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".

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There'll be joy and laughter, and peace everafter, tomorrow when the world is free!

The Skinners and the Beckstroms

A busy Saturday at the Visitor's Centre

Another week has rolled around and it has been an eventful one. We have had some great experiences as we have met with people in the Visitors' Centre and they have shared their thoughts with us.

On Sunday, I was teaching my Relief Society Lesson in the Crawley Ward and just before I taught, they had music appreciation. The sister in charge shared some World War II songs and the last one that was sung was "There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover". That shook me up a little because the last time that I had heard that song was at my mom's funeral. It left me thinking about the words of that song and how much those war time songs meant to the people of the world. "There'll be joy and laughter, and peace everafter, tomorrow when the world is free". We are very blessed here in England just as we are in the United States to enjoy freedom of religion.

The lesson that I was teaching was from Elder Russell M. Nelson's October 2008 Conference talk entitled " Celestial Marriage". There were a couple of quotes in the talk that I thought were so thought provoking. He said, " While Salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is a family matter" and "Celestial marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other relationship." I know we have our work cut out for us, but what a blessing it is to know the plan of happiness that Christ has given to us and to be able to be a part of His Gospel Kingdom.

This week we were able to attend my cousin, Ian's son's marriage. It was a Catholic/Jewish wedding so it was a different experience for us, but very interesting. It was held in a tent or marquis in a large green pasture in a small village just north of London called St. Albans. In England, when couples get married they must first be married in a civil ceremony and then the religious ceremony can take place afterwards. The religious service is not recognized as legally binding. In the LDS religion, the couples are married in their home city and then must come to the temple within 24 hours of the wedding to be sealed for time and all eternity in the temple. If they cannot make it within the 24 hours allotted, they must wait 1 year to be sealed in the temple. So often we have very late sealings on Saturday evenings, because people have to drive many hours to make it here after their civil ceremony at home. My cousins, Mark and Wendy, were married in a civil ceremony at noon and then the religious ceremony was scheduled for 4 pm. We attended that ceremony where the Rabbi read scripted ceremony, they lit three candles signifying their union, drank sips out of a single wine glass, broke a glass on the table and afterwards everyone yelled out the words, "Siman Tov U'Mazal Tov." These words mean, "May this day be a good omen for good fortune!" Afterwards, there was lots of congratulations and merrymaking by the about 100 people in attendance. They then had a sit down meal, dancing, talking, and celebrating. It was an phenomenal experience which we enjoyed very much. What a joy it has been to become friends with my cousins and to feel of their love and acceptance for us. At the wedding we were also able to meet Ian's brother, Keith and his wife, Jill, who now live in Spain. They looked tan and relaxed. The life style in Spain must really agree with both of them. Many English people retire to Spain, because of the lower cost of living, more room to move, and the wonderful climate.

We are furiously trying to accomplish all of the odds and ends of things we have been meaning to do before we come home. How time flies!!! On Saturday, our daughter and her husband, Brenda and Joshua Forest, are coming to visit. We are so excited. What a joy it will be to see them after almost 18 months. We have a great week planned with visits to cousins, the Isle of Wight, and of course London. It has been such a great blessing to have visits now from almost all of our children. Britt will be the last to come and he, along with Brice, will be here in June to tour Great Britain, attend Wimbledon and take us home. Hope all is well with you. We look forward to seeing many of you soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Legacy of the Christus Statue at the London Temple Visitors' Centre

The Christus Statue

Night in the Visitor's Centre

Inside the Visitor's Center looking East

Spring has sprung here in Jolly Old England and we are loving the extra hours of daylight. It is now light until about 8:30 at night which is wonderful after the cold dark nights in December that started at about 3:30 in the afternoon. There is even time now for us to go for a nice long walk after we close the Centre at 8 or 9 o'clock at night. The Centre continues to be very busy. Fridays and Saturdays are crazy with hundreds of people coming here on those two days to experience the great spirit which permeates the facility. The rest of the week is moderately busy in the afternoons and always quite busy in the evenings. With the Centre open 7 days a week and with very little help, we do not get bored. One of the wonderful things that I love about the Visitors' Centre is the great feeling of the Spirit that we feel each morning when we unlock the door and walk in to the beautiful view of the Christus Statue and the magnificent mural that has been painted behind it. At night, the reflection of the Christus in the windows looking back at you is beyond description. It appears that he is smiling down at you with his arms outstretched in love. It is a wonderful sight.

