Service Behind the Scenes
William and Esther Gheen, new converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were determined to join their fellow Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1842 they sold their farm in Pennsylvania and traveled more than 900 miles to that covenant community on the banks of the Mississippi River.
When Historic Nauvoo opens to the public again, thousands of visitors will walk along Partridge Street and see the newly reconstructed home of Edward and Ann Hunter. The home stands directly downhill from the temple.
Entering the home, visitors will immediately see a stunning reupholstered sofa from the 1840s, a tall working clock, and wallpaper featuring spectacular purple pineapples. In the adjoining room, visitors will see a few papers on a simple but beautiful writing desk. Walking past the desk, they will see a kitchen full of supplies. In the basement, visitors will see original foundation stones—the only surviving materials from the home that stood here in the 1840s.
There are also things the visitors won’t see: service behind the scenes. They won’t see the new perimeter drain that prevents flooding in the home, and they won’t see the half-year effort to pump water from the site before the drain could be installed underground. They won’t see the hundreds of hours of research that guided the reconstruction of the home and the collection of artifacts inside. They won’t see the meticulous, slow, artistic work to design and build the desk or the patience required to hand-paint wallpaper and then hang it on the wall without smudging the color.
At the Hunter home, the seen and the unseen will combine to help visitors understand more than their eyes could ever teach them. With guidance from missionaries, visitors will come to understand that this is a place of service, generosity, and revelation.
They will learn about Edward and Ann Hunter giving of themselves even when their actions endangered them. In 1842, marshals from Missouri came to Nauvoo to unjustly arrest the Prophet Joseph Smith. At that perilous time, Ann and Edward permitted the Prophet to hide in their home. Visitors will see that the supplies in the kitchen represent donations from faithful Latter-day Saints, gathered by Bishop Edward Hunter to nourish the poor and the needy and to furnish the temple on the hill.
They will imagine the Prophet Joseph sitting at a desk much like the one in the house today. Sheltered in the home of his friends, he dictated revelations about baptisms for the dead, allowing Saints to share the gospel even beyond the bounds of mortality. Those revelations are now recorded as sections 127 and 128 in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Your service is much like the service of Ann and Edward Hunter—quiet and private. And you can be sure that your unseen actions, like theirs, lead to untold blessings for others.
A Note from Matt Grow, Managing Director, Church History Department
A year ago, missionaries and staff members at the Church’s historic sites began to prepare for what they thought would be their biggest year ever—a joyful bicentennial year. Beginning in late March 2020, people would flock to the sacred places where the Lord restored His gospel and kingdom to the earth.
And then, in mid-March, the sites closed to the public. More than a half a year later, the sites remain closed, shut down by a pandemic.
Amazingly, 2020 was a joyful bicentennial year in spite of it all. We rejoiced to hear President Russell M. Nelson read a proclamation to the world titled “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Since then, missionaries have made history in the way they have shared history. Using their phones, they have given tours to tens of thousands of virtual visitors in many nations—people who never would have visited the sites otherwise.
We are part of a great work, with abundant blessings and miraculous surprises. Thank you for all you do to move this work forward. May the Lord continue to bless you in your service.