Things have been very busy around here with the tremendous influx of visitor who planned their travels in hopes of seeing the Hill Cumorah Pageant in its last year. Earlier this year the Church announced that they would not be having the Pageant this year, and that made 2019 the official last year. But so many had already booked their vacations around the dates. But the church is going to broadcast it on July 9th…or at least the last official years presentation. If you have not seen it before, I would invite you to make a date to watch it.
Things have finally changed here in New Your around Covid restrictions. We FINALLY have been able to sing again in church as last week. We have also begun shaking hands and sitting normally (each bench without having to separate by one) in the chapel. It feels good to have some normal associating time again with friends. The guests coming to the site are much happier as it is now in the 90’s with VERY HIGH humidity. The heat index is well over 100 each day. Breathing through the masks is something that just does not happen well in the humidity. In fact, it states on the box of masks we have for guests that they should not be used, or are not effective, in greater than 70% humidity. 😉
This past week Marshall Leeper and his family came by and what a treat to get to share some of the insights with them. We were able to share some things we dont share on a regular tour due to lack of time, as well as got to take them to a couple of special sites. This is an open invitation to all to come and we will do the same for you. Would love to see you some time in the next 12 months.
I thought for this episode I would share some additional pictures of the spectacular landscapes and places here in the western New York area that have not made the letter due to space. Enjoy.
Well in the last episode I said that I would try to be a little bit better of getting these out on a weekly basis, but as you can see, I failed miserably. I don’t want to make a lot of excuses but on May 28th we opened up to live in person tours, which has been absolutely phenomenal. But at the same time, it has required a lot of work and long days. So here I am a few weeks later trying to update you on all of the things that have happened. So maybe we will start at the very beginning.
On the 28th of May we were able to open back up to live guests coming in to visit us here, and I must confess it was kind of challenging, and it did not help that that weekend just so happened to be the Memorial Day weekend. We had thousands scheduled to visit the sites with appointments. We had done our best to organize as we needed to have scheduled anointments because we are limited to only 10 persons per tour per site. But we had an additional 30% of unscheduled people just show up hoping to be able to get a tour and see the homes etc. We worked tirelessly to be able to make this happen for all and giving them a wonderful experience. And it appears that this will carry for forward all the way through Labor Day. So I am not going to make any kind of promises to be here on a more frequently with updates.
I believe that we mentioned earlier in another post that we had made our way down to Watkins Glen to see the falls and the Gorge. At that time, the Gorge was closed but it has since reopened and so this last Wednesday we made our way down in an attempt to walk it. And it was worth every bit of the effort to get down there. The actual walk is just over a mile, and it winds on the side of the river and up along the edge where the river has cut through the rocks and created beautiful waterfalls. A couple of them we were able to walk behind and were able to reach out and feel cold fresh in water. There were steps and bridges along the way that gave scenic views that were spectacular. The most interesting thing to me was that that at the very top where the water was starting down the gorge it looked still and calm. You would never know that that was the same water that was rushing so hard and cuttings rocks to form the beautiful Falls. We made our way back to the end of the Gorge and there we found that the water was calm and peaceful as well. Interesting how sometimes in our lives the water is rushing, and we sometimes feel it carving our personal Gorges, but know that it is peaceful and still once it finds it way to the end.
The other night we went out for a walk just at sunset and we found that the fireflies had come out. This is the second time that we’ve had an opportunity to witness fireflies, as the first time we saw them was in Nauvoo. What a fun experience to watch these small lights dancing across the fields and at the edges of the Grove. We brought the sisters out, and they were so excited to witness this for the very first time. What a wonderful creation this world and its life are that our Father in Heaven has given us with so many interesting things to inspire and delight.
