Saturday, July 31, 2010

On the Way Home

This picture says Knowth, but it is really Newgrange.
As you've noticed I didn't have Internet access this week and I only have a few minutes now. But I can't wait to tell you all about my week. The south of Ireland is as magical as the north. We stayed in a little cottage on a mountain side surrounded by fields of sheep. I have never seen a more picturesque sight in my life.

These are some of the satellite mounds around Knowth
Today is a big travel day. We leave from Dublin land in New York, have a layover, and then go on to Salt Lake City. I am tired, but the great blessing has been that my foot has held up with all this walking and I've had the energy to do everything I wanted to do. It is an absolute miracle and I am so grateful.

Yesterday we saw Newgrange and Knowth. These are just north of Dublin and are two of three ancient sites (older than the Egyptian pyramids in Giza) that have been found and preserved. Newgrange was built so that at the winter solstice the sun shines through a narrow passage into the center of the huge mound and for 17 minutes illuminates it. There are many interpretations of why these Megalithic people built these mounds, but I don't think any of them come close to the truth.

Me at O'Niel's
We also saw the book of Kells yesterday, but I'll have to tell you about that incredible book later. The battery on the computer is about to run out and I left the adapter in the cottage so we can't plug it in. I do have to share one more thing. The best food in Ireland is found at the pubs and for our last night in Ireland we found the most delightful old pub with the best food. It finished off our adventure with a touch of historic magic and delight.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another Amazing Day

We slept in a little this morning because everyone is tired. The children have been amazingly good. They've enjoyed the places we've been, but they don't like the long hours in the car to get there. So this morning we took it easy and then drove just a few miles to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. We started in the Folk Museum and if I'd known what all was there I would have arrived sooner. The place is a village of homes brought in to preserve the daily history and culture of Ireland. While there D8 learned some Irish dancing and we all got a taste of "olden days."

The oldest home was built in the early 1600s and the latest was a bank managers home from 1920s. Farm homes, tract homes, merchant shops, print shops, weigh stations, weaver shops, basket makers, black smiths, you name it and it was there. I tasted soda bread made by a period costumed woman over an open fire, and spent awhile talking to another woman in a tract house that had all the "modern" conveniences of her day which included a tap that brought water right into the house and a gas meter that you put coins into and it gave you gas to use for gas lights and a hot plate. It is easy to see why the Irish have a mythology dancing with leprechauns and little people. Everything here was and is small or as they say,"wee."

It rained all day, but it was more of a constant misting which made me cold so Mr. J and I had low tea at the Tea Shop before we left which consisted of a delicious pot of peppermint tea. That helped warm me and we were ready for the Transport museum. While Mr. J found out how to get out of the village, I bought toffee at the corner candy shop for the kids. The only problem is that the Transport Museum was about to close so we hurriedly walked through the first building of trolleys, cars, and bicycles, but never saw the airplane, train, and Titanic exhibit. Since the Titanic was built here in Belfast I'm sure the exhibit was wonderful, but we keep running out of time everywhere we go .

With all the museums now closed, Mr. J and I drove to Crawfordsburn, a quaint village that many writers have frequented. Bunyan, Tennyson, and C. S. Lewis have all stayed there at the Old Inn part of which was built in the early 1600s and still sports a thatched roof. Walking into the interior is a walk into the 1800s--dim lights, overstuffed furniture, dark wood paneling, and rich floral carpeting. To say I immediately fell in love with the little, winding village is an understatement and there aren't even words to express the magic of the Old Inn. One room was set up for low tea and Carl took my picture sitting in one of the couches.

Next we drove into Belfast and found Little Lea, the home Lewis lived in when he was a boy. The home is privately owned and from all the fences, hedges, and forest around the home it is obvious the current owners don't want anyone intruding, but we did get a picture of me at the front gate. The home is large and impressive and beautifully kept. It is difficult to believe that it is over a hundred years old. A delightful surprise was finding that just four-tenths of a mile from Little Lea is the Holywood ward--a place where Mr. J attended missionary meetings and baptisms when on his mission.

Tomorrow we go to Church at the meeting house in Cave Hill where Mr. J served and then head south where we will spend the rest of our trip. So next time you hear from me I'll be in Cahir (prounounced care).

I just have to say before I close, "Dreams really do come true!!!"

Our Day on the Antrim Coast

Today we had sun beautiful sun lighting our way along the Antrim coast. We escaped the highways today and followed the coast along the north shore where the rolling green hills meet the Atlantic Ocean. To start our adventures we crossed the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede (It means "rock in the road."). The bridge dangles 30 meters above crystal clear waters and connects the land to the tiny Carrick Island. For 350 years fishermen have erected bridges here to catch fish during the salmon season. Bad foot and all I managed to make the trek across! The view from the bridge includes glimpses of Scotland and Rathlin Island.

