The Seventh Annual Nauvoo Women’s Retreat will take place on March 22 and 23, 2012, at Camp Nauvoo Lodge in Nauvoo, Illinois. This year’s retreat theme is “Remembering Nauvoo.” JoAnna Miller, Nauvoo Women’s Retreat chair, said, “We always hear people say, I feel like I’m coming home when I come to Nauvoo.’ Why do LDS Church members feel so connected to Nauvoo?” Joanna asked. “What is it about Nauvoo that makes us feel like we’re coming home?”

Families, whose ancestors lived in Nauvoo, come to Nauvoo to find their roots and reflect upon their heritage. As President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “There is an affinity within me for this soil, for these old homes, for the foundation stones of the temple, and for Carthage.”

The early Saints obeyed the Lord and gathered to Zion, built homes, worshipped together, and learned from the Prophet Joseph Smith. But Nauvoo in the 1840s was not an easy place to live. It began with sickness and death. Peace and prosperity were transitory, for the fast-growing city became a threat to neighboring communities. The early Saints experienced persecution and suffering, and they sacrificed to build a temple. But they held up their heads and, through faith, kept going.

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According to one account, “Many have volunteered to labor continually [on the Nauvoo Temple], and the brethren generally are giving one-tenth part of their time, or one-tenth part of their income, according to circumstances; while … sisters … are knitting socks and mittens, and preparing garments for the laborers, so that they may be made as comfortable as possible during the coming winter.”

In Nauvoo, the restoration of sacred temple ordinances took place. Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine of baptism for the dead and declared that “the fathers … cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15). The Lord bestowed knowledge and keys for eternal marriage and exaltation. Today, throughout the world, hearts of the children turn to their fathers as a result of what happened in 1840s Nauvoo.


Elder Marlin K. Jensen said, “Remembering the past gives us needed perspective as God’s children to have faith in our future destiny and thus to live more faithfully in the present.” (Ensign, Dec. 2007). According to JoAnna Miller, this year’s Nauvoo Women’s Retreat sessions will re-enforce how the history of the saints of old shape and influence how we live our lives today.

2012 Women’s Retreat

This annual two-day event is designed for women, ages 16 and older, to walk where early saints walked, learn from uplifting speakers and entertainment, and participate in redeeming ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple. Men are welcome to attend this event, but accommodations for babies or children are not available during the sessions.

IMG 0462 lodge exterior“Camp Nauvoo Lodge” 

The Nauvoo Women’s Retreat is held at the Community of Christ’s Camp Nauvoo Lodge, located in a 30-acre campground near Historic Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Temple. The two-story cedar building has a meeting room with a wood-burning fireplace, an outside deck with a view of the Mississippi River, and kitchen/dining facilities in the basement.


While large crowds often attend other LDS women’s retreats, the Nauvoo Women’s Retreat offers a more intimate setting. Participants rub shoulders with session speakers and get to know them personally. They watch a re-enactment of the organization of the Relief Society in Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store and imagine when Joseph Smith turned the key in their behalf and said that “the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.”  


Participants at the Nauvoo Women’s Retreat develop friendships that often begin when they travel together in a car or on the train, which makes stops in Burlington or Ft. Madison, Iowa, and Macomb, Illinois. The spirit of Nauvoo wraps participants in historic warmth during their stay in this peaceful community in the early spring.

Session Topics and Speakers

This year’s Nauvoo Women’s Retreat opens on Thursday, March 22, with JoAnna Miller introducing the theme, “Remembering Nauvoo.”

Peggy Ricks, who has been involved with the Nauvoo Pageant since its inception and whose husband serves as Nauvoo Pageant President, will present the topic, “Establishing Zion.”   Are problems and concerns of the past still with us today? What steps can we take to make the future an improvement over the past? Insights from the Nauvoo Pageant may enlighten our understanding. Peggy will describe how guiding principles of the Nauvoo Pageant can help us acquire a brighter future of love and understanding.

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Durell Nelson, a resident of Nauvoo for over 30 years, will discuss “Our Nauvoo Heritage.” He will explore the reestablishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo since the Mormon exodus and reflect on how this knowledge may guide us today. Durell Nelson designed the Nauvoo Monument to Women Memorial Garden and has been the caretaker ever since. In addition, he is the horticulturalist for all Historic Nauvoo properties. During the reconstruction and dedication of the Nauvoo Temple, Durell served as Nauvoo Illinois Stake President. He worked closely with Church leaders in Salt Lake City and with the City of Nauvoo to accomplish this monumental task.


Mary Jane Wadley, professional actress and costume designer, will address the topic “The Women of Nauvoo.” Just as the people of Alma came to the knowledge of their Redeemer at the waters of Mormon, so did the early saints who settled Nauvoo. What can we learn from the women of Nauvoo as we press forward, leaving a legacy of faith for those who follow us? Mary Jane Wadley has performed in musicals and LDS productions, such as “Savior of the World,” Nauvoo Pageant, and “17 Miracles.” She will portray Lucy Mack Smith in the re-enactment of the organization of the Relief Society during this year’s Nauvoo Women’s Retreat.

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Jeff and Aurora Dickamore, who played Joseph Smith and Becky Laird in the Nauvoo Pageant before their temple marriage in 2011, will share insights on “The Blessings of the Temple.

” How did the early saints put one foot forward during times of persecution, sacrifice, and suffering? Jeff and Aurora will explore the impact of the Nauvoo Temple-and how we can learn from early Nauvoo saints and receive life-enriching blessings today. Jeff and Aurora Dickamore will portray Joseph and Emma Smith in the Relief Society re-enactment of the Women’s Retreat. Recently Jeff and Aurora have been on a national tour of “My Fair Lady,” with Aurora portraying Eliza Doolittle, and they plan to settle in New York City.

 DSCN2186-1Relief Society Re-enactment, 2011

The Nauvoo Women’s Retreat will open with breakfast for all participants in Camp Nauvoo Lodge’s lower-level kitchen/dining area. Other activities include the re-enactment of the organization of the Relief Society, a special performance of “Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo,” the popular Legacy Concert, Nauvoo Temple session, and visits to Historic Nauvoo sites. Nauvoo is the perfect setting for an inspiring and historical two-day women’s retreat-especially with this year’s theme “Remembering Nauvoo.”

To obtain more information or to register for this event, visit, e-mail“>, or phone 217-219-1195 or 800-453-6717, ext. 0.


Rosemary Palmer is Nauvoo, Illinois, correspondent for Meridian Magazine.