Monday, August 03, 2015

Coming Home

We left Nauvoo on the evening of Friday, July 31st. No surprise, we didn’t hit the road quite as early as we’d hoped, so we didn’t reach our hotel until close to 1 AM. It didn’t help that we got a bit lost for a short while. I think we inadvertently skipped one of the steps on our Google Maps directions, the kind of thing people who are hip enough to have a GPS system would never do. Fortunately, we got lost only once we were in the vicinity of our hotel. Melanie made a quick call to her brother, Tom, and had him look up directions based on where we were. We were only 10 minutes away from the hotel, but we couldn’t have found it without Tom. Thanks, Tom! On the plus side, getting lost gave us an opportunity to explore Omaha (and its surrounding areas, like Council Bluffs, IA). Excluding trips to the beach and public pools, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shirtless men in such a short period of time. As I noted in a Facebook status update, being a man and wearing a shirt does not seem to be a popular combination in Omaha. And it wasn’t just the cool dudes hanging out in front of the gas stations after midnight. In the morning, we saw several men walking around without shirts. Classy!

We spent our first night at the Sleep Inn in what is technically Carter Lake, IA. We had one of the cutest hotel rooms I’ve ever seen. The room was T-shaped, with a bed in each wing of the top of the “T” and the bathroom and desk being situated in the “stem” of the “T.” (Each bed had its own TV, too.) That might not sound particularly cute, but the coloring and everything added to it. (See the photo below, which I am politely lifting from The beds were super comfortable, with delightfully squishy and plush pillows. We slept great. That’s what we liked about the hotel. Other aspects of the hotel were much sketchier. With the exception of the employee who checked us in, every member of the staff we encountered looked like a heroin addict who had just been released from prison. I wouldn’t have felt safe leaving my personal belongings in my room, if I may be so judgmental as to say so. The complimentary breakfast was also a joke, the worst I’ve ever seen. We went down to breakfast a good 35 minutes before it was supposed to end, and there was next to nothing available to eat. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was literally one slice of white bread, one English muffin, two small donuts, a few apples, and almost anything you’d get out of a spout was about to run dry. Filling up a cup with waffle batter to pour into the waffle iron, I wasn’t sure I’d get enough batter to make a waffle. When I did get a waffle, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get enough syrup out of the syrup thing. Melanie and I had to share a spoon for our yogurts because there weren’t enough spoons. The kids finished off the little bit of cereal that remained, and I wasn’t sure we’d get enough milk out of the carafe. It was quite disappointing. (In contrast, our next hotel refilled breakfast items even when there was literally only four minutes remaining of breakfast time. That’s how you do it, folks!)

This doesn't match the layout of our room, but decoratively, it is the exact same style.  Thanks,!

