THE GANGS ALL HERE….

Well, the Gang is not actually all here anymore. This past week we said good-bye to our Mission President and companion President and Sister Spallino. As we did so, we were able to celebrate their 2 years here and the many historic milestones that were accomplished. They served through the 2020 Covid shutdown, they also were on the ground floor for the inceptions of the virtual tours we now do through the world. Truly Pioneers in so many senses of the word. Just to give you a little view of the way things have changed for us here at the historical sites:

2021

Virtual tours                                       3,708

# who received a VT                        328,770 (3 times as many as 2020)

# who received in-person tour   108,837 (June 1st through Dec 31st only)

Total # who received a tour         437,607

2020 and 2021 combined

Virtual tours                                       8,393

#who received a VT                         432,100 (only 103,330 in 2020)

#who received in-person tour    112,840 (only 4003 in 2020 before shutdown in April)

Total # who received a tour         544.940 (only 107,333 in 2020)

Needless to say, we did stay very busy this past year in helping to share the power and blessing of these sites and the events of the restoration that happened here with many of our friends. In total we have shared Virtual Tours with 105 countries around the world so far. We are awaiting the arrival of or new President which should be in the next few days. Excited to see what 2022 brings for all of us.

With winter in full swing (based on the calendar) we are still awaiting a good dump of snow. So far we have only had a few inches here and there. But we do know it is winter based on the temperatures. We have had several days we have gone out to do tours and the temperature is in the single digits. Add on the winds we have had on a few of those days, and we are pressing -20 degrees. This Desert Rat was not built for this but thank heavens for warm winter ware. One of my favorite pictures is included of Amy (whose fingernails turn purple at 80 degrees)

We have cycled our 1-year mark for our mission and have just 6 more to go. Time has flown by very quickly as we have been involved in the pioneering efforts of the Church as they take the message of the restoration to the world via ZOOM. We are excited as things begin to settle into a routine on the administrative side of our efforts to be able to focus on sharing the message. We so look forward to the Young Sister missionaries coming in March. They bring the spring with them (even if the temperatures don’t reflect it)

The other Sunday as we attend Testimony meeting, many of the congregation mentioned the challenges and trials they had had in the past, and how they were able to endure through their faith in Christ. One sister mentioned that “our trials can turn to testimony”. What a profound insight. This life is designed so that we will have trials, and it is up to us to decide which way we will “TURN” as they come. They are truly defining moments in our eternal progression and as we endure it is much easier to endure through Christ who has already walked that path for us.

 Nothing to report this time in the way of visiting locations around the area since it has been poor weather and may of the sites are closed for the winter. But I know we are itching to get out, and hopefully we will do so before the next post and have some wonderful adventures to share with you in the near future (weather permitting). In the meantime, I will leave you with one of our leisure activities of Puzzling in the comfort of our apartment.

Know you are loved

Elder and Sister Isom

WINTER YOU SAY……

Winter has finally arrived here in Western New York, or at least I think it has. For the last couple of weeks and has been toying with this idea, it snowed several inches and then the next day it was 61 degrees, and it was all gone. Well today seems to be much of the same as we had about 4 inches of snow last night and now the sun is shining, and snow is falling. So that’s why I say it might be winter, but we’re not sure. But the lead up to this event has been very dramatic here at the Smith farm and in the Grove especially. Just a few days ago we had 70mph gusts inside the Grove, which brought down a number of trees not only in the Grove but also on the Hill Cumorah. It was a very interesting event for us, but I know that much of the area also had some very high winds and of course we had the devastating tornadoes that took place in Kentucky and the Midwest. Our prayers continue for them.

I know it’s been a while since our Last Post and a lot has happened. As I alluded to in my Last Post that as the sisters left the 1st of November we felt that things would slow down, but they’ve stayed quite steady surprisingly. And we’ve had a lot of visitors coming from central and South America here to visit the sites. Our Spanish speaking elder has been excited, and very busy, helping them with their tours. Before the young Spanish sisters left, we had them record a couple of tours for us of the Grove as well as the Grandin building. It’s quite interesting as we’ve had an opportunity to use those tours by playing the voice portion and following along by watching the video as to where they’re at and allowing the guests to hear in their native tongue those precious testimonies that were given by those sisters.

