Thursday, July 9, 2009

We are back to the Red Rocks of Dixie!

We are back in Utah's Dixie getting some of that Red Sand in between our toes again. It has been a wonderful reunion with our supportive family who have taken on so many jobs while we have been gone to keep the bills paid, the house and the cabin cared for, and the family connections still in place. How grateful we are to them. We have also spoken to many of you on the phone or in person since we have returned and that has been phenomenal. We look forward now to finding our clothing, keys, credit cards, and household necessities in that big dark room in the basement where they have been stored for 18 months. We are currently working on that. Thanks for your friendship through the years. It has been a great experience to have been in England, but we are so happy to be home!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How the American West was Won - With Help from Great Britain

View from the top of the Malvern Hills

Plaque at Benbow Farm

Gadfield Elm Chapel

We just returned from a short, but memorable trip to some very historic areas of England. In 1840, Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints traveled from their headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, to the three counties of Gloucestershire, Worchestershire, and Herefordshire in England and taught the local people the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During the next 9 months, 1,800 people were converted including almost the entire membership of a local Christian organization, known as the United Brethren. In less than two years most of the converts had left their homes and sailed across the Atlantic to gather in Nauvoo. From there, driven out by angry mobs, they set off on their long migration across the plains of North America with wagons or handcarts, following their prophet, Brigham Young, on the arduous pioneer trek west. They settled over 600 towns and cities in the "Wild West" including Las Vegas, San Francisco, St. George, and Salt Lake City. Many of them walked 1300 miles and suffered severe hardship on the way. Over the next few years over 65,000 more followed, to start their new lives in the shelter of the Rocky Mountains.

Our trip to the English Church Historic Sites included: The Ancient City of Ledbury where Brigham Young preached, The small village of Dymock, where Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young healed Mary Pitt who had been lame for eleven years, The Malvern Hills where Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards met and decided to print the Book of Mormon and a new hymnbook in England, Benbow Pond on Hill Farm where Wilford Woodruff stayed with John and Jane Benbow and baptised many converts in the farm pond, and Gadfield Elm Chapel, the oldest LDS chapel in the world. This chapel was originally built by the United Brethren in 1836 and it served as a centre for the rapidly growing congregation of Mormons from 1840-1842. After the new converts emigrated to America the chapel fell into ruin. Over 150 years later, local church members purchased the chapel and restored it. In May 2004, the chapel was given to the Church and President Hinckley personally received the deeds of the chapel.

What a wonderful trip this was for us. We could truly feel the Spirit of the Lord as we traveled the narrow roads of this beautiful area of Northwest England. England was a promised land to those early missionaries as they sought for the pure in heart to recognize the true Gospel of Jesus Christ when it was presented to them by these great missionaries. We still have many wonderful missionaries who serve unselfishly and proudly as they proclaim the Gospel to all who will listen. What a privilege it has been to serve here and be a small part of this work. We look forward to seeing many of you soon. Hope all is well with you and yours.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Modern Day Prophets come to Great Britain - June, 2009

The view from the lake

Modern day missionaries in London

Arch at St. Paul's

Time is quickly growing to a close for us here. We had a grand send off last week when President Uchdorf, Elder Neil L. Andersen, and Elder Robert C. Oaks came to the UK and we were able to attend three sessions of Conference where they all spoke. It was wonderful. The Saturday meetings were held at the Hyde Park Chapel in uptown London. The first session was held for just the missionaries from the London England Mission and the London South Mission. We were able to shake both President Uchdorf and Elder Andersen's hands and they spoke for about 1 1/2 hours to missionaries in particular. Elder Anderson spoke of the D Day Invasion 65 years earlier on this very day, June 6. He quoted Winston Churchill when he said, "Conquer we must, conquer we shall, we shall never surrender." He related that to missionary work and talked about how the work is progressing throughout the world. Brigham Young said, "As the
Gospel spreads throughout the world, the power of Satan will also grow." I think we see that so much today all over the world as we watch the unrest and wickedness in the world today. He said that we must develop personal faith for ourselves and never be casual in our testimony. He also recalled Pres. Uchdorf's Conference Address, I think in October 2008 which was entitled "Lift Where You Stand." Sister Harriet Uchdorf spoke for a few minutes about her family's conversion to the Church when she was just 13 years old, her sister was 9 years old and her mother was a recent widow at the age of 36. She told how the missionaries had knocked all of the doors in a four story block of flats in Frankfort, Germany. The last door in the building was theirs. Her mother had been so sad because of her father's recent death and she saw her countenance change as she read the Book of Mormon for the first time. They were soon baptized and President Uchdorf was a teenage boy in the ward there in Frankfort. He noticed this beautiful teenage girl quickly and began to drop by to take her for a bicycle ride to Church. She said that she would rather walk on one given day so he took her mother on his bicycle instead. Pres. Uchdorf then reiterated how important he felt it was to have a great relationship with his future mother-in-law. President Uchdorf then spoke to us. These great General Authorities had been on a two week tour of Nova Scotia, three cities in Russia, Frankfort, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and would conclude their tour in Iceland. He talked about the Gospel being a plan of happiness for our lives. He also said that in these perilous times we must not fear, but have hope. In Romans, Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ . . ." We must step forward with faith. He said that we should we friendly and welcoming to everyone, in the Church or out. Friendship begins with a smile!!! There are over 160,000 members of the Church here in the UK today, with 350 missionaries serving at this time. He thanked those serving, but said that there were actually over 5000 young men who were of the age to serve. We all need to step up to the plate and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ to its fullness. It was a wonderful occasion and I thought how a meeting like this would affect these 280 young missionaries who were in attendance. This will be a very memorable moment in their lives that they will always remember. It was a great weekend.

