Mike and I spent much of last week in Nauvoo. This corresponded to a brief window of warmth in our unusually chilly and snowy winter here in the Midwest. Nauvoo was where I first became fascinated with church history as a teenager, and I always love returning to this quiet little town on an isolated stretch of the Mississippi.
On Thursday I woke soon after sunrise to find the town shrouded in a thick fog. Even in the summertime, when the grass is green, the trees are full of leaves, and the streets with tourists, Nauvoo is somewhat barren. After all, only a few buildings remain from the 1840s boom town and these are separated by wide, empty blocks.
The William Marks home.
Mike and I were fortunate enough to be staying in the historic William Marks home, across the street from Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store. Marks was President of the High Council and one of the natural choices to succeed Joseph after the martyrdom. Marks, however, never sought to lead himself, deferring to Sidney Rigdon’s claim to the presidency. He later broke with Rigdon and joined, in turn, with James J. Strang and then Charles B. Thompson, before ultimately recognizing Joseph Smith III. Marks served as first counselor in the First Presidency of the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) until his death.
On this wintry morning, the town was filled only with mist. The silence struck me with a feeling of beautiful desolation.
The Seventies Hall seen from the Marks home.
A typical home surviving from the Mormon period.
Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store as seen from the river.
The temple shrouded in mist.
Even though the town was originally abandoned by most of the Saints 163 years ago, this was the first trip that I believed I could feel the empty city that visitors found remarkable in the late 1840s and 50s. And even though it was desolate, I still found it beautiful.