On this date…..

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.

Sisters doing the work despite the weather

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.

Remember you are loved

Love Sister and Elder Isom

oh how lovely was the morning…

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.  

Love Sister and Elder Isom

Here is a link to a Podcast on the Sacred Grove in early spring you might find interesting.  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/inspiration/latter-day-saints-channel/listen/series/the-first-vision-a-joseph-smith-papers-podcast/i-retired-to-the-woods?lang=eng

A Giant has fallen…

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.

Love Sister and Elder Isom

a day ending in “Y” …

Well as you found out last week the sisters have been here with us for a short period of time, and it has been great to be with them and feel of their spirit. This past Sunday we happened to have the opportunity to be with them as they began to conduct their own tours. Of course they were a bit nervous as they begin to learn of the stories and feel of the spirit, but it was amazing to see how quickly the spirit was able to use these sisters to convey the message of the restoration. They did a wonderful job, and we help them celebrate that evening with some caramel popcorn at the end of the day. But I was not totally certain if we were celebrating with them or if Sister Isom was just celebrating another day that ended in “Y” with caramel popcorn.

This past Sunday we got to go to our very first live church services at the Lyons Ward. It was fast and testimony meeting and as we sat there a young lady named Bonnie got up to bear her testimony. Bonnie struggles with some cognitive and learning challenges, but you don’t focus on that as you look past it and see the power of her blessed spirit. She talked about how her parents had been teaching her about things in preparation for the temple, how she learns in a different way and how that it was hard for her to understand just what they were saying. But she made, what I think, is a very profound statement and very appropriate to all of us when she said that while at this time she didn’t understand that there would come a day that she would know. And there will come a day when all of us will see and all of us will know and we will no longer have to walk by faith or hope but only by the love in our hearts and the love of our savior Jesus Christ. She spoke about how that someday she hoped that she could be ready to be a missionary, but I don’t think that she realizes how powerful of a missionary she is already.

Well in closing maybe just to share an interesting incident that we had on one of our tours. We happened to have a tour that had a primary class attached to it, and sometimes when you have young children like that you don’t get a lot of questions, or the questions you get are very interesting, and that happened to be the case this day. We had a young girl in the tour that probably asked 10 questions at the end and would have continued to ask questions if it wasn’t time for us to turn the link over for the next tour. One of the questions that she asked was that she had been very observant of the pictures that had been painted when Angel Moroni appeared, and that Joseph’s bed was against the wall. Well in the log home the bed is against the wall, but the wall is only about a foot and half tall and so it looks like it is resting against the rafters. As we shared this with her, my mind wondered how many times I have been taken away from the power of an event or situation by being distracted by a minute detail that commands all of my attention. If the spirit speaks in a still small voice, how important it is to calm the shouting voices that could shut it out from teaching us the true doctrine.

I apologize that this was late in coming out, but it has been a wonderful week here at the Grove and we wish you a blessed day and we’ll talk to you next week.

Love Elder and Sister Isom

It’s Sugaring time

Well, it’s sugaring time here in the northeast, the sap is flowing! The other day we got a chance to take a small tour of a Maple processing farm here near the Palmyra area. If you’d like a little more detail you can watch Sister Isom’s Facebook live broadcast on her link. The interesting thing about the sugaring season is it is very short but very labor intensive, and it takes very specific conditions for it to be successful. You have to have a night that is below freezing and then a day that runs up near 40 degrees in order for the sap to begin to lift out and up inside of the tree. As we have walked in the Grove we’ve noticed a lot of small twigs with buds on him falling to the ground near the Maple trees. Come to find out the squirrels are chewing off the tender shoots up in the top of the trees to find out if the sap has made it up to the top so that they can have a drink of this very sweet life sustaining fluid.

I think it’s kind of interesting as we have been able to find more out about this process that it comes very close to what the Savior said in the Bible. He told us that he is the living trunk and that we must be grafted in or tide into the living trunk to be able to receive the fullness of everlasting life. How similar it is for these small tender buds as they strive to get that life sustaining fluid from the base of the tree through the trunk that they may flourish and grow.

As we were concluding a tour the other day we ran into Bob who is the caretaker of the Grove and he pointed out that he had done a small pruning on a tree near the log home. That tree happened to be a Maple tree and as we got there we found a single icicle, or what we thought was an icicle, hanging from the branch that he had pruned. Turns out that that it was sap that had begun to seep out of the branch and freeze and had created a very sweet “sap sickle”, if that’s even a word. It was amazing to see how much had come out and how large that sap sickle had become in such a very short period of time.

Love Elder and Sister Isom

The snow is melting

The snow is melting! And now it’s ice : ( it is making walking the grove a matter of life and limb. But just as the snow is going away so will the ice path. When thinking about it seems as if we go from one challenge to another one. Just when we have figured out how to get around in the snow without sounding like an out of shape old fat person on a tour. We are not facing the ice path. We are looking for the grassy area where everything has melted to walk safely up the hill to the grove (now we just sound like old fat people a lot less out of shape).

