Episode 33: Church Historian Kate Holbrook on what we can learn from the early Saints in Nauvoo

From 1839 to 1846, the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was located in Nauvoo, Illinois. Under the prophetic leadership of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Latter-day Saints worked together to build a beautiful community and temple that rose from the swamps.

On Saturday, May 29, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated five new properties located west of the Nauvoo temple in the historic Temple District of Nauvoo. Kate Holbrook, a historian, writer and the managing historian of women’s history in the Church History Department, joins this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about this important era in Church history, how early Church members grew in faith amid the trials and triumphs they experienced along the muddy banks of the Mississippi River, and how they are an inspiration to Latter-day Saints today.

Subscribe to the Church News podcast on Apple PodcastsAmazonGoogle Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, bookshelf PLUS or wherever you get podcasts.

Transcription

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question: “What do you know now?” We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, “I have just been listening to the Church News podcast, and this is what I know now.”

From 1839 to 1846, the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was located in Nauvoo, Illinois. Under the prophetic leadership of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, Latter-day Saints worked together to build a community and a temple in Nauvoo. Last Saturday, Elder Quentin L. Cook dedicated five new properties located west of the Nauvoo Temple in the Nauvoo Historic District. Kate Holbrook, a historian, writer and the managing historian of Women’s History in the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joins the Church News podcast to talk about this important era in Church history. Kate is co-editor of “At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-Day Saint Women” and “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-Day Saint Women’s History.” She obtained degrees from Brigham Young University and Harvard Divinity School. She received a PhD from Boston University in religion and society. Kate, welcome to the Church News podcast. 

1:47

Kate Holbrook: Thank you. I’m so happy to be with you today. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, we are delighted to have you here. I’ve been trying to get Kate to come on the Church News podcast since we started it, so this is an exciting day for me.

Elder Cook dedicated part of the historic district of Nauvoo last weekend. Can we just start today and have you give us an overview of what is significant about this period in Church history? 

2:12

Kate Holbrook: Nauvoo is where we constructed our first temple that is a temple in the sense we understand it today. There was the House of the Lord in Kirtland, that’s what they called it. The full endowment wasn’t there, so this is the first full functioning temple in our history. This is also, you can’t mention the temple, you can’t understand the temple without understanding the Relief Society. And Nauvoo is also where the Relief Society organization for female Church members was conceived and then came into being. Nauvoo was a place where people were really able to practice, in their daily lives, sharing and serving and problem solving. And Nauvoo was a place of great uncertainty, which looks different every year, whether it was deciding which person you really would follow after the death of Joseph Smith. So it was a place of recovery. It was a place for rejoicing. It was a place of challenge, and it was a place for mourning. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: The historic district, this sort of new focus from the Church on this area, actually preserves everyday life in Nauvoo. It preserves how and where early Latter-day Saints lived in the city, and it offers a glimpse into what they did. What do you think Church members should know about early Latter-day Saints who lived in Nauvoo?

Read more: What is the Temple District of Nauvoo and why does it matter to Latter-day Saints?

3:42 

Kate Holbrook: Well, let me start by saying everyday life is so important, and I love that we celebrate it at our Church historic sites. Everyday life, those are the lives that you and I lead, the things that fill our days that are infused with a desire to be disciples, both efforts to be disciples of Jesus Christ and failure to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to then repent and try to change. So I love that emphasis. 

As far as what everyday life for Church members looked like in Nauvoo: People worked hard. They were also recovering from trauma. Those who left Kirtland, Ohio, left in a time of great upset and upheaval, and those who left Missouri, many of them had experienced terrible violence. And so a lot of the Saints who made it to Nauvoo, this trauma was very recent, and they were very much in need of comfort from one another and comfort from God. (They were) very dedicated to the Church for many reasons, and one of them is because they needed healing from what they had just experienced. Many people died at first from malaria when they first came to Nauvoo, before they had drained the swamp on which they built their city. And a surprising number actually died from black canker, which is a tooth infection that results from a combination of poor nutrition and bad dental hygiene. 

New people were arriving in Nauvoo all of the time. And there were lots of people who came to gawk, some of them tourists who just wanted to stare at the Latter-day Saints and either make fun of them or sell them things or sell them metaphorically on new ideas. The city of Nauvoo, once it was really going, competed with Chicago to be the biggest city in the state of Illinois. It was a big deal as far as size and population then. 

