Remembering Nauvoo and forced exodus of 1846
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At the stroke of 10 a.m., the procession moved forward under a brilliant cobalt blue sky to mark the 165th anniversary of the beginning of the Saints' exodus from Nauvoo on Feb. 4.
Several hundred marchers, including missionaries, out-of-town visitors and local residents had come together to walk the very roads that members of the Church had trod as they turned their backs on homes, gardens and shops in the winter of 1846 to follow their prophet, Brigham Young, to the Rocky Mountains.
Many of the 2,011 commemorators were wearing badges carrying the names of ancestors who had been part of the original migration. Some proudly carried flags of their ancestral homelands. With temperatures in the teens and a slight but noticeable breeze blowing, the modern-day marchers were reminded of how challenging the exodus must have been for those who left their beautiful city under duress so many years ago.
The parade, which included a company of missionaries representing the Nauvoo Legion, a buggy with Elder Jessie Layton and his wife, Sister Elaine Layton, sitting in for President Brigham Young and his wife, covered wagons, and a horse-drawn carriage for those unable to walk, assembled in front of the Cultural Hall in Historic Nauvoo then moved along Main Street turning right on Parley Street to follow the Trail of Hope until it reached the shore of the Mississippi River.
In the shadow of a bronze statue representing the Prophet Joseph Smith pointing the way west to Brigham Young, the procession halted. The Nauvoo Legion color guard raised an American flag. Missionaries took turns reading the names of ancestors who lost their lives en route to the Great Basin. Illinois Nauvoo Mission President Robert Ludwig offered a prayer. And a bugler played taps.
The experience leaves an impression. Sterling Jack of South Jordan, Utah, and his father, Randy Jack, also of South Jordan, flew into the teeth of a hundred-year snowstorm to be a part of this year's event.
"I have wanted to do this for years." said Sterling Jack, wearing the name of William Clayton, his wife's progenitor. "It is everything I hoped it would be."
Jackie Sumner and her husband, Mack, Nauvoo residents, haven't missed a single staging of the commemoration. "I remember how cold it was in 1996, when Church leaders from Salt Lake came out," she said. "They set up a big tent with heaters but it didn't make much difference when it was 30 below zero and the wind was blowing. We were miserable, but only for an hour. It makes you appreciate the courage and faith of the pioneers," she said.