What’s Missing from the Historic Beehive House Tours? History.

Oh, did someone important live here?

An interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune last week reminded me of a post I did a few years ago about a non-member review of Kirtland.  Kirtland is an interesting historical site because some of the attractions are run by the LDS church, and some are run by the Community of Christ.  In my experience, both tour guides were very knowledgeable, but the key difference was that the LDS tour guides persisted in inserting “spiritual” experiences into the tour such as invitations for spontaneous hymn singing, testimony bearing or (whew!) moments of silence.  Yet, the senior couple who took us through the site was very knowledgeable about the history of the site.  They had clearly done their homework.

By contrast, the article in the Tribune was about a recent visitor to the Beehive House (Brigham Young’s SLC home) who had questions about her family’s connection to Brigham Young.

While visiting the Beehive House, however, Gifford was disappointed to learn from two tour guides that they knew nothing of her ancestors’ history. In fact, they assured her that Brigham Young had only two wives and had wed his second spouse only after the death of his first wife.

When Gifford asked for some literature on the subject, the guides gave her a Book of Mormon.

I was surprised to hear that the tour guides knew nothing about Brigham Young’s plural wives because the one time I toured there a couple decades ago, this was not the case, and Brigham Young practicing polygamy is common knowledge and not even really controversial.  On the contrary, it’s probably the only thing most of my non-LDS friends knew about Mormons before they met me.  How is it possible that tour guides at his home don’t know these facts?

This is the room where Brigham Young invented the internet.

The answer lies in a change to the approach for the church’s historical sites which are now run by the missionary department.  Salt Lake City missionaries who function as tour guides in Temple Square and sites like the Beehive House are often young sister missionaries, some of whom are from foreign countries where information about early Mormon polygamy and history are not well-known (as they have been stricken from correlated teaching materials).[1]  Even if they are not foreign born, young adult missionaries grew up on correlated lesson manuals and may lack awareness of early Mormon history.  Whether they lack that knowledge or not, they are given information as tour guides that has neatly redacted all references to polygamy.[2]  In Brigham Young’s home!  Where he lived with his many wives!  And is buried nearby with five of them!

This article was discussed in a few Facebook forums where various visitors to the Beehive House confirmed the current misinformation trend, including a few other interesting tidbits of ahistory:

  • Brigham Young’s bedroom is pointed out as is his “wife’s” bedroom.  No explanation is given for all the other bedrooms.
  • When pressed, a tour guide assured the visitor that Brigham Young had only had two wives, and that the second one was after his first wife had already died.
  • Guides explain that it was common for wives and husbands to have separate bedroom, which is not factually correct, but was certainly true in polygamous households.
  • A family portrait showing Brigham with one wife and a few children is displayed, implying that’s his only wife.
  • Missionaries stated that Brigham Young was home every night for family prayer.
  • One guide stated that Brigham Young gathered his family in the parlour for Family Home Evening every Monday!  (Family Home Evening was instituted in 1915, 38 years after Brigham Young’s death, according to lds.org).
  • Another tour guide wishfully stated that Mark Twain really liked the Mormons.[3]
  • One commenter mentioned that tour guides barely spoke English, certainly not well enough to understand the types of questions they were getting, even if they had known the history.
  • Someone shared that he knew a missionary who served there who had been instructed not to answer any difficult questions and only to bear testimony at the end of the tour.  Despite this, she was asked very difficult questions by tourists about practices related to polygamy that she didn’t know how to answer.
  • One tour guide confided that when any non-members are present on the tour, they don’t mention polygamy. [4]

Why did he have such a large house for his one wife and few kids?

Today, tours focus on going through the house quickly with a minimum of commentary, no mention of polygamy (or false claims that he did not practice polygamy), testimony bearing, and a plea for referral cards at the end.  This sounds like missionary work, but it definitely doesn’t sound like a tour of a historical site, in which case, the tours doubtless feel like a bait and switch to both LDS and non-LDS visitors alike.

Several noted that the tours at Brigham Young’s summer residence in St. George are much better, and that the tours given at the Beehive House in the past were far better and included interesting facts about the house, one of the attractions of the tour in the first place.  A few interesting facts people noted from prior tours:

  • Brigham had each wife sit in the snow so he could hand carve a wooden dining chair to custom fit that wife.  Children visiting the house could then sit in the various chairs to see how different each one was.
  • Tours explained how work was divided in a polygamous household.
  • A former tour guide shared that each guide was given the book Brigham Young at Home written by one of his daughters that was full of facts about the house.
  • I recall from my tour being told that he had 27 wives and 56 children.