After the long hike to and across the bridge, we were ready for lunch and found an amazing old inn and restaurant in Bushmills that we had been told had delicious food. We were not disappointed. I don't know how old the building, but it was hundreds of years old and full of quaint twists and turns. I had a vegetarian lasagna made out of butternut squash and artichoke hearts layered between thin sheets of pasta that was delightful mostly because of the butter and vinegar sauce melted over it and sprinkled with pepitas.

From there we went to the famous Giant's Causeway where mythology tells us Finn McCool outsmarted the Scottish giant Benandonner. It is easy to see how such an amazing place inspired delightful stories. Millions of hexagonal rocks nested neatly together. We climbed over them, on them, and through them until we felt right at home like part of Finn McCool's family.

After the long hike out of the causeway, we rode over to Portstewart which Mr J and his companion opened up to missionary work many long years ago. Now, mind you, for 43 years I've heard stories of how hard missionary work was in Ireland. But this trip has ended all pity I ever offered him. First we saw the hotel he lived in for seven months, and yesterday we saw the resort he "labored" in. The place is beautiful and his flat was right on the coast. I mean, walk out the front door, turn left and in ten steps you are on an Atlantic Ocean beach. (The picture below is taken about 50 feet from his front door!) He did tell us stories of months spent petitioning the city for a place to hold Church meetings and of constantly being rejected. But I'm no longer feeling sorry for him. Portstewart is beautiful.

After seeing his "digs" we went around the corner and found a children's park which the grandkids enjoyed and then we went back down the coastal road to see the 12 century castle at Dunluce. It was closed by then, but it doesn't get dark here until a little after 10:00 pm so we stopped for pictures over the wall and then continued to follow the incredibly beautiful coastal road home. We didn't get there until after midnight. It was a very full day, but full of adventure and fun.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Today started out drizzly, but by the time we got to Londonderry the sun shone bright—not warm but sunny—which made for a very pleasant day. We traveled a scenic route that took us through the country. Nothing in Northern Ireland is flat. You are either going up hill or down which means there are always rolling hills above you or below you. The hills look like God laid down a giant patchwork guilt with the patches bordered by dark green ( hedges) and filled with lighter green fields dotted with grazing sheep and cows sitting on the hills watching us go by.

Londonderry is what the city is called in the North, but in the Republic it is called Derry, and the fight about the name seems to symbolize all the contention. Coming north the other day from Dublin all the direction signs read “Derry.” In many places the city is written as Londonderry/Derry, and here in the North on almost all the mileage signs, the “London” part of the word had been spray painted over so that all that was left of the name was “derry.” The fight over what to call the city caused one DJ to suggest they call it Stroke. That didn’t make much sense to me until I learned that what we call a backslash is to the Irish a stroke.

Ancient Londonderry was a walled city and the wall still stands. We walked atop the wall around the city to get a feel for the place and stopped in a small cathedral, St. Augustine’s, just off the wall. As I walked in there was a recording of bagpipes playing, “Amazing Grace” my all time favorite hymn which I want played at my graveside on bagpipes! It was a magical moment. St. Augustine’s was built in the 13th century and had been ruined and restored and rebuilt over the years and is now beautifully maintained. While there we found out about a historical play that would begin in forty-five minutes at another cathedral. So we walked on around the wall until we came to the big cathedral St. Columb’s, built in 1633. It was being refurbished and covered with scaffolding; the inside was also half shut off for workmen, but what we saw was beautiful. The wife of one of the bishops who presided there is the author of the hymn, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.” The words were inspired by the green hills surrounding Londonderry that made her think about of Calvary.

In 1748 John Newton was caught in an Atlantic storm and shipwrecked but miraculously survived which caused him to give up slave trading. While his ship was being repaired he went hunting with the Mayor of Londonderry and was shot through his hat. Now very converted and determined to change his ways he went on to be a devout Christian and many think that these experiences in Londonderry were the inspiration for his writing the hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

From there we went on to the play, but instead of being a play it was period costumed players who interacted with us telling stories of their days and times which was 1789. Delightfully they told us about King George losing the colonies and of having tea (pronounced tah) with the ladies down the street. They taught my grandsons how to politely bow when saying goodbye and we had a delightful time with them before taking our leave.

We also visited the monuments for those who lost their lives in the Troubles which is the Irish revolt that lasted roughly from 1968 to 1998. It was a very full day, the highlight being a visit to the “flat” where Mr J lived while on his mission. The lady who lives there now was very kind (I’ve decided all Irish people are extremely hospitable!) and visited with us for awhile. It is very late now, but hard to go to sleep with all the day’s events dancing in my head.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our first day in Ireland was traditional--rain, more rain, and lots of rain. We headed out in the morning for Ballymena, one of the places Mr. J served on his mission. Mr. J is doing much better with the left side driving and the standard shift car, but today our adventure included several trips down one way streets going the wrong way! The very friendly Irish honked in an effort to save us from peril and even stopped to offer us help. (I can't get over how friendly they are! Even at the places we visited they'd hear our accent and over help and advice on what to see and where to go. They are wonderful people!)

