Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tales of a Tour Guide

Yesterday, I gave three guided tours, more than doubling the amount of guided tours I’ve now given. Today was a day off, and Melanie, the boys, and I spent a good chunk of our time in Hannibal, MO. I really don’t have much time to write this, so I’ll be quite brief.

My second day of touring went quite well, except for the fact that it was quite rainy in the morning. Rain doesn’t stop the tourists from coming, however. Not completely. It made things slightly awkward whenever we’d get to a locked building and I had to lower my umbrella and mess with the keys. People standing inside historic homes with wet umbrellas is also a bit messy. Maybe I’m supposed to tell them to leave them outside, but nobody ever told me that. Which means my group left some wet puddles on the floors. As I write this, I’m thinking that seems like a bad move on my part. Why didn’t it occur to me to leave them outside? I have no idea.

Yesterday already feels like a very long time ago, so I’m not remembering a lot about the particular tours I gave. My final tour of the day included a man who asked if the FLDS Church owns all of the properties we were visiting. It’s quite easy for people to get the RLDS Church (which is now called Community of Christ) confused with the FLDS Church, which in turn leads many people to suppose that the RLDS Church is a polygamist group. That’s funny, really, because the RLDS Church owes its existence in large part to the fact that they were strongly opposed to polygamy. In that respect, they are polar opposites of the FLDS Church. The FLDS Church recognizes Brigham Young as a prophet and exists precisely because they insisted on continuing polygamy, whereas the RLDS Church never accepted Brigham Young as a prophet and exists because they insisted on not practicing polygamy.

Speaking of polygamy, my studies are proving quite fascinating while in Nauvoo. The class I’m taking just had a section on polygamy, and although most of the information is stuff I’ve known for years, it’s difficult to read about it without shaking your head in disbelief. Don’t study polygamy if you have and want to maintain a warm and fuzzy view of LDS Church history. Such a cheery outlook absolutely cannot and will not survive such a study. But polygamy isn’t the only thing that fascinates me about my studies. The history in general is highly intriguing, and then there are the cultural differences that now stand out to me like comically sore thumbs. Some of the readings we do for class are published by LDS publishers (such as Deseret Book), and if you know enough about church history, it’s laughable how information is omitted or spun or otherwise inaccurate. As a case in point, a semi-scholarly paper on the formation of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo mentions that 11 of the original members were married. It seems a glaring omission not to mention the fact that many of those women were in fact Joseph Smith’s plural wives! Another example is a reference to an early claim by Joseph Smith that God the Father is a “personage of spirit,” which is explained in an LDS text as meaning that God has a glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bones rather than a mortal body. Are you kidding me?!?!?! That is blatantly just throwing the latter LDS understanding of God back onto a phrase whose words mean nothing remotely close to it! I’ll give a final example from my visit to Carthage Jail. My class visited Carthage Jail last night, and Melanie the boys were able to go with me. At one point, the sister missionary who served as our tour guide told us that while in jail, Joseph sent a couple of men to “run some errands.” What she doesn’t mention, and what I’m 99.9% sure she doesn’t even realize, is that those men were being sent to get wine (and I believe tobacco) so that Joseph and his friends could lift their spirits. It’s not that such details need to or necessarily should be shared to a general audience, but once you learn some stuff, it’s amazing just how many things are being glossed over. It’s so persistent. On top of all this, there is simply the cultural differences between Mormons and others, which even in my brief time away from the LDS Church is now strikingly evident to me. The way LDS folk speak, dress, etc. It really does stand out. Big time. As an LDS person, I don’t think I ever realized we were quite the oddity that Mormons are. Or at least I didn’t realize it was as dramatic and noticeable a difference as I’m now realizing it is.

Some good news: we did get our card reader that allows us to upload photos from our camera to our laptop. Melanie has shared some of those photos on Facebook, and I want to include them on my blog, but I don’t feel like I have time to mess with that right now. And so I postpone. Hopefully, I will very soon do some sort of photo essay post or something like that. But until then, it’s back to business. Bye bye!

No comments:

Post a Comment