For anyone who wishes to know more about the real history, check out the Year of Polygamy podcast.  I read a few reviews on Trip Advisor to see how the new tours are being rated.  The negative reviews are all related to the lack of accurate historical information that is instead replaced by (as one review called it) “religious propaganda.”:

  • “Boy I wish we had read the reviews of this place before going in. I thought we were going to get a tour of a historical house and learn some history. Instead, we were led on a “tour” by young missionaries who are on their mission. We learned precious little of the house or of Brigham Young. The missionaries were mostly interested in knowing what our religious beliefs are, and in telling us theirs.”
  • “I was excited to see the house and was interested in learning about the structure and the period furnishings. Unfortunately, we got none of that. We were ushered from room to room with just, “this is a parlor” or “this is a bedroom.” When I asked whether the furniture was built in SLC or brought with them, I received a blank stare. However, we did receive information how the Book of Mormon is important in our guide’s life. Really disappointing, but at least it was free.”
  • “I was surprised at how little the “sister missionaries” knew about the owner of the home: Brigham Young! Nearly every question was met with an unclear or vague answer. It was frustrating to listen to someone give a tour who knew nothing about the occupant. . . . I would have liked to have heard more about Brigham Young and his family. The tour guides knew NOTHING!”
  • “Even though the age has been lowered for Mormon kids to be a missionary right out of high school, I wish they could have been provided a few days of history lessons. Everyone knows Brigham had many wives, some think over 50 so there was no reason to try to pretend otherwise. I asked about the Lion House next door, which is now a restaurant but where some of his harem lived. The missionaries said they knew nothing about polygamy. The first thing the girls showed was the wealthy possessions of this man. I asked how he became so wealthy. Brigham became governor a year or so after arriving in Utah but it was decades before Utah became a state, hence my question. The girls then led my small group outside and said the tour was concluded.”

A few reviews pointed out that the guides gave misinformation in what they saw as an effort to win converts:

  • “We don’t need to be lied too, just given the facts.”

Even those with positive reviews simply liked the friendliness of the guides and the beauty of the house, but they did not receive historical information one would expect on a tour:

  • “My guides were from Panama and Hong Kong, so both spoke English as only their second language.”
  • “They were really nice young girls one from Hong Kong and the other from Brazil.”

If there was a sock draped on the banister, it meant “Don’t go in.” Or maybe that was in Animal House.

From an article in the Deseret News about the new Church History Museum renovation, Kurt Graham, the museum’s curator, said:

“We want members of the church and people outside of the church who are looking for information to get a very consistent message. We don’t want them to hear one thing in the museum and then something else on the church’s internet site and something else at a historic site and something else in the Smith papers. It’s all one message. We want to coordinate that so that the real, latest scholarship we’re aware of is available in all of these venues, in all of these channels, for the public.”

This clearly doesn’t apply to the Beehive House, or at least not as it’s currently being run by the missionary department.  And that’s a wasted opportunity.

As I saw at Kirtland, you can infuse accurate history with manufactured spiritual experiences; that would certainly be preferable to white-washing the entire historical narrative or replacing it with misinformation that makes ill-informed tour guides more comfortable.

__________________________________________

[1] Which is fine by me – I don’t want to talk about polygamy at church any more than anyone else does!  But not talking about it while giving tours of Brigham Young’s home makes zero sense.

[2] Too bad we can’t actually remove polygamy from history, but that would require a time machine.

[3] This is presumably the same Mark Twain who said “Am I a friend to the Mormon religion? No. I would like to see it extirpated. . . . If you can destroy it with a book, — by arguments and facts, not brute force, — you will do a good and wholesome work. And I should be very far from unwilling to publish such a book” and who called Joseph Smith “a man of no repute and of no authority.”  With friends like these . . .

[4] Let’s get real.  What non-LDS person is visiting the Beehive House who doesn’t already know that he had multiple wives??  Isn’t that the whole purpose of touring the house for non-LDS visitors?  For a lascivious look at the inner workings of a polygamous household?

Comments

  1. I am pretty sure the only reason to go to the Beehive House is the rolls…yeah that is it. But they are really really good rolls.

  2. My parents are interpreters at the Church History Museum. It is run by the Church History Department and it is totally different than what is described above.

