Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

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Corsair
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Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Corsair » Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm

TL;DR: Nauvoo remains an amusing minefield for your testimony, but the LDS church has mapped out a well marked path to not step on shelf breaking explosions.

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
The missionaries do talk about plural marriage to visitors if anyone asks about it. But the church has given them some guidelines, some of which are unintentionally humorous. They are not supposed to talk about aspects of plural marriage if they are standing in the bedroom of any of the homes on the tour. Seriously, they want to avoid the lascivious implications. Plural marriage is like the temple: sacred, not secret. So you can talk about it and they are allowed to go into a fair amount of honest detail. But keep it clean! Avoid implying that anyone was having sex for fun.

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.
Last edited by Corsair on Sat Feb 01, 2020 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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jfro18
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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by jfro18 » Sat Feb 01, 2020 1:44 pm

Sounds like an interesting trip. And it's nice that you can bring up some things without being drawn and quartered for it.

I for one am interested to hear how the rest of the trip goes. :)

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Palerider » Sat Feb 01, 2020 7:11 pm

Eeegads.....this is SO cultish and they can't see it.....

Makes my skin crawl. 🤯

You're a good man Corsair. Your poor wife doesn't know what she's got because she can only see you through the Mormon lens. I really hope for both your sakes that someday she comes around. 😔
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"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Corsair
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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Corsair » Sat Feb 01, 2020 7:47 pm

The Nauvoo mission had an event this morning. It was a parade along main street and then down to the river on Parley street. This was to commemorate when the Saints were driven down out of town down to the river in winter. This was a parade where everyone who attends gets to walk in the parade. A lot of Mormons from local stakes came and participated. The Nauvoo Legion was represented along with all people holding flags from all of the countries of the Saints in Nauvoo. I was a lazy slacker and rode in a horse drawn wagon with my father-in-law.

It was fine. The weather was cold, but not windy. I did not see that anything really wrong was going on, but I am getting weary of being in Nauvoo. Events in Nauvoo were going downhill fast with the death of Joseph Smith. Some of my ancestors were in the unfortunate situation of getting kicked out of their homes.

My wife and I visited the homes of Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and Brigham Young. It was just weird that polygamy was inserted into the narrative of all three tours, but mostly to make it seem like this was a minor sidelight in their religious career of following Joseph Smith, the prophet. And certainly their polygamy was entirely commanded by God.

We got the story of Vilate Kimball getting her own revelation that settled her mind on plural marriage. I asked about Helen Mar Kimball and her marriage to Joseph was acknowledged. The senior sister seemed prepared for the question, but did not really want to bring up that topic. The tour was also clear about Brigham not wanting to be polygamous.

We never learn the names of any plural wives. The missionaries rarely know anything more about their assigned tour areas beyond what their official tour information book states. This is not a place to learn about plural marriage.

My in-laws again noted that it was unfortunate that the Community of Christ does not staff their buildings during the winter. Their representatives are paid, not volunteers like the LDS church. No, I did not bring up the Ensign Peak Advisors fund. Ironically, the Nauvoo site would be one location that would definitely be a legal use of those untaxed resources.

I will be home in time for the Super Bowl tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. It has not been bad, but it's just not my experience. It's the experience the church continually pushes onto you and I'm tired of everyone around me assuming that I'm completely in favor of what is going on.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Sat Feb 01, 2020 8:16 pm

Did you get to see the "cultural hall" IE the masonic lodge? I find it humorous they won't acknowledge the real purpose of it.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by 2bizE » Sat Feb 01, 2020 9:19 pm

Love the travel log and discussion Corsair. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
~2bizE

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by wtfluff » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:19 pm

Corsair wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm
"You would not even be here without plural marriage!"
I always want to reply to statements such as this with something like: "If I weren't "here," would I know it?"
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Reuben » Sun Feb 02, 2020 2:45 am

I'm enjoying the travel log too, Corsair.