This Christus statue is the 14th that the Church has purchased and displayed at various Visitors' Centres throughout the world. This is the only Visitors' Centre in Europe and the only Christus Statue in a Church owned facility. We feel so blessed to have it here. This statue is not carved of marble like many of the others are. It is made of fiber glass and then coated with a crushed marble mixture to give it the look of a marble statue. We have been learning a little about the history of the Christus and the Church because truly the Christus statue has come to be associated with the Church of Jesus Christ even though it was not sculpted by or for us originally. It was scupted by a Danish sculptor named Thorvaldson in the 1800's. He was commissioned to sculpt a statue of Christ in 1820, completed it in about 1837, and passed away in 1844, the same year as Joseph Smith did. The Church became interested in using this wonderful statue in Visitors' Centres in the 1950's when Stephen L. Richards, then of the first presidency, saw it at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California. As I said earlier, the Church now has 14 of these statues in its facilities throughout the world. They also retain one as a traveling Christus that is used for special occasions such as temple dedications, world fairs and expositions, etc. We had hoped to visit the Copenhagen Denmark Church called "The Church of Our Lady" where the original (6 foot) Christus is displayed along with statues of the 12 apostles before we came home. I don't think that we will be able to do that now, because of a shortage of time, but we will hope to come back and see that one day.

We continue to hear wonderful conversion, reactivation, and motivational stories as we work in the Centre. They all strengthen us and give us pause to thank our Heavenly Father for his great love for all of his children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are. Today we are speaking in Church about our experiences at the Centre. Hope all goes well. Our thoughts and prayers are always with all of you wonderful people whom we have known throughout the years. May the best that life has to offer come your way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The All England " Blue Blood" Shopping Bag!

The tulips are out

Unpacking the groceries

Home from shopping

I think our love affair with the bright orange, strong, reusable, and verstatile Sainsbury shopping bag began back in January of 2008. We had just arrived in South London on a cold, rainy night and had been deposited by my cousins into our tiny little row house. Before we realized it everyone was gone and we were alone. All alone in a cold, dirty little apartment with no food, no cooking utinsels, or anything else to make you need to make you feel at home. After a telephone call from our son, Brice, in which I completely broke down and exclaimed how distraught I was. He calmly replied, "It will get better, Mom, I promise!" It was only then that we realized that we not only had no food or comforts of home, but we also had no car, no knowledge of how to get anywhere, or indeed, no knowledge of even how to walk to a grocery store. The only person we had even met at this point was our landlord, so I called him and asked if he could take us to get some food, pans, plates, etc. He kindly replied that he would be right there. He took us in his tiny little blue car to a Sainsbury Grocery Store in downtown Morden. We picked out a few supplies and packed our things into the beautiful, big ,orange, recyclable grocery bag. For the past 16 months we have been loyal shoppers at Sainsburys, always taking our orange bags with us to carry our groceries home. They are so verstatile and useful. We have found many a good use for them and have observed our English neighbors using them into lots of creative ways.

Following are just a few of the possible ways to use a Sainsbury shopping bag:
1. As grocery carriers, We have found that we can each carry four heavy bags on buses, trams, trains, etc. as we return home with our supplies.
2. They make great laundry hampers.
3. We have contemplated selling our suitcases, because now that we have a nice matching set of Sainsbury luggage (bags).
4. Temple bags
5. Dust bins
6. Umbrellas or hats on a rainy day
7. Sewing or hobby bag
8. Picnic hamper
9. Cooler for carrying drinks and supplies. (They even have insulated ones)
10. Overnight bag for makeup and pajamas
11. Scripture tote
12. Diaper bag
13. Dog Cage
14. Garden tool chest
15. Carry on luggage
16. I'm sure there are lots of other uses for these miraculous bags that only cost one pound each (What a bargain!) but I'll bet we could turn one over to Ted Tuttle and he could probably figure out lots of other uses for it.

I don't think we are going to be bringing many of our clothes or shoes home with us. After 18 months, we are sick of them and they are sick of us. We can't bear to wear any of them again. But we are going to be sure to bring at least 5-6 Sainsbury bags home with us. We plain and simplly just don't think we can live without them.