Upon leaving the hotel on the morning of Saturday, August 1st, we hit our final church history site of the summer: the Kanesville Tabernacle. I admit, I hadn’t heard of Kanesville until a couple of months ago, but the early Latter Day Saints spent more time in Kanesville than they did nearby Winter Quarters. The Kanesville Tabernacle (the original, which was about a mile away from the visitor’s center and reconstructed tabernacle today) is where Brigham Young was sustained as church president. Or, rather, it’s where he was sustained by approximately 1,000 church members and some members of the Quorum of the Twelve. My understanding is that the LDS Church is interpreting this moment in history as the moment when Brigham Young becomes President of the LDS Church. There are some glitches in that interpretation, however, as I understand it—though I admit, I’m not sure how well I understand it. One problem with trying to wrap your mind around some of this is that the LDS Church can be intentionally vague about things. I promise I don’t say that to be negative, it’s just true. At the Kanesville Tabernacle, for instance, there are signs that talk about “the Twelve” and how they “unanimously” sustained Brigham Young. But based on details you read on other signs at the same historic site, it’s clear that it wasn’t the entire “Twelve” in attendance. So, they (purposely, I believe) give the impression that all twelve apostles were in attendance and agreed about Brigham Young becoming president, but that isn’t really the case. In fact, Lyman Wight opposed Brigham Young and ended up with his own faction. So, if you just read the signs at the historic sites and try to understand things based on what is strongly implied (and darn near explicitly said) on those signs, you get an inaccurate picture. Anyway, it’s strange to me to think that Brigham Young truly became the president just in virtue of being sustained by a small fraction of church members. That doesn’t strike me as legitimate. But the bigger issue in my mind is that I am unaware of Brigham Young ever being ordained as president. Being sustained is one thing, but ordination is another. I can’t find any information about Brigham being ordained as president. I’ve heard some people claim that he never was, but I don’t know. I only know that I can’t find anything about it, and you’d think the LDS Church would promote it like crazy if they knew the when and where of such an ordination. If Brigham wasn’t ordained president, that’s a very significant thing. If you hold to the LDS view on how priesthood succession and authority works—with ordination by the laying on of hands being so central to the rest—a lack of ordination could potentially undermine Brigham’s entire presidency. It might even have a domino effect that would delegitimize subsequent presidents of the LDS Church, including any priesthood ordinances performed during their tenure, since those would require the sealing power that is understood to be invested only in the president of the church. I myself don’t base my religious beliefs on this type of legalism, but I am fascinated by these matters precisely because if you take the LDS view of things seriously, it often ends up being problematic for the LDS Church in some way. That fascinates me. (If you’re wondering, Joseph Smith III was not only blessed by his father to be his successor, but he was both sustained and ordained as church president. That gives Joseph III’s claims to presidency much greater legitimacy, if you want to take the legalistic view of church authority seriously.)

Creegan poses in front of a statue of a man bidding his wife and daughter goodbye because Brigham Young has claimed them as wives.  (Just kidding!)

I think Mormons sometimes view the RLDS Church (known today as Community of Christ) as clearly not a true continuation of the original church since they were and admit to being "reorganized."  But the LDS Church did the same thing.  The "reorganization" was of the first presidency, and that's exactly what happened with Brigham Young in 1847, as the LDS Church readily admits with this here plaque.

Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards look over a list of young women as they decide who gets whom for a plural wife.  (Just kidding!)

A quote from a revelation received by Brigham Young, now included in LDS D&C 136.  I'm not being snarky when I say I find this verse rather poignant, given that it turns out to be so very applicable to Brigham Young himself.

An artistic rendering of Brigham Young being sustained as president by eight of the twelve apostles (including Brigham himself).

Note those who were absent.  What was Lyman Wight doing in Texas?  Oh yes, opposing Brigham Young and leading his own faction!  D'oh!
Brigham Young gears up to sing "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" at the Kanesville Karaoke Club.  (Just kidding!)

The nice thing about the Kanesville Tabernacle is that it was the only LDS-owned historic site we visited this year where the onsite missionaries weren’t immediately bearing their testimonies to us. They actually stuck to the history. I don’t recall a single hint of testimony-bearing during our entire visit. It was kind of nice, if I may say so.