For years Mr J told me about the hotel he lived in for 7 months where maids made their beds every morning and they ate in the restaurant at the hotel (Leighinmohr House) because they had room AND board.Soft life, huh? The place was still there and instead of being older and uglier it was newer and more beautiful. They had added on to it and kept it in very good repair. As a matter of fact it was rather posh, which Mr. J assured me was not the case when he lived there. Mr. J walked us through the place explaining all the ghosts of the past that lived there including the place where the Christmas tree stood. It was a delight.

We were supposed to go to the Giant's Causeway next, but the heavens were weeping so violently that we decided to change the schedule and go to another of Mr. J's cities, Carrickfergus.There we visited a castle built in 1177. King John once was there and it was equipped with a latrine inside the castle--on each floor of the four floors of the keep.  Amazing engineering. The place was very well preserved and replete with statues going about everyday business which included, as pictured here King John sitting on his "throne".

The castle sits right on the Irish Sea and had a commanding view of the water. Mr. J took some amazing pictures from the windows of the castle. 

After the castle, we tried to find the areas Mr J worked and lived, but instead all we found were dead ends. Very small dead ends that were difficult to turn around in. Have I mentioned that the streets here are very narrow? One development was like a maze where every road ended in a dead end. We finally had to ask some young men how to get out of the place.

By the time we got out of the castle it had stopped raining, but everything was closed so we rode home enjoying the scenery of rolling green hills bordered not with wood and barbed wire fences, but with beautiful thick, tall, green hedges and sheep or cows dotting the green fields between the borders. I know now why C. S. Lewis said that heaven looked like the country around Belfast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm in Ireland!

A 50 year old dream has come true! I am in the land of leprechauns! We arrived in Dublin  yesterday after a long flight. We were supposed to leave at 10:40 pm, but there were mechanical problems with the plane and so we had a two hour delay. We flew all night to find sunshine in Ireland. We rented our car and began a perilous journey north.I say perilous because it was absolutely dangerous! Mr. J first had to drive from the right side of the car which meant shifting with his left hand (Yes, the cars are standard shift!) He hasn't driven a standard shift for years and on the right side of the car for forty-four years. But that was only the beginning while we were still in the parking lot.

Out on the street, if you can call them streets, (they are more the size of sidewalks) he had to drive on the left. Now I know why they have small cars here. Our car at home wouldn't fit on the sidewalk size street. We did fairly well finding our way north until just before Belfast when we took a wrong exit off a roundabout (that is pronounced (runedeboot). We did a merry-go-round, and round and round on the roundabout several times trying to decide which exit to take and finally took the wrong one. But I'm sure we gave several Irish people a good laugh. Soon we found ourselves in the middle of heavy traffic in some city (we didn't even know which) without a clue which way to go. Mr. J rolled down his window at a stop light and asked the red headed Irishman next to us how to get to Belfast. He smiled and asked if that was our destination. Mr. J told him we were going to Bangor and he said, "Just follow me for 15 minutes." Bless his Irish heart.

As we followed over hill and over dale, through narrow (Have I stressed narrow enough?) roads, Mr. J accidentally turned on the windshield wipers and couldn't get them turned off. So with wipers wiping nothing, we rode through stone lined streets and green hedges and finally arrived. (After about ten minutes he managed to turn the wipers off!) I don't even know the man's name, but as he left us he said, "I could tell by the accent you needed help, and a little hospitality never hurts!" A little!!! It was a lot and we prayed for the good man last night!

We found D8 and her family in a delightful little cottage called Silvercrest Mews. I've always loved how they name their homes here. I think we should all do it. Doesn't saying "I live in Silvercrest Mews," rather than "I live at 140 North" sound much more enticing? It adds zest to dull life. We found a wonderful restaurant called New Orleans Papa Joes. Now talk about Irish! But the food was fantastic and with an Irish twist to creole cooking. I had a vegetarian tart that was amazing and the garlic and herb potatoes were delicious.

Then we took a ride to the shore line and watched the sun go down on the Irish Sea. Gorgeous but cold. We came from 90 degree heat into 60 degree weather. We were tired after no sleep all night in the plane but it was a wonderful beginning to our stay in the land of rainbows and pots of gold.

Hope your days are also full of rainbows. Just for fun leave a comment telling what you would name your home.

(I'll post pictures as soon as Mr. J has time to load them!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

This is the Place

I am so sad to be leaving the Smith farm and the Sacred Grove. We've walked the Grove for about 20 hours, listened to a devotional talk while in the grove, watched the wildlife, but most importantly soaked in the sacred light that exists even in the shadows of the Grove. We've listened to the stories of people who have come from all over the world just to see the place where their faith began. We've been surprised by how many come from Central and South America, their eyes wide with wonder and expectation just to know they are in the same place Joseph Smith walked and talked, and especially a place where it is known that Jesus Christ and God the Father have appeared upon the earth. Most come here to be fortified and renewed and to celebrate and worship. It has been such a blessing to be part of it and to help those coming here in even in a small way.

