I'm in the airport and the first leg of my flight back to Temple Square. The flight to Detroit doesn't leave for another hour and a half. And I'm bored. Well, in need of distraction. I totally forgot to tell you about the temple trip to Palmyra and that whole day last week. So sit back - this is going to take a while.
Here is a brief overview of the day:
- 6:00am - Leave Mission Home for Palmyra
- 7:00am - (Approx) Pick up ElderN in Liverpool and continue to Palmyra
- 8:30/9:00am - Arrive @ Palmyra Temple. Meet with President Sherwood; Q&A Session
- 9:30am - Endowment Session
- 12:00pm - Souvenir shopping next to Grandin Print Shop
- 12:30/1:00pm - Lunch! Classic NY pizza and wings
- 2:00pm - Tour Grandin Building
- 3:00pm - Alvin Smith's grave and Martin Harris Farm
- 3:30pm - Visit Hill Cumorah
- 5:00pm - Sacred Grove
- 6:30/7:00pm - Dinner at McDonalds
- 7:30pm - Leave for Utica and to drop off ElderN
- 9:00pm - Arrive at Mission Home
- ROOT BEER FLOATS!
We're in the Detroit airport and I've learned a few things. It's way more fun to have time to check out huge airports (and have lunch) than to have to run from one end to the other (which SisterW and I did just 12 weeks ago). And as a random side note, I've switched back to my flag-tag nametag and it took some getting used to. Actually, it doesn't feel too weird. Now that I am definitely gone from the Utica Mission it is starting to sink in that I'm going back. Anyway. Back to your regularly scheduled letter.
I believe we were still on our way to Palmyra. I suppose this would be a good time to tell you who all was on this trip. Obviously the mission prez - President and Sister Bulloch and yours truly, then Elders H,S,N,P and McC. I actually got to see ElderH this morning at the mission office. Time for the good stuff! The temple is AMAZING! We took a "class" picture and more as we walked around outside. I quite enjoyed being adopted into their class! When we went in, before the session, we met with the Temple President, President Sherwood. He welcomed us, etc., and then the fun part - an inside-the-temple question and answer session with a temple president, with input from a mission president. Oh yeah. That was cool. Plus, Pres Sherwood thinks really highly of sisters and was very happy I was there.
(I like connector planes better, but take off gets a little easier every time you do it. Still going to avoid doing this flying more than I have to)
There were some very sweet and special spiritual things that I was blessed to feel and learn in the Palmyra Temple that will be part of me for the rest of my life. Including a touching comment from one of the Elders who had one of my family names. It was just an amazing experience. And for once I don't think being in the temple made me miss my own San Diego Temple, it was just a blessing to be in the temple again. We really do take for granted that it's right there. I guess that applies at home as well as at TSquare.
(The problem with flying to Utah? Looks like there are quite a few young kids coming along on the flight. *strained happy face* No member conversations yet, but I just noticed a guy with a BYU shirt)
Next - Shopping! Yay! Yes, Mom, I bought a couple small things. I heard you in my head saying no, but I did it anyway. Better discount than Deseret Book and it comes from NY. :) Lunch with President is funny because when it gets to the last of things, he'll call on the Elders to buck up and take more. It's just a hilarious process you have to see for it to be funny. Anyway, the Grandin Building, where the Book of Mormon was first published. First, I didn't see a single sister missionary all day. Everywhere we went it was just senior missionary couples. Weird. Also, everywhere we went the missionary couples let President Bulloch do his own tour. Yep, pretty smart. It's just better for us that way, with our time constraints, etc. So we got to see the whole process of printing the Book of Mormon. I'm not going to remember it, but I have tons of pictures - original ink-splattered wall included.
(Wow - another remarkably smooth flight. Note to self - only fly in clear, sunny weather)
Oh, forgot! On the way to lunch we made a super quick stop to take pictures of the 4 churches. It looks kinda cool and the churches are quite pretty. I'm going to miss the beautiful, old churches in upstate NY.
(and the pilot is totally a member. I got a special hello as I got on the plane)
After the Print Shop comes one of my favorite places. I have developed an interest in Alvin Smith, Joseph's older brother who died a few years after Joseph's First Vision, and that interest has become a love and admiration. If anyone in that family believed in and supported Joseph most after the vision, it was Alvin. From seeing his part in the Joseph Smith movie and what little I've learned elsewhere about him, I was actually really excited to be visiting the grave. It was a great experience. I took my scriptures so I could read for President out of Doctrine & Covenants. I'm excited to meet Alvin one day.
Moving along in our day, we went over the Erie Canal to the Martin Harris Farm. I was surprized to learn that it isn't open for tours. Someone actually lives there. Don't ask me who - I can't remember. But the house is cool. We spent quite a bit of time throughout the day talking about Martin Harris and his role; what he did, where he messed up, why he deserves more credit than he gets, his involvement w/the Book of Mormon, etc. I didn't know (or forgot) that Martin had to sell most of his farm in order for the Book of Mormon to be printed.
