Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sabbath Scripture

It is written,
Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Wonder-Children

art by Karen Tribett

The last of my children left today. Physically it is a relief. I don’t have the stamina I once had to keep up with all of this activity. But it is also a bit sad to have them go. The good thing is that I now have some wonderful memories of playing games with my wonder-children, of seeing their excited faces as they participated in the activities, and of watching them get to know and help each other. 

Yesterday I woke up very sick—not getting to bed on time has taken its toll!—but being sick has given me time to reflect on what fantastic children and wonder-children I have. When a child woke up he or she didn’t just get hugs from mother, he got hugs from every aunt and uncle. When a child needed something he didn’t have to go find mother because whoever was nearest met the need. I’m sure that all 24 of the wonder-children who were here have gone away feeling loved by every aunt and uncle they have in this family. 

That thought makes my heart sing!

Friday, July 29, 2011


I was walking with a woman once who critically commented on every house we passed. “Those purple flowers in the window boxes have got to go,” she said at one place. “I can’t abide plastic fences. They are so unnatural. What are people thinking!” and “Doesn’t she know that widow treatments should match from the outside!” at the next two yards we passed.

As we walked the criticism continued at every single house, but the interesting thing was what happened to her. As she’d speak her extraordinarily beautiful face would pinch tight in a snarl so that it lost its beauty, and the “venom” of negative thoughts would build within her then spew out like hot lava in a volcano spreading their negative fire to the rest of us. Granted, she may have just been having a bad day, but whatever the cause, the point is that the criticism did nothing but hurt her. Her thoughts caused her unnecessary pain.

I am well aware that the fashion industry, educational institutions, food connoisseurs, and home d├ęcor businesses and every other group have standards and guidelines that many people follow and like. If those "opinions" make your life easier or more enjoyable, follow them. However, to insist that everyone else should follow them and to get upset because someone else doesn’t or to think that everyone should have the same taste in things as you do, as was the case with this woman, is ridiculous. It only vexes your life.

If someone has a purple fence that you would rather die than have in your own yard, why vex yourself over it? It’s their fence. Enjoy the color! Smile at the person’s free spirit! Delight in the variety that free spirit adds to your life. And when tempted to criticize what someone else chooses to do remember, “Everything is as wonderful or terrible as your opinion makes it.” It’s all a choice—your choice.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lessons on Chaos

As I’ve been explaining our family chaos this last week it occurred to me that some of you may not know our family situation. So I’ll explain. Mr. J and I have nine daughters and one son. (Yes, he is the last child—the tithing child!) All of them live far away except for D5 who lives nearby. D1 (has six sons) lives in South Carolina, D2 (has three sons and one daughter) lives in California, D3 (has four sons and one daughter) lives in Tennessee, D4 (has four sons) lives in California, D5 (has one son) lives in Orem, Utah!!!! D6 (has one daughter, one son, and another son on the way) lives in California, D7 (has two sons and two daughters) lives in Texas, and D8 (has two sons, one daughter and a baby of unknown gender on the way) has been living in Mauritania, Africa, for the past two years but is now relocating to Seattle, Washington. Our ninth daughter died, and our son (has one son, one daughter, and one baby on the way) live in Utah, but a four hour drive away.

If you were doing the math you know that adds up to 9 children, 9 spouses, and 31 grandchildren. Since most of them live far away, when they come to visit they stay here which means 51 people—thus the chaos. D1 and her six boys didn’t come, but everyone else has been here. It has been fun, but wild! What isn’t broken in the house is dirty, but they will soon all be gone and while we are patching and cleaning up we will miss them. 

The older I get the more I realize what a blessing families are. But the older I get the harder it is to show them how much I love them. This old body just doesn’t do what it used to do. Since Grizelda loud noises literally hurt my head, and this week I am going through another procedure for skin cancer on my face which means I can’t be out in the sun with them. But I’ve managed individual time to snuggle on the couch to read or talk or giggle with each of the grandchildren individually—usually in the mornings before their parents are awake. I love it and will miss that part of the visit.

In short, the past two weeks have expanded my understanding of what Lehi meant when he said, “It must needs be that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Every experience, every situation has it’s joy and it’s pain and we just have to choose which we are going to cling to and remember.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stoking the Fire!

After teaching the people the Beatitudes, Jesus taught them the higher law. He explained that the old law directed that a man should not commit adultery, but the new law commanded that people shouldn’t even have lustful thoughts. He explained that the old law directed that killing is wrong, but the new law commanded that people shouldn’t be angry with one another. He went on to explain this law by saying, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22).