Yesterday we finished our last shift at 3:30 and D1 and her family came over from Zion's Camp to go through the Grove with us. All four boys were in white shirts (except for a little breakfast and lunch on some of them! Afterall, they are camping!) We showed them all we have learned and our favorite spots in the Grove, then we stopped at a bench near the oldest tree in the Grove, the Apostle Tree, and we all talked about the First Vision. To end Mr. J and I shared our testimonies with them. It was a very sweet time with our South Carolina grandchildren that we don't get to see very often.

I knew it before I came here but this experience has strengthened my testimony. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet sent by God and that Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to him in the Sacred Grove. I know the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and that it offers eternal life, happiness and love to all who follow its teachings.I will never forget this experience!

This morning we are packing up, driving (six hours!) back to NY city and will fly out to Ireland tonight. I'm glad we have this ahead of us or I don't know if I could go home! As soon as I have Internet access again, I'll let you know what I think of Ireland.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wonders in the Grove

Yesterday we had the early shift and after we got off we did laundry and mailed home the things we won’t need in Ireland. In other words, it was task day. However, we finished the tasks and Carl wanted to take a few more pictures in the Sacred Grove so we went back to the grove and while we were there we saw a little fawn. I’m thinking that the deer I saw the other day must be his mother, but we never saw any sign of the mother yesterday. He wasn’t the least bit afraid of us. I wasn’t sure who was observing whom. He was as curious about us as we were of him, and he kept stepping closer to us to get a better look, his big brown eyes never leaving us.

Last night we attended the pageant again and each time it gets better and better. The interesting thing last night is that the antis that shout and yell before and after the pageant weren’t as intense. I don’t know if they are wearing out or if they are being mellowed, but it was interesting to watch how LDS people react to them. Groups of young people will pass through and begin to sign a hymn. Older people smile and wave at them as if they were long-lost relatives. Some people even stop for a friendly chat which keeps the antis entertained so they can’t yell. There have been, and always will be, a few who content with them but gratefully there are only a few. Most of them don’t know a thing about us. They are hired by anti-Mormons to harass and protest, but when you question them you discover they haven’t a clue what Mormonism is about. When one was asked if he knew what the Book of Mormon was all about, he answered, “Sure, It’s about Jo Smith.” Even their signs show they haven’t a clue. When you understand all that what they are doing is actually humorous rather than offensive.

We heard a story of something that happened last year. A seminary teacher decided to confront one of the antis near the Grandin Building where the Book of Mormon was printed. It got very heated with yelling on both sides and accusations flying like bullets at a trap shoot. Finally a gentleman walked up to them and said, “An hour ago we had one fool yelling on this corner. Now we have two fools.” That made the seminary teacher realize what he was doing and he left. You can’t fight evil with evil! But there is something miraculous that happens when people fight evil with love.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Armies of Heaven

Each day just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday our shift didn’t start until 2:00 so Matt took us to Mendon in the morning. Most people don’t even go over there because there are no official sites, but Mendon is the place Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball heard the gospel. Brigham’s home is no longer there but his father’s home is standing in two places! Many years ago they divided the home and moved half across the street and then added on to both halves. The Chruch now owns the home and at one point moved the John Young threshing barn to the Smith farm where it now stands.

Even though there aren’t many artifacts in Mendon, it was well worth the time to visit. Shortly after the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph’s brother Samuel went on the first mission. He labored far and wide trying to get someone, anyone, to purchase a Book of Mormon but no one would. Returning home very discouraged because he had not sold one single book he stopped in Mendon for the night at the Tomlinson in where he found Phineas Young, Brigham’s brother who was interested in reading the book. So Samuel sold him a book and went on home. Phineas dropped most of his chores for two weeks and read the book and believed. He also told his brother Brigham about the book and he read it and was interested.

You all know what happened from there, but something very extraordinary occurred before Samuel ever got to Mendon. Years before, on the 22 day of September 1827, Brigham Young was living 45 miles east of Mendon in Port Byron and Heber C. Kimball was living near his father in Mendon. The two men didn’t even know each other at the time but something happened to both of them that night that would change their lives.

Heber explains that he suddenly saw white smoke rising toward heaven accompanied by the sound of a mighty wind. The smoke moved across the sky, arched like a rainbow that stretched toward the western horizon. It grew wide, changed to a bluish color, and then grew transparent. As Heber, his wife Vilate, and family members and several neighbors watched, a large, commanding army suddenly began to march in platoons across the sky from east to west. “We could distinctly see the muskets, bayonets and knapsacks of the men,” Heber recorded, “and also saw their officers with their swords and equipage, and [heard] the clashing and jingling of their implements of war, and could discover the forms and features of the men. The most profound order existed throughout the entire army; when the foremost man stepped, every man stepped at the same time; I could hear the steps. When the front rank reached the western horizon a battle ensued, as we could distinctly hear the report of arms and the rush.

“No man could judge of my feelings when I beheld that army of men, as plainly as ever I saw armies of men in the flesh; it seemed as though every hair of my head was alive. This scenery we gazed upon for hours, until it began to disappear.”

