It all began unintentionally, in early 1997. Clinton Day, a High Councilman in the Salt Lake Big Cottonwood Stake (with a love for the history of the L.D.S. Church) suggested that an appropriate sesquicentennial activity for the Stake Presidency and High Council would be to hold a High Council meeting in Nauvoo. After initial chuckles, and then some consideration, Clinton was assigned to make arrangements. Arrangements were made for facilities in Nauvoo for the meeting and a tour of the sites was planned and directed for those stake officers and their wives (who for the most part were also church officers). Interested friends and relatives were invited along to fill the bus.
Because all of the tour members were strong church members with years of service, including preaching and teaching, Brother Day thought it foolish to give all of the history parts himself. He, therefore, assigned most of them to tour members, giving only the location and subject to be researched and taught. In addition, scripts were written representing key historical figures, to be given in first-person by selected tour members. Some of these include: Emma Smith and Mary Fielding at Far West, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer at their graves in Richmond, and Mary Ann Young and Wilford Woodruff at the Mississippi in Nauvoo. In order to maintain the proper spirit on the bus, each day started and ended with a hymn and prayer. Oh, and that High Council meeting was held in the upper room of Joseph Smith’s Red Brick Store. In it, two of the high councilmen were called and sustained to be bishops!
The results of this tour exceeded anything we could have ever dreamed. It was not a tour. It was an experience that changed lives!
Pressure was applied by the tour members to plan a similar tour the next year for the sites from Palmyra to Kirtland. This was done and the results were just as incredible. Dozens of thank-you letters flowed in. Some were beside themselves when trying to describe their gratitude. Word of this experience spread to friends and family. The next year (1999) there was a high enough demand to fill five buses. It took Brother Day seven and one-half months to plan and lead all five tours. His business as a computer consultant paid the price. His computer consulting clients became frustrated and Brother Day had to make a decision: Either quit the tours and get back to work or shut down the consulting business and make a business out of the tours. By this time, a number of other history lovers had joined in the volunteer effort and had helped direct tours. Brother Day decided to forsake his business of 35 years, raise the price just enough to exist, and continue with the tours. With the help of ten other volunteer guides, it soon grew to seven tours in 2000, eleven in 2001, and thirteen in 2002. In 2004, work began translating the scripts of the Missouri/Nauvoo tour into Spanish for an historic Spanish-speaking tour. In 2005, another Spanish-speaking tour traveled the Palmyra to Kirtland tour. Beginning in 2006, we began similar participation tours to Israel where the number of tours per year grew from one in 2006 to four in 2007 and four in 2008. 2007 initiated exciting tours to England and Wales following the footsteps of the early Apostle missionaries: Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt, among others. Over the following years, tours have been added to the line-up with variations such as Sharon VT-Palmyra-Kirtland, a week in Kirtland, and the new Priesthood Restoration site areas with expert Karl Anderson. Additionally, the Trek to Zion tour following the Mormon Trail from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley was created to satisfy those interested in following the Saints’ journey to the West. While Brother Day has since retired from the day-to-day business, the tours continue to operate in the inspiring manner set out at the beginning with factual accounts and presentations given by tour guides and carefully-selected tour members. Many more history-loving and gospel-loving friends have joined in the volunteer tour guide effort keeping pace with the growing demand to offer these inspiring experiences to thousands of satisfied travelers who are seeking to be uplifted.
GOALS of the Tours:
1. Conduct the tours in the spirit of a good gospel doctrine class. By using the methods described above, our tours cover the historic details of each site while providing an uplifting spiritual experience. We want people to realize and appreciate the sacrifice and faith of their ancestors, returning with a strong conviction to keep the faith themselves.
2. Offer tours at a modest price. Through the use of volunteer tour guides, low overhead, and efficient time management, we can keep the cost of the tour down enough that anyone who really wants to go, is able. We stay in clean, comfortable motels and eat mostly buffets and continental breakfasts.
3. Minimize amount of time taken off work to attend tours. Tours often depart on Monday and return Saturday night or depart Saturday, and return Friday night. In most cases, only 5 workdays are missed, allowing even the busiest people the opportunity to go. The time efficiency of the tours allows people with more free time to attend both tours in the same year while others prefer to do them in consecutive years.
These tours have had an unexpected effect on young people, even teenagers, who have gone, loved it, and been forever changed! We invite all who are interested to share in these sacred sites and this inspiring history of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days.