It's hard to believe it is the last day of September!! We have been here a whole year now. The temple has been closed since Sep 8, so this month doesn't even feel like a mission! In our travels, we have tried to keep other temples in our sights, but it will be good to get back into our routine next week.
So, some of you have been asking for more details about our travels this month. I'll try to share the highlights here, but it will probably be quite wordy!
We left on Thursday, Sep 11, and headed to Palmyra, NY. Before checking into our motel in Farmington, we stopped at the Palmyra Visitors Center and walked up the Hill Cumorah. It was almost dusk and had gotten a little windy and cool, so we were glad we had our jackets. The view from the Hill is still very pristine, beautiful green farmland. It was easy to imagine the events which occurred there almost 200 years ago. Besides the missionary couple and young sister missionaries who were manning the Visitors Center, we met two other missionary couples who had finished their missions in Nauvoo, and were touring church history sites before going home. That turned out to be common on our whole trip, to see other missionary couples visiting the sites as we were. Standing before the Christus statue in that Visitors Center (just like the one in the DC Temple VC), and hearing the same recording of the Savior's words, with a mural of the Sacred Grove in the background, was a very spiritual experience for me.
We spent all of Friday in Palmyra. Our guide in the morning was a young Cantonese-speaking missionary from Macau (a former Portuguese colony of China), whose mission was ending in one week. Her English was pretty good, and her smile so cute! The first thing I noticed in Palmyra is how it has changed since we last visited maybe 25 years ago. The Church has restored it to be more like it was when the Smiths moved there in the early 1800's, including building a replica of the small cabin where the family would have lived at the time of the First Vision. The guides don't take you into the Sacred Grove, but let everyone spend as much time there as they want, walking many paths through the many acre woodlot which was part of the 100-acre Smith farm. It was cloudy and chilly Friday morning, so we didn't linger as long as we wanted, but again, it was easy to imagine the glorious event that occurred there!
After eating our picnic in the car (because it was too cold to use the picnic tables at the VC), we went into the town of Palmyra proper to see a small, early 1800's cemetery where Alvin Smith was buried, and then we spent a couple hours in the Grandin Print Shop where the Book of Mormon was first published. Seeing exactly how it would have been done back then, setting every letter by hand, trimming, cutting, binding each book by hand, etc, we were amazed at the accomplishment of printing 3,000 copies in such a short time! And we saw again the hand of God in bringing about this great work! Friday evening we went to the Palmyra Temple and participated in ordinances there. The Sacred Grove is visible from the temple, and everything inside, including the baptistry, reminds you of the grove.
Before leaving Palmyra Saturday morning, we drove about 40 minutes south and east of Palmyra to the Peter Whitmer Farm, where on April 6, 1830, in a very small log cabin, the Church was officially organized. It was raining quite hard, so we did the little tour under umbrellas, with more great sister missionaries, whose confidence and command of the scriptures and restoration events continues to impress us where ever we go! In that Visitors Center (a wing of the meetinghouse), we saw a 12-minute film just released in early September showing the growth and diversity of the church since it's beginning, with 6 members in 1830 to 15 million today. It was a tear jerker. And apparently, it will not be shown in any other visitors' centers.
Saturday, Sep 13, after about a six-hour drive in steady rain, we arrived in Sainte-Anne-de-Belleview, Quebec, at around 4 pm. It was surprising to us that at the exact moment we crossed into Canada our phone alerted us that phone calls would cost more, and that we would not have internet. Bummer! We hadn't counted on that . . . But the first place we went was to the old MacDonald College campus, and our house on 6 Rivermead. Amazingly not much had changed in that part of campus, except our garden, raspberries and all, had been taken out . Ed has been researching the life and family of Sir William C MacDonald, the founder of MacDonald College. Because of a dream he had, he is getting temple work done for the MacDonald family. We took a picture of him by Sir William’s statue on campus.