We are now training the Shields, from Mesa, Arizona, who will be our replacements at the Visitors' Centre, packing up our things in the flat, cleaning the rooms, and seeing a few of the last minute places that we have not been to yet. Saying the goodbyes to those we have grown to love here has been the hard part. We are going home to those we love, but also leaving behind many wonderful friends that we have met and known here. We hope that you are all well and happy at home. We appreciate so much the great support that we have had from all of you and especially our children, who have taken care of homes, finances, gardens, and our concerns and problems without complaint. We love you all so much and look forward to seeing you soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All

The trees and gardens of the temple

Barbara and the pretty flowers

The scenic byway at the Temple

Every plant, bush and tree is decked out in its finest display of vibrant colored flowers at the moment and we are relishing the breathtaking site of all of nature's finery each morning and evening as we walk the London Temple grounds. It has become a tradition that we enjoy each day to walk either the one mile route around the outside fence of the grounds (three times) or the half mile route around the pond and garden buildings (six times). It is salvation for us to walk, talk, and meditate in these beautiful grounds as we start and end each day. The grounds closest to the temple are perfectly manicured with many artistically displayed flower beds, dark blue reflective ponds, massive green maple and oak trees, colorful varieties of bushes, and hage expanses of dark green lawns. The outermost parts of this 32 acre parcel of ground is landscaped in a more relaxed manner.

I have just finished reading a book about the history of the London England Temple which was built between 1955-1958 and the old Manor House which stands on this property also. In this book, the author explains that after the Temple was completed the Church employed a landscape designer to landscape the massive 32 acre property. He was not a member of the LDS Church. He asked for some literature on the history of the Church and the importance of the Temple to the Latter-Day Saints. He read the story of Joseph Smith and the experience in the Sacred Grove in upper New York State. He then designed the surrounding tree planting at the London Temple based upon the role that the sacred grove plays in our history. Trees of oak, ash, birch, maple, and hawthorn were planted to create a woodland effect with paths, quiet groves, and glades each giving a differnt viewpoint of the Temple through open swathes of grassland. This is all designed to keep one's focus on the Temple as one traverses the peacefulness of the grounds. We have felt that peace and solitude here as we have lived and worked here for the previous nine months.

We are now down to our final week and half until we leave here to travel with our sons, Britt and Brice, for a few days before coming home. Many are the wonderful memories we will retain of this memorable spot in one of the most gorgeous areas of Great Britain. We have received many blessings as we have tried to serve honorably here at the Visitors' Centre. We now look forward to home and renewing friendships with those we love there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ties that bind - United States/Great Britain Connections

May Ball

George Washington Statue at Trafalgar Square

4th of July celebration 2008

We had always thought that Great Britain and the United States of America were closely bonded because of common ideals and beliefs, but when we came here to live seventeen months ago we really found how closely tied we truly are. I would say it is a little of a love/hate relationship however, they love us, but still resent us a little, also. It is a little of the big brother syndrome. I remember last 4th of July, the Perrys and Ken and I decided to have a barbeque out in our back garden in London. We decorated up the table with red, white, and blue and cooked hamburgers, American style. Our Elders showed up and saw the celebration. One Elder was English and the other was American. The English Elder was Elder Loynes. He asked, "What is the celebration for?" We announced that it was Independence Day. He replied, "Well, we call it Rebellion Day over here."

I think we know more about what is going on in the States than you do there. About 1/2 of the nightly 10:00 PM news here is about what is going on in America. They have a beautiful statue of our first president, George Washington, prominently displayed in Trafalgar Square in downtown London. The first time I saw it I couldn't believe it. It is situated in an area where there are only statues of famous British heroes. They also love President Obama over here and despise George Bush. Europe is much much more liberal than the United States is so they tend to respect the Democratic Presidents that we have had, such as Kennedy, Clinton, and FDR.

