Elle had quite a trip this summer.

And because it always helps me to internalize my feelings to write them down I figured it would be the same for her (she wrote in her journal a ton but there’s something about putting words with pictures…).  So I begged her to do a guest-post for me.

Plus it’s always good to share these close-to-your-heart things with others and share that spirit you felt.  I want all my kids and extended family to see these gorgeous pictures and hear what was in her heart. 

So here you go:
Hi! This is Elle, shawni’s fav of the family.  haha
Anyway, this summer I got to go on a Joseph Smith “Legacy Tour” with a bunch of youth. I was not the happiest person ever to be going on that little trip. My parents had mentioned the idea of going to me like a couple months before it and I told them that it was really not my first choice & I did not want to go.  
They kinda brushed it off leaving me thinking that I wasn’t going but surprise they signed me up for it anyway.  I was mad wow haha. So I just complained all leading up to it. 
The night before I left I finally started getting a little stoked to go and just have an adventure for a week.  I got up at 4 in the morning to head out to the airport (my little bit of excitement definitely faded on the fact of getting up so early) and we met with all the youth to hop on the plane.  
I was with a few really good friends of mine and three of max’s friends that I knew.  They are all a blast so that was good.  First, we flew to Palmyra, NY & so the adventure began. 
Now prepare for a long post because I took too many pictures & most of them were just the group and friends so bear with me. This was our schedule:
       Most of the youth were from different places here in the desert & we met up with some from colorado, idaho, california & utah. This is our crazy bus that took us from Palmyra at the beginning of the week & ending in Kansas City, Missouri. 

DAY 1:

All 35-40 of us kids hopped on this bus and headed out to 

Joseph Smith’s house:

First of all, Joseph Smith was a young, 15 -year-old boy that just really wanted to know which church was the true church.  He lived in a religious family and read the bible a lot.  One day he was reading in James 1:5 and it said
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him”
He believed it and went out to the Sacred Grove and prayed hard to God through faith to know which church was true.  Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father visited him and told him that they wanted him to restore the church that Jesus established when he lived on the earth.  That church came to be known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

For more details about Joseph Smith and his story, click HERE.

This house was exactly where they believed Joseph Smith’s house really was but they fixed it up and decorated it from everything like the 1800’s. (I love the upside-down flowers they had everywhere.)

Super kind sister missionaries met us at every site to give us tours and explain all the good stuff to us.  It would be neat to be called on a mission like that.  The house was so small & I had to duck under every doorway haha but it was amazing to think that our first prophet had lived in that very spot.

We headed over to the Joseph Smith barn and farm after that.
Then, we walked right down a path by the barn to the 

Sacred Grove:

This was rad.  Wow it was SO pretty.  We all followed the paths in the grove & everyone found their own spot to sit, feel the spirit, write in journals, or whatever you wanted.  I sat on this bench & attempted to write in my journal.  There was SO MANY BUGS. Anyway, I did write a lot & pressed leaves & flowers in my journal.  I just felt so good in the sacred grove though even with those bugs.  It was gorgeous.  There was a total mix of tiny skinny trees & wide, fat ones & everything looked like it was covered in a blanket of green.  It was amazing to think about Jesus Christ & Heavenly Father coming to this earth to give Joseph Smith direction and testify to him.

Right in the spot I was in.

Right where I was was where our church was restored & where Joseph Smith was named our first prophet.  After I while of writing & looking at squirrels I got up & walked around to take pictures. Half of the reason was so I could get away from the bugs though lol.

After lots of walking around the sacred grove we got back onto the bus & drove to the Grandin Print Shop.  We leaned all about how they made the first copies of the Book of Mormon and wow it was a long hard process. After that we headed to 


They built this monument on top of it… & Brayden was my model of where Joseph Smith received the Golden Plates to translate.

Then we went to the Peter Whitmer house.  I (surprisingly) got zero pictures of that place.  This was where the church was formally organized.  It was so tiny! I had to always duck haha but I am a giant so that’s fun.
We then drove to dinner & drove further to a hotel in Willoughby, OH. (We had a lot of time on the bus throughout the week.)

DAY 2:

The crew got up & we hopped on to bus. It was raining.  Everyone was like complaining but what the heck why!?  I was stoked about it.  Not much rain in the desert.  Anyway, it was awesome.

Our first stop was the 

Whitney Store & Farm:

The store was so cool to see what they would have sold back then.  We went to the upstairs of the store and that was where Joseph Smith and their family stayed for a little while.  They received a lot of revelation there and parts of the Doctrine & Covenants. 
 The rain made it so green and pretty.  it was quite the site. After our tour by some more awesome sister missionaries, we hoped on the bus and went to the 

Kirtland Temple. 

This temple was built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but is now owned by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It was amazing to go inside & interesting learn about what the Reorganized church believed as they took us through the temple.

