Sunday, November 23, 2008

England - the land of Early Christians!

Barbara at the Museum of Art

Lord Nelson Statue

Old, Old Tudor Home

Hope all is well with you. We are both fine here and are staying very busy. We took the train into our old stake, Wandsworth Stake, to judge Road Shows last night. I had forgotten how much work went into those when we used to do those years ago. They were very entertaining and the youth of all of the wards there had a great time and that's what it is all about, isn't it? Kenneth declined to be a judge so he sat around and visited while I tried to figure out who should win the prizes. It was great fun!!! We are anxiously awaiting Brooke and Ben's arrival here in the morning. It will be so much fun for us to see all of them. I can't wait to hold those two sweet little girls. How lucky and blessed we are to have such a great supportive family. They are the best.

As those of you know who know us well, Kenneth and I are really into history. We have loved being here and being able to see so many of the places that we learned about as children in nursery rhymes, history classes, movies, and many books. Those historic places are all around us here in London. A few weeks ago we traveled to Canterbury. I sent an email about that trip. While riding down there in the temple van, I got talking to an English lady sitting next to me in the van. We were talking about Henry VIII and somehow early Christianity came up and she began to talk about a place here in Southwestern England called Glastonbury where an ancient cathedral was built shortly after the time of Christ. I mentioned to her about a poem/song we sing here in all of our Zone Conferences called Jerusalem, written by William Blake. Many of you have probably heard the poem/song. It goes like this,

"And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen? and did the Countenance Divine shine forth upon our clouded hills? and was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills? Bring me my bow of burning gold: Bring me my arrows of desire: Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of Fire. I will not cease from mental flight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land."

The song was also the theme song in the movie "Chariots of Fire". She began to tell me of the legend or tradition here that tells that Joseph of Arimithea owned tin mines in Cornwall, in the southwest part of England. He was an uncle to Mary, Jesus' mother. He supposedly brought Jesus here to England with him on one or more trips during Jesus' growing up years before he began his ministry. It is recorded that Joseph of Arimithea, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus, and 8 other followers of Christ were set adrift in a small boat by the Sadducees who wanted to eradicate the followers of Christ after his crucifixion. They drifted across the Mediterreanean and miraculously landed in Marseilles, France where they were greeted by Phillip, an Apostle of Christ. They later made their way to Avalon or Glastonbury in England and Mary lived out the rest of her life here surrounded by many of the early Christian leaders. She is buried in Glastonbury beneath the old Cathedral. We were incredulous at this story and a little skeptical, too. She offered to let us borrow a couple of books written on the subject so we have been ravenously devouring those books the last couple of weeks and it has been very enlightening to read the books and study all of the sources that he has compiled the information from. For any of you who are interested, the two books are "Whence Came They" and "The Drama of the Lost Disciples". Now we realize why the English people were so receptive to the Gospel when it was first preached to them in 1838 by the Early Apostles. Joseph Smith himself said, "This land of England was consecrated and dedicated by ancient Apostles." The people of this land are from the lost tribes of Israel, principally Ephraim and the Gospel when it was restored spoke truth to them. I ordered these books from and sent them to our children, because now we have all of them hooked on reading them. It has been fascinating to read of this ancient legend and the sources that testify to its truth. My mother would be so pleased that we are studying the history of England, the land that she loved so much. We have truly learned to love this land and the people here.This week is Thanksgiving at home. We are preparing an American Thanksgiving for all of my English family on Saturday. We will think of all of you fondly this week and remember how thankful we are that we have had the privilege of associating with all of you through the years. You have truly blessed our lives for good. Have a great holiday week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peace and solitude on the London Temple Site!

Walking the temple grounds

Storm clouds approaching

Night in the Visitor's Centre

Another week has come and gone. We are very busy and the days skip by quickly. The daylight hours are short here. It is dark by about 4:00 PM in the afternoon now. The leaves are quickly falling from the trees and winter is on its way. The Visitors' Centre is really busy most of the time. We have large groups on Fridays and Saturdays and on some evenings, most of the rest of the time it is small groups and individuals who come in for a tour and maybe a movie. The word is getting out there about the new facility so we are getting a good response from members and nonmembers alike. The Christmas lights go on here the first of December so we have four big open houses planned for December. We have a media open house on Dec. 10, a clergy tour on Dec. 11, a government leaders open house on Dec. 17, and a business leaders open house on Dec. 18 so we will be busy. We hope to see lots of response for these, but we shall see. I am busy sending out invitations and getting articles in newspapers, etc.