My parents were senior missionaries there as well, and we also went to visit them. Stayed at some lovely cabins at the east end of town. Saw the place where one of my ancestors pledged his life to the church. Felt something I thought was the spirit.
wtfluff wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:19 pm
Corsair wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm
"You would not even be here without plural marriage!"
I always want to reply to statements such as this with something like: "If I weren't "here," would I know it?"
I like to reply to most such hypotheticals with "If my parents had started having sex a few minutes later, I would probably be somebody else."
You were born to trust, not fear. It is your birthright.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by blazerb » Sun Feb 02, 2020 6:37 am

I love hearing this stuff. Nauvoo was a mess, but the church manages to make it seem like a wholesome place to raise your kids rather than a scary place where grown men came up beside you playing with their knives if you were a stranger.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by alas » Sun Feb 02, 2020 10:18 am

wtfluff wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:19 pm
Corsair wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm
"You would not even be here without plural marriage!"
I always want to reply to statements such as this with something like: "If I weren't "here," would I know it?"
I always wanted to...I don’t know, shake people until their teeth rattled over that stupid answer. It just seems like #1 they are bending over backwards enough to touch their toes to try to justify polygamy as something I HAVE to accept. I wouldn’t be here, so I HAVE to like it or I don’t exist. That kind of logic is sick. #2 What do they believe about a pre-existence? Let’s see, if THEY are right, I would be here, just with different ancestors. So, either way, they are wrong. Either they are wrong that polygamy is from God, or they are wrong that I wouldn’t be here if not for polygamy. Mostly they are wrong that I have to like it because my ancestors practiced it and I wouldn’t be here. No, I still don’t have to think polygamy is a good idea. Wrong is wrong whether or not I would exist without it. It is like telling the child conceived by rape that rape is good because they wouldn’t be here if their mother wasn’t raped. That kind f logic is sick.

Actually, except for one ancestor, I am descended from the first wife, and some of the stories of how unhappy the first wife was would curl your teeth. So, maybe, if not for polygamy, I would be here, just with a lot less bitterness and swallowed anger.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by wtfluff » Sun Feb 02, 2020 2:15 pm

alas wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 10:18 am
Actually, except for one ancestor, I am descended from the first wife, and some of the stories of how unhappy the first wife was would curl your teeth. So, maybe, if not for polygamy, I would be here, just with a lot less bitterness and swallowed anger.
Yes, I would also like to answer the "you wouldn't be here" statement with: "If me 'not existing' would have cut down on some of the heinous suffering caused by polygamy, I'm perfectly fine with non-existence."
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Palerider » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:43 pm

alas wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 10:18 am
No, I still don’t have to think polygamy is a good idea. Wrong is wrong whether or not I would exist without it. It is like telling the child conceived by rape that rape is good because they wouldn’t be here if their mother wasn’t raped. That kind f logic is sick.
Got it!
Right there. Yep. Right there.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

George Washington

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Corsair » Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:06 am

FiveFingerMnemonic wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 8:16 pm
Did you get to see the "cultural hall" IE the masonic lodge? I find it humorous they won't acknowledge the real purpose of it.
Yes, I did get to see the top floor of the cultural hall. No Masonic images or items remain in that hall. The tour missionary seemed unaware or unwilling to note that the LDS leadership of Nauvoo were all Masons. I held off asking any further questions about Masonry since this would have made that visit more awkward and not improve the experience with my wife.

At this point I am home from Illinois. I thought that my last visit had led me to the peak weirdness of the place, but I certainly found new sources of subtle misdirection and further reason to not want to serve a senior mission, particularly as a non-believer.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Just This Guy » Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:06 am

I went to Navoo back before my mission, in summer of 2000. At the time they were pouring the concrete outer walls of the temple. I imagine a lot has changed in 20 years.

