Cougars Experience Nauvoo

The Nauvoo Temple in Nauvoo, Illi.

The BYU women's volleyball team made the most of its recent trip to Illinois as the Cougars took the opportunity to tour historic Nauvoo and nearby Carthage on Friday before facing the University of Illinois on Saturday in their final match of the spring.

A landmark in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Nauvoo was home to the Saints from 1840-1846 before they migrated to the Salt Lake Valley. Once home to prominent early Church leaders such as Joseph Smith Jr., Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff and the setting for many significant occurrences, including the building of the Nauvoo Temple, Nauvoo is a traditional stopping place for those seeking to learn and experience Church history.

Below are pictures and recollections from the Cougars' trip.

Today was wonderful. I loved simply being where the Prophet Joseph was. As a team, we walked the streets of beautiful Nauvoo, we traveled the road from Nauvoo to Carthage--the same road Joseph and Hyrum traveled, and we sat in the rooms of the sacred Carthage Jail. It was awesome to sit with my teammates in the upper room in Carthage Jail and feel the Spirit so strongly. We were all overcome with gratitude for Joseph Smith--a truly great man who sacrificed so much for the Church and for us, individually. I felt God's great love for me as I thought about the impact of the restored Gospel on my life. Joseph Smith made that possible for me. I'm so blessed, and I'm so grateful to play for a university where my experience in athletics is about so much more than just volleyball. I love my teammates, and I'm so happy that I was able to share this great experience with them.

-- Amy Schlauder

Today we woke up in a hotel in Keokuk, Iowa, a city right on the banks of the Mississippi river just adjacent from Nauvoo, Illinois, which is on the other side of the river. We ate breakfast with a couple of families- one which consisted of six young children all of which were excited to go to Nauvoo. How their excitement and joy was contagious to us all!

We first went to Carthage where the prophet Joseph Smith and Hyrum and others stayed for three days until Joseph and Hyrum were martyred. We sat in the room and heard the stories of the last night and moments before their lives were taken. As the sweet missionaries told us these stories I was completely overcome with the spirit. Every moment Joseph showed loving kindness to all that were around him--including the guards. He was trying to prepare them for the events which would shortly await them. I could feel the pure love Joseph had for his brethren--he wanted them to remain faithful and to continue in building the kingdom of God on earth. He knew they could, and they must have felt his confidence. I also felt grateful Joseph had the others who were true to him-- especially Hyrum as his elder brother. You could definitely feel a certain love, even charity in that special room. As the hymn "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" played I was able to get a small glimpse into what it must have been like. Gratitude for their courage penetrated me. Their conviction and testimonies they sealed with their innocent blood in that sacred room lives on today. What they did was for the "benefit of the children of men;...in life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3)

Later we were able to go to the Nauvoo Visitors Center where we watched a movie on how Nauvoo came to be, what it must have been like to live there and the events the saints experienced. I remember specifically thinking of what hard workers the saints were. They built an entire city and a temple in less than six years out of a swamp none the less! Their vision was great. How strong also was their faith--the motivating power in which all things are performed! Their obedience and trust in the Lord definitely strengthened them for the testing they were to face in the near future.

We then were able to go to a few of the other various buildings in the beautiful city of Nauvoo. The Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store, the Family Living Center, the Bakery, Blacksmith's and the house were bricks were made. We were able to see how they made wool, yarn, bread, wagon wheels, bricks, etc... I loved a poem written by Clara B. Thirston about how a candle is made.

A CANDLE

A candle is but a simple thing.

It starts with but a little string.

Yet dipped and dipped with patient hand,

It gathers wax upon the strand

Until complex and snowy white,

It gives at last a lovely light.

Life is so like that bit of string.

Each deed we do, a simple thing.

Yet day by day, if on life's strand,

We work with patient heart and hand,

It gathers joy, makes dark days bright,

And gives at last a lovely light.

We then went to the temple. It is absolutely beautiful; built on the same foundation of the original temple it stands as a gem in the city overlooking the great river. It is a standard and light to all. It stands as a great symbol that we believe in the immortality of the human soul. It stands also as a witness as to what the saints gave for the gospel; the temple and the entire city was not in vain. The Lord's law of sacrifice remains true--He always blesses us with more than we sacrifice although we may not see it at the time. It is a divine way of testing the faith of His people. He has, like He always does, opened the windows of heaven and showered us with blessings so much that we cannot even receive them! Now I am able to see how their sacrifices acted as kindling and sparks to the fire of the gospel which continues to roll forth across the earth, penetrating the hearts of all the children of God.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to visit Nauvoo today. There definitely is a special spirit there--you can physically feel it. Maybe it is the spirit of the saints who lived there and who loved there and who spent some of their finest as well as challenging days there. Perhaps it is also the spirits of the fine missionaries who spread their joy and gratitude in their testimonies for the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that it means to them. I know the Lord must smile down upon what Nauvoo has become today; a sacred place of sacrifices where the convictions of the saints of the past continue to touch and strengthen the people who visit there today. Thereby increasing our desire to perform the Lord's will and to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ who has done so much for all of us.

-- Marisa Vandersteen

The BYU women's volleyball team waits for its flight to Illinois in the Salt Lake Airport.

BYU head coach Jason Watson is bundled up against the Illinois cold.

The Cougars in an upstairs room of the Carthage Jail.

The Cougars outside Carthage Jail.

Tags: Feature