Virtual tours have continued on, but not at the pace that they were at the first of the year, and I believe that that’s because of the shift in the Doctrine and Covenants focus from the Come Follow Me. But we’ve had a lot of visitations via the Virtual tours from Australia and New Zealand as they have suffered with a number of lockdowns due the COVID virus. And Speaking of COVID, here in New York the governor has gone to a mandatory mask mandate. This is quite interesting as many of our guests are coming from states that do not have mask mandates. And when we invite them to wear a mask, because of the governors’ order, it sometimes becomes a little bit of a challenge. Our Bishop in the Lyons ward stood up and shared his view with the members, he said that while he really did not like wearing a mask, he felt that being obedient to the gospel, and honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law wherever possible would send blessings our way. I think it’s a great way to look at some of these things that happen to us when we least expect them and cause us to become contentious.

Not too many weeks ago we had the privilege, I guess you would call it a privilege, of taking a group of historians as well as publishing people from the church headquarters in Salt Lake on a tour of the Smith farm. They were here working on the possible renovation of the welcome center to coincide with the refurbishing of the Hill Cumorah. It was a very interesting opportunity as the gentleman who put together the site guides we use in our narrative happen to be on the tour. After the tour was over, he thanked us for being able to share our testimonies of this location as well as the thoughts and intentions of the sites in our own words and not make it sound like we were reading off of a “sheet of paper”. I guess that that is a pretty high compliment coming from the man who wrote the “sheet of paper”. We also got an opportunity to give a virtual tour to our home ward the Laton Lakes second ward. What a fun blessing it was as we got a chance to see faces and reacquaint ourselves with friends and loved ones that are a bit far away from us but always in our hearts and minds.

This December we celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. As Amy says “we have been married for 41 wonderful years”…you do the math. Every relationship is fraught with those time that are more difficult than others but hold on, the good times always seem to reappear. (If you work at them) December is also another special time as we have an opportunity to celebrate, and today happens to be that day, the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This morning as we walked the farm and stood in front of the log home where he celebrated a number of his birthdays, our hearts and thoughts were turned to him and what a blessing it is that through him we were able to receive, the restoration of all things. And this morning to walk in the Grove, in the hushed silence of snow falling, and to feel the blessing of being in that holy spot, was a wonderful gift to Amy and me today.

The Christmas season is a wonderful season. It gives us an opportunity to consider upon the blessing of our Savior Jesus Christ. His coming to earth and his preparations for Easter, which is not too far away, where we will celebrate His Atoning sacrifice for each and every one of us. Christmas also gives us a time to reach out from ourselves to those around us, and we’ve been blessed in a number of circumstances where people have been placed in our path that we were able to minister to and serve. We hope that we served the way that our Savior wanted us to serve. It’s also a time when we get to share such sacred music as has been created to celebrate the life and birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We had the chance to listen to our Stake’s Christmas presentation, and what a wonderful presentation it was. It was so well done and so many talented individuals brought the spirit to that meeting. But not to be outdone, we had a small presentation by just Seven Sisters in a choral arrangement this past week as they presented to no more than 40 people in the audience. And while it was not as polished and precise as other presentations, it was nonetheless just as powerful as they bore testimony through song about our Savior Jesus Christ.

The New Year’s is just around the corner, and we will wish you a blessed holiday season, a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, safe, and prosperous 2022. As 2022 approaches, it is a great opportunity to set new goals. President Hansen, our Stake President, challenged us to be a little more diligent in our letters and posts back home. So, with that I hope to be able to share more with you in the coming days.

Know that you are loved, know that you are watched over, and know that you are highly blessed and favored of Lord.

THE SEASONS ROLL ON….

