Smith Fam with Nauvoo Performing Missionary Elder Abe Smith

Nauvoo Performing Missionaries were the Highlight of Smith Family Vacation

Smith Fam with Elder Abe Smith, our Nauvoo Performing Missionary

The following post leans on the personal side, but I thought it would bring good awareness and information about the experience of Nauvoo Performing Missions to the LDS Mission Prep audience. As you know from the podcast episode a few weeks ago, our son is in Nauvoo for the summer as a full-time performing missionary. So for our summer vacation in 2024, we loaded up into the minivan and headed to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the church historical sites, catch a few shows by the performing missionaries, and maybe see our son. Okay, we definitely planned to visit with our son, but in fairness, the performing missionaries are encouraged to interact with the audience before and after shows.

Sunset on the Mississippi

Sunset on the Mississippi is a stage show performed most evenings during the summer. Our son Abe (I mean, Elder Smith) said this show is the highlight of the day for most of the performing missionaries because it is a fun and energetic show that is enjoyable for the cast and audience members of all ages. It’s held at the outdoor theatre near the visitors’ center, and we headed there early to get good seat and to see the pre-show, performed by the Nauvoo Brass Band. The pre-show was great, and the Sunset show delivered, as promised, a very fun, high energy, and funny show with great singing and dancing. Our favorite part of the Sunset show was when one of the trumpet players, our son Abe, played a funny solo (he briefly played the Super Mario Bros theme song during an improv part, which made the day for all the performing missionaries).

Sunset on the Mississippi Pre-Show with the Nauvoo Brass BandSunset on the Mississippi Stage Show 1Sunset on the Mississippi Stage Show 1Sunset on the Mississippi Stage Show Trumpet Solo from Elder Abe Smith
Trail of Hope

After Sunset on the Mississippi, we headed over to the Trail of Hope. We had walked down the trail on our own in years past and read many of the placards with testimonies from the early Saints expressing their faith in God in the midst of being forcibly removed from their homes. But this day was the first time we did the guided tour with the dramatizations from the stage performance missionaries. This made the Trail of Hope very enjoyable, meaningful, and memorable. Abe and one of the other members of the Nauvoo Brass Band, Elder Jackman, were our tour guides. Along the path, at about a dozen points, there was a performing missionary or two, who would reenact a part from one of the diaries of a pioneer. Again, the performances were heartfelt and testimony building as they expressed the faith in Christ and His Church from these earlier converts to the faith.

Trail of Hope and Tour Guide MissionaryTrail of Hope, Nauvoo

Flag Ceremony from the Nauvoo Brass Band

The next morning, we went to the flag ceremony, put on by the Nauvoo Brass Band in the grassy area behind the print shop. The ceremony was short and sweet, but included several musical numbers and a few speaking parts. After the flag ceremony, the band boarded the “Band Wagon” and road off to serenade the tourists throughout town with songs of the Restoration and other hymns of faith.

Flag Ceremony with Nauvoo Brass Band 1Flag Ceremony with Nauvoo Brass Band 2Band Wagon Departing after Flag Ceremony

Dancing in Praise of God Show

After the flag ceremony, we walked a short distance to watch a performance called Singing and Dancing in Praise of God or something like that. This was a brief show, maybe 15 minutes, put on by the stage actors and actresses. The performers explained how the pioneers entertained themselves and socialized by dancing and singing songs of praise to the Lord.

Sing and Dance in Praise of God Show Nauvoo

The Singing Elders and the Relief Society Theatrical Vignette

Again, I may have the name of the performance wrong, but the next musical encounter / dance vignette was called the Singing and/or Dancing Elders. (When you’re in Nauvoo, you will find a QR code on posters around town with the names and times of these performances.)  The Elders were great. One song they sang was called “Scotland the Brave”, which our son named Scotland really liked, and one was a song about Orrin Porter Rockwell. That song was fun and funny, and my brother was called out of the audience onto the stage to play the part of Rockwell. He is a big fan of Rockwell so playing that role was a dream come true. After that, we headed over to the Red Brick store where the stage actress sister missionaries put on a theatrical vignette about the organization of the Relief Society.

Singing/Dancing Elders Porter Rockwell Song

William Pitt Nauvoo Brass Band and Remembering Joseph Shows

By mid-afternoon, we headed over to the Nauvoo Visitors Center for two shows in the indoor air conditioning, which was a nice reprieve from the heat and humidity. First was the William Pitt Nauvoo Brass Band show, which Abe was in, of course. And then was the Remembering Joseph show that Abe was not in, but it was still good.

William Pitt Brass Band Show Nauvoo

Homestead and Mansion House of Joseph Smith

This vacation to Nauvoo was only two days and we were primarily focused on seeing the performances of the Nauvoo Performing Missionaries, but we did try to squeeze in a tour of the newly acquired sites. We were, unfortunately, unable to fit in a tour of the Red Brick Store, but we hope to get that tour someday since that is the place where Joseph Smith first performed the temple endowment ordinance in these latter days. We were able, though, to tour the Homestead and Mansion House of Joseph Smith, and I’m glad we did. The senior missionaries did an excellent job showing us around and telling us many of the historic events that took place in those buildings.

Joseph Smith Homestead NauvooJoseph Smith Nauvoo Homestead Inside

The Band Wagon Playing at the Singing Tree

The final show we saw on our trip was the Nauvoo Brass Band playing under the Singing Tree. The band rides around town, well, the old parts of town with the many church-owned historic sites, each morning in their “Band Wagon” but they also stop at a few designated spots along the way, such as the Singing Tree.  The band helps provide ambience for the tourists by playing hymns of faith and other musical numbers from their vast repertoire of music. Our son says if they printed out the music for all the songs they have to memorize, it would be five or six inches thick, but thankfully, they have tablets with the music.

The band played a few more musical numbers under the Singing Tree and then we said our last goodbyes to Abe. After the performance, Elder Jackman let our 9 year old Scotty play on his drums and even gave him a signed set of drum sticks to take home. That made Scot’s day. Then we packed up the minivan and headed for home.

Band Wagon Arriving at the Singing TreeNauvoo Brass Band Performing Under the Singing Tree

Performances We Missed: Love of the Savior Concert and the Nauvoo Pageant

Our trip placed us in Nauvoo in the middle of the week, so we missed the Love of the Savior concert, which only happens on Sundays. In that concert, the Nauvoo Performing Missionaries sing and play music celebrating our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his love for us. We also missed the Nauvoo Pageant, which is the biggest theatrical production of the summer in Nauvoo. We actually missed it on purpose because navigating large crowds is difficult with our family. We hope, someday, to be able to see both of those shows in the future.

Smith Family in Nauvoo Visiting our Performing Missionary in the Brass Band

Concluding Thoughts 

We were so glad to see Abe and all the other Nauvoo Performing Missionaries. Over the years, we have visited Nauvoo several times, but those visits focused on the historic sites and we never before attended the musical, dance, and theatrical shows. But we are very glad we did this time. We were very impressed by the talent, professionalism, and fun atmosphere created by all the performing missionaries.

These performing Elders and Sisters are set apart as full-time missionaries for the summer. They are mostly young people, in their early 20s, and like other full-time missionaries, they pay their own way, follow the rules of proselytizing missionaries, have a companion, p-days on Monday, daily scripture study, etc. We are grateful for the sacrifices these performing missionaries make to share their talents with us and make the experience of visiting Nauvoo much more enjoyable. It helped increase our knowledge of the experiences of the early Saints, and helped build our testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Church, and His latter-day work.

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