Obviously murder is evil, but Jesus is teaching that the anger which that leads to it is also evil. But the intent is more poignant when we dig a little deeper into the meaning. The Greek word used in the original manuscripts for brother is gender neutral so it should be translated “brother or sister” and the word Raca is most commonly believed to be the Aramaic word reka which literally means "empty one", but probably was used as a pejorative term meaning "empty head" or "foolish."

Putting this in modern terms, this is like saying that calling someone, “Stupid!” puts you in danger of a having to go before a bishop’s council, and saying, “You fool,” is putting you in danger of damnation. Pretty strong! As a matter of fact, that seems too strong to many people, but part of what we are being taught here is that words have power to hurt not only the person they are directed at but the person saying them. We all realize that emotions generate words, but what we don’t often stop to think about is that words also generate emotions. This means that the words we choose to use when negative emotions start to swell in us can either douse the fire or spray additional fuel on the already smoldering emotions.

This is just one of the places in scripture that indicate that we need to watch the words we use because words have eternal consequences.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BYU Education Week is Coming

Brigham Young University Education Week is fast approaching (August 15-19). This year I am teaching three classes and am very excited about it. On Monday I will be teaching a new two hour class on the subject of “Faith Works by Words.” I’ve been doing the research on the relationship of words and faith for the past two years and this will be the first time I’ve shared what I’ve been learning. They also asked me to do the lecture on the “Life of C. S. Lewis” on Monday afternoon.

During the Tuesday to Friday classes I will be teaching “'Come What May and Love It'--But How?” which are the Living in Truth principles, and “The Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis.” On Tues. the Lewis class will repeat the Monday lecture on the life of Lewis and the following days I’ll do classes on the fiction, non-fiction, and finally the Chronicles of Narnia.

It is going to be a fun week and I hope to see you there!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm Loving It!

I had 38 people for dinner yesterday and survived! It was D2s birthday and so fun to enjoy the day with her. I don’t get the chance to celebrate with my children or grandchildren very often so that was extra special.

These past few weeks have taught me a lot more about Living in Truth. Palmyra was a wonderful experience, but it was also a lot of physical work. Then we arrived home at 10:30 pm and the next morning awoke to more work—getting ready for a family (that means 42 people!) vacation. Then four days of “vacation,” and back home again. Overall it has been a fantastic, fun family time that I wouldn’t change a moment of, but you can’t get that many people together in close quarters without a few problems which means that I’ve had time to practice the Truth Tools! 

Usually humor is one of my best tools. I can see the humor in anything, but being tired and ornery, my sense of humor was suddenly inoperative and I had to use a few different tools. I’m also learning that I’m a person who just needs to vent. For me verbally expressing all I’m feeling is like letting off steam in a pressure cooker—it eliminates an explosion. The problem is finding someone who you can vent to and not transfer all the negative energy to them and cause them more stress. I’m experimenting with ways to do that, but Mr. C is getting good at just listening to me without preaching at me. The preaching only makes things worse. All I need to do is vent. I know I’m wrong. I know what I need to do. I know! But I just need to verbally express everything to get it out of my system.

In short, I think that learning to Live in Truth is a lifelong process, but the more I practice doing it the easier it gets. And the easier it gets, the more rewarding it is. Come what may (be that chaos, tension, or whatever!) and find a way to LOVE it. That’s the formula for happy living--that's Living in Truth.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sabbath Scripture-Finding Yourself

He that findeth his life shall lose it:
and he that loseth his life
for my sake
shall find it.
Matthew 10:39

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Wall to wall people!
Miracles still happen. After almost a week in the mountains in a tight fitting cabin all nine families have returned unharmed and still friends! The still friends part is the most miraculous. Some are still here, but tomorrow they start departing for their homes. It has been a hectic kind of fun. My children never cease to amaze me. All families had a meal to cook and all had an activity to put on either in the afternoon or the evening. To say we ate well is a supreme understatement. And the activities were so entertaining no one wanted them to end.

The event began with a surprise. Some of the girls had ordered T-shirts for all of us that said, C+S= one crazy, happy family. And after that everything was off with a bang.

We had a Minute to Win It event that had everyone cheering as the two teams did everything from eating chocolate pudding out of a diaper, to stringing penne pasta on a piece of fettuccini held in the mouth of the contestant—no hands allowed! They knocked cups over with a ball held in the foot of a pair of panty hose with the panty part worn on the head. My favorite was watching everyone try to get the Oreos placed on their foreheads into their mouths without using any hands. I couldn’t do it, but several of them managed it.

Another activity was a scavenger hunt with the older kinds following clues to find stations where they had to perform feats outside and the young kids inside. I have to say I have some very bright grandchildren who figured out the challenges very fast.

