Sneakers At Nauvoo

An excerpt from the volume that will never be written for LDS youth...

The room was smaller than I'd expected, but then again they seemed to all be like that. It was night and the room was lit by candles and lamps. It still surprised me how bright that could make a room in the 19th Century, though. The light was yellow and comforting with how it flickered. The room felt alive. I felt a little annoyed at having to close my eyes for the prayer.

I was also surprised at how crowded the room felt. There were over two dozen people in the room. It would have felt like a comic convention panel but the chairs weren't nearly so organized, having been rather hastily assembled from various rooms in the building. Still, the crowding feeling from too many people was a welcome change from the chill of the springtime evening outside.

Being in the crowded room had also helped keep most of the mosquitos outside; I'b been told by Heber they were always a common annoyance even at this time of year on the Mississippi.

Reflecting on something as simple as misquitoes, I suddenly found it sadly ironic that while I knew all about the danger that mosquitos could spread, not a soul of the people around me knew that diseases could spread by these winged insects. Heber had actually explained to me that the illnesses which spread among the Saints when they first settled the swampy river lands had arisen from "bad air" rising from the stagnant waters!

If only I'd somehow arrived earlier so that I could warn the refugees from Missouri! Or perhaps even earlier so that I could have given Zion's Camp the simple directive to boil their water and keep everyone well-hydrated.

A few years ago I'd looked up how to deal with cholera victims on the Internet one afternoon after learning about the disastrous cholera epidemic that had hit Zion's Camp in Seminary. If they'd just boiled their water and kept those suffering from fevers and diarrhea well-hydrated they'd probably have pulled through! The reflection on my Internet study gave me pause now that I was sitting in that 19th Century room. Now it was possible to warn people! I wondered if that would be thwarting the divine plan, however. I knew that Zion's Camp had been the crucible from which the original Twelve and presidents of the Seventy had eventually emerged. Also, Joseph had prophesied that God would curse the camp for wickedness and that they would die "like sheep with the rot" as the video had emotionally portrayed. If everyone who caught the cholera had survived would that still be an affliction?

From what I'd read about cholera I thought it would still have been a pretty oppressive punishment to suffer through it.

I snapped himself out of my silent musings, however, as the prayer ended.

The Prophet arose. "Brethren," he said, "I thank you for your prayers. In this time of trial and uncertainty I rejoice exceedingly to have such loyal friends." I couldn't tell whether or not the Prophet had planned his words ahead of time. The words sounded polished and smooth and yet the Prophet paused before some words as though searching for the right thing to say. Maybe that's how it sounds to both seek and receive inspiration, I thought.

"We are beset on every side by our enemies. They speak lies of us. They make false claims of us." The Prophet's face was twisted into a terrible anger and yet I wasn't really surprised. Ever since the underground river had sucked me from the 21st Century to deposit me, choking and spluttering, on the banks of the Mississippi I'd continually felt the pressure of thousands of anxious people wandering the crowded town (yes, "town"; I'll never be fully comfortable calling it a "city" after living in Denver). I still hadn't seen any mobs or militias (apart from the immense and well-armed Nauvoo Legion, led by the Prophet) since I'd arrived, but it's all that anyone seemed to talk about.

"But they will fall, and soon. Brethren, I have something important to tell you." I silently sat up straighter to listen. Here it is, I though, he's going to tell them that he won't be with them much longer. He's going to talk about the martyrdom. These people need to be prepared for what is going to happen. Joseph is going to leave and Brigham Young will step up to the plate. I had been pretty surprised that Brigham Young wasn't as well-regarded by the citizens of Nauvoo as I had expected. They merely saw him as a member of the Twelve, and everyone saw a member of the Twelve as nothing more than a special type of missionary. I figured I must have missed some scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants. Again, I wished my great-uncle Brother "P" was here: he'd tell me exactly how the many differences I was seeing between the Church in Nauvoo and the Church in 21st Century Utah weren't really differences or how they didn't really matter. As it was, though, it often seemed almost like a different church. So an angry scowl on Joseph's face was merely par for the course in the alien landscape.

The Prophet's face softened into the firm face of determination. "Brethren, in this world of lies and traitors we face hardships and persecutions. Our enemies seek to punish us for the sins of counterfeiting and polygamy. As we all know neither are a symptom of evil among this people." I thought back to the explanation the Prophet had given me earlier about why he could publicly deny what was occurring among some of the brethren privately; while I still felt a bit of doubt I chose to set it aside for a while. The counterfeiting claim was something new to me, however. I'd never heard that claim; why were people accusing the Saints in Nauvoo of counterfeiting? Counterfeiting what? But that would have to wait; the Prophet had already continued.

"This present world is one controlled by the powers of evil, but it will soon fall, brethren. We know that the time is short, and that the kingdom of God is approaching. But this approaching kingdom will not, and cannot, do the job alone. We are called to set up a kingdom of God on the earth in this day in anticipation of God's coming Kingdom. Brethren of this Council, we are called to prepare the world for the kingdom of God and for that to occur we must already have a kingdom here ready to receive it!"

One of the brethren leaped to his feet. He yelled, "If we are to create a kingdom, then its monarch must be you, Brother Joseph! I will have no other than God's chosen prophet for my earthly king!" It was Willard Richards, who still amused me with his portly belly constrained by his tight clothing. Nobody had ever told me that Willard Richards could have stood to lose a few pounds. There was a general murmur of consent among those gathered.

The Prophet smiled and nodded for Willard to sit. The entire interruption had gone so smoothly that I wondered only for a moment whether it had been planned. But that was silly: I was seeing how the Spirit operated among these early Saints.

The Prophet smiled and called up a large number of men from the assembled Council of Fifty to the front of the room. (I'm still not clear on where the name came from: there were obviously less than fifty people in attendance that night, though I'd been told that it was rare for everyone to assemble together. Perhaps the name held more of a symbolic meaning, or perhaps they actually had fifty people as members. I wonder who belonged and if this Council continued after Joseph's death? It seemed like a wide variety of people; I could have sworn that I'd even seen more than a couple Native Americans in the room. I'll have to find that out sometime.)

The Prophet sat down on a chair and my heart thrilled as they anointed Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord, to be the Prophet, Priest, and King over the entire world to rule it until the return of the Savior. A secret government, complete with a secret king! It was amazing!

I wondered how it would fit into the approaching martyrdom and decided to ask Joseph about that next time I was able to get a private discussion with him. Hopefully he'd respond better than last time when he had chuckled at my warning. The cavalier attitude has been disconcerting, but I reminded myself that Joseph needed to keep up the spirits of the members of the Church. He'd probably just been giving me a subtle message that knowledge of the future was not something to be carelessly thrown around. It was amazing how wise the prophet was...

If you're confused this would probably make more sense if you'd read an extensive time-travel series written for LDS youth with a similar "footwear" title (though that series is distinct from the hypothetical volume described in this post and it is the intellectual property of its author).

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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