(Ah, there it is. The inevitable crying infant on an airplane. Meh, could be worse. And correction - it wasn't the pilot, it was a flight attendant. Oops. You'd think I'd know the uniforms)
Now we get some fun stuff. The Hill Cumorah, where the gold plate containing the Book of Mormon were buried. There's a tradition in the mission of running up the hill and making a race of it. As the elders were deciding whether or not they'd run it, I was deciding in my head that I was NOT going to participate. Not in a skirt and less than in shape. But they did get me to get out of the car and it was fun to film it for them. I stayed at the bottom and filmed the run on two cameras. So funny. ElderH won! Even going up the slight switchbacks on the side - woah! is that hill steep. It rises gradually N-S, but up the West side to the monument it is crazy steep. Still, up at the top it's beautiful and we all took pictures in front of the monument.
We drove back down and went into the visitor center, but went straight down to the basement for some......training, for lack of a better word. We talked about Moroni as Joseph's tutor, Joseph's times of messing up, repenting, messing up and so on and what that all means to a missionary and a RM (returned missionary). Most of what was imparted - even Joseph made mistakes, he made lots of them, and we will too. Learn from them, correct them and get ready for the next one. I love the lessons we learn from Brother Joseph. I can't even imagine that day - meeting dear Brother Joseph, the greatest of men and prophets. There's another thing my mission has changed in me: I have grown to love and revere and develop an incredible desire to know more about Joseph Smith. Who else except Christ has given so much? From age 14, Joseph gave his whole life to his calling. *lightbulb* It just clicked spiritually the line about no one save Jesus only giving so much for the building of the kingdom. (can't reach my Book of Mormon to quote it properly, but you know the one)
(Mom inserts: Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it....")
Okay. Epiphany over. After that we got to take quick look around the Visitor's Center. And I had to smile. Especially when President showed up behind me and asked, "Look familiar?" in his happy, jovial, President Bulloch way. Oh yeah, all VCs are the same. Except where they're not. Cumorah has things specific to the Book of Mormon, and such. And their Christus was.....honestly it just looked weird. It's not the same when you have to change the size, it didn't look right. But the Sacred Grove back drop was good.
(I am not taking children on a plane unless they can be sedated. Not annoyed, just sayin')
Speaking of, we're getting closer. To that part of the story, and to SLC (somewhere over Nebraska, currently. I'm trying not to bump the guy next to me. But I did tell him all about missions, etc. before take-off). We went to the VC there and again were given free reign to take the tour ourselves. Which was good, because they came to lock up not long after we left the frame home. First was the log home recreation of where Joseph would have lived at 14. When we went upstairs and again touched on Moroni's visit, President opened it up for the sharing of testimonies, on anything, but specifically the BoM. No, I didn't speak up. But what was shared was what needed to be shared. Sister Bulloch bore her testimony and shared her love and appreciation for us and our service. Then we went to the frame home. Alvin was building the house and outside there's a tree that dates back to the time of his death, keeping with a tradition at the time that has to do with planting a tree when a family member dies (or first born son, didn't catch the whole story). That's the house the family lived in when the Book of Mormon was translated, where Joseph came back to after living in Harmony, PA, where Oliver came to help in the work and so on. 85% of the house (structure, I'm assuming) is original. If you want to stand where Joseph stood, it's there. It felt....I dunno. The realization of the reality of it all was amazing, but I don't know that I felt something. If you understand what I mean....hopefully. When you're there it's not really about getting a feeling. At least not as a member. It's more about seeing the reality of it. Those places are there, it actually happened, that kind of thing.
Outside the frame home is the barn and cooper's shop. The barn isn't original to the Smiths, but it is original to Brigham Young. President made it sound like they really did just pick it up and plop it down. Cool, huh.
Now we're finally there. The Sacred Grove. "The only time on your mission I give you permission to be alone, " says President. From the frame home there is a path to the Grove, where Joseph saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It was funny how we were all staggered going in and didn't really see each other inside. It took the first path to the right. It's so quiet. I sound myself singing a little to myself. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. After a while I saw some rocks and we straight to them to sit down (completely foregoing the benches that are everywhere). I read a little in Joseph Smith History, but it still felt like I didn't know what I should be doing. So I kept walking and had to tell myself to quit the "missionary walk" and slow down a bit. Then I got to the exit sign.....and walked past it. I was not even near ready to leave. I figured I'd just go back around or follow the path and turn around or whatever. By now I'm have a heart to heart conversation with Heavenly Father (what else are you supposed to do in a place like that? Go figure.) I finally felt like I was doing what I needed to be doing. Basically, the Grove is where you learn what prayer and revelation really mean. And I get why President Hinckley referred to the Grove as a temple when he had a section of the trees "trimmed" so you could "stand in one temple and look out to another" (possibly through the clear stained glass window in the temple).
I learned alot. From the Sacred Grove and the whole day. It is real. It is all true. But it's like I've said a million times on the Square - just because I've seen President Monson doesn't mean I know he's a prophet, I already knew that. Just because I've been in the Grove doesn't change anything. I knew it was true, but being there adds a depth to the testimony I already have. Just going there isn't going to get you a testimony. It'll help, as long as you keep putting in the effort.
So there's the the day. We got McDonalds before getting back on the throughway (thruway? I dunno. I'd say freeway) , dropped off ElderN and had rootbeer floats back at the mission home. And now we're almost out of Wyoming and into Utah. That would mean it's probably a good time to sign off. Who does the U mt belong to? 'Cause we just passed it. And there's Mt Timp Temple. Sweet. There it is. I'm home.
For more pictures and info, click here.
To learn more about Joseph Smith, click here.
(tell Otter I waved when we flew over Logan)