  3. I was so cross when I took my children on a tour of the Beehive House a few years ago and at every turn they avoided our questions about the house and its history in favor of talking about the benefits of family home evening and such. Nothing about the clothes displayed, how he made the furniture, what were the building techniques, was the decorating and furnishing a collaborative effort, none of that. Just being shoehorned into an unnatural conversation about cherry-picked gospel topics. Like, I’m already a member you guys, and literally the only reason I am here is to learn about the house and eat horehound candy (ALSO GONE NOW).

  4. I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in my dislike of the Beehive House tour. I and another Mormon friend went on this tour about 5-6 years ago, because he had never been and I had remembered learning some really great tidbits about BY and the house. When tour participants asked interesting questions about the house, the sister missionaries clearly didn’t know the answers to these questions, and instead found ways to bear testimony of the Book of Mormon or eternal families or prayer. These non-Mormon tour participants were clearly disappointed. My friend and I found the tour so watered-down, so contrived, so off-putting, and so manipulated that I warn my (non-Mormon) friends to avoid the tour. Go see the Tabernacle. Tour the Conference Center, but ugh, not the Beehive House.

  5. eponymous says:

    The Beehive House tour has been obliterated by the Missionary Department. It is a blight on Church history as far as the experience we are projecting onto visitors outside of our faith as well as those members who are less versed on their history.

    Those poor Sister missionaries are largely left to their own devices and cobble together notes that have been shared with them by other missionaries who served before them in the house. We went through two years ago with our children and my last visit was probably 20 years ago. The tour is night and day from what it used to be (a proper historical exploration of the place that the house held in the city and the Church and who Brigham Young was). I felt very uncomfortable for the Sisters as they led us through because we had to keep stopping so that those of us adults who were more knowledgeable (our entire tour group was members) could explain various details to them about the history of the place.

    The difference with the Saint George home is that a Senior missionary couple has responsibility for leading the tour. As a result you find a deeper sense of understanding since they’ve take it upon themselves and have access to the resources to develop the necessary background material for the tour.

    I’m hesitant to go visit other historical sites for fear of what I will find there. Has the same directive been put in place in Nauvoo, Kirtland, Palmyra? I pray not.

  6. The missionary emphasis at church history sites makes me, a member, avoid them like the plague. A couple of friends and I stumbled across the Joseph Smith birthplace site while on a road trip through Vermont, and the missionary there, who was perfectly nice but way to overeager, turned what could have been a nice experience into one where we just wanted to leave. Ugh. I’ve pretty much been turned off all church history sites for good. No one likes to be manipulated into feeling the spirit – in fact, that pretty much just drives it away.

  7. JD_Dancer says:

    This is interesting and disappointing to read.

    Earlier this year my wife any I got to spend an afternoon in the Palmyra area. As part of our whirlwind of site-seeing we stopped by for a tour of the E.B. Grandin print shop – provided by a couple of young sister missionaries. I assume this location is administered by the Missionary Department, yes?

    In any event, I was very impressed with the level of knowledge that both of these sisters possessed about not only the history but also the artifacts on display, as well as technical information regarding the printing process. They had obviously been well educated. Of course there was a bit of the obligatory testimony bearing stuff as described above, but it wasn’t presented in an overbearing way. All in all it was informative and refreshing.

    Contrast that with the tours provided by sister missionaries at the Smith Farm (a couple of miles up the road). These sisters were a bit less knowledgeable about their environs. They were able to deliver a bit of interesting information from their memorized script, but had a much more difficult time responding to specific questions. Add to that a more overbearing approach to the testimony bearing and it felt significantly different from the experience we’d had just prior at the print shop.

    I’m not sure what to say about all of that except that, whether member or non-member, (we are active members who were far more interested in the historical than the immediately spiritual) I have to think the majority of visitors to a historical site will come hoping for more historically informative content. While there is – and should be – a place at these sites for a more devotional focus, that should be clearly advertised up front and probably even (largely, not totally (I’m trying to be realistic here)) kept as a separate experience.

  8. I brought my non-member parents to Temple Square on my way to the MTC. We also toured the Beehive House. The Temple Square tour was obviously supposed to be one big spiritual conversion experience. I found it very awkward and uncomfortable. This was in the mid 90’s. No facts or history were given as part of the tour, they just explained our doctrine and beliefs, asked for referrals, and wanted my parents to give their contact information. I asked a bunch of questions to get them talking about stuff my parents might find interesting, like the thickness of the temple walls, how long did it take to build, didn’t they disguise the temple foundation under a field to fool the government?, etc. The Beehive House tour avoided any mention of polygamy until I asked, but I don’t recall how they answered.

