Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tales of a Tour Guide, Part 4

Today’s entry isn’t much about giving tours. We started our day by going to church, our first taste of normal Community of Christ church services outside of Utah. I say “normal,” but I should explain what I mean by that. Last Sunday, we attended a church service here in Nauvoo, but it was at Reunion and so was a special meeting with people from all over the region. Also, stylistically, there is no “normal” when it comes to Community of Christ church services. Some commonalities are likely to exist, but each congregation is rather independent and can vary quite drastically from another. Today’s church services were dissimilar to the church services in Salt Lake City in several ways. Sunday School was preceded by something similar to what in LDS terminology would be called opening exercises. We don’t do such a thing in SLC. Sunday School itself involved a lot of stories from Community of Christ / RLDS history, and discussions touched a decent amount on issues related to tourism here in Nauvoo. Of course, the person teaching the class is essentially my boss, the director of Nauvoo’s historic sites. That probably explains the direction of conversation quite a bit. When it came to the worship service, I liked that they started with “joys,” where those in attendance are given an opportunity to share news that is worth celebrating. I think we did something like that in SLC once upon a time, but I suspect it’s a weekly tradition here. Another difference is that the worship service was incredibly short. In Utah, we go about an hour, and it’s not uncommon to run a little longer than that. Here, the services lasted just over 30 minutes.

After services, my boss invited my family to lunch with him and his wife. We drove 20 minutes to the town of Keokuk and had the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut. (Aside from breakfast this morning, this was my third meal in a row that was pizza. But that’s okay, I enjoyed it each and every time.) I really enjoyed being able to talk with them. This guy knows a ton, and I frequently pick his brain. Although he is lifelong RLDS / Community of Christ, his job here in Nauvoo keeps him in constant communication and interaction with LDS folks. He is very knowledgeable of LDS culture and practices and is quite sympathetic to people like Melanie and me who come out of LDS Mormonism with some issues that sometimes make us grumpier than we might otherwise be. This man is a descendent of Joseph Smith … and Joseph Smith III … and Fred M. Smith, son of Joseph III and another of the RLDS church presidents. Despite this and his great love for his heritage, he can completely understand when Melanie says she had no interest in attending last night’s candlelight vigil commemorating Joseph Smith’s life because there is much she now despises about Joseph Smith’s character. Explaining his own feelings on Joseph Smith, this man compared Joseph to Bill Clinton—a great but undeniably flawed leader. I’ve never thought of that comparison before, but it’s absolutely spot-on, right down to the vehement public denials of what he was in reality doing behind closed doors. I think it’s probably one of the most precise comparisons I’ve ever heard.

One cool thing about going to lunch with your boss is that he can excuse your being late to work. I was scheduled to work from 1 to 5 PM today. When he invited me to lunch, he knew it might make me late. As it turns out, I was almost an hour late to work. No complaints from me.

I did give one tour today, a 4 PM tour with nine tourists. One of the tourists asked me if I was on a mission. People frequently ask me how I ended up in Nauvoo doing what I’m doing. I’ve never been asked about being a missionary before, but I suppose it makes perfect sense to assume that’s what I am. Any historic site you visit owned by the LDS Church is run by missionaries. Then again, the LDS Church doesn’t have the money to pay people to work at their historic sites like Community of Christ does. Er, wait … never mind, I got that backwards. (Kidding, kidding! The punch line is true, but still, I’m kidding!) I usually explain that people do what I’m doing for college credit but that I’m just doing it for fun. And it’s true. And I am having fun. During my first few days, I had moments where I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, but at this point I’m already thinking it could be kind of cool to have this be a regular summer plan. I think they are usually hoping to get more people out here, so it would probably work. The only catch is that I’d want to bring Melanie and the boys every year, and I don’t know if the housing situation here would always make that feasible. Still, I’m now fantasizing about being a writer during the non-summer months and then coming here to do something fun and interesting during the summer. We’ll see how I feel after going through the super hectic, torturously hot and humid month of July.

Fun fact of the day: members of Community of Christ rarely, if ever, refer to Joseph Smith and his death as a martyr and martyrdom, respectively. I assume this is because, strictly speaking, those who killed Joseph really weren’t killing him for his religious beliefs. The primary motive is likely that Joseph was continually putting himself above the law, abusing the notion of habeas corpus to repeatedly get himself out of jail. This, coupled with the Saints’ erratic political behavior, made Joseph Smith something of a public menace in the eyes of those outside the faith.

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