There were lots of immigrants. Primarily, at this point, they were from the British Isles, and maybe even 25% of the population were immigrants, we can’t securely nail that down. But that gives you some sense of how many immigrants were there. A lot of them were not well-to-do and had spent what money they had on the journey to get all the way from, say, England to Nauvoo. So that created a lot of temporal need as well, which the Saints already had from their experiences in Kirtland and in Missouri. 

And then finally, geographically, Nauvoo is on the Mississippi River. The river runs right behind Joseph Smith’s red brick store. And so people did have access to imported goods. Steamboats were the ways that goods were imported in those days. St. Louis was the local big city from which they would receive goods. It was accessible by steamboat and St. Louis was actually bigger than Chicago at this time. 

The Nauvoo Ilinois Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
The Nauvoo Ilinois Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, May 29, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sarah Jane Weaver: So Nauvoo really is this prosperous, fast-growing city. Besides that great location right on the river, what else allowed that to happen? 

6:51

Kate Holbrook: A lot of things. One is commitment of people and strong leadership. So those two things in tandem — having clear direction on what needed to be done, and then people having an internal commitment to that leadership, and an internal commitment to doing what the leader said needed to be done — allowed them to create a city out of a swamp really quickly, a beautiful city. Of course, draining the swamp — which I imagine they did by digging channels to get it out, but I don’t actually know how they did it — that was crucial. 

One of the most important things, in my view, to the success of Nauvoo was the fact that that’s where Relief Society was organized. So of course, members of the Church were contributing to it all along. And we have those in our history, you can read about those in “Saints,” Church history volumes, as well as other places. But to be organized into a clear organization is different. It helps to increase efficacy and coordinate efforts so there aren’t redundancies. And then to look at some of the concrete contributions that Relief Society made to make Nauvoo a prosperous and fast-growing city. One source you can look at is the Relief Society minute book from Nauvoo. That’s available online, either on the Joseph Smith Papers, or “The First Fifty Years of Relief Society” book. And so you see reading those, that a lot of people who came to the meetings brought donations for the poor, they gathered materials as a society. In fact, when they came to the Relief Society meetings, they didn’t have a lesson or anything, there was no curriculum, this was long before any of that happened. They were problem-solving meetings. So people would come, and they would bear testimony and preach to each other, but they would also just say, “These are the needs I’ve seen,” and other people would say, “These are the resources I have to contribute.” And all of that discussion about resources and needs would result in a lot of needs being met — both spiritual needs and physical needs. So in those minutes, you see them gathering materials, collecting wool, knitting, sewing, visiting the sick, caring for the sick, taking food to the sick and other supplies, making blankets for the sick, they would ask for donations at their meetings to be used to help take care of those who were in need, whether they were poor or sick. They repaired clothing, they gave soap, they gave food. They gathered those materials both to help those who were constructing the Nauvoo Temple and to those who were suffering, who didn’t have enough. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: I love this idea that Nauvoo contains strong, resilient, innovating women who saw needs and figured out how to meet needs. Obviously, women played a very important part in this city.

9:41 

Kate Holbrook: Yes, absolutely, and they had in other cities too. But being organized was a big deal. And it wasn’t just the fact that they were organized. It’s also the fact that they were organized, as Sarah Kimball remembered Joseph Smith saying, after the pattern of the priesthood, that Joseph Smith met with them several times. He gave them beautiful sermons that are relevant to all Church members, not just female Church members. One of the things he said at an early meeting in April 1842 was, “I turn the key to you, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time.” I’m paraphrasing; what he said was a little more beautiful than what I just said. But he also gave them a key, and we know how important keys are in the Church to making things function well, and to make sure that the powers of heaven are facilitating the efforts of an organization. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: And this was also a very challenging time in Church history. Until a few minutes ago, I didn’t know that the members dealt with challenges caused by poor dental work, but they come into Nauvoo poor and having already been marginalized, and then they face other trials while they’re there. Can you talk about or highlight some of the hard things that Latter-day Saints endured in Nauvoo?

10:59

Kate Holbrook: So in addition to the illnesses when they first came, they were poor, almost everybody was poor. Not everybody, but most people were poor. Think about what that means. That means you have a hard time getting enough to meet your needs, to have a place to stay that has enough space in it for you and your loved ones. It’s hard to get enough warm blankets and clothing, and hard to get enough food, especially early on. Those were all struggles. And even when they were more comfortable, they still have that poverty of spirit left over from all of the hardships that they had endured in Kirtland, but especially in Missouri. 

