Friday, August 12, 2011


I know I know, long time no post. I really have no excuse. Just been lazy and busy working. Sometimes I wish blogging didn't take so long!

Anyway, we've had a good summer and kept a busy travel schedule as usual. It's been great to live in the East (yes Michigan is considered East) and see all the things that we didn't see growing up in the West. Some of my favorite trips have been to Kirtland and Nauvoo so we had to come full circle and make a trip to Palmyra. On our way there we stopped for the night on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. They were certainly pretty but I can see why Elanor Roosevelt said "oh poor Niagara" after seeing the Iguacu Falls we visited in Brazil :)

"American Falls"

"Horseshoe Falls"

I'm glad we were there at night because they light up the falls with these huge colorful spotlights. Pretty huh?!

On our way out of Canada the next day we realized that people are right; Canada really does rule the falls as you can see from this picture. The American side on the left is pretty trashy...

After a few more hours of driving we checked into our hotel, took a nap, then headed to Palmyra. We had reservations for a session at the Palmyra temple and unfortunately arrived late but were able to do a few sealings first then go on the next session.
This temple is the same smaller layout as the other newer temples but it had beautiful stained glass windows that have images of the Sacred Grove which is just down the road. It added so much beauty to the already beautiful temple! This window is at the end of the entrance hallway and looks right out at the Sacred Grove. It is one of the only if not the only window that you can see out of in a temple.
The view from inside took our breaths away once we knew what we were looking at! They told us that President Hinkley instructed them to keep the trees trimmed down so that they could see right to the Grove. How cool is that?!
Another cool design element is that Angel Moroni looks toward the Hill Cumorah.

Next we drove up the street to the Martin Harris farm which was mortgaged to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon. Joseph also worked there. I think it was here where I really started to feel the significance of these places. That Joseph and other original members of the Church stood on the same ground I was!

We also stopped at the grave of Joseph's brother Alvin. It wasn't marked so it was neat when after looking for awhile we finally found his headstone. The original is still there but on the other side is a new stone.

At the center of Palmyra is this street corner. Remember in Joseph Smith History where Joseph talks about the many different churches contending for followers in his town? "Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist." Well can I tell you the feeling that overcame me when we came to the center of that very town and saw each of those churches? Each one on a separate corner and each one old enough to have been those very churches that Joseph talked about! I'm getting chills just typing it now :)

After our day in Palmyra we headed back to the hotel. Yet another perk of living in Michigan is being close to the Merkley's! The Merkley's are awesome people and are Ryan's aunt and uncle (who we visited in Virginia) and his cousins. His cousin Joseph and his wife Bianca live in the Bronx, NY and he was able to come out and meet us for the weekend. We definitely missed Bianca but were very happy to have Joseph join us!
He got in around midnight and who knows how late he and Ryan stayed up but they were good sports and got up before noon the next day :) After a yummy breakfast we headed back to Palmyra and toured the Grandin Print Shop where the BofM was first published.

Obviously many things have been updated and changed since the 1830's but some of the things like the floors were original to the store and was again, very cool to be walking in the same place that Joseph did.

Afterwards we went to the Smith Family Farm where Joseph grew up. Many of the buildings are the original ones or have been rebuilt to resemble them.
This is the view of the temple from the farm, stunning isn't it?!

We were able to tour Joseph's boyhood home. Top right pic: main room where Joseph returned to after the First Vision. Looking at the fireplace I kept thinking of JSH verse 20 "And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” Bottom left pic: upstairs bedroom where Moroni appeared to Joseph. Bottom right pic: view from the upstairs window into the Grove.

Ryan definitely wouldn't have faired well in the 1830's :) Wait, who am I kidding, he still has this problem in the 2010's, but maybe not quite as bad.

