Monday, October 27, 2008

The transportation system in England!!!

Pears soap of London Temple fame

Ken and Brother Hobbs at the Bluebell Railway

Barbara and the old engine

We are keeping very busy these days at the new Visitors' Center. Lots and lots of people show up every day, the majority on weekends, and everyone is so thrilled with the new center. It has brought about a lot of renewed energy to bring investigators, family, and friends to the Temple and the area to visit. The big dedication is coming up on Saturday, November 8, at 10:00 pm. We are in the process of helping to plan that and get everything up and ready to go. Elder Oaks from the Seventy and the President of the Europe Area will be here to dedicate it. It is very exciting. Right after that they will be putting Moroni up on the top of the steeple at the temple so that will be another exciting day.

We were instructed to begin immediately to get our drivers licenses as soon as we moved out here. We now both have our provisional licenses. Those cost us $200. The next test is the Hazard Perception Test and Theory Test and last of all is the actual driving test. We have a computer disk to help us get ready for the tests. We decided that whoever got the highest scores on the practice tests would go on and take the 2 final tests because the final two tests would cost us $200 each. So far, I have had the highest scores so it looks like it is my responsibility to get my license. We have to have it by the middle of January in order to keep driving on the English roads.

Oh, it is quite an adventure to drive here. It is not the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road that is the hardest part. It is the narrow roads, cars parked all over the road in inopportune places, stop lights in weird places, roundabouts of every size and description everywhere you go, ten times as many cars as is safe on these narrow little roads, motorcycles passing you on every side, people riding horses up the middle of the roads, and bicycles coming and going everywhere. Then, the most exciting part is that Kenneth is the person who tells me where to go (literally). He reads the maps and flinches everytime I go into a roundabout or pass a stop light or any other little thing. My kids will be able to relate to this. The first few times we went out to practice, I came back with a terrific headache and shaking all over. Now, it has become easier. I just put cotton in my ears and drive. We get along a lot better that way.

There are so many wonderful sites close by here. There are many old castles, beautiful tree lined lanes, historic spots, etc. Last Monday, we went down to Winnie-the- Pooh land (where the author of Winnie-the-Pooh lived when he wrote the books) and rode the Bluebell Railway. It is an old train that has been restored. The stations are all restored to look like they did back in the early 1900's and it was such a scenic route. We had a great time. A lot of the temple workers went on the trip. They go on a trip each Monday, which is their P Day. We don't go very often, but this was a good one.

We hope all is well with you. If you have any extra time, pray that Ken and I will survive this driving practice and I will be able to pass the test. 40 years is a long time to be married and get separated over getting an English Driver's License!!!

It is always good to hear from you. I have a St. George temperature icon on my computer and right now at 3:00 in the afternoon there, it says that it is 81 degrees. That sounds perfect. I always did love St. George in the fall.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Life at the London Temple Visitors' Centre

Ken in the Visitors Centre

The London Visitors Centre at night

Trees of every variety on the London Temple grounds

Our first week at the Visitors' Centre is over and it has been a very hectic one. We are putting in 12-14 hour days without any breaks at the moment. Lots and lots of people are thrilled about the new facility and the engineers here still haven't got the locks working on the doors so people are just wandering in and we have to be there to supervise. If they don't hurry up and get things fixed around here, we are going to be completely worn to a frazzle! We are happy here though and trying to work out the bugs as we go along. We are keeping a journal of some of the many great, spiritual things that happen here. I thought I would tell you about a few of the wonderful people we have met here. Of course, here in London we meet people of every nationality that you can imagine. We had a young father from India in last week. He lives in London and is a regular visitor to the temple here. He was telling me that there are many missionaries now in India, especially southern India. They have built many new chapels and the church is flourishing there. He said that his parents became acquainted with the church in New York City. They went back soon afterwards to India and there was an American businessman there who they became acquainted with that was holding church services in his home. At first there were only 3 people attending, but after 3 years when the man was getting ready to return to the US there were over 60 attending in Bombay. They now have a new chapel and a large congregation there. He was so excited to be a part of the Gospel. He even gave me his parent's addres in Mombai (the new name for Bombay) just in case that I might go on a mission there someday.

