We had only an evening to see some places that we could have spent a week touring. Nauvoo, Illinois is a beautiful town full of history and spirit.
We stopped first at Carthage Jail in Illinois. We visited a few historical sites in Old Nauvoo, and watched the dress rehearsal for The British Pageant. I believe our visit was short but perfect.
I remember visiting this jail years ago and we really wanted our children to see and feel this place.
It doesn't look like a jail. It also doesn't feel like a jail. It feels like a temple.
My soul responds to the idea that life is short. The prophet Joseph was killed at age 38. (I am 38.) He felt close to death the night before he was killed and wanted nothing more than to be with his family one more time. I have laid awake through a night like this. My life was spared. Their lives were not.
As I listened to this story, I sobbed. I felt the pain and sorrow of their death more than I ever had. I love that missionaries don't really focus on the negative parts of the story. And, I was surprised by the depth of love and sacrifice I felt.
Oh, Emma and Mary. However faithful they were, I just know the great loss they felt. I'm grateful for their sacrifice.
Carthage is a testament to two men (Hyrum and Joseph Smith) whose lives were ended by an angry mob. But, it is also a testament to two lives (John Taylor and big Willard Richards) whose lives were spared. There were other men that were sent away that morning who were willing to die for the prophet. They lived to become great missionaries building the kingdom with their lives. Leah asked, "Does this mean God won't let us die if we still have a mission to do?" We told her, "Yes!"
Months earlier, Joseph had prophecied to Willard Richards that there would come a day when shots would be fired on his left and on his right and his life would be spared.
Throughout his life, John Taylor would feel a strong pull forward. He knew that he had a work to do and that God would preserve his life until he could accomplish this work. A pocket watch hanging over his chest caught a bullet that could have killed him. He had been seriously injured when he was shot in his hip.
After the shooting, he asked Willard Richards not to leave him. Richards dragged Taylor into another room and hid him in the straw under an old mattress. Straw was pushed into Taylor's wound, I'm sure that was painful. Doctors would later say this straw stopped the bleeding and actually saved his life, again.
I have heard these stories for years. I have believed them, but today I know them. I know what it feels like to be willing to die for what you believe. I know that death is sometimes a noble, beautiful testament to what you value in life. Many of the best among us seal their testimonies with their lives.
I also know what it is like to be spared. It's hard. It's life-changing. When your life is spared, each moment is more precious and you know that you have a work to perform. John Taylor would live to become the third President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.