On our way to the Sacred Grove (behind us)

The Church has done a wonderful job maintaining these sacred sites. There are a bunch of trails within the Grove that you can walk through and benches along the way to stop and ponder the events that occurred there.
The missionaries told us about these trees called "adversity trees" This is one of them.
I'll give you the same challenge they gave us which is to figure out why it would be called that.
Another thing they mentioned is that the arborists (tree experts) the Church hired believe that there are 10 or so trees within the Grove that are old enough to have been there when Joseph was and "have witnessed the miracle that took place there." They won't tell you which ones they are but we're pretty sure this is one :)

For those who know the significance of the Sacred Grove it becomes a photographer's paradise! I am certainly not a photographer but we stopped several times and took pictures of spots that had beautiful light shining down on them that you couldn't help but think that maybe that's what the First Vision was like.

I know you're probably getting tired of the cheesiness but I seriously had such a strong spirit there as we stopped and read the Joseph Smith story from the scriptures. I know without any doubt that the First Vision was real and that everything that Joseph wrote really did happen and we are blessed today because of it!

We planned our Palmyra trip so we could attend the Hill Cumorah pageant which for anyone who isn't familiar with is an evening outdoor play that members of the Church put on every year.
It's set on the Hill Cumorah where Joseph recieved the golden plates and has scenes from stories in the Book of Mormon. None of us had been the the pageant before but always heard good things. First we staked out our seats then enjoyed a yummy chicken and salt potato dinner.
Of course Ryan and Joseph had to find cast members to get a picture with. They wanted the guy with the longest beard but this is what they ended up with :)

The pageant was AWESOME! That stage is incredible and huge with lots of different levels so every seat is a good seat.

It's pretty high tech too complete with waterfalls, falling rocks, and fire! There were like 500+ actors from age 1 to who knows how old! We couldn't get any decent pictures because of the light and distance so this is the best I've got.

We all left with such a good spirit and we all know what happens when you're on a spiritual high...Satan just has to intervene and try to crush that. After the play as we were all walking to our cars we were bombarded with the anti's who were on the side of the road yelling their messages through megaphones. I'm grateful for the testimonies that the 3 of us have that can't be shaken by someone shouting hurtful things but I felt bad for the kids who I know heard it and hopefully didn't let it get to them. We talked about it on the way back to the hotel how persecution of the Church started here in Palmyra and is still going on. Makes me sad but I know that Satan wouldn't be trying so hard if it wasn't true.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back to Palmyra one more time to tour the visitors center and hike up to the top of the Hill Cumorah. We watched a movie in the visitors center (The Restoration maybe?). Don't those movies just make you cry like a baby?! They do for me but they also reinforce my testimony like nothing else!

On our way up the super steep hill we spotted the rock that the plates were the play :)

At the top is a monument of Angel Moroni who directed Joseph to the buried plates.

Sadly, after our little hike we had to say goodbye to Joseph :(

He seriously is such a cool guy and I still remember the way I felt when I met him for the first time. Ryan and I had just started dating and Joseph came down from Utah State and crashed at Ryan's apartment for the night. I was so impressed when these two young guys had the discipline to kneel down and pray together before they went to sleep. I want my boys to have that kind of strength!! Thanks for a fun weekend Joseph, now bring that lovely wife of yours next time!

SO grateful for this trip and all the wonderful feelings I had while we were there. I've certainly shared my feelings and testimony of the Gospel throughout this post and I'm sorry if it got kind of mushy but you can't help but feel so strongly while in such an important place like Palmyra and Kirtland and Nauvoo. I really took for granted growing up in Salt Lake and the importance of that city as well but have been touched by the cities we've seen in the last few years. The Church is growing and it's growing because it's true.

I'm sure many of you have already seen this but I thought I would share it again. Looks like the media is noticing the Church as well :)


Tylers story said...

That is one of the places I really want to visit someday! I loved everything that you wrote. You could just feel how true the church really is by what you experienced! Thanks for sharing!!

Sheena C. said...

Did you know we're moving there in about two weeks? Not Palmyra, but Ithaca, which is like an hour and a half away. My family's planning on coming out next summer and doing just what you guys did. Visit the falls, see Palmyra, the pageant. Looks like it will be fun!

Now you just need to hit Vermont where Joseph was born and Independence and Far West in Missouri and you'll have seen it all!

Jason & Kelli West said...

Stephanie, you should be a story teller. You did a fantastic job at writing :D it made me feel like I was there!! Loved your "mushy" words and all the pictures you took. Glad you guys had a great time!