Researching Family History: Genealogy, temple trip to Nauvoo offers much to see, learn, do

Published: Tuesday, July 23 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

The Bangerter family poses in front of Joseph Smith's Red Brick Store in historic Nauvoo, Ill.. Back row, from left to right, are Megan Selleneit; Sariah and JoAnn Selleneit, Leslie and Russ Bangerter with their daughter, Amber; and Earl DeWaal. Front row, left to right, are Benjamin, Isaac, Isabelle and Samantha.

Family photo

When President Thomas S. Monson announced the changes of ages for men and women to serve missions, including the age for women was lowered from 21 to 19, Amber, our 17-year-old daughter, announced to us right then she was planning to serve.

This statement so thrilled us that we asked her, “Where would you like our family to take summer vacation this year?” She responded with “Nauvoo.”

Nauvoo, Ill., is where early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints settled after moving from Ohio, Missouri and New York. Visitor centers and restored historical sites have been built at many of these locations.

Our plans included a visit to LDS Church's historic sites in Missouri, such as Adam-ondi-Ahman, the LDS Church Visitors Center in Independence and Liberty Jail and then on to Nauvoo, Ill., where there are pioneer-era buildings that have been restored to what they may have looked like in the 1840s along with a visitors center and rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

After going to Nauvoo, we planned to visit Carthage Jail in Illinois, where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum died. Previous trips to Nauvoo allowed us to find a house in Nauvoo belonging to Leslie's ancestor, Bishop Jonathan H. Hale. We also had found property belonging to my ancestor, Amasa Potter, located just outside Nauvoo.

Packing everything into our van, including ourselves, my wife's mother and a niece, we left on July 1 for these sites.

After going to the sites in Missouri, we finally arrived and settled into a rented summer home in Nauvoo. Our son, his wife and family also joined us. After getting settled in, we went to the Nauvoo Visitors Center, where we got the schedule of plays and skits as well as other activities.

Later, we attended the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple, performing baptisms for the dead and other ordinances for not only our own ancestors, but a friend's ancestors.

Just before starting the baptisms, one disabled girl came in with a different group of youths that joined with ours. She was a sweet young woman, and when the temple president talked to all of us about doing this ordinance, the girl giggled out loud. We shared some of our family names with her and her group for the baptisms. Each time an ancestor's name was announced, she giggled again. Sweet feelings of joy and happiness filled our souls to hear her giggle.

Because we arrived before the cast was doing on-site dress rehearsals for the Nauvoo Pageant, we thought we were too early and would be leaving for home before the pageant began. But on Friday, we received word that a dress rehearsal would be on Saturday night. This gave us the opportunity we had hoped for.

Later on Friday night, we went to the Seventies Hall. Walking our family down the “Trail of Hope,” which is the path where many of pioneers took as they left Nauvoo and there were plaques have been set up along the way with excerpts from the pioneers' journals. Performing missionaries recited parts of some of the Saints' journals.

These early members of the LDS Church traveled the road to the boats on the Mississippi River to cross to Iowa on their trek westward. In February 1846, several were able to walk and rolled their wagons over the miraculous solid ice of the river.

When we returned home, we saw that the LDS Church's Ensign magazine had an article in it titled, "The Trail of Hope: Exodus from Nauvoo." There is also a portion of the historic Nauvoo website called Trail of Hope.

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