The Homestead Keeping Room

Let me set the stage for this little encounter:

It’s a small tour. I have two couples with me today; one older, one younger. I’m in the 1840 addition to the Homestead, dutifully explaining the intricacies of the hiding place in the cellar (now gone) and clarifying that the floorboards have, in fact, been replaced. My visitors nod.

Then the older man looks in my direction and asks,

“So, Rene, what do you think about Joseph?”

It’s a different question—one that I hadn’t encountered before, at least not like this. The unspoken variations and twists on this simple question hang in the air:

What do I, as a Community of Christ member, think about Joseph?
What do I, as a young woman, think about Joseph?
What do I, as a repeated tour guide at Kirtland and now Nauvoo, think about Joseph?

Whatever my answer, I’ll be speaking not just for myself, but also for the Community of Christ, in a way. It’s a caution, honor, and responsibility that all of us tour guides encounter on a daily basis.

So, as our small group stands in Joseph and Emma Smith’s first Nauvoo home, surrounded by 1840s artifacts and axe-marked wooden beams, I take a moment, then answer.

Before I tell you my response, though, I’m interested to know how you would react in this situation.

What do you think about Joseph?