NAUVOO, Illinois — Women needing a break from their routines and an opportunity to fill their cups will converge on Nauvoo, Ill., on March 26-27 for the fourth annual Nauvoo Women’s Retreat, to be held this year in the Camp Nauvoo Lodge.
Holly Hilbert of Garden City, Missouri , describes the event as “delightful, dynamic and divine.” She has attended every year and says, “It’s all I can do to wait the three months from December until March for this. I have attended other women’s conferences, but there is a spirit here that can’t be replicated.”
“Women come for fun and to get away, but mostly they want to be uplifted and inspired to go back home and do a better job in their many roles,” says Marjorie Rice, director of the event. “The opportunity to have this kind of gathering in Nauvoo, where their early sisters walked, is especially meaningful to them.”
Many of those who attend are from the Midwest , but women come from all parts of the country, usually in groups of friends or family members. This year, a family of six sisters in their 70s and 80s are taking the train from Utah . “When I heard about this and told my sisters,” said IvaLou Baldwin, “they were all thrilled and wanted to go.”
Although the sisters have health challenges that include Parkinson’s disease and recent heart and back surgeries, they feel they are up to the trip. “This will probably be our last big time together,” Baldwin said. “We’re excited to share this adventure.”
The theme for the 2009 retreat is “Women of Promise,” inspired by the promises of Joseph Smith to the women when the Relief Society was organized: “If you live up to these principles, how great and glorious will be your reward. If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.”
Keynote speaker Mariama Kallon will address “The Promise of Tender Mercies.” Growing up in West Africa , Kallon endured the wrenching violence of a civil war, witnessing her parents killed, her brother taken away and later killed, and her sister tortured and killed. She will share her remarkable story of finding the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of this horror and how receiving a hygiene kit and a blanket from LDS Church Humanitarian Services helped her endure homelessness and despair.
“I shared my kit with those who were running for safety with me. It was so precious to us,” she remembers. Kallon says the Lord in His tender mercy saved her life for a purpose and continues to shower her with blessings as she shares her story and testimony
Other presenters include songwriter and author Vickey Pahnke Taylor, speaking on “The Lord’s Promises to Women of Strength,” and actress and singer Jillette Dayton on “The Promises of Healing and Harmony in Our Homes.” Nauvoo historian, Rosemary Palmer, and Kimberly Smith of the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society will explore the powerful examples of early Nauvoo women.
The most unique event associated with the retreat is the re-enactment of the organization of the Relief Society in the upper room of the Red Brick Store, where it took place on March 17, 1842. The Nauvoo Re-enactors Guild, whose motto is “Honoring and Preserving the History of Nauvoo through the Performing Arts,” presents this re-enactment each March to commemorate the Relief Society’s anniversary. Twenty-four members of the guild — 22 women and two men — are joined by professional actors, Michael L. Smith and Jillette Dayton, who play Joseph and Emma Smith.
“The re-enactment is an incredible experience that reminds women what an inspired organization we’ve been given,” says Rice. “And to see it performed right there in the Red Brick Store is very moving. We can feel the excitement and joy of those early Nauvoo sisters as they elected their officers, chose the name for their organization, discussed plans for service, and gratefully received the prophetic promises spoken by the Prophet Joseph. There is rarely a dry eye at the production’s end, even among the cast.”
Members of the guild will also perform “The Farewell,” a vignette in the Old Nauvoo Burial Ground, which takes visitors back to May of 1846 as the Moses Tracy family visits the graves of their two little sons for the final time before they load up their wagon and head west.
Evening events include an entertainers’ panel of four professional performers. Taylor , Dayton , composer and singer Alan Birdsall, and singer and actress Joanna Miller address the subject of “Using Our Talents to Praise the Lord.” They will share inspiring personal stories from their own experiences in performing. A dessert social will follow.
The finale of the retreat is the always-popular Legacy Concert, featuring retreat presenters and some of Nauvoo’s own well-known talent. One attendee declared, “The concert is always the icing — no, it’s the candles on the cake — the perfect way to end this beautiful weekend.”
For more information and to register, visit www.nauvoovillas.com. Early registration by February 25 for the full event is $47, which includes a welcome breakfast on Thursday morning. Friday only is $27. After February 25, the fee is $55 for the full event and $33 for Friday.