Early this week we were able to get up and take a for us early morning tour, for them a late night tour to a group of missionaries and ward members in Thailand. We had one elder who did the translation for the tour and did a wonderful job. We have learned that at the beginning of these translation tours it’s best to give the missionaries, or whoever is translating, the scriptures that we would like to have them read as we are in the Grove. We asked if he would read Joseph Smith History verses 15 through 17 when we asked him to. Just to give you some idea, as we go into the Grove, we have the opportunity of sharing the first vision with our guests who are on the virtual tour and it is powerful and moving experience. Well when we got to this point and invited him to share the testimony of Joseph Smith, we noticed that he would have a very difficult way through. We scan through the other members that were there we almost there be moved his spirit estimate of Jeff. Then realized that he wasn’t in the Grove at the parent sharing things that Joseph shared with the world brands college admission. What a blessing for us to be part of this on a daily basis as we get an opportunity to serve.
When you come on a mission you fully expect your time will be spent in serving others, but from time to time it is you that will be served by others, and one of those types was last night. We had a bus full of young people show up which we were able to accommodate on the tour of the sacred Grove. At the conclusion they asked our Mission President if it would be possible that they may be able to share a concert with us that night. And all what a concert it was. We were able to set with this group of young performers in gathering area near the Grove as they bore their testimony through song of the wonderful events that transpired there. I’m not sure I could have had a better payback for a long day of Labor than that blessed moment of time last evening. And what made it even better is that we found one of the young performing missionaries we get to know during our time in Nauvoo was part of the group. And even better she had found and married her sweetheart.
That will wrap it up for this post. Know that you are loved and that we wish you all health and happiness.
As you all are aware we were called to the New York and Pennsylvania historic sites mission. Though when we put in our papers, we had several locations both in and out of the United States that we thought would be great opportunities for us to serve. When we got our call, we were not sure exactly what all we would be in store for, but we did know that we would be interpreting the historic sites for visitors. Well, it has turned out slightly different than we originally anticipated, but even with that, it has been a great experience so far. And what has been exciting to see is how the Lord has blessed us to be able to share this historic location with others throughout the world. So even though we did not make it to Croatia, which was one of our sites that we had considered, today we are doing a tour with a group from Croatia. We have also been able to share with groups from virtually every major continent in the world. (except for Antarctica) What a blessing this has been to be able to reach out, across time and spaces, to the hearts of our Father in Heaven’s children that he is prepared to hear the message of the restoration. And how fortunate are we to be able to be instruments in his hands in this great and mighty work.
This past week we also had a visit from Amy’s brother and sister-in-law Bruce and Allison Cornwell. They had served in the Nauvoo historic sites as missionaries a few years back, and it was great to be able to share with them our experiences here in our mission. They enjoyed their time walking through the Grove, feeling the peaceful spirit, and had an opportunity to see the homes and the places here in the area. We also took an opportunity to go out and visit a couple of sites around nearby.
We were up on Lake Ontario and made our way to a beautiful set of lighthouses out on the point. The setting, as well as the water, was so peaceful and calm at that it almost made you forget about the importance of those light houses, and why they were placed there in the 1st place. These houses were designed to warn and guide weary Mariners as they made their way through treacherous Shoals. While we were there, I continued to think about the hymn “brightly beams our father’s mercy”, and how the opportunity to serve here has allowed us to be those lights along the shore as He guides individuals to a greater understanding of His love. As you can see in this beautiful photo the Flowers were in bloom and it was a wonderful day.
Earlier that week we got a chance to go to Genesee Country Village and Museum historic village where they have a series of homes that they have re stored and allows you to get a feel for life in the 1800s and early 1900s. We met some interesting individuals and got to see some wonderful things there. We got to visit the George Eastman family home, the founder of Eastman Kodak, and learn a lot about what he had done outside of the technology of photography industry. He was a great supporter of the abolitionist movement and was part of not only the Underground Railroad, bringing slaves from the South, but also in providing education and schooling for underprivileged individuals in the South as well. We visited some beautiful Victorian homes, and there we found a new friend who introduced us to the Victorian Glass Harp. Many of you may think that this is merely crystal glass is filled with water, but there really glasses that were formed and shaped specifically to produce an individual note. She played us some beautiful songs while we were there and what a peaceful feeling it brought.