We also had a man from the Philippines in the other day. There are actually many members of the church here from the Philippines. He said that his family joined there when he was a child. His father always encouraged him to go on a mission when he turned 19, but he decided to go abroad to school instead. While he was away from the Philippines his father passed away. He said that he always felt that he had let his father down by not serving a mission. He said that he came to the London Temple and before he went on the session, he prayed that he would have an assurance that his father was with him while in the Celestial Room. As soon as he entered the Celestial Room, he said that a man he did not know came up to him and gave him a hug, a peculiar hug, that he had never seen anyone give except for his father. He felt that it was a sign that his father was there and was pleased with him and his life. By the time he finished his story, he was in tears and so was I. There are many people who have great faith and love to come to the temple to feel closer to Christ. This truly is a blessed spot in the middle of all of the hustle and bustle on busy London. You feel the spirit of peace and our Savior Jesus Christ here. What a blessing it is to be living here and be able to feel it every day.

We hope that all is well at home. We pray for you and love to hear your news and experiences. Take care and have a great week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall has arrived at the London Temple!

Reds, oranges, and golds - beautiful in the fall!

The Christus Statue at the London Temple Visitors Centre

Well, here we are again. Another week has rolled around. We have now been living on the temple grounds for a month. The Visitors' Centre is up and running and we have had huge crowds for the first three days of our opening. On Saturday, we had 5 Stakes here for their Stake Temple Day so it was a mad house and we had people steadily from 8 am until 5 pm. On Sunday, we held an Open House for all of the Temple Workers. It was very nice and everyone was very impressed. Last night, we held Family Home Evening for a group of about 35 people. We all watched the movie "Joseph Smith- Prophet of the Restoration". If you haven't seen it, you should. It is marvelous! Today, we are working on invitations for our next few open houses scheduled all throughout October, November, and December. It is really quite exciting.

I have told you that I have been using over here and it has been marvelous because we have been able to do lots of temple work for our families. I was feeling quite good about all that we were accomplishing and I was just plowing right through our direct lines of ancestors on my mom's side. Then, one day, I got an email from our son, Brice, and he began to tell me about the Theobald line (my dad's family) that came from the Isle of Wight just off the southern coast of England. We actually went there to visit while Brice, Nicole and the kids were over here in May. The Isle of Wight is where William Theobald lived before he joined the church in the 1850's. There is an old church there called "All Saints Church". We went there and found over 20 gravestones of our relatives in May. Brice tells me that he has been doing some research on that old church and the church itself was built during Saxon times. It was present during the British "Doomesday Survey" of 1086 AD and could have been present up to 300 years prior to that survey. That would place the origins of that church in the 8th Century potentially. That cemetery is the largest cemetery on the Isle of Wight. There are over 4500 people entombed there. It makes it even more amazing that we were able to find our Theobald/Dore/Smith relatives in that huge cemetery.

And then he went on to ask, " Have you been doing any family history work on the family on the Isle of Wight side?" I suddenly realized that the lines where I just assumed that all of the genealogy had been done are badly in need of more current work being done. Much of the Theobald work was done in the 1880's and beyond, but not much has been done since that time. I am finding now all sorts of people who were left out, so I am renewing my efforts on all of the family lines and not just on my mom's side so much.

Behind all of this genealogy work there is such a human story that underlies it all, things that we quite often never think about. It must have been so difficult for many of our ancestors to join the church because many of them had family members that disagreed and often disinherited them. To give you an example" My great-great grandfather William Theobald was from a very wealthy family (the Dores) who were probably the most well-known and well placed family on the island. He joined the church, along with his first wife, Martha Lane, and came to the states in the 1850's. In 1872, he returned home to visit family and friends on the Isle of Wight and to hopefully convert some of them. In his history, he only mentions that he was able to see one older sister, Mary, and some old friends, even though at least 3 of his siblings were still alive as well as his mother and father in law, plus many of his deceased wife's siblings. No one on either
side of the family ever joined the church or even greeted him, it seems, when he returned to England to visit. I can just imagine how difficult that must have been for him. Many sacrifices were made by many people in our families to join the church and establish it in the West. I feel now even more how difficult it must have been for my mom to join with most family members really against her decision. No wonder it took her almost 10 years after she met and married my dad before she made that big decision. I think it will be fascinating one day to meet and talk to our ancestors and be able to hear all of the details of their life stories that are often left out of their written life histories.

