Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Our visit to Nauvoo was a wonderful experience, but it was occasionally lonely for me. The people were wonderful, but I missed my own culture and spirituality. 

Toward the end of the pageant, Daniel - a Native man from Kansas - drove six hours to see the show and connect with members of the cast. He was in the pageant himself several years ago, so he knew many of the same people. I am not sure how he found out about me, but he heard there was another Native in the cast, so he tracked me down, and we had a great visit. 

Out of the blue, he said that he brought a hand drum and that he wanted to sing. So the two of us went into the Grove - the same grove where Joseph Smith once preached some of his most important sermons - and sang from our respective traditions. It was an amazing, impromptu ceremony that totally lifted my heart. By the end, any heaviness or loneliness simply fell away. 

I'm still grateful to Daniel for helping me that afternoon. 

Temple Halo

On the last night of our performance in the Nauvoo Pageant, the cast sang, "The Spirit of God like a fire is burning." Just then, a light was shone on the temple directly behind the stage. The humidity was so heavy in the sky that the flood light created an otherworldly halo around the temple. As soon as the bows finished, I ran backstage and grabbed my camera. I had to experiment quickly with the settings, but I was finally able to capture the effect on camera. 

The photograph gained instant popularity and has since been shared hundreds of times. 

Family Portrait

Our family picture was unique this year because it included pioneer style clothing in Nauvoo, Illinois. It also included Rhonda's mother Glenda. 


The organizers of the Nauvoo Pageant prepared a "cousin finder" using the LDS genealogical services. If you entered your family tree, the computer would prepare a report showing everyone else in the cast who was related. Supposedly, I was related to the majority of the cast, but most of them were like 12th cousins 7 times removed, through dubious or unproved connections. 

On the other hand, Rhonda was 4th cousins with a member of our district, and her connection is solidly proven through their common ancestor James Holt. Now that I think of it, they almost look alike. 

Holt was an early Mormon convert who settled in Nauvoo and later served a mission for the church in Tennessee. Through miraculous means, he learned of the prophet's death on the same day, even though he was hundreds of miles away. When the saints traveled west, he settled in southern Utah. Rhonda's grandmother gave us a typed copy of his diary. 


While in Nauvoo, I had an unexpected mission reunion with Elder Clark and the former Hermana Bragg. They approached me during the country fair, and we later had a chance to talk at the end of the show. It was a delightful surprise - wonderful!  


The city of Keokuk, Iowa was just a short drive from Nauvoo, about 15 minutes south along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River and across the bridge. We visited several times, once because the Peña family invited us for dinner, and several times for shopping. 

Keokuk has a number of abandoned buildings, including this church.  

One of the church spires now sits 
on the ground in the back alley. 

A brick spire...

A stone reads: "This is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." St. John XVII.III.

A corner sign reads: The Tee-Pee Lounge Cocktails. A Confederate flag is in the window. It was just too racist to ignore. 

Keokuk was named for a Sauk leader who lived in that area during the 1800s. He was removed to make way for white settlement, but ironically, images of Indians are now common throughout the city. 

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. 


The kids in their pioneer clothes...

Whitney and 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...



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."



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. 



Sailors in the British Pageant. 


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