One of the challenges then was they were trying to get the federal government to listen to them about the things that had happened to them in Missouri, but nobody would take them seriously. And at the same time, the state of Missouri kept trying to extradite Joseph to take him back to Missouri and to try him in the courts. That was a constant tension. And then, of course, the prophet was killed in 1844, which was devastating. And after that, there was a succession crisis, with some people having different opinions about who should lead the Church and some people being not quite sure what they thought about who should lead the Church next, but in the wake of the loss of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, to also have those organizational questions was a lot to endure. Even before he was killed, there were people both inside and outside the Church turning against him, turning against the Church, they were jockeying for power and for money. And then after the martyrdom, people didn’t leave them alone, they threatened them with guns. And finally, people had to leave the city, and they went to Winter Quarters to figure out exactly where they would go and how they would do it. They couldn’t even stay in Nauvoo long enough to get all of that settled. And the people who were slower about leaving Nauvoo were attacked in the spring of 1846, we refer to that as the Nauvoo War. So it’s a really peaceful place to visit now. I was actually there just two weeks ago, and it’s beautiful and green and lovely. But if you think about how several thousand people lived there, and there were these really hard pressures that they were living under, I hope they felt some of the peace of the city, but also there was a lot of struggle and suffering going on at the same time. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, this time is a time where the whole world is experiencing the same thing with the global COVID-19 pandemic, so we hear stories of the best of people and the worst of people. And sometimes when I think of Nauvoo, I also like to hear the stories of the kindness of the residents of Quincy, and what they did for these tired and desperate early Latter-day Saints. I just think there’s some lessons there that we could apply today, as we as we look at a lot of people that are suffering. Can you give us some context to what happened in Quincy? 

14:08

Kate Holbrook: Yeah. Just briefly, when people first started straggling into what would become Nauvoo, a lot of them stayed in the nearby city of Quincy, and were taken in by people who weren’t Church members. And maybe they’d heard gossip about the Latter-day Saints, but they were just willing to take them in and give them some food and give them shelter and let them get enough strength and give them a little time, a cushion of time to do some planning and figure out what they were going to do next and where they were going to do it. I find that an example of just being open. And even if you’re not the same as some other people in really important ways, to be willing to take them in and just care about their personhood, to care about giving them the things they need and a little space to recover. I think that it’s fraught with possibility for us to think about how and what that might look like for us now. 

People then were vulnerable because they needed food, they needed water, they needed shelter. In many places today, that’s definitely still the way people are most vulnerable. In other ways, today, especially for this past over a year now, people have been vulnerable because of the virus. And so one way — and there are many that I see — President Nelson taking up the mantle of Joseph Smith is in his asking us to care for one another, is in his asking those who are in a position with their own health to get vaccinated, they can get vaccinated. That’s something you can do to help people in the ways that we are vulnerable today. 

I think helping people in the ways that they’re vulnerable today can include helping them to be seen, helping them to feel loved, but also, it’s wonderful to be loved, and to be heard, and listened to, and it’s also not enough. Also to be brought back to, or just put in relationship with, again, this Church we have that does all of the important social things, and it also does the important spiritual things. And the Church is a brilliant social organization, but that’s not enough. The Church is also a spiritual organization that helps us to care for each other’s spirits and helps us to be close to God, and to our Savior, Jesus Christ. And so I believe that reaching out to one another, offering a taste of the love of Jesus Christ, and the lightness that can come through covenanting with Him, those are ways that we can behave today. Those are the graces that we can extend today, in honor of the people of Quincy, who extended grace to our people long ago. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: I was delighted that you talked about President Nelson’s example. One of the other things he’s asked us to do right now is be grateful. He actually called it a healing balm. And when I read some of the writings that came out of Nauvoo, when I read some of the revelations of the prophet, there is so much gratitude for the knowledge they’re getting, for what they’re receiving, for the opportunity to gather with the Church. Is that something that you saw in early Latter-day Saints as well? 