We are fine here and enjoying our daily 4 mile walks around the temple grounds. The colors or the leaves are so beautiful and the weather is just perfect for walking. That walking is a stress reliever for us both and we enjoy it a lot. We hope you are all well and happy and enjoying the beautiful fall weather in that part of the world. We love hearing from you. Keep us posted on your news. Our thoughts and prayers are with those of you who are struggling with illness or other challenges at this time. I keep the prayer rolls really full at the temple here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Beautiful Surrey in the Green, Green English Isle!

Approaching Bodian Castle

Beautiful Old Bodian Castle

We are still here and getting closer and closer every day to having things up and running here at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. . The backdrop behind the Christus statue is beautiful. Actually, Russ Rasmussen, the head man from SLC here putting the Visitor Centre together said that finding the right man to paint the mural was the first miracle that happened here. He was looking for a muralist to paint the wall behind the Christus after the mural from SLC got ruined. He found one in the yellow pages and contracted with him to do the mural. The man said that he had been praying for work just before he got the phone call from here. Russ told him that he'd have to be careful what he prayed for when the Mormons were close by. He did such a marvelous job that Russ asked him to come to the USA and paint a mural in the newly refurbished Los Angeles Visitors' Centre. We should be up and running by Friday or Saturday. We have a bunch of people scheduled to come on Saturday so we certainly hope that we are ready!!!

We do have a little down time right now as we are writing letters and coming up with policies, etc, to run this place. Last Monday, our friends, the Perrys came down and we went about an hours drive away from here down into Kent. There we went to Bodian Castle. It is so amazingly beautiful. It is a massive stone fortress surrounded by a huge moat. The castle was actually built by a nobleman back in the 1300's. He worked for years building the castle and then fortifying it from enemy attack. Not too long after the castle was finished he was sent off to France to fight in the war that was going on there and he was killed. The castle passed through many hands through the years. It was attacked and the inside pretty much gutted during the English Civil War in the 1600's. Later, it was bought by a wealthy man who donated it to the National Trust so that it could be preserved. It is a wonderful place to visit. When you think of a traditional old English castle, this is exactly the picture that you paint in your mind. We climbed to the top of the turrets where they had old toilets. They were a seat built into the outside wall of the castle with a hole that made it so that whatever went into the hole actually fell all of the way to the moat. You can just imagine how those moats must have smelled on a hot-humid night in the summer time.

I was able to get registered for the New Family Search Program that is now up and running here in London so that I could work more easily on genealogy. The program is so wonderful. I have found over 100 names of people on all sides of our genealogy who have not had all of their temple work completed and I have only just begun. We have been able to do some of the work here at the London Temple. We actually did over 50 sealings on Friday here. I have also sent names to my sister, Carol, our daughter, Brenda, and our son, Britt, to do some of the work. It has been so much fun. I love going through all of the names, dates, and locations and learning a little more about my family and Kenneth's, too. They say that Utah will not come on line for a few more months. Be prepared to be amazed when it finally comes to you. It is going to be a great tool in clearing up all of the duplicate dates, names, etc. that have collected through the
years. For the past 9 1/2 months I have been working on my mom's genealogy, but now it is easy and quick to work on all sides of our genealogy.

Well, I had best go. We were really pleased to be able to see all of the sessions of conference. We watched most of them here in the Mission President's Office, but on Sunday we went down to our old stake at Wandsworth and watched the sessions there with many of our old friends from the Mitcham Ward. We had a great time there. It was fun to see everyone again. All of the sessions are 7 hours behind us, so we finished the Sunday afternoon session at 11:00 pm last night. We thought the talks were wonderful and the spirit was strong. We were particularly pleased about the announcement of the five new temples. Have you wondered just which of the historic sites near Kansas City might be the place that the temple will be built? Could it be Independence, Far West, Adam - Ondi - Ahmand, or will it be somewhere completely different? We've had fun spectualating on it here.

Well, hope all is well there. We love you and think of you often.