Feature Story: Nauvoo Student Tour

*** This was written for a class assignment ***

Thirty-Six student become “family” on their Church History tour to Nauvoo

Promptly at 5pm on a Wednesday night, thirty-six students boarded a bus on a trek to Nauvoo. This bus would be come their home for the next five days, as they would share experiences, life-goals and sleep on the hard-strait backed chairs. The bus would never hear the sound of the complaints from the college students. However, it would hear sounds of sweet music, laughs as jokes are shared and snores as the students twisted and turned throughout the night to invent comfortable positions on the floor of the bus, stretched between the isle, or leaning up against the cold glass of the window.

These students made the most of the thirty-hour plus bus ride. As they rode they would testify of the gospel through word and song.

The bus ride would be minimal when they walked down the streets of the old city of Nauvoo passing many shops, and homes built up of brick in the style of mid-1800’s. As they turned the corner there glowed, a beautifully crafted white temple among the deep green trees and untouched grass. Each would pause as they turned the corner as they reached for their camera to capture this small moment.

These onlookers were students at Brigham Young University – Idaho. This unexpected and outstanding moment had been one that for many of these students had been waiting and dreaming for. Many of them had sacrificed time and money to see the temple along with many other church history sites.

Valerie Preston, a participant in the Nauvoo Student tour, asked a question that summed up the drive for many of the students, and shows how they worshiped along their journey to Nauvoo.

“Where else will you find a group who enjoys singing hymns for hours?” Preston asked.

They would take away more than a kinked neck, stiff back and a hoarse voice. These students were able to take away experiences and relationships that would last a lifetime.

They came together because they all had a desire to learn more of church history and the gospel, however they all came away knowing more about the people on the trip and made forever friendships, because they were willing to sacrifice school for a greater experience.

Preston, a student at BYU-I, decided to go because it was her off-track and was taking a smaller amount of credits. She would only be required to miss one class. She was stunned by the other participants, who would be missing much more class.

“I was so impressed with the people who chose to sacrifice school to go on this trip. I was missing on class… but I know many were full-time student and chose to drop what they were doing, to go on a church tour,” Preston said.

Travis Mish, a participant, decided it was worth it when he reflected on his experience with the rest of the group.

“I could not say enough about the group of people that I now call my friends who joined me on this journey. It was a group of people who were shamelessly seeking the Savior. We praised and worshipped almost constantly through song, prayer and conversation. This built a … spirit of unity that was undeniable. I grew to love my fellow travelers and I am so grateful that I was able to be with them.” Mish said.

These now friends would be able to travel to Nauvoo along the ways stopping at Kansas City, Missouri temple, Community of Christ temple, Liberty Jail, Far West, Adom Ondi Ahman, Carthage Jail, from there they would travel to their destination of Nauvoo. There they would spend two days visiting the temple, Trail of Hope and many other historical sites in Nauvoo as they immersed themselves in the historic culture of Nauvoo.

On their way home they would make stops at the Winter Quarter’s Visitor Center, Independence Rock and Martin’s Cove.

Gary Bernard reflected on how this experienced changed his outlook on life.

“Because of this trip, I am going to remember their (the saints) sacrifices and be more dedicated and willing to make my own sacrifices that the Lord calls me to do,” Bernard said.

A year later many of these friends are still in contact and enjoy reminiscing of their time on the bus and the friendships they made on this trip.

Preston expressed the benefits that have come to her a year later for taking the time out of her school to attend the Nauvoo Student Tour.

“It brought church history to life. It truly is a special and sacred place where miracles can take place, whether through testimony or friendship,” Preston said.

Kelsey Slay reflected on the lifelong relationships that did not end when the students exited that bus back in Rexburg. However, she says that they continued to grow stronger.

“It provided me with the first real family I’ve ever had at college,” Slay said.

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