We contacted the Lavoie family, whom Ed had met in the DC Temple a month earlier, and who had offered to house us when we came, and made our way to Vaudreuil where they live. Francois and AnneMarie were so nice and gracious, and it was very easy to be in their home, which eased my mind a lot, since I had been a little nervous about it. It was fun to hear them speak French, even though we couldn't understand much of it. Thank goodness their English was way better than our French! We went to church with them on Sunday morning, to what used to be the Pointe Claire Ward (when we lived there), but now is the Kirkland Ward. The Lavoie's used to be members of that ward, but have gone to the French branch for many years. The only people we knew there were Brother and Sister Jehoda. We did learn that Susanne Davidson and her daughter Sarah were still in the ward, but they were out of town. We were able to have a great visit with Susanne and Sarah on Monday evening – still in their same house in Beaconsfield. She and I used to exchange a lot of babysitting. I bet Mirien and maybe Melayna remember Jaime and Leah. Obviously looks have changed in 37 years, but she sure sounded just like I remember!
Sunday afternoon the Lavoie's took us to see the Montreal Temple, which is now closed for major renovations. Too bad we couldn't go inside and do ordinances there. Except for the Angel Moroni which was still on top, it looked nothing like a temple. Apparently, it won't be open again until the end of 2015. Francois Lavoie is a driver for a major delivery company in Montreal, and used to have the old downtown area, so after seeing the temple, he took us to see the locks on the St Lawrence River, and then drove us all over the old parts of the City, and up to the top of Mont Royal, where the view was amazing. He pointed out the geodesic dome that was the US pavilion built for the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, and the 148 cubical apartments of Habitat 67, also part of Expo 67, and the Olympic Stadium from the 1976 Summer Olympics. Remember Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10 in gymnastics?? Monday we spent the day with the Lavoie's daughter Emily visiting the Morgan Arboretum at MacDonald College, and the Ecomuseum Zoo. Too bad Martha the wolf is no longer around. but we found a turkey! Fun memories walking with the girls at the arboretum! One of the things we will remember about the Lavoie’s is her dinner table. Her goal was not to have any matching place settings. We took a picture one night. Fun sister. I know I usually try to match everything, so we are not alike in that way, but there were so many ways where we were alike, we decided we must be sisters in heaven!
So Tuesday we headed down through Vermont to visit the Joseph Smith Birthplace Monument in Sharon, VT. Before getting there, we stopped in Waterbury, VT to tour the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. Definitely a good tourist attraction, with a free sample at the end of the tour. The scripted dialogue given by the tour guides is full of humorous puns, and the Flavor Graveyard is very entertaining. Of course its location surrounded by dairy farms in the Vermont mountains also makes for gorgeous scenery! We bought one souvenir there – an ice cream dish in the shape (kind of) of a cow's udder.
As we drove an hour on down towards Sharon, through these beautiful wooded mountains, I couldn't help but think of the Smith family back in the early 1800's making their move from Sharon (which apparently wasn't so green that year) all the way to Palmyra, NY! I guess it was just a way of life back then, to pack up everything in a wagon and head for greener farms. We arrived at the Visitors' Center in Sharon early Wednesday morning, after staying the night in a motel in West Lebanon, New Hampshire (about 30 minutes southeast of Sharon). We learned at the visitors' center that the Smiths actually didn't live in Sharon very long, but moved to the West Lebanon area just previous to the time when Joseph had that terrible bone infection in his leg. It was obvious that the Lord's hand was in that move, since the doctor that was able to save his leg was at the medical school at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, only a few miles away. They said that the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in West Lebanon is located where the Smith home had been. We drove right by it on our way to the Sunset Inn.
We stayed all morning at the Sharon Visitors' Center, chatting with the two couple missionaries that were there. We were sad that our friends, LeRoy and Lynne Likes, from Piney Creek Ward in Colorado were not there. T hat had been their mission until just a couple weeks prior to our coming. They had to leave early for Lynne to go home and recuperate from a bad fall she had had, breaking 4 ribs and rupturing her spleen. But the Ogdens and the Osborns were great company, and shared fun stories and information with us. My favorite was the story of the 1905 construction and erecting of the 38.5 foot monument commemorating Joseph's 100th birthday. Again, it was easy to see the God's hand in the miracles that made this monument possible. I need to go online and see if I can find a copy of that story. But when we learned that the granite quarry that made the one-piece monument was only 30 minutes away in Barre (pronounced Barry), VT, and that they conducted tours, we decided to visit.
So we spent Wednesday afternoon at the Rock of Ages Quarry (great name!), and our tour guide was named Nora Rock (for real!). We rode in a school bus to a place where we could overlook the 600-foot deep quarry. Then we got to walk into the factory where they change rough-cut granite into grave stones and other memorials, benches, etc. Very interesting! We bought a granite trivet as a souvenir. We had a long chat afterwards with Nora Rock about the gravestone business, and ended up giving her a pass-along card about Family Search.
