she loves the snow

Well another great week here in the New York area. I never thought I would say this, or I never thought I’d even hear this, but the other day Sister Isom told me that she loves the snow! Now this is coming from the woman who gets cold when it falls below 80 degrees, but what she loves is when the large snowflakes fall, and she sees the beauty they create around her. This week she got her wish. We had a couple of very strong snowstorms come through the area laying down a good amount of snow, and this snow was good enough to be able to build a snowman with, but she hasn’t checked that off of her bucket list yet.

Speaking of snowstorms, we had an interesting set of tours the other day. As we start our tours, we begin in the welcome center which is a beautiful enclosed warm comfortable area. Then we make our way just a short distance down the road to the Smith log home, which is also nice and warm. Then we go about the length of a football field, down to the frame home, again warm and comfortable. Then we make our way up into the Sacred Grove which is about 1 ½ times that distance, and it is a little bit uphill, and there is no shelter from the wind or the snow at that point. But the payoff at the end of that road is being able to go into the Grove, which is absolutely beautiful, and even when the snow was falling the canopy of the trees without leaves still protects you quite a bit.

Well the tour started out in what I would say were almost Blizzard conditions, so we did quite a bit inside of the welcome center. We then made our way through the heavy snow into the log home where we completed our dialogue, then down the road to the frame home. Halfway down the road we stop to take a view of the Palmyra temple on the hillside, it is lovely, and on this day the snow began to let up just enough so that you could get a view of the temple. Then we preceded down to the frame home in what then was a normal snow, if you can envision what a normal snow would be like. After we finished our conversations in the frame home, we began to make our way towards the Grove, and the snow had stopped. When we got into the Sacred Grove we were blessed with a clearing Sky and a view of the beautiful sun as it made its way through the canopy of the trees.

Now this would have been a blessing in and of itself if this had happened just one time, but the same thing happened on all three tours that we did that day. I say on all three tours, but what I should have said is the 1st two were that way. The third tour started out in beautiful clear sunny weather and we had a wonderful experience in the Grove. Once we completed our time in the Grove we started back and guess what, you got it, the snow started to fall again and by the time we made it back to the welcome center we were again in Blizzard conditions. We see and talk about every day how the hand of the Lord was in all of the details to bring forth the restoration of the gospel, but what we also see is how the hand of the Lord is in the details of allowing us to be able to share the message of the restoration throughout the world. That neither weather nor technology challenges are going to stop his work from rolling forth.

And Speaking of technology issues, we had the opportunity of doing our first series of tours down at the Peter Whitmer farm this week. This is a beautiful experience as the farmer setting out virtually in the middle of nowhere and so peaceful and calm and has such a special spirit about it. A think about how much of the restoration really did take place there. This is the place where the plates were shown to the three witnesses, where the last third of the Book of Mormon was completed, where 19 revelations of the doctrine covenants were received, the church was organized, and the first three conferences of the church were held here on the Whitmer farm. But as I said we struggled a little bit with technology as the phone signals are very weak out there, and when we try to use the Wi-Fi that doesn’t quite reach all the way into the log home. On top of that at the end of the tour we stream a video which does take up a lot of bandwidth.

Well on our first tour we had our meeting drop two time, we lost sound a couple of times, the video stream froze for a while, and we felt so sorry for those who had joined us. At the end of this session we were devastated and were left wondering if there was any way we were going to be able to complete these tours for the remaining 5 groups and have them in enjoy and feel the spirit of the place. Well after a prayer to our Father in Heaven the next 5 tours went off without any technological issues. Again, still wondering if we had done all that we could, we received what I would say is a manifestation or an answer to our prayers from our Father in Heaven. It had been overcast and light snow all day long, but at the conclusion of our last tour we turned around, the clouds parted for just a moment, and the sun came gleaming through onto the Whitmer farmhouse. It was as if the Lord was saying “it’s my work you’ve done your best, I will do the rest”. And as quickly as the sun came out, the clouds gathered and obscured it again.