Brigham and his wife Miriam saw the same thing in Port Byron and he recorded that the vision was perfectly clear, and that it remained for several hours.

What the Youngs and Kimballs did not know at the time is that on that day, the 22 day of September 1827, a man neither of them knew at the time, Joseph Smith, went to the Hill Cumorah and received the gold plates from the angel Moroni that he then translated and which we now know as the Book of Mormon. A lot of adversity paved the way for us to have this gospel, but there were also a lot of miracles.

Yesterday as we stood on the Young farm which is now acres of rolling farm land bordered by green forest, the trees framed a wide expanse of blue sky filled with white puffy clouds, and it was easy to picture the giant panorama in the sky that the Youngs and Kimballs saw. It was a little more difficult to imagine what they must have felt as they witnessed the armies of heaven going forth to battle.

(The top picture is one half of John Young's home with its additions. The second picture is the Tomlinson Inn where Samuel sold Phineas Young a Book of Mormon, and the last picture is a view of the fields and sky where Heber and Vilate would have seen the vision of the armies. Imagine those clouds as an army!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Amazing Day

I can’t even begin to express the miracle and wonder of yesterday. A few days ago while working I met a seminary teacher coordinator from Syracuse, NY, who knows all about the history of this area and he volunteered to take Mr. J and I to Harmony, Pennsylvania and show us the sights down there. So yesterday we went to the Farm for our shift at 8:00, had an amazing day (as usual) and even met several people from back home. When we got off our shift at 2:00 we met Matt and drove to Harmony, the place where the Prophet Joseph met Emma and where he and Oliver Cowdery were baptized.

It is over a two hour drive to Harmony so all the way down Matt taught us Church history. I thought I knew Church history but he was telling us stories I’ve never heard, and I can’t wait to research and learn more about them. There were some very interesting things I’ll share later. But back to yesterday. We arrived in Oakland, PA, which is what used to be Harmony and stood on the land that Joseph bought near his father-in-law and where Emma and Joseph lived while he translated the Book of Mormon. The house is gone, but you can still see what must have been foundation stones. We then went down the street a little to see where Emma’s parent’s home stood. Isaac Hale was a prominent man who owned a very large parcel of land. I had never realized before what prosperity she gave up to go against her parent’s wishes and marry Joseph. The Hale home was large, and the land fertile and beautiful.

Near the home sites is the cemetery where Emma’s parents are buried and Emma’s first child, Alvin. Behind Emma and Joseph’s home site is the Susquehanna River where Joseph and Oliver Cowdery prayed and John the Baptist appeared to restore the Aaronic priesthood and where they were baptized. The river is much larger than I imagined and flows gently. At the spot we were in the river has carved out an area in the shore to form a pool of water that doesn’t flow much. I waded into the water to find that the river bottom is all rocks—no sand or soil—and the water surprisingly warm.

Matt next took us to some homes most tourists never get to see. Historians have discovered where Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight lived and their homes are still standing. Both men were very affluent and influential. You will remember that Joseph Knight hired Joseph to build a well and later Josiah Stowell hired Joseph to dig on his property for Spanish treasure. While working for Stowell, Joseph boarded with Isaac Hale and that is when the love story of Joseph and Emma began. That much of the story I knew and figured the three homes were near each other, but Stowell and Knight lived in Colesville which is about 30 miles away.

Some people have purchased the Knight and Stowell homes and are restoring them to their original condition and Matt had access to both homes. It was electric! Joseph stayed in both those places many  times. Most significant is that he and Emma honeymooned in the Stowell home after Josiah Stowell helped the couple elope. In their day the homes were the largest and best with beautiful wide, plank floors and several bedrooms upstairs. Again, it made me think of all the sacrifices Emma made to support and be a help to Joseph.

Palmyra was the cradle of the restoration of the Church, but Colesville was the place of the first converts. Joseph preached often in a large barn owned by Joseph Knight and it was there that the first branch of the Church was formed (Joseph baptized Emma in a pond near the Knight home) and it was those saints that proved to be some of the strongest and most loyal of the early Church. I felt it such an honor to stand where they had stood. I found myself wish those old walls could speak and tell me all they knew! The well Joseph and his father built has been restored and the restoration people reported that when they dug down and found the original rock work it was very well done.

We next went to the county fairgrounds to see where the home once stood where Joseph and Emma were married. The home is long gone, but there is a metal historical marker posted by the NY preservation society that was put up when the home was still standing. It says that it is the place where the Mormon founder Joseph Smith married Emily [sic] Hale.

Finally we headed back to the motel and arrived at midnight. It was a long day, but amazing. We saw and felt the places where Joseph and Emma met and married, where the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods were restored, and where the first saints were converted and baptized.