After leaving the Kanesville Tabernacle, we started our daylong drive to Laramie, WY. I don’t think there’s anything interesting to say about the drive. Western Nebraska and Wyoming are ugly in comparison to where we had been, and that made the drive somewhat dull. Melanie and I listened to a fair amount of podcasts; the boys played on their electronic devices. The latter are a true lifesaver. There was not a single complaint about the many hours we spent in the car on the way back to Utah. Amazing. We arrived in Laramie at about 8:30 PM local time, thanks to changing time zones. As it turned out, we had booked a room at the exact same hotel that we had stayed in on our way to Utah after moving out of our Tallahassee, Florida apartment last summer. Even more coincidental, we were put in the very same hotel room. Yes, I am certain—it was in the back corner of the second floor, which made it easy to remember. After getting checked in, we went swimming until 10 PM, then let history repeat itself once more by heading to Chili’s for a late-night dinner, just as we had done approximately 13 months earlier. For the third time in as many days, I didn’t get to eat what I had planned on, which was a bummer. Country fried steak is no longer on the Chili’s menu, and that was always one of my favorite Chili’s items. With that being gone the ground peppercorn burger having been omitted long ago, I now have zero inclination to return to Chili’s. Not that my food was bad. I tried to make up for my bad experience at Outback a couple of weeks earlier by ordering a ribeye, cooked medium. Like Outback, Chili’s overcooked the steak, but not nearly to the degree that Outback had. At least the steak at Chili’s was juicy rather than dry. The seasoning left something to be desired, but I quite enjoyed my “skillet mashed potatoes,” which had a thick coating of melted cheese on top. Cilantro was also placed on top, which seemed different for mashed potatoes, but I love cilantro, so it was a win. Beegy fell asleep before his dinner ever arrived. Eddie and Peter enjoyed their food, and Melanie thought her pork carnitas tacos were exceptionally good. Overall, it was a successful visit.

Never seen one of these before.  Melanie snapped this photo for us as we entered the freeway in Omaha and took toward Wyoming.

My ribeye.  Skillet mashed potatoes are in back.  See the cheesy glaze?  Yum!

The drive from Laramie, WY to our home in Utah felt slow and tedious, as the last day of driving so often does. It wasn’t a purely mental thing, either. There was lots of road construction, by which I mean lots of highway that was reduced to one lane and situated between bright orange traffic cones and barrels. I didn’t see any actual construction going on, but it was a Sunday. In some states, that matters. (It wouldn’t have in Florida.) This means we kept getting slowed down, sometimes to stop-and-go speeds, often behind large semis. It wasn’t any fun. It was fun that our boys started to recognize things and point them out. Beegy would get especially excited about things he remembered. And I’m not talking about things around the SLC area. I’m talking even out by Green River, Wyoming. He’d recognize a particular landscape or whatever. We got home around 6:30 PM. The boys were excited to revisit Grandma and Grandpa’s trampoline. Melanie and I were just excited to be done. We did take a quick tour of the home improvements that have been made during our time away: Melanie’s parents painted their bedroom light purple (which looks great with their gray bedding) and have a new washer and dryer. Despite being exhausted, I stayed up until 4 AM. It makes no sense, but it’s what happened.

And that’s that. We’re here. It’s over. Nauvoo is a memory. How fleeting it was. I do have some apprehension about being here. I would not be the least bit surprised if I go through a period of depression sometime in the very near future, having gone from having a daily purpose in life to again having very little direction or structure. It’s okay. I’m prepared for it, and that will help. I’m excited to partake of the benefits that Utah has to offer, such as an event tonight at the SLC Library with John Hamer. As a reminder, John Hamer features significantly into Melanie’s and my journey into Community of Christ. It was his lecture at the SLC Library last summer that inspired us to attend an actual worship service at Community of Christ. Tonight’s event, titled “Ever Diverging Expressions of the Latter Day Saint Restoration,” should be epic (as my kids would say). I shall return and report.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your trip. I don't envy you any as I have no strength to travel anywhere. I got in my car a few months ago with the intention of driving off to nowhere, but then I realized that when I got there I would have to turn around and drive back. And I couldn't stand the thought of doing that.
    I have enjoyed your travel report here. And it was fun to see the marker for the first presidency statue that was created by Stan Watts in 2003, because he and his family were friends of Dolly's in Richards Ward. They lived on the corner of Ramona and 9th east. I was privileged to hear a Fireside by him where he talked about his sculpting for the church. The captions you've put on the photos here are very amusing. I love your sense of humor. Can't wait to see you. We should be better and up to that in a few days. Hope you have time to recuperate and rest from all that driving and having to eat such delicious foo all the time. We ate pizza on Friday in your honor.