It has been a tremendous blessing to be able to watch the work as it moves forward and to be able to speak to people all around the world and to have these wonderful blessing. But one of the things that is always so special are the questions that we receive at the end of the tours. Many times, these questions are from adults wanting to know about aspects of the gospel or parts of the story that we’ve shared with them. But the most tender questions come from the children. The other day we had a young girl maybe six years old and her question was “why were people so mean to Joseph?” What a profound question for all of us to ask in our own lives. Are we mean to those that we don’t understand, or that are slightly different than us, or that maybe believe something just a bit different than we do? Is there an opportunity that we can, as this young girl suggests, be a little bit kinder to those around us? Maybe that’s where we’ll leave off so we all can ponder upon this question in our own lives this week.

Well, I’ve attached a few pictures because they say a picture speaks A 1000 words, although I think I’ve already put 1000 words into this. We will talk to you next week and wish you the blessings of the Lord as you go about your activities this week.

Love Sister and Elder Isom

Facebook live & Zoom

Greetings from the sacred Grove. Well pretty close to the sacred Grove anyway, just on the other side of the parking lot. This past week we celebrated our 6th week on our mission, our 4th week in New York, and our 3rd week of conducting tours, so things have flown by quite quickly. It was an interesting week, and I will share a few details with you shortly. But as I promised I share with you a story about the Palmyra temple in my letter last week.

Last week we got a chance to go in and cleaned the temple, as they are only open for sealings as of yet. But that day we found out that they were moving to phase two and that there would be about 30 missionaries from the Syracuse mission coming to take out their endowments over the next few weeks. When we had concluded our cleaning, we got an opportunity to take a small tour of the temple and they shared with us a this very interesting story.

At the end of the hallway in the temple past the recommend desk, there is a clear see-through window. Now I don’t know of any other temple that has a see-through window, most all of them are stained glass or opaque. It seems that as the temple construction was being concluded President Hinckley made a trip and he found that that part of the temple faced towards the Sacred Grove. He told them that he wanted a clear window put in so that they could see the Grove. So they installed it and he returned a few weeks later, but he saw that looking out of the window the view of the Sacred Grove was obscured by as stand of trees growing on the grounds. These trees are protected by a land act and so they were not allowed to be cut down to clear a path for the view to be enhanced. So president Hinckley said that he was going to “pray that those trees would not be long lived that the view of the Grove would be able to be seen from the temple”. Well Interestingly enough within the next two years all of the trees that were in the path had died and had to be taken down. Now they couldn’t cut any other trees down to broaden the view, but they could continue to keep that path clear. And so today if you were to visit the Palmyra temple, you would be able to look out that window onto the Smith farm and into the sacred Grove.

We have been busy with torus at the Smith Farm and had a very interesting tour just the other day. I will steal Sister Isoms version of this from her missionary letter:

Today we did a regular Zoom call and a Facebook live at the same time. We had 16 regular groups set up with 41 connections and a missionary sign up that wanted around 80 connections. Well as you can only have 100 connections on a zoom call, so it was suggested that they reschedule. They did not want to do that as they had it all set and didn’t want to change if at all possible. They then had the bright idea that they would just do a Facebook live. Well, that has only been done 1 other time with a Facebook and regular tour at the same time. To do it you have to carry 2 phones at the same time. That is crazy sauce, I am just saying. Well, that is exactly what we did, Zoom and Facebook live at the same time. The other time they just carried a phone in each hand, but Elder Isom was able to rig up a stick to hold both phones so you could go up and down the stairs safely as well as walk in the snow without killing yourself. That was the worst thing I have done here and I will NOT ever do it again. You are trying to walk, talk, looking at the 2 screens to make sure they can see everything and keep everything in frame. Then you have Facebook live adding all kinds of comments about how the video has frozen, they can’t hear, it’s so beautiful, this is amazing etc. It was so distracting that you would forget what you were saying as you were trying to determine if the comments were actually issues or not. It didn’t take long for us to just ignore the comments. We had people on Zoom who knew that the Facebook live was going on but I don’t think they thought it would affect their tour.