17:30

Kate Holbrook: Yes, I’m so glad you brought that up, Sarah. And it’s something that I see over and over again, in the Doctrine and Covenants as well, both expressions of gratitude, but especially admonitions to be grateful. It’s part of our theology, and it was part of their awareness, and it was part of their practice. They saw the blessings that came their way, and they are grateful to each other and to God for them. It did lead to a people that were strengthened and unified through all of the opposition that they experienced.

Sarah Jane Weaver: One of my favorite stories of women in Church history comes from “Daughters in My Kingdom.” Once they get to Utah, it’s 1870. It’s still a time of general misunderstanding about the Church and its members and its beliefs. But “Daughters in My Kingdom” documents where a group of Latter-day Saint women in Utah actually call a press conference and address newspaper reporters across the country. And they say, “It’s high time for us to rise up and dignity and speak for ourselves, and the world doesn’t know us, and truth and justice to our brethren, demand that we speak.” Now, I’m paraphrasing there, too, but it does seem to me that through all of this, that we still maintain these strong, articulate women who understand who they are, and they understand the beliefs and practices of the Church, and they supported them.

18:54

Kate Holbrook: Yes, women really entered the public sphere because they were advocating for female suffrage, and also because they were standing up for their faith. So if you’re looking through a feminist lens, some really interesting, empowering things happened in the way that women responded.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Also in Nauvoo, the Church takes this huge, huge blow, when they lost the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum. Those had to be some of the lowest days of the early Church. Can you just talk about the martyrdom and all that that entailed — the confusion, the grief, that had to be one of the hardest times in this Nauvoo period? 

19:40

Kate Holbrook: I think the martyrdom was devastating for people for many reasons. One is that they’ve been following Joseph Smith. And Hyrum Smith was not their top leader, but he was a leader, and the patriarch, and a source of light to many people. So just to have the people gone was devastating, to also have the anchor gone of who the leader was, was devastating, to be reminded once more in a terrible way of how vulnerable they were to mobs and other people. And they really couldn’t trust people, and they really couldn’t even trust their country to keep them safe, even though they were leading good lives and being disciples of Christ. That was devastating. 

And then to see the suffering. I always think of Lucy Mack Smith, to have two wonderful sons — not the first to die — to have them die, to have her be in a place where she’s older, and to watch the fallout. Even just seeing the people who were so sad, who had been particularly close to him. Emma, losing her husband. It was sad. I hope some of those thoughts will help our listeners kind of think about the many layers that people were contending with, with that loss. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Let’s sort of go back because we started this by talking about Joseph Smith. So many of us are so grateful to the very core of who we are for Joseph Smith and what he did. What have you learned about Joseph Smith that’s strengthened your testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?

21:18

Kate Holbrook: A lot of things that strengthen my testimony about Joseph Smith are based on doctrines that he revealed, just in Nauvoo alone include baptism for the dead, which is tremendous, in my mind, being able to do work on behalf of those who are gone. It brings justice to an aspect of religious life that had been unjust throughout all of human history, being able to be sealed to your loved ones. And it was a little different in Nauvoo, but the idea of being sealed to a person and that commitment to that person and the inviolability of that commitment shaping the way you conceived of religious life, so that you thought of it as intrinsically communal, and shaping the way you thought about the eternities as communal, as social, as about relationship instead of about individual salvation or individual relationships. I think that’s tremendously beautiful and important, something I really value about our Church doctrine. 

The temple endowment is a huge blessing. The opportunity that they had then, and that those of us who choose it have today to be endowed with God’s power, to be able to do His work today, including the way we interact with our neighbors. That’s God’s work — the way we interact with our family members, whatever those families look like, having the power with us as we do that is astounding. 

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy, walk through the Temple District of Nauvoo on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy, walk through the Temple District of Nauvoo on Saturday, May 29, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

From watching Joseph Smith, I see an interplay of humility, and a willingness to try; the humility to take instruction, the humility to repent, the humility to do something without knowing how it’s going to turn out, along with the courage to try things, and to just keep moving forward, even though there are calamities left and right. 