I wish you had all been here with me! But I hope you'll enjoy the pictures. To get the bigger feel of the place imagine being surrounded with small mountains covered in dense forest and everywhere you look shades of green with small wandering roads and old, old homes still lived in and cared for. Close your eyes and see the wide Susquehanna River gently snaking through the valley, and on it Joseph traveling between the Hale's estate and Colesville in a canoe to see Emma and to attend the school where she taught. (I love romantic stories!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wet But Happy

We started today in the Palmyra temple. As you walk into the lobby, and if you kept going straight there is a window that looks over the valley and into the Sacred Grove. It is a majestic sight to be standing in a temple and looking at the place the first vision occurred. After the session we went to lunch and found a berry stand that sells fresh berries and shortcake. The shortcake with mounds of fresh strawberries and raspberries tasted like something right out of heaven. Then our shift started and we went to work. Our first station was to patrol the Grove, and we had gotten quite far into the Grove when it started to rain.

Rain is an understatement, but I don't have a word for what it was doing. It was more like buckets of water being poured over us. By the time we got out of the Grove I was soaking wet clear to the skin. We made it to an awning that is the Information Booth and spent the rest of the day there. It continued to pour and the awning leaked and the wind kept us chilled, but I'm not complaining. I kept thinking that the Smith family experienced this kind of weather and now I had too. We were facing the apple orchard the whole time which is the place where Joseph fell as he crossed the fence and Moroni appeared to him for the fourth time in about 20 hours. I kept seeing that over and over in my mind.

We also saw a young deer cross the field and go into the Grove. I wonder if the animals know what a special place this is.

(The picture is of me and was taken just minutes before the rain started.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lessons I'm Learning

The Pageant isn’t produced on Sundays or Mondays so the last two days have been slow at the Smith Farm. But that gives us time to meditate and soak in the feelings. One of the most interesting things is watching the difference in the people that come here. It has taught me whole new aspects of what Living in Truth means. Most of the people are on a Church History sites tour and have been to or are going to Kirtland, Nauvoo, and other sites. Some people hurry through as if to check the place off their lists. “All right, we’ve done that one now. What next?” seems to be their attitude.

Others come with scriptures in hand and plan to spend some time in the Grove pondering and communing with God. As we were patrolling the Grove on our shift this morning we happened on a young woman kneeling at a bench praying. And the other day we encountered a young family that had stopped at a bench. Their scriptures were open on the bench and the mother was helping the four young children record their thoughts about the Grove in their journals. Other parents just let their children loose in the Grove and don’t even make sure they don’t cause any damage.

Last Saturday two youth groups came in for youth conference. One came in very reverently (you could tell they had been instructed in how to treat the Grove), wearing Sunday clothes, with scriptures under their arms, and had a meeting. The other group was dressed very casually and was boisterously laughing and joking as they went through the grove. Watching the two groups it became obvious that one was having a very spiritual experience and the other was not.

From watching all of this I have come to realize that all my years of mothering a large family, got me in the bad habit of paying attention to what needed to be done instead of what was going on. Things like, “Where is this child?” and “What am I going to do next to keep them entertained?” and “I know one isn’t going to like such and such so what will I do?” and even just the immediate needs of wiping noses and changing diapers kept me from really being present to feel and experience the moment. I know those things need to be attended to, but if I had been more aware and prepared to experience rather than just endure, so many things would have been much better for me and for my children.

So when my mind starts thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing next and straying too much into thoughts of duties and work, I’m anchoring myself so that I don’t miss out on the amazing feeling that is here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Days Five and Six (Some of It!)

Yesterday morning I met the forester for the Grove and asked if he would take me through the Grove and teach me about the flora. He agreed and so after my shift ended, Bob taught me for an hour and a half as we walked around.

There were several trees he showed me that he called “character” trees. These are trees that have faced adversity, survived, and have a story to “tell” about survival. The first he showed me was a maple tree off which the top had been broken about six feet up the trunk many years ago in a storm. Most trees die when this severely damaged, but this tree sent up two new branches which grew parallel toward the sky in search of light. Most branches as close together as these two compete until one wins out, but in this tree the smaller of the branches “leaned” over to support the larger until it became part of the larger branch. Instead of competing it supported. It literally assimilated into the larger branch to strengthen and give life to that branch.

I couldn’t help but think it a good metaphor for marriage where instead of competing with one another we support and become one larger, better branch that can better survive the storms of life. Carl got at good picture of the tree and Bob didn't give the tree a name, so I'm calling it the Wedded Tree.

Last night we went to the Pageant again and enjoyed every minute(again!). There was a large audience last night which included Donny Osmond and family. The anti-Mormon contingency was out it force with microphones and signs. The interesting thing is the talked with a few people who had walked through the antis to get to the Pageant and they remarked on the dark, horrible feelings that came over them while they were passing through but how as soon as they stepped on the Cumorah property the bad feelings immediately washed away in a flood of joy and light. The anti-Mormons don’t realize how they are helping people to recognize the truth!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day Four - Imagining

Today was our Preparation day so we drove out to the Whitmer farm—the place where the Church was organized in 1830, where Joseph translated some of the Book of Mormon, where some of the first ordinances in this dispensation were administered, and where Joseph received 20 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. All this in a small, unassuming log home! God seems to like those kind of places—mangers, gardens, groves, and ever so small log cabins.