I thought I would tell you about a couple of the neat experiences we have had in the Centre in the last few weeks. A gentleman came into the Visitors' Centre on the third Saturday that we were open and said, " You probably never hear the end of a lot of stories of people that come in here and are sincerely affected by this place. I am here to tell you the end of one of those stories. I brought a young woman in the very first Saturday that you were open and you showed her the Christus Statue and played the message and she spent considerable time looking at the other displays in here. As we left that Saturday, she began to cry because she had felt the Spirit so strongly. I'm here to tell you that because of the experience she had here, she is being baptized today and I have the pleasure of performing the baptism."

The Centre was recently dedicated by President Robert C. Oaks, the President of the Europeon Area. The day before the dedication we had four people come in who have lived in the area of the temple for about 40 years. They said that they had always felt that nonmembers were not welcome here, but recently they had read that the public was cordially invited to the new Visitors' Centre here so they decided to come. We played the Christus message for them and explained our belief in the Savior. They then spent considerable time looking at the temple kiosk, the family kiosk, the prophet kiosk, and finally the Book of Mormon kiosk. One lady in the party then picked up a Book of Mormon and began to read it. The rest of them went into the cinema to view "Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration". When the movie ended, they ordered a Book of Mormon to be delivered to their home and one of the men said to me," I have always heard that Mormons are not Christian, but now I know the true story."

It is exciting to see the message getting out there that these grounds are not locked and private, but are open for everyone to enjoy. If we have accomplished that one thing in our time here we will have been successful.

We hope you are all well and happy. I'm sure that you are all getting ready for Thanksgiving and the excitement of having family near. We will miss most of our family, but are so excited to have Brooke, our daughter, her husband, Ben, and their two little girls, Emma and Ady, here with us. We will be having a huge American Thanksgiving feast with all of my cousins up in Lechlade-on-Thames. It should be a great celebration.

Hope you have a great week. We love hearing from each of you and love the impact that you have on our lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day in England!

Ken and Barbara at war museum

We are well here and very busy. We had our Dedication Ceremony on Saturday with President Oaks, of the European Area Presidency, here to do the dedication. He did a marvelous job. There were lots and lots of people here for both the ceremony and to visit the Centre on that day so we were very busy. Everyone is so excited to have this Visitors' Centre. It is the only one in Europe so we are very blessed to be able to be part of it.

The last two or three weeks have been filled with many patriotic moments as we lead up to Veterans Day/Remembrance Day/ or Armistice Day as it is called over here. I have been very impressed with the way they honor their veterans over here. They feel so strongly about the way that this nation has been preserved through the years because of many, many brave men and women who have fought for their freedom. They had a special meeting at church on Sunday. The Bishop was one of the speakers and he spoke of the significance of this day to English people. He said that over 11 million people were killed during World War I and over 59 million were killed during World War II. Everyone at church and all over the town is wearing the poppy pin. They have been wearing them for 2-3 weeks now. The Bishop talked about the significance of that poppy symbol. He told about Belgium during all of the fighting in that area during World War I. He said that because of all of the men walking around, fighting, pulling cannons, etc. it stirred up the soil so that the next spring all of the dormant seeds in the earth came to life and the whole country was covered with Red Poppys. Hence, the poppy has become a symbol of those historic battles and the brave men who fought and lost their lives there.

He then told a very touching story about the Gospel and how it affects lives for good, no matter what ethnicity we might be. He told this story of World War II:
There was an LDS family that was very active in the underground in the Netherlands. They would rescue both British and American pilots who were shot down and harbor them in their attic until they could be safely returned to England via the underground. One Sunday morning, they had a British pilot and an American pilot in their attic hiding there. The British pilot happened to be LDS. He asked if they could hold a Sacrament Meeting service that day in the home. They were just about to begin when there was a knock on the door. The mother of the family went with trepidation down the stairs to the front door. Standing in the doorway were two German soldiers. She invited them in with much fear and forboding, but much to her surprise, they said that they too were LDS and asked if they could take part in any LDS church services that she might be holding that day. She took them up the stairs and introduced them to the British and American pilots. One of the German soldiers and the British pilot sat side by side and blessed the sacrament. They held the service, afterwhich the two German soldiers left, never to be heard of again. They never let on about the two pilots that were hiding there. The two pilots were later returned to England and safety. To all of us, this story teaches a great lesson. "Serving God is the most important thing we do!"