    Yeah, I don’t intentionally bring non-members to church sites anymore.

  9. reaneypark says:

    How can the spirit work on the hearts of those visiting if our missionaries are telling lies?

  10. A friend from Italy who served on Temple Square told me that, generally, Americans were more interested in the history/buildings while Europeans were more interested in the religion itself.

  11. Alpineglow says:

    At least it wasn’t like the last time I was at Temple Square with our Young Women (and a non-member non-American friend) and the sister missionary tour guide went out of her way to testify that if the prophet asked us to bring back polygamy, she would be faithful and comply.

    (No one had even said anything about polygamy. And the very confused Mia Maids didn’t press for more.)

  12. Kurt Graham recently left his job with the church to head the Truman Presidential Library and Museum. His departure and his November 28, 2015 Op-Ed piece in the Tribune about the recent gay marriage handbook changes makes me wonder whether his view of how history should be presented is broadly shared within church administration.

  13. I visited Nauvoo about five years ago, as a nonmember living nearby. I don’t know that anyone gave me misinformation, but there was a clear contrast between the Community of Christ-owned sites (where the people I talked to were eager to discuss my questions and clearly knew and cared a lot about the history of the place) and the LDS-owned sites (where the people I talked to gave short answers to my questions and then bore their testimony). And I wasn’t asking questions about controversial matters, just general historical stuff–the only time polygamy was mentioned was when the CoC people brought it up. The LDS missionaries handling the tours and demonstrations were incredibly nice, but they just didn’t seem to know all that much. I found myself wishing that the Community of Christ guy had been able to show me the whole town.

  14. So sorry to hear this. I visited Nauvoo and other sites in the Midwest this past summer, and was generally impressed with the senior missionaries’ command of the facts. The man who showed us around Liberty Jail was especially impressive, having clearly read extensively about the Missouri period.

  15. The Other Clark says:

    This sounds like the “take a tour of our meetinghouse” that’s currently the program-of-the-month in our stake. Elder Bednar isn’t the most popular apostle with readers of this blog, but we could surely use more of his counsel on being authentic in our interactions.

  16. This reminds me of a treasured story. 25 years ago I took my young bride to St. George where my grandparents lived. His father and grandfather both worked on building the Tabernacle, so my grandpa took us there to show some family history. We were greeted by very nice missionary guides, who knew too little about the building’s history. My grandpa got increasingly agitated during the tour, whispering better details to my wife and me. At one point, the guides attributed an improbable task to miraculous intervention, which set my grandpa off. “That’s horse-puckey!” he blurted out, “there was no miracle involved! I was 9 years old when that happened, and I was sitting in this corner watching the work, let me tell you what really happened!”

    This experience has left in me a nagging doubt of how much of what is presented is factually accurate vs how much they want the stories to tee off the points they want to make.

  17. I have to say this hasn’t been my experience. I was their in October and the 2 sister missionaries were fairly knowledgeable of the subject. There was a couple of questions thrown at them, they struggled with but they just admitted their lack of knowledge in that area. We discussed polygamy, the deseret alphabet, and were willing to let others in the group who could answer the tough questions do so.

  18. The Other Clark says:

    Hey Fred– Maybe JS believed “faith without works is dead.” After all, the man did have a special affinity for reading St. James.

  19. Fred – You should visit the Church History Museum. They have a large painting depicting the Carthage mob killings, clearly showing Joseph holding a gun. If I recall correctly, they even have the gun on display.

    There’s such a large difference between how Church history runs things and how Missionary runs things. I do hope these rather depressing articles can help them find some balance between the two, rather than have it be a power play within the Church.

  20. This reminds me of my last trip to Temple Square, when I had a day’s stopover in SLC. First I went to Beehive House, and got a fairly garbled and largely uninformative tour (with none of the hoarhound drops I remembered from a previous visit), although our guide talked for a while about silkworms. She did not make her point. Then I ambled over to the Tabernacle so I could attend the daily organ concert. I arrived a few minutes early, and while I was waiting, some sweet sister missionary asked if she and her companion could share a message with me. I said actually I was waiting for the concert, and she said they’d be done well before the concert started. I should have known better; I went to hear her message, which was very long, found myself asked to share my feelings about Christ with a group full of strangers, and by the time they got everybody started on “I am a Child of God,” I decided to cut out. I went back to the Tabernacle, only to find other sister missionaries had already closed all the doors. “But I came specifically to hear the organ concert,” I said, so they directed me to the only doors left open – the ones to that stupid soundproofed cry room.