Life goes on here at the Visitors' Centre. We stay busy and we meet so many interesting people, each with their own conversion story and experiences to share. We organized and attended a barbeque at the President's home last night as a send off of sorts for the Perry's, the Beckstrom's, and President and Sister Swinton. We will all be leaving in June. The new president for the England London South Mission will be Lyle Shamo of Hurricane, Utah origin. I attended Hurricane High School at the same time as he did a few years ago. We hope to be able to meet him when he arrives here on July 1. We leave early in the morning on July 2 and arrive in St. George at about 9:00 pm that night. Those of you who meet us at the St. George Airport will probably see both of us carrying our carry on luggage, our Sainsbury shopping bags, very carefully as we exit the plane. They're too valuable to lose!!! Have a great week.

Monday, April 6, 2009

England London South Mission hosts Elder Neil L. Anderson

Barbara at Reading Chapel

Mission Conference in Reading

Reading Chapel

Another busy week has passed and we were rewarded by a nice long weekend of listening and being spiritually blessed by General Conference. The London Temple was closed on Saturday so we were also closed at the Visitors' Centre. We went into London and helped our friends, the Perrys, put on a baby shower for a young Bishop and his wife in the Wandsworth Stake. It is always so much fun for us to go back to visit with our friends that we grew to love so much in our 9 months of living in the City. We went to the Wandsworth Stake Centre on Nightingale Road to watch the Saturday morning session of Conference which played here at 5:00 pm in the evening. The Stake Centre was filled with at least 40 missionaries from all over London and the outlying areas so we had a great time greeting all of the young and old ones that were there. There were also many members from the Mitcham Ward and the Stake as a whole. We then returned back to the Temple grounds to our little room. As we walked down the hall to our living quarters, we could hear a TV going with Conference playing on it. When we opened the door to our room, there was Carol all snuggled down into our grey leather recliner and Quay was laid out comfortably on our big king size bed all settled in for a long evening of Conference watching. We broke up their party but after finding us a place to sit, we also enjoyed watching the Saturday afternoon session of Conference until 11:00 pm. We were thrilled with the announcement of the the new Apostle, Elder Neil L. Anderson. He had come to visit our mission here in England last spring. He was so personable and gave such a wonderful talk to us that I thought I would give you all a few of the highlights of his talk that he presented to us in Reading at the Stake Centre last March.

He talked about how belief in Christ throughout the world is in decline. He stated that over 70 Lutheran Churches in Germany were closed in just one day this past year, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is growing under the radar all across the world among the humble. He gave several examples of the great growth that the Church is experiencing: There were 47,000 people baptized in Brazil last year, there are now 75 stakes in Mexico City alone, there are over 700,000 members now in the Philippines and missionary work only started there with 4 missionaries in 1961, there were over 60,000 members at the San Paulo, Brazil temple dedication when it was dedicated, and he gave us a goal to work for here when he further stated that everytime we knock on a door in Europe, they baptize someone in Mexico!!! He suggested to all of the missionaries that they should never, never, never delay a prompting and they should reach out to all.

In D & C 62:3 it states, " Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you."

He also gave us some great council that was particularly good for the young missionaries. Here is a sampling of what he said, " A mission should be the beginning of your spiritual journey, not the culmination of it. Enjoy this time of your life - Relax. The theme of missionary work should be - Work, Work, Do Your Duty! Read the Book of Mormon and finish with HONOR!" He then spent some time answering questions from the missionaries, talking to them, and encouraging them to always do their duty and make these two years the very best that they can possibly be.
We were very impressed with his caring attitude and loving manner. He will be a great Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a great conference this was.

We have lots of things to work on here to improve our lives in Jolly Old England. Life goes on here at the Vistors' Centre. We have groups coming this week from the Netherlands, all across England, and already several missionaries and investigators have made appointments to come in and see the Centre this week. What a blessing it is to have the Christus Statue here at the Centre, the only one in Europe. We are doubly blessed to be able to work there everyday.

We hope all is well with our wonderful friends and family there at home. We think of you often and pray for you daily. May the very best that life has to offer come your way.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The crocus' are croaking, the snowdrops are dropping, but the daffodils are happily daffing!

Primrose in front of the visitor's centre

Fields of daffodils

Roma, Carol, Barbara, Lacy, Alli, Brian, Judy, & Donald
All of the cousins at Donald & Roma's home in Herefordshire

We think that spring has arrived here. We have had a wonderful month. The days are now longer, the sun shines more frequently, and the flowers are blooming brightly, the trees are even bravely displaying the new little leaves. We have had lots of visitors from home this month and we have spent many happy hours visiting and traveling with them. The London Temple was closed for the first two weeks of March so we had limited hours at the Visitors' Centre during those two weeks.