I think one of the most interesting things that we saw while we were there was a couple who were working with oxen to plow a field. Well one of the oxen named Buddy was more interested in eating the grass than plowing the field, and so it made for an exceedingly difficult work that they were doing. They plowed only about 20 yards, but it took them nearly 15 minutes to get things organized the team hooked up as well as to plow that little spot. At the end I think they had decided that they had plowed enough and took the oxen back home.
This caused me think about the challenges that were probably faced by the early pioneers as they made their trek westward. Many of them were unfamiliar with oxen and how challenging they can be. But nonetheless they made their way and were able to successfully enter into the Valley. These majestic animals are beautiful and strong; powerful but not very graceful; but they served a great purpose in fulfilling the work that they were called to do. I think about myself and sometimes I’m not majestic, I’m not beautiful, I am not graceful, but I have still been called to do a work, and I’ve been strengthened to be able to accomplish it.
Well, I think that will wrap it up for this post. Things are beautiful here. Summer has come, the temperatures are up as well as the humidity. The mosquitoes have come out in force, but even with all of that, it is still a beautiful place to be and a wonderful spirit we feel here. So, we will say goodbye for now remind you that you are loved and hope you have a blessed day.
Many mornings we take an opportunity to walk in the Grove early as the sun rises over the Hills and makes its way through the trees. It’s been great to see over these last few days how many more people are coming to visit the Grove as the days get longer and warmer. We’ve had an opportunity to meet many interesting individuals, and this week was no exception. We met a gentleman whose name is James Dunne and as we talked, we found that he was a convert to the gospel and that he also had a passion for creating music. For the past several years he has been engaged in setting many of the verses and themes inside of the Book of Mormon to music ads he shared with us, and I am sharing with you, a connection to his music that he has created, hoping that it will help you to feel a bit closer connected with some of the individuals from the Book of Mormon and their challenges and struggles that they faced. I don’t think we can have too many supports and strengths in knowing others have been able to succeed in times of trial as we may also be facing many of our own trial at this point.
We got the opportunity to go to Harmony PA this past week to the Priesthood Restoration site. We did some training with the new couples there on the tour scheduling tool. While there we took a tour with some of the sisters that are serving there. What a great experience for us. It is amazing when you get to feel the spirit of the experiences that happened there. I gained a greater understanding and love for Emma and what she gave up as she embarked with Joseph on his mission as the prophet of the restoration. I have always known what a help and support she was for Joseph, and the tremendous love they had for each other. But now I know better how she was prepared to be the helpmeet for the prophet. What a tremendous blessing for both Joseph and us that she was the chosen instrument of the Lord as well.
This past Sunday we had the opportunity of being with a number of the sisters at the Hill Cumorah visitors center. We have just opened it up for virtual tours, and this was a learning experience for all of us as we set out to be able to share with those who had scheduled appointments the special blessing of this place. I have to say that the sisters did a phenomenal job as they gathered their thoughts and organized their approach on how to present this over a zoom connection. It was very powerful, and many of those who joined us via Zoom were touched by the spirit. Apparently, they did such a good job that this coming Sunday this same group will be back again to share with the next group of folks the message of the Hill Cumorah. Well actually it comes down to the fact that they are rewriting the schedule for next week, and we have new sisters coming in, and so until they get that part of the schedule written they decided that they would just duplicate Sunday and Monday. No matter, it was a great experience, and we look forward to being there with the sisters once again.
It seems like every Sunday that we have an opportunity to be with our Ward family at the Lyons Ward we are blessed because of their spirits and their testimonies. This last testimony meaning we were nonetheless blessed by each of the testimonies that were born. But it was interesting that there was one comment made in a testimony that touched my heart and has cause me to think this week much more deeply. The brother bearing his testimony said that a “testimony is a tremendous tool … but conversion is our actions on those beliefs from which our testimony spring”. This week as I thought about this, and the special place where we are currently serving, I gave thought to the testimony of Joseph Smith as he went into the Grove to pray. He said that he was inspired by a verse in James chapter 1 verse 5 that says: “if any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God who give it to all men liberally and abraded not and it shall be given him”. And then it goes on a little bit further and it says: ”but let him ask in faith nothing wavering”. Young Joseph acted in faith as he prayed, not only was he interested in understanding the answer to his prayer, but he had the faith to act on the answer that he received. I think that is what this brother was trying to help me understand. That having a testimony is a wonderful thing but acting upon those things of which that testimony is built, helps me to gain the conversion that I need to endure in these trying times.
