I’m a big fan of Sunstone, both the magazine and the symposiums. We went to Sunstone in Kirtland in 2015, and this year we went to Sunstone in Nauvoo. Some of the Sunstone participants stayed in local rentals, but we stayed in the Nauvoo House (more about that later).
The historic area of Nauvoo is partly owned by the LDS church, and partly by Community of Christ. Our guide around Nauvoo was Lachlan Mackay, a historian and also a member of Community of Christ’s council of the twelve. He was also our guide at the Kirtland temple that Community of Christ also owns. He is really knowledgeable about early Latter Day Saint history, and is very approachable for any questions people might have. We were lucky to have him there as a guide.
The Nauvoo House is owned by Community of Christ, and they run it as a hostel that groups can rent out. The rooms are large with several bunk beds in each of them, so that the house can accommodate many visitors. My wife and I stayed in Emma Smith’s room, which is also the room where she passed away. Emma and her second husband lived in the Nauvoo House the last few years of her life. The theme of this Sunstone was Emma, and I felt it an honor to stay in her room. We had both our presentations and meals in the large room visible in the bottom left hand corner of the picture below.
Carthage is a city a few miles away from Nauvoo. The LDS church owns the Carthage Jail site, and it’s been very well preserved. A missionary couple led us on a tour of the building. We started by watching this clip of Elder Jeffrey Holland. I was hoping for something that gave some context for what happened when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in 1844. The missionary couple explained what happened to some degree, but mostly the tour was the couple bearing testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Afterwards we asked some questions. One person in our group asked about the gun fight, and the missionary said Joseph Smith had a six-shooter but only three bullets fired. When another person in our group asked about Joseph Smith’s final words, the missionary said he wouldn’t go into that, because he only wanted to use church-approved sources. D&C 135:1 includes Joseph’s last words: “O Lord my God!” It’s hard to get a better church-approved source than the D&C.
The door in the picture below is the original door, and you can see the hole made by the bullet which struck Hyrum Smith in the face. Also shown is the window Joseph Smith fell through after he was shot.
The Red Brick Store
A lot of history happened at this site. Here the Relief Society was organized, the first LDS endowments were performed, and the Council of Fifty met. This building unfortunately had to be completely reconstructed after the original fell apart and was torn down. We had a final service in the assembly room on the second floor. We sang hymns Emma selected for the first hymnal, and we took turns reading correspondence between her and her family members. At the end of the meeting, we were given the opportunity to think about Emma, and light a candle in her memory. I thought about all the difficult things she experienced through her life. She lost many children, her husband was brutally murdered, and Nauvoo became a ghost town as the Latter Day Saint church fractured. But I also wondered if she would be pleased to see how many people remember and honor her sacrifices. It was a beautiful experience I won’t soon forget.
…and lots more
We ran out of time in Nauvoo as we had to drive 4.5 hours to Kansas City to catch a plane back to Seattle. We really need to go back to do some more exploring. Clockwise from the upper left: the rebuilt LDS temple (it has the same dimensions as the original built in the 1840’s), the Homestead (along with the graves of Hyrum, Joseph and Emma), Brigham Young’s house, and the Mansion House.