Fall is surely here…how can I tell; well let you give you a few tell tale signs.

The leaves have turned, and the colors are spectacular. Here on the farm is one of the very best displays of bright Reds, Golds, and Oranges anywhere. As you walk to the grove, you are surrounded by all of the vibrant shades that appear to glow with a radiance that is unmatched. But just to confirm we took a ride up the ski lift at Bristol Mountain ski resort to take another look. IT was fantastic, even thought we reach the summit of the mountain at just over 2800Ft (yes hundred, not thousand, like out west) But even then, it was a great excursion. We went with our mission President and his companion as well as with our good friends the Staker, who are facilities missionaries and help keep things in repair and functioning so we can function. We chose to hike on of the cross-country ski trails at the top rather than take a chance of falling down the Double Black Diamond run on the way down.

 The second thing that signals the fall here is the ending of the LSG season. Yes, with the end of October came the very last LSG (Large Scheduled Group AKA Bus Tour) But not only that, but we also said good by to our own LSG’s (Loving Sister Guides) their time was finally up at the end of October, and they now have all headed out to their full time proselyting missions. We held a celebration of sorts (more like a Last Supper) for the departing sisters. Amy, in usual Amy fashion, out did herself in making a beautiful Rice Crispy tour bus with all of the sisters as passengers. It is rather quiet here (a good/bad thing don’t you know) but mostly bad. We miss them but know and hear of the great things they are doing in their fields of labor. And we are left here to carry on. So far it has been rather busy as we try to figure out how to balance in-person tours with virtual tours with only one couple at a site.

For a Halloween treat we participated in the Palmyra Ghost Walk. It was a fun time as we trapsed through the cemetery and were entertained and taught by a dozed ghosts (AKA historic site guides) about influential people and events here in the Palmyra community. It culminated in a serving of local Apple Cider and Donuts. A great way to spend an evening our in the BRISK fresh air. As we entered the fall season It was amazing just how many pumpkin patches there are here in the area. As we drove the 35 miles to the Whitmer farm it seamed we passed a dozen pumpkin patches. And when there was not a patch, there was a roadside stand selling pumpkins and gourds. I love some of the funky designs God has placed on these pumpkins/gourds.

 This past week thing heated up here near the Grandin Publishing building, and not in a good way. As the missionaries arrived to open the site, they were soon greeted by several fire trucks. Actually, fire trucks from 5 surrounding communities to be totally accurate. The local laundromat, which is merely 150 ft from the back of the Grandin building, was a blaze. It shared a wall with one of the local Museum as well. As they fire teams tried to put out the blaze, they ran into a myriad of issues form little to now water pressure to losing control of hoses and knocking down firemen and fences. The decision was made that the Laundromat was a total loss, but they poured water on the shared wall to keep the museum from going up in flames. They were successful in keeping it contained. Oh, did I neglect to tell you the between the fire and the Grandin building are 3 apartments that our Sr Couples live in. Miraculously they were not damaged, now even any smile damage. There were 2 14-year-old boys caught who had set the fire and watched the building burn.

But let’s not end on this dismal note. We also made a trip back down to the Priesthood Restoration site to do a bit more training and got to see some of our sisters we loved and lost to the Pennsylvania site. There we were able to share a tour with departing missionaries for the Pennsylvania mission as they got to go to the site. While we were there, we took the 30-minute detour on our way back home to visit the Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight homes just outside of Colesville. We were able to get a personal tour of both homes and learned a lot of history that added to what we have learned here while serving at these sites of the Restoration. The Josiah Stowell home is where Joseph and Emma would sometimes meet while courting, and they have the actual fireplace mantle that was brought from the courthouse where Joseph and Emma were married. The Knight home was the location of the meetings of the Colesville branch of the church who later were called to be some of the first settlers in Missouri.

Well, you are all caught up now, so we will say goodbye for now, and always remember that you are loved.

Sister and Elder Isom

Spring has Sprung…..