Of all the places in the world that we’ve had the privilege of visiting Sister Isom has had one place on her bucket list for a very, very long time. Well hopefully in the next few weeks we will have an opportunity to check that item off her bucket list. We just happened to be a few hours away from that great place that she wants to visit. We will not tell you what it is, you may be able to guess, but look for it in and upcoming episodes soon.
For now, just know that you are loved, and that we are so grateful to have you as friends and family in our life. We are thankful for your thoughts and prayers that helped sustain us in all that we do.
Well, the long-awaited day has finally come. No it is not just the return of the leaves to the Grove. A week or so ago we received notice, about the same time that everyone else in the world did, that the church was reopening the historic sites for live in person tours. Of course, these tours have several caveats to them, and the opening of the several sites are staggered over the month of May, but as soon as word was out the phone started ringing off the hook. We are so excited to add live tours back in along with the virtual ones that we have been conducting, and we so look forward to looking people in the eyes, even though we won’t be able to see all of their faces because of the masks and see their love and their excitement for these special places that we have been sharing with them virtually for the past few months. There has been a lot of work being done to create tools for people to be able to register for these tours, so if you are interested in a live tour, or even a virtual tour, you can visit the website at NYandPAhistoricsites.AS.ME. Be sure to tell a friend!!!
Not every day is filled from dawn to dusk with doing tours for people from around the world. Some days we have a few hours not only to study but also to give service. One of the service opportunities that we have been engaged in recently is “Billion graves”. It allows us to go into a Cemetery photograph the headstones and transcribes the information so that people will be able to find their loved ones throughout the country as they look on the websites. Some of these headstones are extremely difficult to be able to read, and so they must be cleaned and highlighted a little bit before you can take a photograph of them. We were in a small Cemetery called the “Buckman Cemetery” just South of the Whitmer farm the other day where we met Lars Larson, the man who lived near the property where the Cemetery was.
His father had started taking care of the Cemetery early on in his life and had passed that love service responsibility onto his son Lars. As we shared with him what we were doing he was so excited to see that someone else had as great a love of preserving the memory of these people who had passed on as he did. Not only have we been able to help those who are not with us any longer, but we were also able to make a great friend in the process. I threw in a picture or two of the Sisters as they labored diligently to prepare these headstones for the website. This past Sunday in fast and testimony meeting one of the people in the lion’s Ward shared the fact that service is saying what can I help you with and not necessarily what can I do for you. We love the opportunity to help Lars with protecting and keeping the gravesite well, but in the end, it lifted us in our spirits that day.
If you will allow me a personal reflection for just a moment, I will not take up too much of your time. The other day as I was walking up the path to the Grove, I had a feeling, maybe a premonition, that I was walking back into the presence of my Father in Heaven. I was overcome with a joyful feeling at this thought, and as I started along the path it was with great expectation even though I knew that I may not be fully worthy to enter into its presence.
This path leading to the Grove begins to climb in elevation toward the end and begins to get a bit more difficult to walk, and can sometimes be covered with limbs, exposed roots, and other debris that creates great challenges. But even with that I felt a greater sense of urgency to be in the Grove; or to be in the Presence of my Father in Heaven. I felt a need to quicken my pace even though it was difficult and the climb a bit challenging. But then I remembered what our Father in Heaven and Savior have told us that we must press forward in faith, that we must endure to the end in stay on the path. But we also should not run faster than we are capable of. But as I made my way into the Grove, I felt the great joy and blessing that it is to be there, and the peace and understanding that shed forth in my mind and in my life. I envision that this will be the same feeling that I will have When I enter into the presence of my Father in Heaven.
Well, that about wraps it up for this segment. I hope to get back on track on a little bit better before the month is out. And maybe… just maybe, we will get in some additional excursions to share with all of you.
