“Two Cities and a Tender Mercy,” Ensign, July 2011, 71
Like Nauvoo, Illinois, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, USA, sits high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Early Latter-day Saints coming from England often passed through Natchez on their way upriver from New Orleans to Nauvoo. In fact, in 1844 a group of ruffians set fire to a boat docked at Natchez that was carrying a number of Latter-day Saints.
When I arrived in Natchez to accept a job with the U.S. National Park Service, I entertained doubts and fears. I had left all that was comfortable and familiar to me in Utah, and as I took up residence in this new and seemingly foreign city, I felt lost and alone.
On my first day of training, the supervising ranger began by taking me through the park’s Civil War–era mansion and demonstrating the type of guided tour I would soon be expected to conduct. By the time we had finished exploring the first floor, I was already having a hard time remembering all of the details. From the French rococo revival furniture to the English porcelain china, the ornate home embodied Southern prosperity—and thoroughly overwhelmed me. Realizing that we had yet to see the second level of the home, I was overcome with a feeling of frustration and a longing for home.
As we climbed the grand staircase, an oil painting of a townscape caught my attention. I had never seen it before, yet there was something familiar about it. My eyes were drawn to the depiction of a large building atop the town’s bluff, and I recognized the sweeping curve that the river made around the city. Could it really be what I thought it was?
I asked if the painting was a depiction of Nauvoo. My supervisor, startled by my question, replied that indeed it was. I soon learned that the painting had been purchased by one of the home’s later owners because presumably it had been painted during the mid-19th century and the river scene coincided nicely with the Natchez landscape.
The Saints who passed through Natchez amid persecution must have felt a great sense of relief and gratitude when they finally arrived at Nauvoo. Similarly, I felt comforted when I saw the painting of Nauvoo in the mansion in Natchez. Seeing the painting helped me know that Heavenly Father was aware of my situation and would bless me with the strength to overcome my homesickness, fear, and doubts. I knew that the painting of Nauvoo was a tender mercy of the Lord.