I feel an all things spiritual thing there. In each season of our life we face challenges. Having just come through or are coming to the end of winter here in NY. We had some really hard days. We were learning how to give tours via Zoom. We learned how to dress so that we can stay warm (layer upon layer). Which shoes are best for walking in the snow. And more importantly how to stay positive. We are now pretty comfortable with the winter season just as it is coming to its end for 2021. As we were in the beginning and even in the middle, I didn’t think we would get it figured out. IT WAS HARD! But I can see as we took each day one at a time and each tour one at a time. We were able to endure each day and endure it well. As we looked at what we had done each day and felt proud of the effort that we had made. So it will be if we put forth our best effort forward for the spring season here in NY. I hear if you thought the snow was bad just wait for the rain. So I begin the mental preparation that when the rain does come I will be prepared and like my tagline reads for 2021 “Come what may and love it”. I will continue to look for the grassy area in my life where if I just move over 2 feet the walk will not be nearly as difficult.  I will also look for those who have walked that path and come out with the least amount of bumps and bruises to see how they were able to walk that path.

Yesterday the new Young Sister Missionaries (YSM) got to do part of a live tour with us at 2 and then at 4:30 they took on the whole tour all by themselves. They did a great job. It is fun to watch and to think that just 6 weeks ago we were where they are now. We were nervous and words would just not come to our mind what we wanted to say. We had memories some of the really important parts but when giving the tour they would just vanish from our minds (thank goodness for note), now we are really quite comfortable. And happy to share the things we have learned (I guess we are that grassy area for the YSM).

Greetings from the Grove NY and PA Historical Sites

Well spring keeps trying to tease us just a little tiny bit. This week we had weather that was up into the high 40s and the snow starts melting, but just as quickly as it melded, the evenings got cold and windy, and it froze so that we had some very slippery conditions on some of our tours. But in spite of these small weather challenges it has been great.

We had one tour this week that we had two wards from the United Kingdom, one of them was from the York area. At the conclusion of the tour one of the young men, well not so young now, wrote in the chat “do you know Jared Isom who served his mission in Leeds in 2003 to 2005”. Well of course we did, that’s our son. When we told him that it was our son, he shared with us that he was his MTC mission companion in Preston, and that he had a great time being together and respect for him. Later that day when we got a chance to talk to our son about it, sure enough he remembered him as well. It just goes to show what a small world this can be when you are connected through the gospel.

We finally got a chance this week to spend quite a bit of time down at the Peter Whitmer farm. It is out in the middle of nowhere and this site has a tremendous connection to a lot of the history of the early church. Not only is this where the last part of the Book of Mormon was translated, but it was also where the three witnesses were able to see the gold plates, and the church was officially organized. It served as the headquarters of the church for about a year and a half before the saints headed to “the Ohio”. As we were doing one of our tours that day, Sister Isom shared her testimony, as she does in all of our tours, but this one became very special. Sometimes you really don’t think much about what it is that you have said, but you do think about how the spirit has touched your heart and you hope that it is touched someone else’s heart.

There was one young woman on this tour who had actually lived in this area and had recently moved away. When we talked to her at the beginning of the tour she had said that she had come on so that she could remember the place, but didn’t speak much more of it than that. Later we got an email message back from her, after Sister Isom had shared some photos of our tour with her, and she mentioned how she needed the words that were shared in her testimony. That it brought her to understand that even though she was away from family and friends and circumstances that were familiar for her, that the Lord knew her. That she, like the early Saints, would have an opportunity to spread the word in a new and different area to new and different friends. I think she was a little bit homesick, but at the end of this I think that she felt much better about the decision that she had to make to change locations.

As I mentioned we got to spend quite a bit of time down to the Whitmer farm and it is way out in the boonies.  It is far away from anything else and we must rely on Internet connection through Wi-Fi out there to do our tours. Unfortunately, it can be a little bit sporadic depending on how many cows are drinking out of the ditch, or how many squirrels are out looking for nuts rather than spinning the wheels. This past Sunday happened to be one of those days. We got down there, and we had an opportunity to assist the couple that was there as they prepared to do an Instagram and Facebook live tour for Al Carraway. When it came time, her phones would not connect well enough to the main Internet connection and kept being dropped from the network. Fortunately, we were able to utilize a phone hotspot connection that was strong enough to allow her to complete the tour that she had organized for her followers. Technology, you gotta love it! (or not)

Well, that was the bright spot as the next tour we had was an Instagram live that the Institute program has in place. These had ben done so far at the Grandin building and the Sacred Grove without any issues. Unfortunately, we were not as blessed. As we went through the process of delivering the tour, about halfway through the connections failed completely and the live broadcast was ended. We are in the process of working with the folks at the Institute to arrange a little bit different process or program to be able to allow them to have the privilege of seeing the Whitmer farm at some future date.

As I have been thinking about some of those early members of the church, and how great of a desire or “will” they had to be able to do or be part of the early restoration of the church. I’ve come to understand that for some of them, when they moved from the will to the “will you” in acting on the invitation of the Lord, began to lose some of that desire and some of that spark and were no longer able to carry on being aligned with the restored gospel. I think this has helped me to better understand that when these challenges come, of weather or technology, that try to move me away from the spirit of this place, if I will maintain the “will you” attitude, and do all the things that I can do, that is when I see the tremendous miracles that the Lord provides, in touching the hearts of those that need to be touched, as well as ensuring that the message is received the way that He would have it received. This has been such a great blessing and a testimony builder for both of us as we now begin our 7th week here in Palmyra.

In closing, we got a picture from our daughter this week of our grandsons who were playing in the pool, as we were out here trudging in the snow and 28 degrees. There really is something not quite exactly right with that picture 🙂 So we will close for this week and wish you the blessings of heaven and hope that your week goes well.

Love Elder and Sister Isom

P.S The first set of Young Sister Missionaries arrived this past week and are finishing their quarantine. Hope to have them up and going by end of next week. How exciting for them as well as us.