Well it’s been a long time coming, but we finally committed to ourselves that we would not let anything stand in our way of taking a full P day and do something a little different than we have in the past. It seems like so many of our P days for the last two months have been occupied with either mission service projects or meetings that were necessary to take as part of our missionary effort. But this past Tuesday we were able to make our way down to the bottom of Seneca Lake to a small town called Watkins Glen. Some of you may know this place if you watch automobile racing as there is a world-famous track there. But that’s not what we went to see, we went there to take a look at the Gorge at Watkins Glen.
Unfortunately, the river level walk was not available as they were still working to prepare the grounds from the winter season. They need to remove the slick scales that build up on the rocks as well as trim bushes and remove trees that have fallen because of the winds and the weather. But we did get a chance to walk along the upper rim trail and look down into the Gorge, and what we saw was absolutely spectacular. We look forward to going back again and taking the journey down in the Gorge to see the falls and the River much more closely. As we left Watkins Glen and made our way home along the eastern side of the Lake on our way home, we almost sped past the beautiful Hector falls that was running right on the side of the road. Which made me think how many times do we go looking for something so diligently, like these falls at Watkins Glen, and are so focused that we miss the one that is as spectacular and right along our path. I think some time our Father in Heaven is trying to tell us to slow down a bit, so we can see all his majestic creations and opportunities He has for us along our journey home.
Just when you thought the winter weather was over, the weatherman informs you that there are going to be 2 to 4 inches of snow towards the end of April. This morning we woke up to just a skiff of snow on the ground and we had a tour that we were going to host at 7:00 AM this morning. As we made our way through the tour, the snow began to fall a little bit heavier, but it was amazing how peaceful and beautiful all of the surroundings that we find herself in were. It was a little hard to tell the snowflakes from the blossoms in the Apple Orchard here on the farm, but nonetheless it is always a great opportunity to be back again in this peaceful place. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sister Isom loves the snow now, and so today was a special blessing and a gift from her Heavenly Father just to her the chosen daughter, or as she says a “spoiled daughter of God”.
This past Sunday Elder Pace of the 70 spoke at our Ward in Lyons, and after his talk I am not sure that I will ever look at snow the same way again. He talked about one of those nights in Western New York when the wind was calm, and the snow was falling, and how beautifully it covered the ground. He talked about the peacefulness and the whiteness of it all. But he made a very important observation in that there are many plants here in this area that can only survive and grow when they are covered by snow and freeze. It made me think about how sometimes the challenges and opportunities that come in our lives just like that snow, may be sent to do nothing more than to awaken something special, something sacred, something important inside each of us that will allow us to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.
I delayed this post by one day for a very important reason. Today we find ourselves on a beautiful sunny bright spring day here on the Witmer farm in Fayette NY. And it just so happens that it is the exact day Tuesday April 6th, 191 years after the church was officially organized here at this location in 1830. We were able to start the day with a seminary group tour that brought the spirit, power, and blessing of this place into focus in my mind. One of the questions that they raised at the end of the tour gave me a chance to think a little bit further about why I am here and what makes this place as special as it is. Yes there are sacred events recorded in history that happened here, and there are beautiful landscapes as well, but I think the most powerful thing for me is having gotten to know the stories and the people that were part of this place so many years ago. They have come to be my friends. And I think that is what makes serving here at this time so special for me.
Well, this week was filled with some very exciting things including a very late snowstorm that took place at the beginning of the week. While it was brutally cold, it didn’t take long for the sun to come out, the snow to melt, and the blossoms and flowers to begin to raise their heads again. We also had an opportunity this week to move to a new apartment here on the site and I have to tell you that it is a tremendous upgrade from the one that we were in. Sister Isom is morning the loss of her “Green Sink” but I think she will soon get over it. 😉 But regardless of the size or shape of the apartment, the one thing that makes them special for us are the sisters that are here that we have an opportunity to be involved with on a day in day out basis. And Speaking of sisters this week we got another set of 16 sisters that just arrived last night, well maybe this morning since they didn’t get here until past midnight. And we look forward to getting to know them and to serve with them here.
