Monday, August 11, 2014

Suicide Race


Photographing the Suicide Race was a bear because of the limitations of my camera in low light and of my skill level. I should have just taken a video, but instead, I tried to get a series of still pictures. Well, I pasted them all together into a moving .gif.  

Country Fair


During our rehearsal week, we also worked the Country Fair. 

As part of the fair, we all dressed up in pioneer clothes and worked a variety of stations. My daughters helped with the country dance. Rhonda, Dakota, and I worked the branding station. There were a variety of other stations, all revolving around some skill or craft from the 1800s. 


Dakota...


The kids in their pioneer clothes...


Whitney and McKenna...


Whitney...


McKenna...


At the branding station, we branded wood cuts with a hot iron. The iron featured an image of the temple that we burned onto every piece of wood. 






The branded wood was given away to visitors as a free souvenir of the Nauvoo Pageant. As we branded the wood, Rhonda placed the pieces onto a table. 


A close up of the wood...




The reason I grew my beard...


Rhonda and her brother...


Whitney...


McKenna...

Merchant Family


The Merchant family in Nauvoo.

Temple Symbolism



The Nauvoo Temple was finished in 1846, but later destroyed by an arsonist. The remaining stones were toppled by a tornado. The temple was re-built in 2002 with the same exterior design. I will not attempt to explain the symbolism here; rather, this post will include links to another blog that does an excellent job explaining the meaning behind the architecture. 


The temple included "moonstones."


"Sunstones..."

 

And "starstones..."


The tower once had an angel weather vane, but the re-designed temple replaced the weather vane with a classic Angel Moroni statue. 


The five-pointed star was said to represent Venus: the Morning Star. 



The outer gates. 


Joseph and Hyrum Smith were said to have paused 
near the temple before surrendering to arrest in Carthage. 

Merchants in the British Pageant


As I mentioned earlier, Rhonda's brother and his family were in the previous cast, so we got to see them perform during our rehearsal week. In this picture, Mike and Gaylene were dressed for the British Pageant. 


McKenna and Preston dancing. 


These banners were displayed for the British Pageant.


Oh say, what is truth?
'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire. 
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies, 
Or ascend in pursuit of the loftiest skies:
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire. 



Bagpipers played at the beginning of each performance. 



The British Pageant opened with a scene that depicted the Protestant Reformation and included quotes from Anne Askew and William Tyndale. '

Anne Askew was a member of court under King Henry VIII. She was charged with heresy and executed for saying, "I would sooner read five lines in the Bible than hear five masses in the church." The British Pageant softened her quote somewhat by having her say, "I would rather hear five lines of the Bible in English than hear five sermons in language I do not understand." 

William Tyndale once said, “If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!”The reformers challenged the religious authorities of the day to bring about the Bible in English and to make God accessible to the common people. 


Maddie...


Gaylene...


Sailors in the British Pageant. 

Stone Bridge


We didn't have a lot of free time during the Nauvoo Pageant, but whenever we had a few moments to ourselves, we tried to visit some of the historical sites. The first week, Dakota mentioned a stone bridge that was filmed in one of the Joseph Smith movies. We found the bridge and got one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip. 

Quashquema


Whenever I travel to the eastern United States, I wonder about the indigenous cultures that once flourished in those lands. The history of oppression and Indian removal changed the cultural landscape in the United States, especially in the east. In many places, indigenous peoples exist as a lamentable footnote to European settlement, if they exist at all. In other cases, cultural remnants exist in place names like Illinois or Mississippi, but without the tribal context that once created those names. Most often, indigenous cultures were simply scrubbed from the collective memory of the nation. 

During our visit to Nauvoo, I searched for some evidence or  remnant of culture that was indigenous to that area. Of all the many museums, exhibits, cultural re-enactments, and historical markers, I only found one place that mentioned the original inhabitants of that area. A sign on the south side of town mentioned the Sauk and Fox name of that place: Quashquema. Unfortunately, the sign faces away from the highway, so people are unlikely to discover the indigenous history of Nauvoo. An internet search showed some disagreement regarding the interpretation of Quashquema. One website said the name was a reference to a chief named Quashquema, or Jumping Fish. Another website claimed the name was interpreted as "Peaceful Place."    