Well as you might expect, even with all of the challenges we had, it was amazing how the Lord made up the needed difference so that both groups enjoyed their time on the tour. But sister Isom and I were a little worse for the ware. As she said she did not want to do that again. So you guessed it,  this coming week we have another Facebook live tour. Now we have to hope no one wants to sign up in that time slot for a Zoom tour. 😉 But we are ready. As she is always saying “Come what may and love it” 

They keep telling us that winter is almost over, and from time ot time we catch a glimmer that it might be turning the corner, but then it comes back with a vengeance. Several days last week in the single digits, but it looks like we might be approaching freezing on a few days this coming week. We can only hope.

This week we are beginning the efforts to prepare for the arrival of the first set of 5 companionships of sisters to join us for the spring to fall months. They stay here for 18 weeks, then head out to their full-time missions once they finish. They will come in a series of 4 waves and the last ones will leave us around November. It is funny how the young can fly south for the winter, but us old birds must have a bit of memory lapse as we stay put for the long cold winter.

Keep the faith Elder and Sister Isom.

Winter is here* Snowshoes

Well, we knew it was coming but it looks like winter is here. Up to this point we’ve only had a few inches of snow but earlier this past week it snowed about 12 inches. And this morning we woke up to – 4 degrees. Sister Isom said that she thought she knew cold up until this week, and while it’s not too bad when the sun’s out which only happens one day a week, when the wind starts to blow it is terribly cold.

So, as we said we had 12 inches of snow one morning and we had an early tour to do. A couple had been out just before us and we followed their footsteps in the snow for the first part of the tour. But they turned around and did not go up “Heartbreak Hill”. We made our way up it talking and telling the narrative and pushing upwards of 18 inches of snow that had drifted until we got up to the top. I think they should name it to “Cardiac Arrest Hill” because I know that my heart rate was up there for sure. We knew that something more needed to be done for the remailing tours that day and then Sister Isom was inspired. I want to share the story.

About five days before, one of the ladies who works in facilities management, randomly told us that she had brought in some snowshoes and put him in the closet just in case we would ever need them. Sister Isom remembered this, and so as you see in the picture below, she went out and had her very first snowshoeing expedition. She went up and down the path that we normally walk three times to be able to compact the snow enough for all to walk on. Of all the experiences we thought we would have on our mission; this was one that didn’t even make our list.

It’s been very exciting for us to see how that even during this time of Covid and the lockdown, God is able to keep his work going throughout the world. As you know we have not been able to give live tours as of yet, so all of our tours have been virtual. This is pretty challenging in just making sure that the technology and all of the things work together, but it also has given an opportunity for people all over the world, who would not have been able to come to these sites to view them, to hear of the great events that transpired, and feel of the spirit. This past week we were able to do tours with folks from the UK, many states in America, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, and even Hong Kong. Just this past Sunday we had 17 countries and over 5500 people. The reach of the message is very broad.

One of our favorite ones was a German youth group of about 250 that joined us as part of their stake youth conference. What was interesting about this one was that they had a simultaneous translation in German that was done through clicking on a language channel in the Zoom meeting. We always wonder how the spirit comes through over the virtual tours, even when we felt inadequate, and now seeing this helps me know that our Father in Heaven has the ability to press the “Spirit” button on our tours to allow it to come through.

Sister Isom has been able to send out pictures of the Grove, the log home, the Sacred Grove, and the Palmyra temple from the day of their tour to the organizers of the tours that we have been fortunate enough to conduct. They have been incredibly grateful for this and have shared it with all of the members who were on the tour so that they could have a visual reminder of the day that they spent in the Grove and on the Smith farm. Attached you will see a few of those pictures.

We’ve also been working to improve the tours and you will see another picture of Sister Isom she checked her connectivity strength to see how well the signals are in different parts of the tour. We have been very fortunate that our phones and our phone plan have worked outstanding here and we’ve had virtually no issues. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all of the couples.

Well, that’ll wrap it up for this week we had some tremendous experiences, we feel the spirit of these places and we’re even beginning to feel like we have a small grasp upon the tremendous events that happened here. We will wish you a good week and the blessings of God be upon you and your families.