Part of the beauty of our assignment is that they let us in alone, with no tour group or guide. I have been gifted with a powerful imagination and in the quiet I could imagine Joseph standing in front of the fireplace and announcing the beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t know for sure where Hyrum and his father and Emma were in the room, but I put them in the front sitting beside where he stood looking up at Joseph. I listened to the pleased awes of the congregation and thought about how their joy would be mine. I walked upstairs to the bedroom Joseph and Emma used. This home isn’t a reproduction—it is the real home, the original place where they walked and talked and in the quite my imagination could hear the gentle banter of husband and wife as they readied themselves for bed.

But there was something more. The Whitmer farm is also the place where Mary Musselman Whitmer was shown the gold plates by a man she thought was Nephi, but most scholars think was Moroni. She was weary from so much work caring for her family and Joseph and Emma and all the visitor that stopped by to see Joseph. One day as she went out back to chop wood she was mired in discouragement and wondering how she could go on when a stranger with a knapsack over his shoulder approached her. He told her not to be weary, that the work Joseph was doing was very important and she should continue to do all she could to help. Then he took the sack from off his shoulder, opened it up, and lifted out the plates for her to see. After she had seen them, he put them back in the sack and started down the road. Stunned by what she had seen, Mary looked after him, but he was gone. I saw it all again today in my imagination, and when I looked up they were both gone.

There were many amazing things that happened at the Whitmer farm, but for me, a woman, that conversation is one of the best to remember.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day Three in Palmyra

This morning we began our work. (It is difficult to call it work! It isn’t play, but it is absolute delight.) Our first assignment was to patrol the path deepest into the Sacred Grove. We just walked around and were supposed to help anyone who needs help and keep people from going off the path or doing things to destroy the Grove like picking the wildflowers or carving names on trees. It was very easy this morning because no one went that far into the Grove so we had another morning of enjoying the solitude and reverence. I’ve never been in a place that feels as much like a temple as the Sacred Grove. I wish everyone could bring their children here and let them feel the place. It would help our children understand why we want them to be temple worthy so that they can go to and be renewed in a place like this.

Our second station was counting visitors as they entered the log home where Joseph Smith was living at the time of the first vision in 1820 and where he was sleeping Sept. 21st, 1823, when Moroni awakened him to tell him what the Lord wanted him to do with his life. Six boys sleeping in that tiny room and Joseph visiting with Moroni all night long. You never know what the person next to you is experiencing! And such an amazing message. A message that change the course of my ancestors lives and allowed me a life that includes Jesus Christ. I am so grateful.

Our third station was the entrance to the visitors center. So many wonderful people and a special surprise--one of my BYU students from many years ago came through with his four children! FOUR! How could that have happened?

At 2:00 our shift ended and we went to Canandaigua to a little crepe shop for lunch. The entire Main Street of Canandaigua looks like it did in the early 1900s. Such a delight to step back in time while using my IPhone and enjoying amenities such as air conditioning. After lunch we visited a small specialty store that sells flavored vinegars and oils. I tasted peach balsamic vinegar and blueberry balsamic vinegar and you won’t believe this one—chocolate balsamic vinegar. Such a taste treat. I want to make salad dressing out of the chocolate! I wanted to buy some but I’d have to drag them to Ireland so I’ll wait until I get home and then order some. If you want to check them out (It’s worth it!) they can be found at I just wish I could give you a taste!
After F. Olivers we rode out to Bristol to a pottery shop. We got there a little late and the potter was just closing up shop so we could watch him at work, but I bought a beautiful bowl inlaid with leaves that I’ll send home with some clothes before we leave for Ireland. (It won’t be as difficult to ship the bowl as it would be to ship liquid vinegar!)
Every place I go I wonder if Joseph walked here. I know he was on the Hill Cumorah and all around the Grove. But did he also travel the path to Canandaigua? Did he go to Seneca Falls or Macedon? He was here and now I am here and it makes me think of the miracle of it all constantly. So amazing!

We’re going to the dress rehearsal of the pageant tonight! Wish you were all here with me!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The First Two Days

Monday night we boarded the midnight special (aka the red-eye special) and arrived at JFK airport at 6:00 in the morning tired, but excited. We rented a car and drove to Palmyra, NY. According to our Google map it should have taken us 5 and ½ hours but a left turn that should have been a right turn made that a seven hour journey. We arrived at our hotel tired and hot—it seems New York is experiencing a heat wave and we have been inundated.

We unpacked, and took a ride to get our bearing then ate dinner at The Depot, a restaurant situated in a Railroad depot built in 1911. The walls were covered with memorabilia and being in the room made you feel like you’d been transported in time back to the days of railroad travel. The surprise was that the food was wonderful. I had eggplant over penne pasta that was fantastic and for dessert we share a piece of crème Brule cheesecake that was absolutely heavenly. I usually don’t eat sugar or dessert, but I had to try a few bites of that cheesecake and I was glad I did.