In any case, I would love to see a revival of indigenous cultures in the east. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Carthage


On our first Sunday in Nauvoo, our family made the short drive to Carthage, Illinois. For my non-Mormon audience, this is where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were assassinated in 1844. Today the jail is preserved as a visitor's center for the LDS Church. 

Visitors begin the tour with a short film that highlights the life of Joseph Smith. Then they tour the restored jail, including the room where the Smiths were killed. 

The church works hard to preserve a reverent, sacred environment for telling the Joseph Smith story; however, the day we visited, multiple busloads of tourists also arrived. Hundreds of people stood in the hot sun and waited for their turn to tour the jail. Families jockeyed into position to pose for photographs below the infamous window where Joseph fell to his death. Once inside the jail, still others elbowed their way to the front. Finally, in the Martyrdom Room, a mother yelled at her kids to get out of the way so she could photograph the infamous window. For me, the crowds distracted somewhat from the spirit of that place. 


Once inside the jail, we visited the dungeon cell - still preserved with bars and stone walls. Joseph and Hyrum stayed only briefly inside the cell. It was so hot that day, that the jailer allowed them to stay in an upstairs bedroom while they waited for trial. 


The tour culminates in a visit to the Martyrdom Room. While Joseph and his party waited, a mob of several hundred men stormed the jail, ascended the steps to the second story, and opened fire on the bedroom door. One bullet penetrated the door and struck Hyrum Smith in the face. 


Joseph Smith ran to the window, perhaps intending to jump, but the mob shot him in the back from inside the bedroom. Some of the mob also shot him from the ground below. Smith fell head-first from the second story window and died. 

To the tourists and visitors, this window assumed an almost mythical status. Most everyone spoke in hushed tones, except for the mother yelling at her kids to get away from the window. But in fairness to that mom, the tour guides did rush us out of the room to make space for the next tour group. This may have been her last chance to photograph a cherished family memory. Besides, after she got her children to move, she also gave me a clear view of the window. 


Of course, I was also one of those obnoxious tourists who forced my son to pose below the window. I have to be fair with everyone. 


Sometimes I hesitate to write about spiritual experiences, especially if they might appear different than the norm, but I want to say something about my own spiritual reaction to Carthage. 

As mentioned, the crowds distracted somewhat from the reverent atmosphere. In addition, some of the tour guides seemed to overwork the emotion of Joseph's death. But I wanted to experience the spirit of Carthage Jail on my own terms - independent of the correlated church curriculum or popular expectations. 

In all the different parts of the tour, I stopped, closed my eyes, and checked my feelings. To be honest, most of the tour seemed blank. From time to time, I felt the weight of history and the grief of the early saints, but I was looking for something I couldn't name.  

Finally, I stood on  the exact location where Joseph Smith fell to his death. Whatever opinions people may have regarding Joseph or the religion he established, no one can argue that he started a movement that now touches the whole world. Most everyone has been affected - in big and small ways - by what happened in Carthage and Nauvoo. So I stood on that spot and closed my eyes. It's difficult to describe, but I felt an electrical current emanating from a place just beneath the cobblestones. It flowed upwards, toward the sky. This may sound a strange, but it felt like I was standing in a stream of energy. I have no idea what it means, but all the hairs on my neck and arms stood on end. 

Music Rehearsals


The first day and a half of Nauvoo Pageant rehearsals took place in the air-conditioned comfort of the Nauvoo-Colusa High School (or was it the junior high?). We practiced the songs, even though the chorus of entire Nauvoo Pageant plays on a pre-recorded track. Some of the dance rehearsals also took place in the school - as well as all the meals - but we practiced on stage as quickly as possible. 


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