The donut garden we grew. You can't see the worms,
but they are in there!
 When it was my turn we had a chocolate pudding eating contest. The catch was that the person eating the pudding had someone else feeding them and all were blindfolded. That night I had all the grandchildren grow donuts in cups of “dirt” made out of crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. We planted Nana’s Donut Seeds (Cheerios) and magically the next morning the plain Cheerios had grown into brown cake donuts and the frosted Cheerios had grown into white cake donuts. But somehow (gummy) worms had gotten into the “soil” during the night also.

We have a tradition of holding a raffle whenever the family gets together. I buy fun prizes from the dollar store and we have tickets and everyone wins a prize. The hit this year was the blow up pillow that when sat on makes vulgar sounds. The adults didn’t much like the squeaky toy Jenna won, but she liked it a lot.

Night time was the most fun when all the kids were sleeping where ever they could find a spot and the adults stayed up half the night telling stories about their growing up years. I now understand what the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss,” means. There were a few things I’m glad I didn’t know until now.

My favorite part was watching my family interact together. Since they all live far away, I don’t get to see that often. When I was growing up the adults did their thing and the kids did theirs. I don’t remember any interaction. But my family includes everyone. One night we, adults and children, danced in a big circle and someone got called out to go into the center to perform a solo dance move. Everyone was included and that’s how it went the whole time. The adults participated with the children and included them in everything from the B-B gun shooting to the hiking to the storytelling.

In short, at Johnson Camp a wonderful time was had by all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm Home!

We traveled all day and arrived home weary at about midnight. I was tempted to complain when we sat on the runway for an hour at JFK waiting for our turn to take off, but then I remembered the Pioneers and how it took them months of stress, hardship, pain, hunger, and fatigue to make the same trip I would make in five hours and I managed to stop the complaining.

I'm spending the next few days with these amazing people! Lucky me!
It was sheer delight to return home to a houseful of our children and grandchildren. The children waited up for us and we giggled for awhile before we all went to bed. However, the grandchildren were asleep except for two of the teenagers and so I haven't seen them yet. I can't wait. I'm tempted to go wake them, but then my mothering memories awaken within me and I refrain myself. Mothering memory number one: Waking a sleeping child turns them into tigers for the rest of the day! There are just some things you don't do even when you want to.

This afternoon we leave for a cabin in the mountains. I won't have Internet access there so I probably won't be able to post anything until I get back on Saturday. But if by chance I find a way, I'll keep you updated on our adventures. I have some very fun things planned (like a pudding eating contest!) and I know the girls have some great plans also.

Monday, July 18, 2011

With a Few Tears

View looking into the apple orchard at the Smith Farm.
 It is a sad day. I have loved every minute I’ve spent here. Last year when we left I knew we would be coming back again, but this year I don’t know if I will ever see this place again and that thought stabs in my heart. It is a wound that is not going to heal easily. The last two days we haven’t done much except soak in the feelings and sights.

Saturday we worked the afternoon shift then went to dinner. Yesterday we went to Church and had to leave after the Sacrament because we were needed at the Smith farm. My first station was the Cooper shop which is my very favorite station. Once more I was able to bear testimony of the miracles that occurred there. After our shift ended we went back to the hotel for a quick sandwich and then returned to the Farm where we met D1 and her family and were able to spend a couple hours with them showing them the farm and telling them the stories of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family. Being there with people I love so much was a beautiful way to end our stay here.

Today we pack up and travel home where all of our children except D1 are waiting for us for a family reunion! I'm leaving the peace of the Grove and entering the chaos of big family adventures! What a life!
Thanks for coming along on this journey with me, but my prayer is that every one of you will at some point get to experience this for yourselves. My words don't do it justice.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Old Rock Fence and More

Stone fence at Palmyra Temple.
Mr. J and I on the temple path.
Yesterday we worked the morning shift and while I was working in the Grove I talked with Bob Parrott, the caretaker of the grove, who told me that the stone fence to the east of the temple grounds was built by the Smith family. So after our shift we stopped at the temple, walked the small path again and found the spot Bob had marked with orange ties because it is an exceptionally well preserved part of the path. The quality of the workmanship is what has preserved it, and I enjoyed standing there imagining Joseph, his father and brothers loading the stone boat with rocks, hauling them to the property line, and carefully constructing a fence that would last for almost two-hundred years.