    These days I try to steer my non-member friends away from the Temple Square tour. It’s so hard sell it’s off-putting.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    I can affirm that the Beehive House tours used to be fantastic. I was stunned to experience how bad the recent iteration has become by contrast. The differences?

    – I don’t recall young missionaries when I went there in my youth. It was always staffed by senior missionaries. (My recollection is that they were overwhelmingly sisters, but there may have been some couples, I just don’t recall at this late date.)

    – Polygamy was a given, not an embarrassment to try to hide (good luck with that).

    – The docents were extremely knowledgeable about the house and its contents. They gave lots of interesting detail as part of the tour, and were happy (and able) to respond to questions.

    The Missionary Department has single handedly ruined the Beehive House Tours. And to what end? Who thinks the current tours are actually more effective in missionary terms? My guess is that telling the history well and rigorously would be more likely to have the occasional missionary impact than the thin gruel they give visitors now.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    When I was a boy they had an example of a pepperbox pistol that they showed as part of the Carthage Jail tour. So they used to be forthright about Joseph’s firing it through the ajar door into the hallway.

  23. It was Florence Jacobsen who saved the Lion House. According to the story below she was not ashamed of its polygamous past.

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2013/04/02/guest-post-florence-smith-jacobsen-saving-our-material-heritage/

  24. The only good news about this is now it matches the Brigham Young manual. I remember sitting through the year of his lessons constantly perturbed that none of his polygamist wives were mentioned or the practice. Instead the only wife mentioned by name was Mary Ann or something, after that it always just said, “Brighams wife wrote this letter” or “President Young’s daughter did this.” As if they were a simple family of Ma and Pa and few kids. As the saying goes, “Consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds.”

  25. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    It would be nice if the attention this little article generated led to some changes. I won’t hold my breath.

  26. Look at the “Teachings of the Prophets” priesthood/relief society manual for Brigham Young. Then look at the historical summary of major events in Brigham’s life set forth at the beginning . Only two marriages are listed. Guess which two? https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-brigham-young/historical-summary?lang=eng In addition, various quotes throughout the manual have been edited to delete the use of the plural form of “wife.”

    This is a systemic, intentional effort to airbrush from the past the discomforting aspects of our faith and its history.

    What the church has never been able to grasp is that when it engages in such deliberate misinformation and then is outed—which, eventually, will always happen—its credibility is irreparably harmed. Frankly, I’ve reached the point where I will not accept ANY statement from the church in its essays or otherwise on any subject pertaining to history, evolution of doctrine, authorship of the standard works, etc., that I cannot independently confirm.

  27. The Other Clark says:

    FarSide, I think you’re correct, but about ten years late with your critique on the Brigham Young manual. Subsequent manuals (Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, John Taylor) were slightly less opaque on this issue.

    Under the Pres. Monson administration, the Church has been making great strides in historical transparency (e.g. the Mountain Meadows book, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, the Gospel Topics essays). I think that effort is what makes the Beehive house tours all the more jarring, as they seem to be moving in the opposite direction there.

  28. The Other Clark, I’m well aware that others have previously noted the misinformation contained in the Brigham Young manual. What is telling is that, while perhaps subsequent manuals are not as bad, no attempt has been made to correct the numerous errors in the Brigham Young manual and numerous other existing church publications. At the very least, how difficult and expensive would it be to make simple corrections to the on-line versions?

    And the “great strides” you allude to in historical transparency, I would classify as baby steps, forced upon the church by the advent of the Internet. I’m sorry, but I find it difficult to be in a charitable and forgiving mood on this subject, especially when all of this is so unnecessary and does the church absolutely no good.

  29. never forget says:

    It’s the stupid sh** like this that would be so easy for the Church to correct and would go a long way.

  30. Clark Goble says:

    Not the belabor the obvious the RS/PH manuals aren’t intended to be history books but use statements and sermons of the prophets to teach gospel principles. Admittedly the first chapter has a historic overview and the BH manual is pretty egregiously bad there. Since we’re fast running out of Presidents for PH manuals maybe they’ll start from the beginning again and redo the BY manual. (Or better yet move back to a more doctrinal set of manuals)

  31. Clark Goble says:

    BTW – while obviously my sympathies are with treated all this stuff historically, it is a tricky balancing act in practice. You want to have some missionaries present. But remembering what it was like to be a largely ignorant missionary, it’s really hard if they’re the ones staffing things. The alternative is primarily having sites staffed by older missionaries but that has its own challenges. (Unless I’m mistaken there’s a shortage of such people and many are wanted to help weaker branches)

  32. Frank Pellett Dec 8 3:44 pm, I think has it right. What we see at various sites at various times is an ongoing battle between Missionary and History. I would pick History every time, but maybe the realistic prescription is some sort of detente.

