Friday, July 03, 2015

Tales of a Tour Guide, Part 7

I mentioned in my previous post that Melanie, the boys, and I have moved into the Sidney Rigdon home. Overall, it's been a nice move, but it only takes a day to be well aware of the problems. Most notable among those problems is our lack of Internet service. We're supposed to have a wifi connection, but it hasn't been working. Someone will look into it, but we've now gone nearly two days without access to the web, and it's a bummer. The only reason you're seeing this post is because I've been able to write it during downtime at work using a computer in the back room. Tender mercies.

There are a few other downsides to the Rigdon home. There is much less kitchen counter space, which makes food prep somewhat difficult. The toaster only has two slots instead of four—a petty complaint, perhaps, but our boys eat something toasted almost every morning, so it makes a difference. We also don't have as much drawer space in the home for clothes. A final thing is that I feel way more conspicuous in the Rigdon home. I don't feel like all of the windows get completely covered, and the home isn't quite as out of the way as where we were living previously, so at night I feel very exposed if we have lights on. Nauvoo is incredibly dark at night, so I know if have a light on, we probably stand out as if we were on a drive-in movie screen. There goes my midnight naked aerobics workout.

To be fair, there continue to be things I very much enjoy about the Rigdon home. I am happy with the move, overall. Among the improvements that I hadn't yet noticed the last time I wrote: the fridge is bigger and easier to fit stuff into; the warm/hot water gets heated up within a matter of seconds rather than taking literally several minutes as it did at the Bakery; and it's kind of cool to be living in the more historic part of Nauvoo. The house next to ours is the Mansion House, the last home Joseph Smith ever lived in. I give tours of the Mansion House every day, so you wouldn't think it'd be all that impressive to be living next to it. But there's something almost surreal about it being right outside my kitchen window. It somehow brings it to life to have it be a part of my normal life setting rather than a stop on a guided tour. At night, this effect is particularly poignant to me. It's not a reverential feeling, mind you. But coming home at night, driving past the Mansion House all dark, knowing that's how it would've looked at night back in 1844—I don't know why, but it makes it more real somehow. It feels just a touch more like time travel than it does when I actually tour the building.

Speaking of giving tours...

I mentioned last time that my final tour group of the day was very generous and complimentary. My boss told me the next morning that they had raved about me to him. I'm glad to know I'm doing well with at least some of these tour groups. Sometimes people aren't very enthusiastic, and you can't help but wonder how much of it is your fault.

Yesterday, I gave a tour to a couple who weren't LDS and who didn't seem to know a great deal about the Mormon church or who Community of Christ is. I'm not sure how or what they know about Joseph Smith, and so I'm not sure what in particular compelled them to visit Nauvoo. At the end of the tour, the man attempted to tip me five dollars. That was a first. I refused the tip, for the record.

One of the most awkward questions for me, which I've gotten a couple of times now, is, "Why didn't Emma go to Utah with the rest of the Saints?" It's awkward because I don't know how to answer the question in a way that isn't potentially threatening to LDS visitors. Maybe I'm not giving them enough credit, but I don't think most of them want to hear about polygamy or the fact that Emma absolutely despised the practice, or the fact that she pretty much hated Brigham Young and did not accept his arguments about how the Church should be led after Joseph's death. Each and every one of these items could potentially make LDS visitors uncomfortable. I would think. LDS folklore often cites Emma being "too tired" to head west, which just isn't the case. Sometimes the "too tired" claim is made about Lucy Mack Smith, the widowed mother of Joseph Smith. The idea is that Lucy couldn't handle moving west, so they all stayed behind to take care of her. Again, that's not really the case. Lucy would've been old and frail, yes, but that's not why they stayed put. As I understand it, Lucy would've just done whatever her remaining family decided to do. Plenty of people hauled their older family members across the plains. Lucy's age and frailty had nothing to do with Emma and her family remaining in Nauvoo.

Let me end with another fun fact from Mormon history. Since I've mentioned the schism between Brigham Young and Emma's side of the family, let's talk for a moment about Joseph Smith III. It appears that Joseph Smith III was ordained and/or blessed to succeed his father as leader of the church on at least four occasions. The first was in the patriarchal blessing he received from his grandfather, Joseph Smith, Sr. (From what I've seen, I think there is room to debate what precisely the blessing meant in terms of leading the church—I think you could argue that it doesn't explicitly make that claim, but anyway.) The last blessing would've been at the hands of Joseph Smith himself right before Joseph heads to Carthage, where he is killed. Contrary to what some might expect, the idea that Joseph III could and/or should lead the church was recognized by many, including Brigham Young. Brigham thought Joseph III had gone astray in his rejection of polygamy but claimed that Joseph III could take his rightful place as the leader of the Saints if only he would repent of his ways, embrace polygamy, move out to Utah, and claim his due authority. Brigham made remarks like this even during his time as president of the LDS Church, a seldom recognized fact among LDS Mormons today.

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