First, my two sisters, Sheila and Carol, and their husbands arrived and Sheila spent a week traveling and visiting with cousins and seeing beautiful places here in Southern England. Carol and Quay are staying now until July so that is fun for them and also for us. They are working at the London Temple and seem to be having a great time. Then on March 20, Brian and Lacy with new baby Alli J. arrived. It was so much fun to see our newest
grandchild. She is, of course, very beautiful and we had a wonderful time getting to know her. The week that Brian, Lacy, and Alli were here was very memorable and we absolutely loved seeing all of them.

Now, we are back to work on a regular basis and the Visitors' Centre is very busy. We have had some amazing experiences the last couple of days with nonmembers visiting here that have been very interesting. Friday morning we had a nice clean-cut man come into the Centre. I played the message that goes with the Christus for him and he seemed to be very touched by it. He then asked how many people we have visit here monthly. I told him that in February we had 2100 visitors, with 100 of those being investigators. He then asked what an investigator was. It was then that I knew that he was not a member of the Church. He then explained that he worked for Marriott Hotels and Bill Marriott is coming to England next week. He wanted to find out about the religion that Mr. Marriott belongs to before he meets him. He then asked me,"Do you remember me?" I realized then who he was. Kenneth and I had been taking a bunch of the new temple workers from Idaho and Canada to London one day for a tour of all of the beautiful sites of uptown London. We were waiting at the train station in Lingfield when this man showed up to catch the train. A couple of the old cowboys from Idaho started talking to him and gave him an invitation to visit the temple site here. He explained that he had always thought that this site was a secret spot and only members could visit here, so when he realized that Bill Marriott was coming to town and he received an invitation he decided to stop by. He spent over an hour here asking questions and said that he would return later with his family to view one of our films. We shall see!!!

We had another very handsome man come into the Centre on Saturday. He was very friendly and after visiting with him for awhile, he told us his story. He said that he had lived in Eastborne, near here, his whole life and had always thought that this place was off limits to anyone but members. A few months ago he moved to Walnut Creek, California and he was contacted by the missionaries there and was baptized just last Saturday in California. He flies Corporate jets for large firms and he flew into London on Friday and he decided that now he is a real member he could come in here. He was overjoyed to find out that it is not a secret place at all, but instead is a sacred place. He is now preparing to go to the temple himself in a year. Life is good. Hope all is well with all of you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring, Sisters, Ships, Singing, Shopping, and Shouting!

Southcliffe Hotel at Folkstone

Ryde Castle - Our Hotel

Carol, Sheila, and Barbara at Dover

Barbara and Sheila in front of Chartwell House

What a time we have had the last couple of weeks. The London Temple has been closed since the end of February so we have been in a "By appointment only mode" at the Visitors' Centre. It has given us some free time to do some touring with my sisters and their husbands. We had a great time visiting such exotic places as historic and memorable London, the quaint villages of the Cotswolds, the wild and ferocious shores of the Isle of Wight, and the beautiful and interesting coast of the English Channel by Folkstone and Dover. We stayed at an old castle that was commissioned by King Henry VIII on the Isle of Wight and spent a lovely evening walking the coast of Ryde and gazing out over the English Channel. We also visited the old Manor House that belonged to my dad's family. The home is still called today "Blackridge Farm". It was built in the late 1400's and contains old beams from some of King Henry VIII's ships. We had a great tour by the present owner, who is from Germany. We also found an old graveyard that contained many headstones with such family names as Dore, Theobald, Smith, and Farley. The old graveyard was awash in beautiful daffodils, crocuses, and other colorful spring flowers. We drove the south coast of the Isle of Wight and walked along the shore amidst the crashing waves and powerful wind. We also spent some time in the quaint villages of the Cotswolds with villages named Bourton on the Water, Burford, and Lechlade on Thames. We visited and feasted with some of our first cousins and had a delightful time renewing old acquaintances. We then traveled to Leeds Castle, an ancient castle that was completely refurbished by an heiress from the US. It has been made to be completely liveable, even very fashionable by today's standards and is so beautiful. It is completely surrounded by a moat and has over 500 acres of beautiful lakes and gardens to enjoy. Finally, we made our way to Dover and toured the old castle on the hillside. In that castle, over 85 years ago, our grandfather was stationed. He was a Major in the British Army and was over all of the artillery at the fort. He and his family, which included my mom, Phyllis, her sister, Gladys, her brother, Leslie, and his wife, Ethel, lived in a house on the brow of the hill overlooking the harbor and France off to the East about 19 miles away. We were able to locate the footings of the old home where they lived so happily many years ago. It was a great visit and brought back many wonderful memories of stories told my mom, Phyllis, of the happy days they spent while living there at the fort. What a memorable visit. It was so good to see our family after so many months apart. What a blessing! Now we are back to the temple and the Visitors' Centre reopens tomorrow. Hope all is well with all of you. I'm sure that spring has also sprung there and you are all enjoying it. Have a great week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Visitors' Centre Directors!

