I'm still daydreaming (and actually dreaming, consistently) about my week in Nauvoo. It was truly one of the most incredible weeks of my life! I can't even begin to say how amazing it was, but I will try to scratch the surface in this post. I will also try to refrain from totally gushing... but, let's face it, I probably won't be able to help myself. :) I'll be honest, this post is really long. I was going to split it into two parts, but I'm lazy. So, here it is in all its endless-scrolling glory!
Having my travel paid for was a huge blessing, mainly because without that I wouldn't have gone! EFY is a paying job, but it doesn't pay quite enough that I would have been able to drop my own money on a flight. We flew to Nauvoo and back in our red polos (required by the office) and we got a lot of funny looks, especially on our 2-hour layover in Denver, and when we all went to Panda Express for dinner in Iowa City. But I have to say, it was a blast! There's just something about being with a big group like that, even if you don't really know them, that makes traveling more fun.
When we finally arrived in Nauvoo and checked into our hotel, it was about 9pm and we were all exhausted from the long day of travel, but a group of us decided to walk down to the temple. It's about a 25 minute walk from the hotel (and the counselors and youth had to make that walk twice a day, every day, in the humidity and heat! They were amazing). When we arrived at the temple, I was just overcome with emotion and the spirit as I stared in awe at its beauty. Everyone else was walking around and talking and laughing, but I was completely mesmerized by the temple and kept to myself for a bit. There is something special about the Nauvoo temple. I literally could not stop staring at it, for at least 10 minutes. And, I took pictures of it from every angle.
Sunday was full of meetings, meetings, and more meetings. We went to church and heard some incredible talks, then the BCs and Coordinators headed back to the hotel to have a meeting so we'd be all ready to answer the counselors' questions later. It was great. I got my group of counselors and while I was very nervous to have my BC breakout meeting later that evening since I'd never done it before and I had no training whatsoever, I feel like it went very well. I loved the 4 sweet counselors I got to work with! They were all soooo wonderful. Monday was also just a normal EFY day, not too much to report there, except I guess here I can talk about the amazing food we had all week long. The rolls? The brownies? I may have been guilty of eating three of those brownies on the last day, they were that good. Seriously, we were living the dream with the catering.
Wednesday was a normal EFY day with classes and such so I didn't have much to do until the evening, when we were lucky enough to see one of the outdoor YPM shows, Sunset by the Mississippi. I loved watching my LDV friends in this variety-show-type performance. While this show was great, my favorite part of the night was watching Vocal Point perform! They were doing a tour and were in Nauvoo for 2 weeks and I felt so lucky that we were there to see them. They were seriously incredible! These guys have so much charisma onstage and their music is to die for. It was also so fun to see my friend Landon from high school who is part of Vocal Point this year and is SO talented. We got a delighful picture of us together that I will not be sharing - humidity and my hair are not friends. Haha. :)
Thursday was also a wonderful day, because I got to go do baptisms in the Nauvoo temple! Being in there was truly an incredible experience and one I will never forget. Along with it being the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, it was also the anniversary of the re-dedication of the temple! I felt lucky to be there on that day. I spent a lot of time throughout the week reflecting on the sacrifices of the early saints of the church, but being in the temple gave me an opportunity to pause and truly think on what they went through, and to thank Heavenly Father for all they did. I know I wouldn't be here without their sacrifices! On this day, I also had to run an errand in the late afternoon, and made a 30 minute drive to the closest city, and the entire drive was on a road that lined the Mississippi river and the view was absolutely breathtaking! Some of the team felt bad that I had to make the drive, but I was absolutely happy to do it is as I marveled at God's creations. It's so green and beautiful out there!
Friday was also a mostly normal EFY day, but because I was a BC, I had some extra time to sneak away and see my cute LDV friends in one of their afternoon shows. It was SO good. My friends played the most hilarious parts and sang so beautifully. I was basically beaming the entire time, and any time one of them caught my eye they almost broke character! But they were good actors and kept their cool. :) Later Friday night was the one dance of the week. One of my big duties as a BC was DJing the dance and I was actually pretty excited! I personally love the line dances and I think I put every single one on the playlist. While it was a little stressful, I actually quite enjoyed myself. The fact that something I was a part of provided an opportunity for people to have such a good time was really fun for me to see.
Saturday was our travel-home day, but our flight didn't leave Cedar Rapids until 6pm so we had a lot of time to kill in Nauvoo in the morning. I made a last-minute decision to go on a carriage ride with some counselor friends and I'm so glad I did! It was fun to ride around and listen to the cute older missionary tell us story after story at each place we passed. We then headed over to Old Nauvoo to get in a few last sites (and free cookies) in before we had to head out. I was hoping to see some of my LDV friends one more time, and was happy when I saw one of them as he was about to hop in a car. We shook hands for a long time since that's all we could do, but wished we could just give each other a big hug (darn missionary rules). It was a nice final moment in that wonderful place. The group of people I made the 2-hour drive to the airport with were delightful and hilarious, and even though the day was verrrrry long and I didn't get home until about 11:30, it was so much fun and so worth it. I'm glad we got one extra day to extend the trip.
There are SO MANY more things I could talk about, but this post is far too long already. :) I'll just conclude with a list of some of my other favorite parts of this incredible week that I'll remember for the rest of my life:
- Staying in a hotel instead of crappy dorms. A queen bed to myself! What?
- The great BC team I got to work with. They are hilarious. They had the greatest catch phrases that everyone adopted, and not a meeting went by without us all busting up about something.
- Watching the Health Counselors chase a bunny for 10 solid minutes. (yeah, that happened)
- Annie's frozen custard, 3 times.
- Dallin the weatherman/counselor constantly commenting on the amazing clouds
- That one Australian YPM. He was a beauty. And made me think of my sista.
- EFY girls being totally in love with one of my LDV friends and begging me to get them a picture with him. Hilarious.
- Having our first team meeting outside the mansion house and talking about what happened that night years ago, the week of the prophet's martyrdom.
- Seeing the temple every single day.
- Sitting near the temple and listening to the male counselors talk to the boys about the importance of missionary work
- Shuttling kids around in vans so they didn't have to spend 2 hours walking to and from Old Nauvoo
- The cute old man in the Blacksmith shop, and me totally believing he bent the ring with his bare hands
The best part about this week, hands down, was the spirit I felt the entire time I was there. The pioneer spirit there is palpable and I was often overcome with the power of it. At the beginning of the week, the session directors told us there was a reason we were all in Nauvoo, and challenged us to find out what that reason was. I feel like I was supposed to experience this week for many reasons. Above all, and aside from all the fun that I had in Nauvoo, my testimony was strengthened so much more than I could have ever anticipated before going there. Walking where The Prophet Joseph walked, and seeing a small piece of what Nauvoo must have been like back then was a truly incredible experience. This wasn't my first time in Nauvoo, but I was so young the times before and definitely did not appreciate it like I did this time. I had so many sacred and special experiences that I can't share on my blog, but after that week, I felt like a new person. I was happier. I felt like the gospel filled every inch of me. I've said it about 4 times already in this post, but I am so grateful for the sacrifices of the early saints and know that they believed in the same God and belonged to the same church that I do today. I feel so blessed to have spent a week in Beautiful Nauvoo!