Fall is in the air and that mean Winter is just around the corner. Let me explain Winter to you from our POV. We just had 14 sisters leave us this week to head to their full-time proselyting missions, and they took a bit of sunshine out of our lives. Come the 1st of November the remaining 12 will leave, and when they do, it will officially be Winter in our hearts. Before the left, a number of them were involved in a Filming project in and around each of the sites here in NY and PA. These will be made available shortly for on-demand viewing by the Church Historic department. I did get the autographs of the sisters just in case they become famous… Never know just how I will finance my retirement in my old age.

I want to wish all of you a happy “Moroni Day” as we have come to call it here. It was on the 22nd of September 1823, when the young Joseph Smith Jr. followed the invitation of his father in response to the visitation of the Angel Moroni and climbed the Hill Cumorah, and their find the ancient record of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which would later become the Book of Mormon. Last time I shared with you the changes being made to the Hill, but this time I will share a video we made just before the construction began that we share with guests not able to climb the hill. We were fortunate to also have been working at the Hill Cumorah Visitor Center on this great day.

We had some of our children come out to spend a bit of time with us. Jared, Jenna, and the little ones spent the better part of a week with us. We got to go to all of the church sites in NY and hade great experiences. We also went down to Watkins Glen to take the Gorge hike. It was great. And being down that far we had to do a quick drive by of Watkins Glen race way for our NASCAR Fans (Jared and the Girls). He would not even get out of the car to take a picture; we barely got him to roll down the window to take the photo. But I guess that he can now check that off his bucket list.

And speaking of Bucket list adventures, Amy FINALLY got to go to Niagara Falls. (It has only taken 9 months and a visit by her kids to make this happen) I will confess it was GREAT. It is hard to imagine just how powerful water can be until you are standing at he base of the falls, and have it crash (even just a little bit) against your back and think you have just been hit by a truck. We did the Maid of the Mist, and it was great …but the Cave of the Wind was a VERY up close and personal experience with the falls. I will include a short video on our web page. (Since it might be too large to attach to the letter)

We also had a chance while they were here to take a ride down the Erie canal and travel through a couple of locks. Our son had several cruses canceled on him throughout the Covid days, so for him he tried to make this a substitute for the cruse. Not sure it worked when we refused to go get and serve him a virgin Pina Colada. But none the less it was a great time on a very slow boat through a bit of American history.

It rains a fair amount here in Western New York in the fall months, and September had been no exception. But that has given me time to reflect on just how important the rain is here at the Grove. Talking with Bob, the Forester and caretaker of the Grove early on, we commented on how important the snow is in preparing it for the spring and summer. His response was interesting as he said that the snow was great to moisten the soil, but it was not until the rains came that the Grove would awaken. As I have watched the Grove, over this Spring and Summer, I have notice that when the Rain comes it cleans the air as well as the leaves and trees. But it also sinks into the ground and supplies the life sustaining fluid that allows the trees to grow and reach their potential.

As I considered this, it feels to me much like the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. The Atonement, like the rain, cleans us from the dirt and stains of sin and error. But as important as the cleansing power of the Atonement is, we cannot forget that each day, that same Atonement, like the rain, provides the LIVING water we all need to allow us to reach our full potential. It is this day-to-day nourishment that I have come to feel that sustains me through the winds and storms of life just like the stalwart trees here in the Sacred Grove.

So, until next time Know you are Loved

Sister and Elder Isom

Those things which shall come hearafter….

One of my favorite scriptures comes from the Doctrine and Covenants Section 58: 3-4

“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings…”

While this speaks of our enduring to the end, it has also come to mind as we have served here at the Hill Cumorah. Right now, there is a large amount of heavy construction going on as they remove the old pageant structures, in order to return the Hill to a more natural state. We are told that when it is finished it should have a feel and experience similar to what you have in the Sacred Grove. What a blessing it will be, but for now it is hard to see. We have had a lot of folks come in and express their sadness at the ending of the pageant and have shared tremendous stories and spiritual experiences they have felt. What a blessing for us to be able to hear of these enriching experiences.