Elder and Sister Isom 

P.S. Tune in Next week for a tremendous story about the Palmyra Temple and President Hinkley.

Special moment

Well, it’s now almost one month into our mission but we’ve only been on site for 2 weeks, but a lot has happened in a short time. It didn’t take long before they put us into the rotation of giving tours via zoom to people from all over the world. Of course, as you can imagine this was a little bit of a steep learning curve for us to know how to present these sacred events in a way that the spirit could be felt over a video call. And while some of the tours didn’t go as we had hoped they would, it was amazing how people could still feel the power of the place and the and the message that was shared.

So, I will have Amy share with you a special monument she had.

 So this was our second day of giving tours and this was our 3rd tour we had given while being here. It was going to be a challenge as there was a tour right before us and right after us. Our tour started at 9:45 but we couldn’t use the link until 9:42 because of the other tour before us. We share the same link so we can’t log in and start until the tour before us is finished. But we don’t know when they finish as we start in the welcome center and end in the grove. So being a little stressed we had a challenge logging in. We were just leaving the welcome center as the other tour right behind us was beginning on the Spanish link. This may not seem like a big deal but it’s like having somebody breathing down your neck when you don’t know what you’re doing. We had offered a prayer that all would go well, but as the tour went on, it just didn’t seem to be flowing well and I couldn’t feel the spirit which was a little challenging for me. As we finished in the Grove and went out for questions and answers, they thanked us and were very kind. But I still didn’t have a feeling of peace that we had conveyed the message the way we had previously. On top of all of this it was a very snowy cold morning with no sunshine, just clouds. Being from Phoenix that in and of itself tends to be a little dreary. I stopped to offer a prayer as I left the Grove asking Heavenly Father for his forgiveness as the tour had not gone as planned. I had no sooner finished praying than the clouds parted, and the sun shone through, and I could feel Heavenly Father saying to me, “All is well, I will take care of the details of my work, and your efforts are acceptable to me”. What great comfort came to my heart knowing that we had another tour in just a few minutes to be able to go forward in faith knowing that all was well that like Joseph, I was right with my Heavenly Father.

This past Sunday in our sacrament meeting one of the sisters, who has been here for a while, gave a great lesson talking about the different trees in the Grove and how she has come to be “a tree hugger”. She says she likes to look at the trees and think about what caused them to grow the way that they did. Whether they were tall straight and strong, or they had lost parts and had to struggle around other trees and maybe grow sideways for a period of time. She likened this to our lives how that the events that happened to us shape us in causes to grow but she made a note that no matter what, the trees always grew up trying to reach for the sun. And I think that’s inspiring to think when we are in trouble in our lives are having hard times that we too can reach up. We need to always grow reaching towards the light and not let the darkness get us down.

During our walks in the Grove this week we ran into two individuals. This is kind of unusual to find others besides us out walking in the Grove as there was snow and it’s quite cold. But the one young lady that we found had come there because she and her family were preparing to move to Utah and she was there to say goodbye to the Grove, a place that had been very special to her over the years. Another gentleman who had been making deliveries in New York found himself in the Grove as well. As we visited with them and they shared some of their stories we let them know that while this Grove is very special, that they could find their own Grove’s, that place where they can again feel that same spirit and love from their Father in Heaven as Joseph had done here so many years ago and encourage them to find it wherever they may be.

This past week we had nearly 200,000 viewers of our virtual tours. Now that is a lot more than we do on a normal week, but it was due to the fact that Al Carraway (the Tattooed Mormon) did a live streaming of the Smith Farm tour on her Face book and Instagram accounts simultaneously and had 99,000 of her viewers attend the event.  Well as a parting thought we’ve mentioned a couple of times here that it was cold sitting here writing this this morning it’s 10 degrees outside and it is actually zero with the wind chill. But the other day as we were walking through the Grove we saw birds nesting in the trees. Telling us that spring was just around the corner. Hopefully it’s not a very long corner that it is round and that it will be here soon.

Stay safe and warm!

Elder and Sister Isom