This past Sunday, Easter Sunday, while it was filled with wonderful conference messages for all of us, we had a particularly tender event happen early in the morning around sunrise. The sisters had prepared a special program around the living Christ from the apostles, with music and spoken word, and we were able to set in the gathering area just beside the Grove as we listened to the beautiful music and inspiring words and scriptures the testified of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his role as our Savior, Redeemer, and Advocate with the Father. Then we got a chance to walk through the Grove early on that morning, what a great way to prepare for the messages that we received later that day.
A few weeks ago, you may recall that we had an opportunity to do a special Book of Mormon Central Portuguese tour of the Grandin building. This was a fun and exciting event in which we had over 1000 attendees as the tour was presented. This week on Monday we got an opportunity to share another tour, this time of the Sacred Grove, with this same group. It is amazing to see what just a week does in the Grove as it begins to take on more and more color, and as the trees began to change from the dormant winter into the vibrant springtime. As things begin to come back to life at this time of year, it makes it easy to remember the blessings that are ours through our Savior Jesus Christ. That we too can look forward to a newness of life through his Atoning sacrifice, and the opportunities that await us here in this life as well as in the life to come.
Maybe just a single thought to leave with you as I reminisce a little on the recent conference. I was impressed by Elder Teh in his remarks about getting to “Know Christ not just know about Him” and how his role in our lives can become so much more powerful and important.
“Oftentimes it is easier for us to think and speak of Christ’s Atonement in general terms than to recognize its personal significance in our lives … I am realizing that how intimately I know the Savior significantly influences my ability to hear Him, as well as how I respond.”
I’m not exactly sure where to begin, since this week was filled with a number of not only interesting but exciting events, so why don’t we start with a monumental one. It was 191 years ago on Friday March 26 1830 that the Book of Mormon was advertised for sale at Grandin’s bookstore in Palmyra New York. So, this past Friday March 26th and Sister Isom and I had the privilege of conducting the tours at the Grandin building. What a special treat for us to be there in the actual place where the Book of Mormon was published on such a monumental day. There was a tremendous spirit that we felt as we went through the steps that were necessary and the people who were put into place to make it possible that the Book of Mormon could come forward to the world at that particular time.
While we were at The Book of Mormon Publication site in the Grandin building that day, we had the opportunity of being part of a special event from the Book of Mormon Central folks. They hosted a live tour for people in Brazil, and we were fortunate enough to be able to act as the videographers while a former site Director here in the NY and PA Historic Sites shared the narrative in Portuguese. They had received special permission to send it live over YouTube Instagram Facebook and zoom. It was very well attended by members and investigators in Brazil. And just a heads up this next week we will have the opportunity to repeat the process with them but this time on the Smith farm and sacred Grove.
We had some very serious weather this past week, and I want to share just a bit of that with you. While we were in the Grandin building, we counted ourselves very fortunate to be protected from some serious rain that came down, but interesting enough, most of the rain that came down happened to come right in between the scheduled tours, so the tours were able to carry on without many problems. This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen the hand of the Lord work with the elements to make them tempered in order for his work to go forward.
Later that afternoon was something quite different. We made our way over to the Grove to find out that it had been shut down for a short period of time because we had wind gusts in excess of 60 miles an hour which created a fairly challenging situation. Well, a little later on that afternoon after things opened back up, we found out that a very large branch from one of the mature trees had cracked and fell right on one of the benches not far from where the tours would have been being conducted. Fortunately, no one was injured, except for one of the benches that gave itself up as you will see in the picture attached. While we were sorry that the tour that was scheduled at that hour was not able to be conducted because of the short closure of the Grove for safety, but we were very fortunate that no one was injured, and we were able to reschedule that tour for the next day.
While the tree looked healthy and solid from the outside, it had suffered a fair amount of decay from within and had lost its structure and support so that as the winds and rains beat upon it, it fell. All of the trees were subject to the exact same elements that day, and so it is with us in our days, we all have the winds and storms beat upon us and test not only our outer strength but also our inner strength.