Thursday morning we drove the four hours to Boston, and went straight to the temple. It had been almost a week since we had done temple ordinances in the Palmyra temple, and we missed it. While we waited for Jan McKinnon to come and meet us, we walked the temple grounds and noticed some Angel's Trumpet trees that we had seen a few weeks ago at the Brookside Gardens back in DC. I remember thinking then that they should be called Moroni's Trumpet, so they were the perfect tree for temple grounds! It was great to see Jan again, and participate in the temple session with her. It is another beautiful temple, with a particularly glorious Celestial Room! Later that evening in our conversation with Paul and Jan, we learned how Jan had been the one many, many years ago who was instrumental in the church buying that property for a stake center. When they were searching for a temple site many years later, someone remembered the property adjacent to the stake center, which turned out to be the perfect temple spot!
Friday we spent the day in Boston walking the historic Freedom Trail. Jan took us to the metro station, and we were able to navigate our way down town and had a wonderful day! Our first time ever in Boston (and probably our last . . .). We just followed the red brick/painted path which zig-zagged all through the town, reading in our pamphlet about all the historic places we were passing. Four miles later, we ended up inside the old battleship U.S.S. Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), which played a prominent role in the War of 1812. I really wanted to have a bowl of authentic Boston Clam Chowder, and we found the perfect place – the Union Oyster House, which is the oldest restaurant still operating in North America. Inside were unusual wall hangings of the Freedom Trail sites. Fun place for lunch. Besides the history, we also enjoyed an amazing street performer – a juggler and acrobat of sorts, and found a huge farmers' market right down town. Bought 3 containers of raspberries for $2.00!
The McKinnons were so gracious, and we loved spending time with them again. We went out to eat in a nice restaurant near them in Belmont, then played speed Scrabble until bed time. Saturday morning we drove to the Minute Man National Historic Park in Lexington, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in April 1775 near the North Bridge (where the reflection in the water was so clear!), and then to Walden Pond in Concord, where Thoreau lived from 1845-1847. The "pond" was way bigger than I had imagined, and not really that remote. He wasn't that far away from civilization, and apparently went into town frequently. And his little cabin wasn't right at water's edge, but more into the woods. Very beautiful spot, though. I think I could enjoy a retreat there! On the way home, we stopped at Wilson Farms, another huge farmers' market. After lunch, we said our good-byes to the McKinnons and headed south towards Washington, DC.
The last stop of our journey was to visit Tracie and Sean Sullivan in Fairfield, Connecticut. (I wish we had taken pictures with them . . .) We became friends early last spring when we met them at the DC Temple Visitors' Center. Sean was undergoing treatment at NIH for acute leukemia. At the time, the Sullivans had been members of the church for less than a year, and were looking forward to July, when they could go to the temple to be sealed. A couple of months later they were in DC again, and attended our ward, where we chatted again. We have kept in touch a little, and when they learned we were traveling down from Boston, they invited us to drop by. We had a lovely visit with them, sharing their long struggle with leukemia and the journey that brought them into the church, and then to the temple. They are strong spirits with mighty faith and trust, but desperately need all our prayers for Sean's recovery. The NIH treatments were not working, so they are headed down a different treatment path, which might include a lung transplant. We will keep their names on the temple prayer roll in DC, and exercise our faith in our personal prayers as well.
Since it was their stake conference that weekend, and their meeting Sunday wasn't until 2:30, we decided to drive down the road a bit and attend a sacrament meeting in Stamford, MA. Turned out it was a Spanish Ward, so we left right after the sacrament, and listened to a great talk on CD by Brent Top about preparing for the Second Coming. Coming from the east on the Beltway, the Temple suddenly comes into view when we get to the Georgia Ave exit! I get excited every time!
We arrived in Kensington right at 7 pm and decided to go straight to the Visitors' Center for the Why I Believe fireside. The auditorium was full to capacity, and it was an excellent meeting! All in all, a great Sabbath day and a perfect ending to our pilgrimage. We are so grateful for the spirit that we felt all along our way, and for protection as we traveled. Now it is time to get back to the work we were called to do – to serve the patrons who come to do ordinances in the Washington, DC Temple! As Joseph Smith said in D&C 128, "Shall we not go on in so great a work? . . . Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison, for the prisoners shall go free!"