There is much more of an American influence here than there was even 5 years ago when I came over to visit my cousins with my sisters, Sheila and Carol. One of the biggest grocery store chains is Asda. It is a subsidiary of WalMart. All of the signs and advertising is the same. The only thing that is different is that WalMart's color over here is green instead of the yellow signs that you see all over in the States. There are McDonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, and Pizza Huts everywhere. They even have begun to serve drinks with ice in them, what a wonderful invention! One day, after we had just been here for a few months, I went into a pub with Leslie Perry and ordered lunch and a Diet Coke. I had not had a Diet Coke for a long time, so I greedily drank it down quickly and asked for a refill. The bartender just looked me in the eye and said kindly, "You're not in the United States anymore."

We have many visitors who come in regularly to the Visitors' Centre who are from the USA. Some are just visiting for a week or two , some are members of the United States Air Force and are stationed here at one of the several bases in this area,some are at BYU London, and many are Americans who have married English citizens and are living here permanently or temporarily. I am constantly amazed at how many of the English have been to the USA. One day we were on a tram going to Wimbledon and a young man looked at us and asked, "Are you one of the 8% of Americans?" We asked what he was talking about and he said that he had heard that only 8% of Americans have passports whereas about 100% of English people have passports. We explained that the US is large enough that many people just spend their time traveling around the US and still never see it all in their lifetime. Our patrons here often ask where we are from in the States. When we say St. George, Utah, the majority will say, "Oh, I've been to Utah." Even a good share of them will say that they have been to St. George. We are constantly amazed at how much traveling they do over here.

Last Saturday, we had a nice outing and a wonderful dinner with Chad Whitehead and his wife, Sarah. Chad works for Ernst and Young over here and they live about 45 minutes from the temple in Cobham. We had a great visit about our son, Britt, and all of the buddies that ran around with Britt and Chad. They used to spend lots of time at our house, eating lots of food and watching tons of ballgames so we grew to love them all. It was a great evening with a very nice St. George connection.

We are always very proud to be Americans. It is the best country ever in the history of the world, I think. We are also forever grateful to belong to His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to be from the beautiful St. George area where so many of the wonderful friends and family that we love live.

This weekend we are going into London to help the Perrys with the Wandsworth Stake May Ball. We helped put that on last year and it was a huge success because everyone came to see how Americans put on a party and they were duly impressed. This year will be no exception, it will be an American party to remember with great music, food, decorations, and wonderful friends. We are lucky to be part of it again.

Hope all is well there. Many of you have emailed to ask when our Homecoming Talks will be. Bishop Shirts has scheduled that meeting for Sunday, July 12, at 1:00 pm at the downtown Santa Clara Chapel. We are fine and happy here. We think of you often and love hearing from you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Little Temple Trivia!

Ken at the lake

Hovercraft crossing the English Channel

Gardens at Hever Castle

Coronation Coach - 4,000 tons of gold

Blossoms and husbands

May is on the downward slide, school is almost out, summer is on its way, and all is wonderful in the world. We have had a great opportunity to learn lots about temples while we have spent the past eight months here at the Visitors' Centre and living on the London Temple site. I thought I would test you on a little Temple Trivia. So here goes:

1. There were 14 temples built between the years 1836 and 1958. Which ones were they?
2. How many temples have been built or announced since 1958?
3. How many temples are in use in Mexico today?
4. How many temples are there in Brazil?
5. Which three temples, built in the 1950's, were the first temples built outside of North America?
6. Which temples do not have the Angel Moroni Statue on them?
7. Which two temples were the first built in this dispensation and where were they built?
8. Which temple was the first built and dedicated after the Saints moved to the West?
9. How many years did it take to build the Salt Lake Temple?
10. In which year was the London Temple first dedicated?

Since we are getting ready to leave here soon, we have been contemplating some of the things that we have especially loved about England. It has been a miraculous place for Kenneth because the chocolate is to die for here, I really love the many different types and flavors of bread they are remarkable. Fresh fruit of every variety all year long is available. I love reading the tags which tell where the produce comes from. They come from such exotic places as Egypt, Spain, France, Albania, Chili, Mexico, Israel, Morocco, Poland, Scotland, Philippines, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Malta. The English are the very best at pomp and ceremony. They really know how to make every State Visitor feel important. They pull out all the tricks: Artillery, horses, gold plated carriages, royalty of every description, soldiers all dressed in red suits with beautiful headdresses, brass trumpets playing "God Save the Queen", and Rolls Royces galore.