The past several days have seen a lot of activity here. We had a visit from Elder Neal L Anderson of the 12 Apostles. He and his wife graciously shared a great devotional with us as they were touring all of the historical sites which are now part of his new assignment in the Quorum of the Twelve. He challenged all of us to “get it DEEP into your heart that Jesus is the Christ”. He said that opposition will come, but it can be one of our greatest learning experiences. Because of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, our failures do not define us, but they should help refine us. We also had Gary Boatright, who is the operations director for the Church Historical Sites. The sisters got a chance to ask a number of questions about giving tours and assisting guests to have he most enjoyable experience. We also have started into our 2nd half season bus tours which is greatly welcomed, since the foot traffic here at the sites has slowed dramatically.

Yesterday, on our P-day, we got the chance to travel to Sodus NY to visit some folks in our ward here, that we had gotten acquainted with. It doesn’t hurt that she owns a QUILT shop, or at least that is what Amy says. It was a great relaxing drive, and on the way up we noticed a sign for the Apple Shed. Well, not wanting to let an opportunity pass, and being curious, we took a small detour, and glad we did. We found a great store that has everything apples and peaches. In addition, they make a very good sandwich. But the best thing is their Apple Cider Slushes (bet you did not know that was a thing). And … Wait for it…. They have baby Goats in their petting zoo. The people there were fantastic, they made us feel like family, not shoppers. WE WILL be back. We took our sandwiches up to the beach at Sodus point and there we had our lunch. Listing to the waves crashing on the shore, feeling the wind, and just enjoying the great day.

 I hesitate to say this, since Amy is still waiting for Summer to get here, but I think we are turning the corner into the fall season. We are already seeing some early change in leaf color on a few of the maple trees, and others are starting to have a number of their leaves drop. The trails in the Grove are starting to collect a few dead leaves and the undergrowth is starting to turn a bit browner. The mushrooms are continuing to appear, but that will be for a short season. It is amazing to me just how quickly thing change out here in New York. But soon we will be looking back to the time it was green and longing for it again. So best wishes to all wherever you are. And remember that you are Loved.

Sister and Elder Isom

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, we got a chance to celebrate Amy’s Birthday Week with a small get together of all our missionaries, and served a Café Rio style taco bar, featuring traditional tortillas from Food City market in AZ. Thank you Teena for sending these, they were the hit of the evening

The BIG Ditch….

I told you last post that we would talk a little bit about the Erie canal. While we have been here, we have learned a lot about just how many miracles took place as the restoration of the gospel rolled out between 1820 and 1830. One of the significant events to take place was the building of the Erie canal which ran just north of the main street in Palmyra. This canal ran only about 600ft behind the newly completed Thayer and Grandin row of buildings which housed the Grandin Print Shop. This made it possible for Mr. E B Granding to purchase and have the latest printing press delivered. This press weighed over 1600lb and would have been nearly impossible to move it the over 225 miles from New York City to the western frontier in Palmyra.

The Erie Canal (sometimes referred to as “Clintons Ditch” after the then Governor of NY) was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, originally stretching for 363 miles from the Hudson River in Albany to Lake Erie in Buffalo. The canal was first proposed in the 1780s, but construction began in 1817, and it opened on October 26, 1825. It was the second-longest canal in the world (after the Grand Canal in China)

Like many government projects it ran into challenges right from the get-go. Almost immediately on the completion of the canal it was determined that it was too small. A revision began and, it was enlarged between 1834 and 1862. This could have been because no one originally working on the canal had a strong background in engineering. Think of the first canal as OJT (On the Job Training). Even the canal that was completed in 1862 was eventually revised to take advantage of deeper waterways and new lock technology to allow larger boats and heavier freight. It is said the before the canal it cost nearly $100 to ship a ton of lumber to New York City, and after it only cost $5. A tremendous savings and boon to the westward migration of people and materials. For more details you can visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKPftfwYtkE

Not far from us here at the Grandin building is a great place where we can see all “3” of the canal routs. We have an old crossover bridge where they traded sides for the mules to pull the boats, and Aqueduct that spanned the 2nd canal and it also acted as a crossover bridge, and the NEW canal with a modern lock. While the first canal path is dry, and you can see just how large it was, the other 2 still have water in them.

