Monday, May 12, 2008

Nauvoo Revisited: Mormonism-lite

Last fall, my wife and I visited Nauvoo, Illinois where we visited the historic Joseph Smith site. We picked up some literature and since we were too late for the official tour, went on a self-led tour of the site. This past weekend with MIL in tow, we stopped by again and paid our $2 per head to go on the official tour.

Our first stop was the official visitors building where we attended a fifteen-minute showing of the history of Nauvoo and the Mormons. I must say, it was kind of Mormonism-lite. They glossed over a lot of Joseph Smith Jr's background such as the gold transcriptions from God that he based his Book of Mormon from or his shady dealings like creating a bank to pay off his debts from building a temple after Jesus, Moses, Elijas, Elias and numerous angles told him too in a series of dreams while living in Pennsylvania. In fact, the short film never even mentioned Pennsylvania at all. It was a very sanitized version.

The tour then departed and we revisited his old house, his new house called "The Mansion" and his general store that he ran. This time, we were even led into his old house and "The Mansion" but I can't say that anything exciting was learned. It was nice to hear someone talk about Joseph's life even it was the lite version. At the end of the tour when we ended up in the old meetinghouse above the general store, I decided to try and raise some hackles.

I asked for our tour guide Kevin to talk a little about Brigham Young whom up until this point, had never even been mentioned by name. He briefly told about how there was no tension between Brigham and Joseph Smith III and that they really split on good terms, Brigham going to Utah and Joseph III remaining behind. I couldn't resist and made the comment that since they were on such good terms, the church in Utah and the one now headquartered in Independence, Missouri were one and the same. Still Kevin just smiled and said that they were different but only because 100 years of being apart had gradually made them so. There was one other couple, visiting from Salt Lake City and wearing official church nametags that had been on the tour with us and I could see that they really didn't want to listen to this so I stopped at that point and let Kevin have the last word.

I looked again briefly over the books on sale about Joseph Smith but once again declined. I really would like to get a book on him but I would like to find one from an independent source and not one recommended by the keepers of the Joseph Smith historic site that is obviously sanitized heavily.

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