  33. @Clark Goble (10:55 am) said, “maybe they’ll start from the beginning again” Please no. I don’t think my already fragile testimony can handle it. For years I’ve been hoping they’d just abandon this awful curriculum.

    “(Or better yet move back to a more doctrinal set of manuals)” Please yes. But only if it is true doctrine and not prooftexting to promote heterosexual marriage.

    What if we spent a year studying “Teachings of the Prophet Jacob” (i.e., Nephi’s brother)? Assuming we actually spent time chewing on his words I would love going to Priesthood again.

    Surely we could design an entire curriculum around his teachings from the Book of Mormon.

  34. sba, upon reflection and reading the above comments, I realize it may not have been fair for me to say that the LDS missionaries in Nauvoo didn’t know very much. It may be that they were quite knowledgeable, but were focused on missionary efforts rather than historical discussion with me because I was a nonmember. They didn’t seem confused by my questions, just eager to move on. E.g., “Nauvoo’s population was 12,000 at that time, but the real reason I am here is that I know that we have a living prophet on the earth today.”

    Also, just to be clear, despite the slight weirdness of the above, I had a wonderful time in Nauvoo and would recommend it to anyone. With the caveat that they might want to read up on the history before coming.

  35. No more horehound candy at the end of the tour? A second tragedy…

  36. I was always taught that BY had 12 wives. I didn’t learn that he actually had over 50 until Stephen Colbert informed me in one of his episodes 10 years ago. We took a tour of the beehive house five years ago and I remember seeing a portrait of his many wives. It was noted on the tour and our guide was a senior missionary. I don’t recall feeling disappointed. I do recall that they pointed out his several wives and feeling grateful that Stephen had already informed me of what would have been shocking news.

  37. I toured Brigham Young’s St. George home six or seven years ago and the tour guide informed us that Brigham would have one of his favorite wives (a younger one as I recall) come south for the winter to summer with him in St. George. It felt unvarnished and I appreciated the candid version.

    Recently, a senior couple returning from Nauvoo informed me (with great excitement, I’ll add) that the Church is now classifying missions to historical sites as proselytizing missions, and they now have baptismal goals, etc.

  38. now classifying missions to historical sites as proselytizing missions, and they now have baptismal goals

    That is awful! So, they’re not historical missions at all. The Nauvoo tour will be no better than the Beehive House. A very real shame. We have no one but ourselves, as a culture, to blame.

  39. Mark Handly says:

    I visited the Beehive House this summer with my wife and children… It was a total downer!!! Very few historical church figures have as rich a history as Brigham Young and that history is totally wasted at the Beehive House. There are some many good historical things that could be discussed when talking about Brigham Young… I think a wonderful missionary opportunity is actually being wasted by what has become a very low quality presentation on Brigham Young.

    The Sister (young) Missionaries giving the tour hardly spoke any English and knew very little about Brigham Young. As a church, we can do better. I’m confident that the Beehive House could be staffed by local volunteers who know a lot more about Brigham Young than the well meaning foreign sister missionaries who currently give the tour.

  40. I was also disappointed in the Beehive House tour I went on a couple years ago. The sister missionaries were very nice, but lacking in information, and spoke English as a second language. And at the end of the tour I remember asking which wife or wives actually lived in the Beehive House with BY, and I do remember them giving me a name.

    Also, I have a B.A. in history, and love visiting U.S. history and church history sites, and have been to several in my life. I would say that the Mormon Battalion one in San Diego is the best at being informative, entertaining, and …. well, not awkward. I would love it if church sites focused on the history, especially since MOST of the visitors are already LDS, and are there to learn about the specific site they’re visiting. It’s very difficult for me to get my husband to go to church sites because he hates the awkwardness and manufactured spirituality that often abounds.

    As a counterpoint, though, I would argue that very well-to-do married couples in the 19th century did sometimes have separate bedrooms, such as the Lincolns. If they had servants who helped the wife dress and get ready in the morning, it would be inappropriate for the husband to be there at the same time.