Being over here has made me really appreciate all of those great men who have served to keep the world free through the years. My Grandfather Sharpe (British Army Major during World War I and World War II), my dad, Clarence Theobald (US Air Army-Air Force during World War II), and Kenneth (US Army during the Vietnam War) are all heroes to me. Kenneth and I both have several uncles and cousins that served in the Armed Forces during those wars. They sacrificed much so that we can be free. What a great experience it has been to be here and see the appreciation afforded our veterans. We need to do more of that in the great US of A, the greatest nation on earth!

Well, another busy week is beginning. It is beautiful here today. We are even seeing the sun for the first time in several days. It has been pouring with rain for it seems like forever. The leaves are beautiful though and fall is truly in the air.

We are looking forward so much to our daughter, Brooke, and her family who are coming over to visit us for a couple of weeks. They will be here on November 24 and will be here for two weeks. We are so excited to see that sweet new baby, Emma, and of course sweet little Ady. We are having a real American Thanksgiving Dinner with all of my English cousins while Brooke's family is here. It should be great. Hope you all have a great week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Canterbury Tales from Ken and Barbara

The cloisters at Canterbury

Ken in front of Canterbury Cathedral

This has been another busy week in the Visitors' Centre. We had 200 visitors on Saturday so it was very hectic. The Centre is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM on Saturdays and it is crazy all day long. Everyone is so thrilled with the new Centre and particularly the Christus Statue so everyone is stopping in to see it. Even the taxi drivers bringing people in from the train stations close by are telling people that they just have to go to the new Visitors' Centre and see that beautiful statue of Christ and they aren't even members! It is exciting to see so many people bringing family and friends to come and view this beautiful facility and to see one of the many films that are available here. Our dedication is on Saturday. We will have President Oaks, the president of the Europeon Area headquartered in Germany, here to dedicate the Centre. It will be a big day for us.

Every Monday
, the temple workers take an excursion somewhere historic or interesting. Today, they went to see Canterbury Cathedral in the county of Kent. Canterbury Cathedral is the headquarters of the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury lives here. He is similar to the Pope in Rome. We decided to go along. It is especially interesting to me because a distant relative, Archbishop Theobald, was the head of the Church, which was then the Roman Catholic Church, in the 1100's. He was the Archbishop just before Thomas Becket whom you have probably all heard of because he was murdered inside Canterbury Cathedral in the late 1100's by King Henry II's knights. In AD 597 missionaries from Rome converted the king of Kent to Christianity. Augustine, the leader of the mission from Rome, was consecrated as the first Archbishop and his cathedral was established at Canterbury. The Cathedral was the site of the Roman Catholic Church until the 1500's when King Henry VIII seized most of the Catholic Cathedrals and converted them into cathedrals for his new church, The Church of England. If you remember your history lessons, King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his first wife, Kathryn of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Bolelyn. The Catholic Church would not allow him to divorce, so he created his own church that would do as he asked. Archbishop Theobald was a very powerful man and in his time even the Kings and Queens paid homage and took orders from him. Many of the Archbishops are buried in fancy crypts inside and below the church. The architecture is beautiful and the stained glass windows are beyond description. There is constant restorative work going on to keep the cathedral and the old Roman walls built in 250 AD in good repair. The walls built by the Romans are huge and they surround all of the old city. The Romans ruled England for about 500 years and many parts of the country still have ruins left by the Romans and others that invaded and ruled here for a time. In St. Albans, a community just north of London, my cousin, Ian Sharpe, goes out hunting Roman artifacts and has boxes and boxes of coins, buttons, small tools, and weapons that he has found in the areas of old Roman forts.

Well, so much for your history lesson for the day. I didn't mean to go into so much detail, but the history is fascinating to both of us, so we really do enjoy these excursions and all of the old ruins and buildings that are everywhere here. The English are all about protecting their history and heritage.

We are both well and happy here. We keep busy and that is how we like it. We think of you often and have sweet memories of all of the good people we have known and loved through the years. We enjoy hearing from you.

We just had a new addition to the family this week. Our son, Brian, and his wife, Lacy, just had a little girl named Alli J.. She was born on Saturday, November 1, and she weighed in at 7 lb. 13 oz. We have been able to see her on Skype. I will be anxious for the day when we can see her and hold her in real life. This new little one makes an even dozen grandchildren for us. They are all wonderful!!! Take care and have a good week.