And I think those calamities are due in large part to Satan, seeing the potential of this Church, of what it had to bring to humanity about Joseph Smith before his life and after his life. He had so much heartache and betrayals and struggles to contend with, along with other Church leaders, and to see him keep trying and putting one foot bravely forward in front of the other is very inspiring to me. I learned about obedience from him, and that it brings God into our life, even if the way we tried to obey is imperfect at first. And I’m not judging what may have been imperfect in Joseph’s life, I don’t think that’s for me to do. So many things (are) so beautifully, exquisitely right. But I think about my own life, in my efforts to obey. His life shows that revelation is a process, even he who was extraordinarily good at it, better than any other person in our dispensation, in my view. But still, it was something that he learned to do, that he had concrete tools to help him with when he first started out. And then it became just a natural process for him, something that he could just sort of do at the tip of the hat. That teaches me, even though I have a different stewardship than he does, to give myself patience for that to be a process. 

24:42

Kate Holbrook: I also really learned from Joseph Smith’s example about giving people the benefit of the doubt and being optimistic. That comes more naturally to some of us than it does to others. But I believe that it’s absolutely a wonderful way to be in this life. I believe that if we can give other people the benefit of the doubt, whether that’s our children, or nieces and nephews, or our neighbors, or our parents or whoever it is, if we can give people the benefit of the doubt, that’s their best chance at feeling supported and loved and doing the right thing and growing. And optimism lifts us. I have felt over the past more than a year now what a strong power optimism is. I feel sometimes in encountering an optimistic person, that it’s rain in the desert. I’m so grateful for the hope and the energy that being optimistic brings. And I think it was essential that somebody who accomplished all that Joseph Smith did, including his leadership of people, that he was optimistic. His emphasis on caring for people. He did it, and he insisted that Church members do it. So caring for each other’s needs, and also teaching each other, caring for each other’s spiritual needs. That is a life goal, I think it’s a recipe for living a meaningful life, and he certainly did that. 

And maybe I should stop now, but I’ll say one more thing I learned from Joseph Smith about generosity and commitment to the well being of people outside of our circle, as well as those inside. So thinking about how, as soon as the Book of Mormon was printed, people started taking copies and sharing them. It’s the earliest version of missionary work, and it happened right away. And then within a year after, there were official missionaries, and they didn’t just stay in the state they were in, they didn’t just stay in the Northeast, they didn’t even just stay within their own, primarily Caucasian, but not exclusively, but primarily Caucasian race, and they didn’t stay within their own country, and they didn’t stay within their own class. From the very beginning, thanks to Joseph Smith’s vision, this Church has insisted on bringing everyone who is willing along. It’s the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ: Everyone who wants to can be a part of this, regardless of gender, race, class, and profession, all of the other ways we have of categorizing ourselves and keeping ourselves apart from one another. 

So I love him, Sarah. I’m so grateful to Joseph Smith, and grateful to the other leaders who were right there with him doing the best they could, and grateful for the women who were with them, and especially grateful for Emma Smith, because these people made such tremendous sacrifices and the things that they went through for us, I didn’t go through the sacrifices myself, but I hope they see it as worth it. Because I certainly see it is worth it for all of the beauty and clarity and dignity that the Church brings to the world. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I love this idea of Nauvoo being a gathering place for all of those people. I didn’t know until you mentioned it earlier that 25% of the Saints in Nauvoo had immigrated to the city, and I really was grateful that you talked about the temple. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Nauvoo Temple dedication, and I’d love to go a little deeper. This is a legacy, of course, that defines the Church today. President Russell M. Nelson, just in the time he has been President of the Church, has announced 70 temples now. It brings the total of temples worldwide to 262 that are dedicated, announced or under construction. And just last week, the Church announced that we are moving to a place where those of us who have been away from the temple for 14 months can now return and do some proxy work. And so I’m just interested in your feelings about specifically the significance of the temple, the revelations of the temple from this time period and what the dedication and the ordinances of that Nauvoo Temple meant to early Latter-day Saints.

29:19

Kate Holbrook: Great, and Sarah, I want us to be careful. The sources do not give us concrete numbers on what the population of Nauvoo was, or on exactly how many people from the British Isles, that’s where the main source of immigration was then, but it might be around 25%. So that’s sort of a guideline, but not a fact. As far as what the meaning of the temple in Nauvoo was for people, I think it signified for them a sense of permanency, even though it sort of becomes sadly ironic since they have to leave, but in a sense it still stays with them, because they were able to perform their endowments before leaving. A lot of their efforts went towards the temple. The building of the temple was the impetus for Margaret Cook and Sarah Kimball to plan a sewing society, and then that idea that they had turned it into a Relief Society, that was about supporting the temple. So it really was something that they wanted to support beyond their own personal concerns. It was a communal concern. They worked really, really hard to finish the temple before they had to leave, and that’s why they stayed as long as they did. 

