“The Mummies of Nauvoo,” New Era, Dec. 1973, 41
This is an adaptation from material found in the diary of Solomon Hale. He was a nephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith and lived in Nauvoo at the time the Prophet acquired the Egyptian mummies described in this incident.
As the nephew of Joseph Smith, I had access to the many mysteries of the then fabulous Nauvoo Mansion House. When I think of that place, and time, I remember a joke I was fond of playing on the children my age in our neighborhood.
Many people had heard of the “mummies” my uncle had in his study, but I don’t think too many knew for sure what or who they were. In some, superior knowledge breeds contempt, and my twisted sense of humor had a field day with the naive children of Nauvoo. You see, not only had I seen the mummies, but I also knew they were harmless.
I would gather four or five of my intended victims together in front of the Mansion House, with the promise that they would soon see the strange and bizarre sights of the upper floor. I told them they were about to go back in time to the land of the pyramids and savage demons, half lion and half man. My party and I would climb the stairs slowly so as not to disturb the slumbering spirits of the mummies and carefully enter the room where the treasures were.
I would arrange my trusting friends in a line facing the closet where the mummies were kept and, with all due reverence place my hand on the black drape hiding them from view.
I would count slowly to three, whisk the curtain aside. and watch with glee as my former friends would dash down the stairs in terror of the shriveled and dusty Egyptians.
Later I would meet them in the street with a self-contented and, I assure you, very smug smile. Once I brought down an old rag with me and chased them down Mulholland Street with it; I had told them it was the very piece of cloth used to cover the hearts of the mummies and could turn them into youthful reproductions of the monsters in the closet.
One day I found an especially dumb bunch of kids playing outside my uncle’s home. After my usual opening explanation, I led them into the Prophet’s study and began my act. I looked at them very carefully to impress upon them the miraculous thing they were about to behold. I had changed my act and had added what I felt sounded like an authentic Egyptian chant.
I finished the chant, pulled aside the drape, and was appalled by the lack of reaction; no one yelled or ran; the little girl present didn’t faint. Either my friends had amazing self-control or someone had done something to the mummies. They did, however, see something, for their mouths were opened so far their chins nearly touched the tops of their shoes. I looked around the corner of the closet and came face to face with my uncle’s watch bob.
There he stood, the Prophet Joseph, right where the mummies should have been. I looked for the telltale mark of the not-too-mad-adult, that amused-but-not-showing-it-over-the-childish-prank look, but it wasn’t there. So, giving him my toothiest smile, I ushered my audience out the door and down the stairs. That was the last time I ever went to see or ever wanted to see the mummies of Nauvoo.