I gave another three tours today. My first two tours were incredibly easy, with both of them consisting of only one tourist and myself. Things changed dramatically for my final tour of the day, which consisted of 27 tourists, my largest group yet. There are pros and cons to each extreme, whether small or large tours. Small tours feel more personable, large tours feel more like entertaining. The first guy to whom I gave a tour today seemed very thoughtful and reflective. I sensed that he was thinking about more than he was saying, and that there was something very personal about his decision to tour the sites. He told me he had quit his job and was working his way back across the country to his home state of Utah. I had a desire to minister to him, as if he were in need. Maybe he wasn’t, and maybe I was making it all up. But it’s like on TV, when a person goes back to visit a childhood home, and that person looks around and is not saying much, but you can tell they are deep in thought in a meaningful way. That’s how the guy came across to me. I abandoned most of the tour script that I follow because, even though this guy didn’t go into great detail with anything he said, he seemed interested in talking about whatever was on his mind rather than hearing some scripted tour. He was obviously well-informed, as he mentioned things that 99% of Mormons don’t know about. For example, he mentioned Joseph Smith’s Jupiter Talisman, an amulet Joseph Smith was supposedly wearing when he was killed at Carthage. The talisman would’ve been regarded as having, for the lack of a better term, magical powers. The man also mentioned the Danites, a secret group of Mormon vigilantes who are often thought to have enforced orthodoxy by way of threats and intimidation (if not worse). Perhaps the man mentioned these things because they are often regarded as controversial. Perhaps it was a cry for help in some way. I told him he could ask anything he wanted, hoping he would feel safe to go into greater detail about things if he felt so inclined. Nothing came of it, but I hope he finds whatever peace of mind he may be searching for.
My third tour of the day is noteworthy, only because it’s the first time I’ve taken a group of that size. Prior to today, my largest group was 12—less than half of today’s last group. Having such a large group did intimidate me. Logistics require you to handle larger groups differently than you do smaller groups. You can’t really take a huge group into a little room and explain things easily, so we’re encouraged to share a lot of the stories outside of the homes we enter and then go inside. Because I haven’t had much practice with this, I didn’t know if I’d fumble a bit. But it went perfectly fine. The group seemed very receptive.
I’ll end with a fun fact from church history, which perhaps should conclude all of my posts while I’m in Nauvoo. (We’ll see.) Did you know that a proxy ordinance was once performed for someone who was still living? Jane Manning James was a black woman in the 1800s who lived as a servant with Joseph Smith and his family. According to Jane, Joseph’s wife Emma had invited Jane to be sealed as Joseph and Emma’s daughter. Jane apparently didn’t understand the ordinance and declined, only to ask to be sealed to the Smiths by proxy several years later when she understood the ordinance better. Her request was denied, but they sealed Jane as Joseph Smith’s eternal servant in the only temple ordinance of such a kind ever performed (of which we are aware). Because Jane was black, they wouldn’t allow her to enter the temple (except, apparently, to do baptisms for the dead), and so she was sealed by proxy as Joseph Smith’s “servitor,” despite being alive and being near a temple.