This morning we went to the Sacred Grove first things. We took the tour and then walked around the grove and finally sat in a secluded spot where we spent the next few hours. Carl took pictures and I read the Joseph Smith History from the Pearl of Great Price. To read those words in the place they happened, written in first person as if Joseph were there speaking to me cased my hair to stand on end in delight. Electricity surged through me, and I felt as much as read the words.

Finally it was time for our orientation meeting and we drove down the street to the Palmyra stake center where Pres. Jack Christenson, and President Lakin, the director of the historical sites, spoke to a chapel full of couples like us volunteering to help out during pageant. The spirit was so strong and the feelings so heavenly. Someone quoted President Hinckley who said that next to Palestine, this is the most sacred place on earth. I believe it. You don’t have to be told that. You can feel it. We sang “Praise to the Man” as the closing hymn and again the electricity surged through me. It was here that Joseph “communed with Jehovah.” I know that! And my life is blessed so very much because of that visit.

Tonight we went to the Smith farm and received more training and tomorrow morning we begin our two weeks missionary service.

(It is so late and I am so tired, I hope any of this even makes sense, but I wanted to share with you what we are experiencing. It is amazing!)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Soaring on the Wings of Truth

The last few days I’ve heard a lot about patriotism, freedom, and the wonderful people who have made liberty possible. I say, “Amen!” to all of that. But before we get too far past the Independence Day celebrating I want to celebrate a different kind of freedom. I am free when I live in Truth. That is the true freedom in my life. When I live in Truth I release the chains of the past and open the door for possibilities in the future.

As the Savior said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). To be free means to be free from the bondage of the natural man. It means you are free from the unnecessary pain of anger and hurt, free to obtain peace, joy and happiness. And obtaining that freedom comes when we choose to avoid the Pit of Illusion and Live in Truth.

I am a child of God and as such do not need to be chained to the bondage of Illusion. Instead I write the story of my life in terms of faith, hope, and love. I am not confined to telestial realities because I know about celestial truth. No longer do I accept a limited story of my life. Instead, I stand in the fullness of my divine nature. I know that in Truth I am absolutely and unconditionally free. As the Savior went on to say in the book of John, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36.

Governmental liberty is a great blessing, but to be free from internal bondage is an even greater blessing.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrating the Sabbath

The Sabbath and Independence Day! 
Have a great time contemplating 
the relationship between the two.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Preacher Says to Rejoice

We’ve been talking about how rejoicing and being happy is a commandment and this morning I found an interesting verse about that. In Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 (Ecclesiastes means “preacher”) it says, “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”

So the advice from the Preacher is that there is no good except to rejoice and to do good, and that we should enjoy the fruits of our labors. The ability to enjoy is one of the gifts God has given us! I like that, and it is a great reminder as we go into this Fourth of July weekend. God wants us to celebrate and to rejoice and enjoy.

So while I’m watching fireworks and enjoying the holiday besides rejoicing over our freedom and our country, I’m going to rejoice in a God who wants me to be happy.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy July!

I read an affirmation on the Internet this morning that I liked, especially since I am about to have a new experience. It said, “I step confidently into each new experience, expecting only good.” Having been born the world’s biggest pessimist and then cultivating that negative way of life for years, I struggle to change decade old habits. I know I should expect only good, but when you’ve traveled life seeing only the bad and have so often encountered failure and the “not so good,” it is hard to change.

However, I know I should. All I’ve learned about Living in Truth tells me that there is always some good even in what appears at first to be disappointment or failure. And I am determined to learn to see that good and to expect that good. I’m working hard at it and am finding this is another area in which the Truth Tools are valuable.

So I am flying out for New York and then Ireland with expectations of good things ahead. I’ll keep you informed as to how I’m doing, and what good things I’m finding. July is going to be a good month!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dead Computer

My laptop died this morning. I am going to miss her. We’ve grown rather attached over the past few years so that I feel rather like I’ve lost an arm. (A writer without a laptop is like a flower without water!) The worst part is that the timing of her demise is atrocious. We are leaving on Monday to spend two weeks at the Hill Cumorah Pageant as volunteers to supplement the missionary force. They usually get about 200 visitors a day, but during Pageant they get about 2,000 so they need a few extra missionaries for two weeks. After the Pageant we are flying to Ireland to spend two weeks attempting to find remnants of Mr. J’s mission life still flourishing. I am excited about the trip, but at this point there is nothing I can do about replacing my laptop before the trip. (Don't worry, a few years ago this would have caused me a lot of unnecessary pain in the form of devastation, but I'm using my Truth Tools and staying in Truth.) The Truth is the computer is dead. That hurts, but vexing about it would only cause me pain. I’ll just wait until I get home and hope there is something left over for a new computer. If there isn't, "Come what may, and love it."

So, I’ll try to use Mr. J’s computer for daily updates and to take you along with me to New York and Ireland, but things may be sporadic. I think we have wireless Internet at all of the places we are staying and Mr. J is very generous to let me use his computer, but if I miss a few day’s posts, you’ll know why.