And then the endowment, and I personally don’t know details of what it looked like, but the endowment took, I imagine, a lot longer then than it does now. And so to have people experience the endowment, and they weren’t doing it for the dead, they were only doing it for themselves, took a substantial amount of time. And so in order to get all those thousands of people endowed who wanted to be before leaving, they were working around the clock, sometimes 20 hour days. There were a lot of people helping with the endowment who spent the night in the temple. They did it up until they went to sleep, and then they slept there, and then they woke up and got going with it again in the morning. So they saw it as crucial to who they were as a people, and crucial to their preparation to go west. And at this stage, they didn’t know where they would be going, but go find some place where they could finally flourish as a people and be left alone. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: This year also, sadly, marks the 175th anniversary of the exodus where the Saints have to leave the city that they built and the temple they built, and some of them did that in the winter. Can you talk about the final days that Church members spent in Nauvoo?

32:00

Kate Holbrook: I think a lot of it is having to do with the temple. That’s what I think of when I think of those final days. There was also just a lot of uncertainty since they didn’t know where they were going, there’s probably a lot of fear. They were still mourning the loss of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, they’ve lost a lot of their numbers to follow Sidney Rigdon, or follow in the way that would become a reorganized Church. There were a lot of people deciding whether to go or when to go. Some people didn’t leave. You know, if they joined the Church in Pennsylvania, they went back to Pennsylvania. So I think of it as a time when that choice: “What will my discipleship look like? And am I going to stick with these people who I love, but this has been sort of a ridiculously hard 15 years — am I gonna stick with it and go further into the unknown?” And some people started and then kind of came back and then they left, but then they didn’t end up going all the way to Utah, some people ended up going to California instead. 

So all these things that we take for granted now, because we know the story, we know how the story ends, we know there’s temples all over the world — none of that was there for them. So I guess my final thought on this is for those who were able to choose to go because they had the faith to, but also because they had the physical strength to, it was a time of extraordinary, extraordinary faith, and a time when, I imagine, they were really experiencing the love and comfort of God, both in the temple and out of the temple. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: We have a tradition at the Church News podcast. We always end it with the same question, and the question is, “What do you know now?” And so as we close today, I’m interested in what you know now after studying the history of the Church, and specifically the history of the Church in Nauvoo, but also the history of women, and the history of the temple and all the layers that made that period such a period that was so important, and so hard and so joyful,  and so, so many things. So the question is, what do you know now? And what did you learn from Nauvoo? And then I’d love it if you could also share your testimony of the Church too.

34:29

Kate Holbrook: Yes, I would be glad to. My thinking about what Nauvoo teaches me, those thoughts are inextricably linked with my testimony of the Church. What I learned from Nauvoo is courage. What I learned from Nauvoo is that God magnifies our efforts. What I learned from Nauvoo is that when it seems as though all is lost, it isn’t. You keep moving forward. And if you’re reaching out to God, God will be there with you. And I learned that things that seem impossible can be accomplished. I learned that the worst piece of swamp can turn into a beautiful city that is the second largest city in the state because of hard work and faith. And I learn the legacy that I, as a member of the Relief Society, I am in an organization for which a key was turned. I am in an organization that if I try to make this happen, I can really help my efforts to flourish. That helped me to become the best version of myself that I can be. That’s sort of a microcosm for what the Church does as a whole. I’ve mentioned a lot of the things in this interview that I love about the Church.

It’s important to me to talk about the Church in words that we don’t usually use, because sometimes when they’re familiar sentences, then they rush right over us. And what I want to express right now is that I see the Church and the gospel together having the potential to lead us through every trouble that we encounter in this life, as individuals and as a world community. I think it has that potential for the entire world, for every person. And I have felt the power of this community and adherence to its teachings throughout my life. I have felt faith in the Holy Spirit, thanks to this Church and God’s direction in my life. And I feel like thanks to this Church, I’ve been able to accomplish some things that mattered from an eternal perspective. I’m deeply grateful for it. I love it. And I’m grateful to you, Sarah, and for this chance to have this conversation today and to think the thoughts and feel the feelings that our conversation has brought up today.

37:15

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor, Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you’ve learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast, and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.