When you hear it said that England is green, it really is GREEN in capital letters. There is really nothing like the green of England. It is almost breathtaking and all without a lot of effort, too. Plants here are green and blossoming it seems just because they want to be. The English cherish the old and care for it. Castles, cathedrals, and stately homes of 1000 years old are everywhere and the architecture is just breathtaking. With all of the little narrow cow trails that have become highways, even motorways, it is remarkable how the transportaion system here moves these millions of teaming masses each day. There is a complex transportaion system of trains, trams, buses, tubes, ferryboats, the chunnel, and even a few people who dare brave the roads in the broad daylight. It is amazing that people are able to get anywhere really. Great Britain is about the size of Oregon. Oregon has about 8 million people and Great Britain has
over 61 million. Now that is crowded!!!

Well, enough of the things we love about England. Oops, I almost forgot to mention the people and their beautiful, smooth way of speaking. My mother always said that the English speak the heavenly form of the English language. The educated citizens of this great country still speak our language in the best way that there is and they're proud of it, too.

Now, very quickly, the answers to the Temple Quiz. !. Kirtland, Nauvoo, St. George, Logan, Manti, SLC, Mesa, Cardston, Hawaii, Idaho Falls, Los Angeles, Swiss, London, and New Zealand. 2. 134 3. Twelve, eleven of those temples were built between 1999 and 2002. 4. six 5. London, Switzerland, and New Zealand 6. Mesa, Cardston, Hawaii, St. George, Logan, and Manti 7. Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois 8. St. George 9. forty years 10. 1958

Hope all is well with all of you. We are fine here, keeping busy, wrapping up odds and ends, rushing to do all of the things we left for the end of the mission, and occasionally even thinking of home and all of you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

King Henry VIII - Dressed to Kill

The cousins at Hampton Court

Hever Castle in the Spring

Hampton Court in North England

Barbara on the moat at Hever Castle

This year is the 500th Anniversary of King Henry VIII's ascension to the throne of Great Britain. His was a tumultuous reign with many people dying in the process of Henry ruling the country and creating his own made-to-order church. Henry built many castles, two of which I am including pictures of with this email.

Hever Castle
is very near to the London Temple and is in a beautiful, sheltered valley. The castle itself was built in the 1100's and belonged to the Boelyn family. Henry met Mary Boelyn and had a long adulterous affair with her, but never committed to marry her. He was at that time married to Katherine of Aragon, who he later decided to divorce because she couldn't seem to provide him with a male heir. She had, however, given birth to a little girl named Mary, who later become Bloody Mary and was eventually beheaded by her half-sister, Elizabeth for treason against the Queen. He then met Anne Boelyn and longed to make her his Queen. After organizing his own Church of England so that he could grant himself a divorce from Katherine, he married Anne. She immediately became pregnant and bore him a little girl, named Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth !. After only a short marriage, during which Anne had many miscarriages, Henry accused her of incest with her brother and treason against the King. He had both Anne and her brother beheaded. This broke the Boelyn parent's hearts and they both died an untimely death. Henry kept Hever Castle after Anne was killed and later gave Hever Castle to Anne of Cleves who had become his 4th wife and he decided to divorce. She lived in the Castle until she died. It was later purchased by the Astor family from the United States and restored to its former splender in the early 1900's.

Another of Henry's palaces that we have visited is Hampton Court in the Southeastern part of London. It was actually built by Cardinal Woolsey of the Catholic Church. He refused to advocate that the Pope grant Henry a divorce from Katherine of Aragon so Cardinal Woolsey was imprisoned in the Tower of London and eventually beheaded there. Sir Thomas Moore was next appointed to be head of the Catholic Church in England. He too refused to grant Henry his much sought after divorce and he was neatly disposed of . He lost his head, also, at the infamous Tower of London. Henry then continued to live at Hampton Court throughout all of his reign from about 1509-1547. He had many of the beautiful cathedrals of Caholicism ransacked, priests killed, and artifacts destroyed all in the cause of establishing his own Church of England. He was a tyrant who rulled for many years here with an iron hand. I told my cousin the other day that I despised King Henry VIII and she looked at me with shock and horror that I, an American, would have the audacity to criticize a British King.

The history lessons that we have learned here have been fascinating, the palaces beautiful, the English countryside indescribably green, the friendships that we have made unforgettable, and the spiritual experiences have been magnificent. What an experience it has been. Now as it draws to a close, we are rushing to complete all of the goals we had set for ourselves when we came out nearly seventeen months ago. Life at the Visitors' Centre is interesting. We are averaging about 2,000 visitors per month. Many people share their testimonies and life experiences with us there and they are wide and varied, but always fascinating. We hope all is well with all of you. It has been a grand ride and it has been fun to share much of it with all of you. We have loved hearing from many of you regularly and keeping abreast of life at home. We have just had a wonderful week with our daughter, Brenda, and her husband, Josh. We had such a great time. I'm glad that we know that "Families are Forever".