The Mists of Nauvoo

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
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
The Seventies Hall seen from the Marks home.

A typical Nauvoo home
A typical home surviving from the Mormon period.

Red Brick Store
Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store as seen from the river.

Nauvoo Temple
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.

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  1. Thank you for sharing, John. It is beautiful, and hope to see for myself someday all these remarkable pieces of history.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I too love Nauvoo. Thanks for the pics!

  3. Another Nauvoo lover thanks you for your photos and thoughts, John.

  4. As one who only lived in Nauvoo for four months (a semester ‘abroad’) yet still refers to it as “home”, I really appreciated these pictures.

    Man I hope I can make it up there when i am in Illinois for MHA.

  5. Those are gorgeous shots.

  6. Thank you, John.

  7. Spectacular shots

  8. Beatuiful sentiment, beautifully delivered. Thanks for this.

    Having never been to Nauvoo (gasp!), I loved seeing these “non-correlated” photos.

  9. John, I always love your posts. I too paid a visit to Nauvoo last spring–my first as an adult. It was also a very quite couple of days, with weather very similar to what you are describing, and I was overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness–especially standing in Lucy Mack Smith’s home. I guessed maybe I was feeling some of the sadness and emptiness she might have felt as she watched the city empty of friends and family in the years following the succession crisis.

  10. Cynthia L. says:

    Love this. Can’t wait to go there myself.

  11. Lovely! Thank you, John.

  12. Karen H. says:

    Awww, John. Thnaks. Beautiful as always.

  13. Beautiful pictures and post. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thanks for this, John.

  15. John Hamer says:

    Thanks, all. I look forward to many future trips and I hope we cross paths. Various activities may bring to Nauvoo as many as 3 or 4 more times this year.

    Mpb: I always love to see the pics and read about the experiences of fellow pilgrims. Thanks!

  16. Lovely, thanks for sharing.

  17. Wow, John, beautiful photos. This is kind of off-topic, but I’d like to email you. Could you please contact me somehow, maybe using this form or something?

  18. I’ve always wanted to travel to Nauvoo!

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