A few years ago, I was driving across the state of Wyoming with a friend. It was a long road trip from Casper to Cody and we were remembering the many trips we had taken across some of our “flatter states,” like Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, etc. As one drives across the state of Nebraska you can’t help but count fence posts. Driving across the Mojave desert of California, one can see creosote bushes for hundreds of miles across the flat terrain and not much else. We both agreed that one’s traveling companion could either make or break the road trip.
Our conversation then drifted into a discussion of who we would prefer to have in the car with us. Since we began the trip at the Mormon History Association annual conference in Casper, our conversation naturally began with “who in Mormon history (living or deceased) would you like riding shotgun with you on a six hour car ride along 1-80 through Nebraska?”
What would it be like to speak to Emma Smith for six hours, listening to her memories of the early founding events of the church. What did she think of polygamy, Brigham Young, William Law, and others? What was life like in Nauvoo after the majority travelled west? What questions would you ask Zenas Gurley and William Marks? I think about Sidney Rigdon’s daughter, Nancy, and her Nauvoo experience, Joseph Smith III and his battle to save his father’s legacy, and Alice Smith Edwards. So many incredible people that could easily consume a long ride across the Nebraska plains.
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that one person was impossible to select. The only solution was to fill the back seat with those pillars in church history whom we revere.
I imagined I would be driving our trusty Honda Accord, a vehicle that seats up to five people – allowing four extra passengers for the long trip across Nebraska. Here are my top four traveling companions:
1. Emma Hale Smith Bidamon riding shotgun, of course.
2. Jason Briggs, early founder of the Reorganization
3. Elizabeth Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery’s wife and sister to John and David Whitmer.
4. Ron Romig, Community of Christ archivist. Not only is Ron a genius in the subject of Mormon history, he could easily fill the time with great questions that I would have forgotten to ask. Besides, who doesn’t love Ron Romig?
It’s a challenge to narrow the selection to only four. I would love to talk with Grant McMurray, William Law, James Strang, George Jones Adams, and David Hyrum Smith. I have always been curious about John C. Bennett, William Smith, and William McLellin, but I don’t think we would all make it out alive with those three in the back seat.
Of course, no thought has gone into if these riders would actually get along. My thoughts are purely selfish in nature. The car ride would be more like an interrogation of questions for my poor unsuspecting passengers.
Since that Wyoming road trip, the question has been on my mind for nearly four years. Each time we host a visiting historian or church leader at a staff gathering in Kirtland, I can’t resist asking the Nebraska road trip question during the Q & A period. I believe you can learn a lot about a person by who they choose to ride in their car.
Who in Mormon history (living or deceased) would you like riding shotgun with you on a six hour car ride along 1-80 through Nebraska?