command you to depart." Satan gets ticked off and says, "By what authority?" In that shot, Satan is shown to be nearly a foot shorter than either Peter or Adam. It looks like the schoolyard bullies stole his lunch money and then told him to beat it. By what authority? By the authority of Peter and Adam beating the crap out of this little Satan dude with a receding hairline.
And, by the way, this is my favorite Peter for the wrong reasons. Peter is also rapidly going bald and he isn't fooling anyone with that comb over. Peter is speaking to Jehovah who should be a bro and tell him to shave it off so he looks like a cool Joe Rogan. Instead, Peter looks like Bob Newhart with delusions of hair.
The Nauvoo temple is nice, I suppose. The big downstairs meeting hall is open to view, but you are not allowed to go it. It has the polite velvet ropes in place to prevent anyone from going in. And they only use it for devotionals on rare occasions, which was usually once per year. This is crazy. I would have totally waltzed in and taken a picture if my dear, believing wife were not by my side.
My wife and I went to dinner with my in-laws. On the drive home my mother-in-law brought up the subject of obedience and following church leaders in some of the nitpick things they make them do on a mission. She is struggling with "submitting" to leaders and having a good attitude. She was unsure that it was ever OK to question their decisions. I brought up the Mountain Meadows Massacre noting that opposing the Cedar City Stake President would have been the right thing to do, even if it was a real risk to your own life. My father-in-law did appreciate that.
Once again, this led back into the challenges of plural marriage and my mother-in-law again noted her testimony of it as difficult as it was. "Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac", was one excuse. I noted that Abraham did not have to actually kill Isaac, but Helen Mar Kimball did have to marry Joseph Smith. My mother-in-law agreed, but reiterated her testimony of polygamy. My wife poked me in the shoulder and pleadingly whispered, "Stop". This weekend was my gift to her so I stopped and gave my mother-in-law the last word, which was a testimony of plural marriage and it's eternal importance to us.
"You would not even be here without plural marriage!" Yes, and I would not be here without one of my German ancestors dying in the Napoleonic Wars. And, I don't have to have be thankful for that death disastrous Russian and Austrian loss at the Battle of Austerlitz that likely led to my ancestors emigrating to the United States.
Perhaps this is the central problem. My ideas and views are far too dangerous to speak about in the presence of the brittle testimonies of my family. The reputation of Joseph Smith must be protected at all costs. That cost will involve your integrity and logic and loyalty.
The leader worship and deference was a constant undercurrent. These are adult men and women spending their own money to be here and providing an immense amount of free labor and expertise. This is especially true among the teamsters who are virtually all men with a lifetime of horse experience. And yet, if the mission president makes a rule, there is no recourse for the missionaries if they disagree in any way. My in-laws may or may not get to attend the wedding of a granddaughter if the mission president does not give his permission for them to fly out for a weekend.
Goals for tomorrow: Point out that when Emma Smith married Lewis Bidamon, their marriage date was December 23, 1847, Joseph Smith's birthday.