Down the road just a couple of miles we can find old lock 60. A great example of a double lock that would allow ships to pass in both directions. These old locks had wood gates that were in need of constant repair and were later changed to Iron gates in the modern locks today.

But since a picture is worth 1000 words, I will leave you with a few pictures of this amazing modern-day marvel. Unfortunately, it became less cost effective to ship down the Erie canal, and so now a days it is only open for pleasure boats that sail from the Atlantic to the great lakes and back again. 

Remember you are Loved

SIster and Elder Isom

Oh and by the way…Happy Birthday to my love Amy Isom on this day

IF YOU BUILD IT….

They do say if you build it, they will come. But even if you don’t build it, they still come. That was the case for the last several weeks here at the historic sites. July is the season when the Hill Cumorah pageant would normally take place, and many people had booked a tour to cover those weeks in hopes to be able to see the pageant for the last time in 2021. The decision to not hold a pageant was made in April but, many people had already booked tours and decided to come anyways. During the past 10 days we have out nearly 35,00 guests through the sites here in the Palmyra area. Kudos to all of the sisters and Sr. couples who mustered the strength, went without lunches or breaks, in order to accommodate our visitors. I guess I will use this as the excuse as to why it has been such a long time between my letters.

We have also had a number of BYU educators who joined these tours to share additional insights and they were also able to share devotionals with our sister missionaries. We also have had a number of general authorities came in small groups or with some with their family and grandkids to enjoy these sites. All in all, it’s been a wonderful time, and the last few days have felt very good as things have wound down just a little bit. I’m sure that we will look back in about 2 months at this time and wish that we were back in the busy season.

During all of this there have been some great experiences. One of the special experiences that came out of these recent tours is that I had the opportunity to take a blind sister on a tour. It was a humbling opportunity for me as we have many old buildings with artifacts in them and we are instructed, and instruct our guests, not to touch them. So, the first thing I thought was how can you give a tactile experience to someone lacking sight, while still building a spiritual experience. I learned that day that being able to “see” with our eyes is not the only definition of “sight”.

As we started, I could feel the spirit that she was feeling as she was able to run her hands across the ax marks on the outside of the Log home as I shared there early life, and how the Smiths worked hard to bring life to the raw land. We stood in the sacred space in the upstairs of the Log home where the Angel Moroni came to the young boy Joseph as I shared the visitation and Josephs call to the work. She felt the bricks of the hearth where the plates were hidden, and the table as I shard the coming of the plates into the frame home for the first time. But the greatest part of the experience was as we shared the first vision and I saw the impact of the spirit as her tears began to flow. What a tender mercy from God for me in my life.

The Grove continues to change as the season rolls on. Our early morning walks are truly enjoyable as we continue to see our small deer heard feeding, or watch the frogs, birds, and bees making their way. Seeing the grove floor turn from brow to green and now starting to make its way back to brown. And don’t get me started on the Mushrooms. They are starting to show up everywhere. Who would have guessed I would have turned into a mushroom hunter? But I will say, I harvested a few of the Chicken of the Woods, and they are GREAT!

So, I will leave it here for now and will tell you of the learnings we are gaining about the Erie Canal in the next visit.

Remember that you are loved and make you day a joyful one.

Sister and Elder Isom

P.S. We also learned that Joseph Smith had a favorite dog called Old Major. It is interesting that even today Old Major still watches over the Smith homestead.

End of an era…..

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.

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/event/hill-cumorah-pageant-devotional-and-broadcast

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.

Remember you are loved

Sister and Elder Isom

A small season of rejoicing…

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.

Look closely at the small yellow lights. Hard to photograph a firefly….

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.

Let the lower light be burning…

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.

Sister and Elder Isom