Our next stop was the

John Johnson home.

This was where Joseph & Emma Smith were staying with their kids when Joseph was tarred and feathered by a mob.  It was crazy being in here & watching a video about how he was hurt by the mob.  It was so sad to imagine the prophet being beat up for standing up for what he believed.

The Johnson’s were wealthy people and it showed in the house by all the bright colors of paint they use throughout the house that makes it look rad.

We drove for a long time that night and arrived in Michigan City.

DAY 3:

We drove from Michigan City to Nauvoo the morning of day three and got ready to do baptisms for the dead in the 

Nauvoo temple.  

It was gorgeous to say the least.  The baptismal font in the temple was really big and it was so fun to be with all these youth doing baptisms and having fun.  It was reaallly fun.  And then of course when we came out we took loads of pictures cause why not?
We stayed in Nauvoo that night after a delicious buffet dinner and swim party in the hotel.  We also walked down to the temple again later at night when it was all lit up.  All the of the kids played games on the lawn and had one heck of a time.

DAY 4:

Last full day of our trip to the east.  We first got these totally rad awesome matching t-shirts YES. hahaha yes we were that group.  Anyway, we went to 

Carthage Jail.

Carthage was sad. This is where Joseph Smith was put in jail with his brother, Hyrum, and other friends and witnesses of the Book of Mormon.  In Carthage was where Joseph was killed by a mob surrounding the jail.  We had a tour by a cute elderly couple and got to see the room, window he fell out of, and even the original door that a bullet went through.  It was so sad to hear of the mob that killed Joseph but also about all the good Joseph did in his life.

We had free time around Nauvoo then went to 


It was beautiful and our church believes we will see Jesus Christ here again someday.  It is gorgeous place to walk around and look at all the beauty.
The leaders kept telling us over and over again before we went that there would be lots of ticks there.  We COVERED ourselves haha. We did NOT want to get any so we sprayed every part of exposed skin and wore sweatshirts and jeans even though we were burning up in them. HA.

DAY 5:

Last day in all, we visited a visitors’ center where we watched a video about the whole life of Joseph Smith.  It was cool to recognize all the places in the video because we had just visited them all that week.  We then went to 

Liberty Jail.

I sadly didn’t get any pictures at pictures in Liberty Jail though.  Apparently it was torn down a while ago so it was a visitors’ center with a replica of Liberty Jail inside where a sister missionary taught us what happened there.  It was a tiny little Jail and Joseph was on the very bottom floor with other men.  The ceiling was really low in the jail and only one of the men was able to stand straight up in it!  It was a really heavily protected jail with lots of layers on the walls. We then went down into the basement of the visitors’ center and had a big testimony meeting with the whole group.   

That was the end of our trip and I was sad about it.  I never thought I would be sad about leaving heck no.  But I was.  I didn’t want to leave a trip that I felt the spirit so much at and didn’t want to leave all these new friends I had made who live in different states.  We stayed in 5 different hotels and went to 7 different states, in 6 days. shweet.  Anyway it was such an awesome, amazing, crazy fun experience that I am so grateful for.

Before I went on this trip I just knew the basics of Joseph Smith but now I feel so much closer to him and the gospel by visiting these places where Joseph lived and visited.  I understand more of what he felt and how difficult it was for him to restore the church and stay strong in what he believed.

I loved this amazing trip and the amazing gospel we have to help us every day to learn to love each other and try to be more like Jesus Christ.


  1. Wow Elle! Your pictures are amazing! My son Zac, and nephew Mitch went on this trip too! (Zac's head is in your bus picture…haha!) We had them do an FHE last week to share their pictures and experience with our family. So awesome! Sister Woolley shared (over email) a dropbox folder that the group can add pictures to… i wondered if you might be willing to share yours through that dropbox? I would love to put together a book for Zac and Mitch and your pictures are sooo gorgeous, I would love to include some of them!

  2. This made me tear up. Elle, you're a treasure. Love you so much! We do need to work on your capitalization, though (can you tell I'm a middle school teacher??). Sounds like an awesome trip.

  3. What a wonderful documentation 🙂 I really enjoyed it. I live in Australia and I hope to one day do a tour like that. Thank you for sharing!!

  4. What a great trip and such a nice documentation of it all. I went to all of those spots with my family when I was 16, but I didn't have amazing pictures to look at when I was done and I have forgotten most of it. Great pictures Elle! Glad it proved to be an awesome trip.

  5. I was also deeply moved by these photos. The ones of the sacred grove brought tears to my eyes. I would love to blow up the second picture in the sacred grove pictures and hang it in my home. Please Please let me know if Elle shares her pictures.

  6. What lens did Elle end up using the most on this trip while traveling. She has such a creative eye, especially in her nature shots.

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