After our walk we stopped at one of the four churches on the corners of Main Street in Palmyra. Palmyra is in the Guinness Book of World records as the only city in the world with four Protestant churches at one intersection. The Evangelical church, on the south-east corner, has some beautiful stain glass windows that depict the life of Christ. The Church was built in 1827 and is beautifully preserved and cared for. A delightful historian took us through the building and even let us ring the church bell.
"Plates of Gold"

After our visit to the church, we ate lunch and went to a showing of a new full-length movie called “Plates of Gold.” We had heard about it, but I am always a bit leery about Church movies and was reluctant to take the time to see it. Sometimes these movies take too many liberties with actual history. Other times they are too cheesy. Other times they are so poorly acted and directed that it is difficult to watch them. But we went and I was pleasantly surprised. The movie is not only well done, but moving. (In my opinion, that’s what a “movie” should do to you!) It won’t open in theaters until September, but when it does open go. I’ll be going again. It makes you appreciate on a deeper level all the sacrifice and effort that were necessary to bring forth the Book of Mormon.

The only sad thing is that our time here is running out. To feel what we feel, see what we see, and experience what we have been experiencing both from the history here and the wonderful people we have met is extraordinary and I'm not sure I want to go back to "real" life.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Restoration Sites

Mr.J and I at Lake Ontario
Yesterday was our day off and we filled every minute of it. We began with a ride up north to Lake Ontario and the Sodus Point light house. We found a delightful park in Pultneyville and had a delicious lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the lake. After that we picked up our friend, Matt Baker, in Palmyra who took us to Harmony, PA, and the surrounding Church history sights. Matt is the area coordinator for seminaries and institutes and is well versed in Church history.

Chris and I at the "Emily" sign.
We started our tour at what is now the county fairgrounds in South Bainbridge, NY, where on January 18, 1827, Joseph Smith eloped to marry Emma Hale. The home of the judge is no longer standing but a state historical marker is there stating that it is the place where Joseph Smith married “Emily” Hale. It is a mistake but anti-Mormons use it to claim that Joseph was a polygamist from the beginning because he had two wives Emily and Emma. There used to be another marker someplace in the area explaining that Joseph found the gold plates there. Another mistake.

Matt next took us to some homes most tourists never get to see. Historians have identified where Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight lived and their homes are still standing. Private LDS owners have bought the homes and are restoring them. Both men were very affluent and influential. It was once thought that Joseph Knight hired Joseph to build a well on his property, but further study has led historians to believe that is incorrect. Later Knight recommended Joseph to Josiah Stowell who was looking for help to dig on his property for Spanish treasure. Hence Joseph Smith became known as a treasure seeker and gold digger. Joseph stayed in both those places many times.

While working for Stowell, Joseph boarded with a prominent family, the Hales, who lived in Harmony (about 30 miles from Knight and Stowell) and that is when the love story of Joseph and Emma began. Emma was a school teacher, educated, refined, but knew how to hunt and canoe—a bit of a tomboy! As I read about her I get the impression she was her father’s favorite and you can imagine their disappointment when of all the suitors she had, she choose to elope with an uneducated farm boy.

After they eloped Joseph and Emma spent their honeymoon in the Stowell home and it was Josiah Stowell who helped the couple elope. In their day these homes were the best around. They had beautiful wide, plank floors and several bedrooms upstairs. It made me think of all the sacrifices Emma made to marry, support, and be a help to Joseph.

Joseph Knight home.
Palmyra was the cradle of the restoration of the Church, but Colesville, the area where the Stowell and Knight farms are, 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 wishing those old walls could speak and tell me all they knew!

Out last stop was in Oakland, PA, the current name of what used to be Harmony, and stood on the 13 acres that Joseph bought from his father-in-law and where Emma and Joseph lived while he translated most of the Book of Mormon. The house is gone, but you can still see the foundation stones. Across the street and down a little is where Emma’s parent’s home stood. Isaac Hale was a prominent man who owned a very large parcel of land. The Hale home is also gone, but it was large, and the Hale land fertile and beautiful.

Near the home sites is the cemetery where Emma’s parents and Joseph and Emma’s first child, Alvin, are buried. Next to Emma and Joseph’s home site is the monument commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. It was also someplace in this area that the Melchezidek priesthood was restored and Olive and Joseph were baptized in the Susquehanna River. We went wading in the rocky (no sand here) wide, gentle river which was used heavily in Joseph’s day for transportation. I’d forgotten how warm the water is. It isn’t very deep river and I could image all the boats and barges traveling on the river and Joseph going by canoe from there to Colesville.

To get the bigger feel of the place, imagine being surrounded with small mountains covered in thick, dense forest and everywhere you look shades of lush green. Narrow wandering roads are bordered with orange day lilies and hollyhocks that grow wild and quaint old homes that are still lived in and cared for.

God choose some beautiful places to restore His gospel!