Well maybe just one more incident that happened this week. We had the opportunity of conducting a tour on Sunday with the Sheffield England stake youth. And what’s special about this is that while our son Jared was on his mission in England, he served some time in Sheffield, and there worked with the Stake President and his family. For Christmas that year they were heading to the United states, and Jared invited them to stay with us for a time, of which we were very blessed and fortunate to have them with us.
As the tour started, we noticed a Ben Gilmore showed up on the screen, so we asked if anybody there knew President Michael Gilmore? Lo and behold, we hear “yeah I’m here”. We had an opportunity to spend just a little bit of time as the tour was organizing itself to visit with him, and what was even more wonderful is that several of his children were on the tour and we got to see them as well. Although we did not get to see little 4-year-old Josh, who was, so excited about finding marshmallow treats in his cereal that he could hardly contain himself, since he was now on a mission and serving in France.
Well, another great week has come and gone, and we are happy for the chance to share it with you, and we are so blessed to be here this week as we prepare for General Conference and know that we like Joseph can come with a sincere prayer in our hearts and know God will answer us. Maybe not in the same why he did Joseph, but none the less he sends his servants to help us better understand.
It was a beautiful clear morning early in the spring of 18 hundred and 20. Young 14-year-old Joseph Smith walked through the back door of the log home, down the stairs past the garden, and on into the Grove. This is how we start many of our tours at the log home, but this week has been a special treat for us as it is early spring, and we see the Grove as Joseph probably saw it when he went in to pray. Many times, we see pictures of Joseph surrounded in a forest of green leaves, but that type of spring comes very late here in the western New York and what we are seeing and experiencing it is a wonderful sight. The ground is still covered with leaves from the fall, but the green an early Flowers are starting to poke their heads up out of the ground. I reflected upon the song line “bees were humming sweet birds singing music ringing through the grove” much this week as I noticed bees beginning to surround the early flowers, as well as the songbirds have begun to return. What a peaceful feeling this is brought to my soul this week.
There are many tender mercies that the Lord has provided for us in our time here in New York. And this past Sunday was no exception. I was going to share my thoughts on what transpired, but instead I think I will take and copy Sister Isoms post that she sent out on her come follow me email. If you have already seen it, I won’t apologize, because I think it’s worth hearing and considering more than once.
“We have been asked to attend the ward here in Lyons NY which is about 30 minutes away. This young lady Chloe (I’m guessing she is 13ish) was asked to speak in church. It appeared that she is dreadfully shy, and speaking is church was just way too much for her, it’s a lot for me I know, but wanting to serve, she said Yes. For that alone I am already a BIG fan of Chloe, for just saying Yes and being willing to try. She studied conference talks, read scriptures and had it all written out, a wonderful message and a selected scripture. She had done all the preparation needed to give a great message.
In a perfect world she could have given it herself but unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, so she turned to her father. Do you see where this is going? Being unable to do it herself she turned to her Father who read the talk for her. She stood right there next to him looking down at the floor as he shared the message that she had prepared. When he came to a part that he was unclear to him, he turned to her and asked, and then shared that thought. When it came time to share the scripture that she had written down she was able to read it with clarity and power. With a quick look up at the crowd and her father, before looking back down again, her father finished the message for her, then father and daughter sat down together. He put his arm around her and gave a squeeze. That squeeze moment was wonderful in and of itself.
Is this not each one of us? Or maybe I should say, I hope that this is each of us as we are asked to do really hard things. We could say No, but we say Yes, in great faith, and then we prepare all that we can so that we can do the hard things in our life. Then if we are really smart, like Chloe, we turn to our Heavenly Father for his help, for Him to carry us through the hard parts that we cannot do ourselves. Then are we really able to be successful.”
So, I now returned to where I began. This past year has been a difficult one for many of us, just like the snow made it very difficult for many of the tender young plants here in the Grove. But they continue to hope for a brighter future, they continue to look towards the sun and rise up in all of their splendor and glory. It will be a magnificent sight in the Grove come the early summer, which we look forward to with much anticipation. Hopefully, we also look forward with that same anticipation to what the next years will bring for each and every one of us as we to lift our heads to the Son to find the strength we need to carry on.