Interestingly, The thing that sounds most interesting is the horses. I ride a Belgian Warmblood, so I am used to large horses. The church is financially tightwads in most things, always looking for ways to save it's pennies. Does it treat their horses the same way it treats everything else? Minimal budget to survive or do they actually put money to be able to get the best out of their animals?
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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Advocate » Mon Feb 03, 2020 8:06 am

I got a kick out of your in-laws need to stay on script. Sounds like things haven't changed. Some 15 years ago or so we visited Nauvoo. We were on one of the horse-drawn carriage rides and we at a bit of a less interesting part where we passed by homes/cabins that are occupied by the missionaries. The man leading the tour decided to tell a joke:

"How can you tell that temple missionaries are more blessed than tour guide missionaries? By their garbage cans. Temple missionaries get the good garbage cans. If you look to your left, you can see garbage cans with wheels on them; these are temple missionary garbage cans. If you look to your right, you can see garbage cans without wheels; these are tour guide missionary garbage cans."

It was kind of funny and provided some amusement during a slow part of the tour. What was even funnier was his wife's reaction. She pursed her lips, shook her head several times, and said quietly "the mission president said he isn't supposed to tell that joke."

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Corsair
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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Corsair » Mon Feb 03, 2020 9:01 am

Just This Guy wrote:
Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:06 am
Interestingly, The thing that sounds most interesting is the horses. I ride a Belgian Warmblood, so I am used to large horses. The church is financially tightwads in most things, always looking for ways to save it's pennies. Does it treat their horses the same way it treats everything else? Minimal budget to survive or do they actually put money to be able to get the best out of their animals?
My father-in-law knows horses. He was an accountant, but always owned horses from when he was small. From everything I observed, the horses are taken care of quite well. Their accommodations are spartan, but comfortable. I did see evidence of their medical care, feeding, and quartering. They are all fairly shaggy and appear to ignore the weather. They have several large fields as their enclosures in addition to barns. It was amusing to watch them play and jockey for position in whatever horse hierarchy appears to exist.

If you are a large animal vet or experienced horse handler you can easily get your mission call with the teamsters in Nauvoo. The missionaries work with the Illinois Amish community on a regular basis with the horses. The LDS church really appreciates horse skills in their teamsters since you certainly won't be paid for your decades of experience.

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Hagoth » Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:55 pm

Corsair wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm
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 have heard my BYU professor neighbor talk about this. Whenever he hears that someone is going to visit Egypt he tells them to go to a specific spot in the Karnac temple where they will see the entire endowment illustrated in a wall painting. My unspoken observation is that he has it backwards, that Joseph was trying to imitate the poses he saw in papyri and reproductions of Egyptian art.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by wtfluff » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:19 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:55 pm
Corsair wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:28 pm
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 have heard my BYU professor neighbor talk about this. Whenever he hears that someone is going to visit Egypt he tells them to go to a specific spot in the Karnac temple where they will see the entire endowment illustrated in a wall painting. My unspoken observation is that he has it backwards, that Joseph was trying to imitate the poses he saw in papyri and reproductions of Egyptian art.
Please oh please get more information about this. What is the exact wall painting? I really want to see the Egyptian depiction of Elohim and MORmON Jesus, as I have never seen white beardly dudes wearing togas in Egyptian art. I also want to see how the Egyptians depicted Elohim telling the other (white) dudes to "go down" and use "matter unorganized" (space junk) to create earth.

This sounds almost as wacky as the instructor I had tell my class that there is a temple ceremony depicted in the Book of MORmON. (I can't remember exactly where this happened. Possibly the MTC? They had to be teaching a class full of folks who had been through the creepy, plagiarized Masonic ceremony, so I don't think it was in my seminary days. I guess it could have been institute, where they were only dropping hints to the "endowed" minions in the class...)
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Hagoth » Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:58 pm

Corsair wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 7:47 pm
The Nauvoo mission had an event this morning. It was a parade along main street and then down to the river on Parley street.
Did they have a squad of deacons whistling and whittling?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Re: Corsair Visits Nauvoo in Winter

Post by Hagoth » Mon Feb 03, 2020 3:01 pm

wtfluff wrote:
Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:19 pm
This sounds almost as wacky as the instructor I had tell my class that there is a temple ceremony depicted in the Book of MORmON.
It's amazing how much of modern Mormonism is hiding between the lines if you just use enough...
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“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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