Sunday, March 23, 2014

Leaving Nauvoo

It was sunny and foggy as I stood at the end of Parley Street, watching the Mississippi River move along. Two of my children stood beside me. We were leaving Nauvoo, after having spent two glorious, spiritually lifting weeks performing in the Nauvoo Pageant. We sang and danced and celebrated the story of the early Mormon settlers of Nauvoo, Illinois. To say it was a joyful experience would not say enough.

I cried as I thought about leaving this beautiful place. It was almost frightening to think about leaving the peace and love we had felt here and return to our lives at home. But we could no longer stay, and so we stood at the end of Parley street, like modern day pioneers, bidding goodbye to the beautiful place where our hearts had been changed, hoping we would still find peace and love as we journeyed forward. We were leaving Nauvoo.

I turned around to look back at the beautiful temple set on a knoll overlooking the river, and pondered how those Mornon settlers must have felt. 

Farewell, dearest city, farewell for a time,
We're now called to leave thee for a distant clime.
Fair city of Joseph, we bid you adieu,
Farewell for a season, our own loved Nauvoo

How did they feel, these settlers who built Nauvoo, the City Beautiful, from a swamp. Who toiled to make their homes a place of peace and beauty, and who, in their poverty, had built the beautiful temple where they could worship and serve God. Who were then driven from their homes by angry men who murdered their leaders, burned their homes and threatened to murder those who remained. With heavy hearts, these faithful pioneers packed only the most necessary items in handcarts and wagons and, walking to the end of Parley street, crossed the mighty Mississippi River, headed to an unknown place, hoping, believing they would once again find peace and love and the ability to worship unmolested. 

Lucretia Hupper was one of those faithful ones who left Nauvoo. She penned several verses describing the feelings of many as they left their beautiful to city and journeyed west. 

Farewell to the temple, where oft we have heard
The precept of life and salvation declared.
Dear House of our God, we thy memory will love;
Although in a far distant country we move.
(Lucretia Hupper, “Farewell Nauvoo”)

The pioneers had a difficult journey, many did not survive the trek west. Many more did. They pushed handcarts, pulled wagons and walked. They dealt with hunger, sickness and heartache as they crossed the treacherous, snow covered Wasatch mountains and descended to the Salt Lake Valley where they began again to build lives filled with peace and love.

I reflected on the root of their strength as they undertook such a challenging journey. What gave them the ability to leave their homes and all they had known, to travel the rocky path over the mountains to someplace strange and unknown, and start anew? And of course, I knew the answer; Faith.
Pure faith in God. Faith in His purposes, in His designs and in His love for each of us.

Though deep'ning trials throng your way,
Press on, press on, ye Saints of God!
Ere long the resurrection day
Will spread its life and truth abroad,
Will spread its life and truth abroad.

We have all had similar experiences. Most of us have left a Nauvoo at least once in our lives. We have left home and family for new jobs, new adventures. Some of us have been forced to leave, through death or divorce or life changes. Others of us choose to leave for the thrill of adventure. Sometimes we plan our changes, as we plan for retirement. Sometimes the change is made behind our backs and we are left to either adapt or start over. In all of these journeys, faith is what carries us. 

As I stood at the end of Parley street that day, I took courage from the sweet peace I had felt in Nauvoo, knowing God was at work in my life, just as He worked in the lives of those pioneers. I couldn’t see ahead enough to know exactly what would happen, but I knew I would find peace and strength in God, and that was enough.

Though outward ills await us here,
The time, at longest, is not long
Ere Jesus Christ will reappear,
Surrounded by a glorious throng,
Surrounded by a glorious throng.

As it turns out, I've 'left Nauvoo' again and again, leaving the scenes and places of peace and safety to try new paths. Always, always I have felt God's guiding hand and known of His love for me. His love has carried me over mountains, through heartache and has buoyed my spirits when I stand at the edge of a swift moving river wondering what lies on the other side. In all things, I have found the peace of God is present, even after I've left Nauvoo.

Lift up your hearts in praise to God;
Let your rejoicings never cease.
Though tribulations rage abroad,
Christ says, "In me ye shall have peace."
Christ says, "In me ye shall have peace.
~Eliza R. Snow, “Though Deepening Trials"

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