One of the things that is amazing about being here in the Grove is considering all of the trees that are here. It is believed that some of these trees in the Grove are over 200 years old, which would mean that they could have been small saplings at the time when God the Father and the son Jesus Christ appeared to the young boy Joseph. They sometimes refer to these as witness trees, but we are not certain how many or which ones that they are. But that’s probably beside the point, as there are thousands upon thousands of trees here in the Grove. Many of them stand as majestic monarchs while others are small saplings, reaching for the sky and helping us to understand how important it is to grow even though it might be a struggle. There are trees that are bent and shaped in different directions because of wind or snow or maybe other things that caused them to grow in a little bit different way, but it is interesting to see how all of them eventually are reaching up to the light of the sun.
Well one of those monarchs fell this week. It was in the area of the Grove called the gathering place, where groups are invited to set and contemplate and have special meetings and it became necessary to remove a giant of a tree from there. This one is a little different as you’ll see by the pictures. The reason it had to be removed is that a main root had cracked, and it was allowing the tree to lean right over the area where individuals would be setting. It was a very large and tall tree, very heavy and lots of lumber. But it was taken down by a little tiny piece of wire.
It appears that many years ago there were cattle that were ranged here, and the landowner at that time had put up some barbed wire fence. He had nailed that barbed wire fence into the side of the trees and eventually the trees began to grow around that wire. Even when it was taken down many years later that wire was still embedded in that tree, and I don’t know if anyone foresaw the consequences of that small piece of wire. Because of that wire, and the elements that bore down on that tree, one of the main supporting roots cracked, allowing the tree to lean from its natural course, and caused the tree to have to be taken down prematurely. This reminded me of the old talk “hidden wedges”, where a wedge was left in a tree, and when the windstorm came it split the tree in half. This gave me an opportunity to contemplate my life and wonder how many of those hidden wedges or small pieces of wire I might have in my life, that should have been removed or should be taken care of, so that when the storms of life blow, I don’t crack and fall. What a blessing the atonement is, in that even though those wedges may be deep inside of us they can be removed before they become a hindrance when the storms of our life blow.
This week we had a very special treat as we were able to do a very short 20-minute tour for a primary group. We were able to go into the log home and introduce them to the early life of the young boy Joseph and some of the challenges that he faced and the questions that he had. We then took them down into the Grove and shared with them his prayer and the visitation of the Father and the Son to him. What made it special was that it gave us an opportunity to consider the first vision from maybe a little different light than we normally presented from. It was interesting to put ourselves even more so in the position of the young boy Joseph, who was merely 14, and to think about all the things, the sights and the sounds that were taking place around him, and how this event came to define and shape him even as a young boy and prepare him for that which was to come. We truly enjoyed this opportunity, and it was wonderful to hear a few questions from the young people as they sincerely wanted to know more about Joseph and about the challenges that he faced and how he overcame them. I would encourage all of us to take another look at Joseph Smith history chapter 1 and consider the first vision and the elements surrounding Joseph at that point in his tender youth.
As we said the sisters are here and they are going full force. It is wonderful to watch them as they have grown in just a matter of a week and how their testimonies have grown and how the spirit has sustained and built them up. We were with two young sisters in the Grandin building on Sunday and fully anticipating that we would wind up having to do a few of the tours or at least parts of the tours as they were still working to try and understand how they would like to go about it. But what a pleasant surprise when they told us that they would take all of the tours and they did a wonderful job.
It is really starting to try and be spring, as you’ll see by the small picture that I’ve placed here of some small wildflowers that have come out early last week when the temperature reached 70 degrees here. Unfortunately, it dropped back down into the teens and those flowers have closed up to protect themselves for the next few days until the temperature rises again and they can open their leaves and blossom in all of their fullness. Kind of interesting how even the flowers and animals have mechanisms to be able to protect them from those elements that would seek to destroy them. With that we are looking forward to a great week as temperatures arise and we wish you the very best and blessings of our Father in Heaven to be with you and your family.