Walking the grounds of the London Temple

The Christus Statue

Airplanes every two minutes directly over Temple

The London Temple is closed up for the next two weeks for cleaning and maintenance and so the Visitors' Centre is also closed except to those who make an appointment in advance. Because of that we have a few days to relax and do a little traveling. My two sisters, Sheila and Carol, and their husbands, Kelly Cannon and Quay Simons will be here in a couple of days so we are way excited and can't wait to show them some of the beautiful sites here in Historic England.

For those of you who have been here to the Temple site in London, you will know that it is located way out of the city and can be quite difficult to get to. Actually, in 1953, this site of ground was found in the county of Surrey in the southern part of England. It is about 30 miles south of London, on the Newchapel estate, once the home of the Pears (soap) family. It is a beautiful spot, but truthfully you can feel a little isolated here because there is no public transportation of any kind around the Temple site. That is one of the reasons that I worked so hard and long to get my English Driver's License, because we did want to be able to get off the grounds once in a while to go out to eat or go grocery shopping, etc. The closest town to the temple site is Lingfield. It is about 3 miles away and has a train station there where you can catch a train for London anytime from 5 AM to midnight. We usually go shopping in East Grinstead, which is a beautiful peaceful village about 6 miles away.

Our typical day here goes like this: The first thing we do each morning is put on our exercise clothes and go out walking. We walk for about 2 miles each morning and another mile or two in the evening. I then spend some time on the internet checking emails, Utah Jazz updates, and USA Today news. We also go to the laundromat (on site), do our ironing, cleaning, cut hair, study, bake, etc. during this couple of free hours that we have in the mornings. The Visitors' Centre is open from 10 AM - 8 PM on Tuesday, 10 AM - 9 PM on Friday, Noon - 8:00 PM on Wednesday and Thursday, 9 AM - 5 PM on Saturdays and 6 PM - 9 PM on Sundays and Mondays. We are the only couple assigned there so we try to be there together most of the time, but do take seperate lunch and dinner breaks. I go down and fix meals and then I eat. Then I go back to the Visitors' Centre and Kenneth goes home to eat and do the dishes. It is quite a schedule. All weekends and evenings are busy, but occasionally during the weekdays it can be a bit slow. During those times, Kenneth usually reads Jeffrey Holland books and I do genealogy on my laptop at the Centre. We have many wonderful films that we show in the Cinema and all of the interactive displays in the Visitors' Centre are wonderful. The interactive displays are: The Book of Mormon, Temples, Families, and Testimonies of Christ from the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.

Each month our numbers seem to be increasing and of that we are pleased. During February, which we thought would be a slow month, we had 2100 visitors with 98 investigators also coming in to learn about the Gospel. We have so many wonderful experiences as we show people around and explain about the principles of the Gospel. On Sundays we go to Church in Crawley, which is a large city right close to Gatwick Airport. It is a large ward with wonderful members of the Church. It is the closest ward that we have seen to a Utah ward. We are involved with a few assignments like teaching Relief Society and helping with Sharing Time in Primary. They do not need us like the ward in South London did, but it has been fun to get to know all of the great people there. On Mondays, we often go on a trip with some of the Temple Missionaries as they travel to different historic sites here in South England and then it is back to work for the rest of the week.

Now you have had a glimpse into our lives here at the Temple. It has been a great experience. We have served essentially two seperate 9 month missions, because our experience proselyting in Mitcham and our experience here at the London Temple Visitors' Centre couldn't possibly be more different. What a contrast. They say that "A change is as good as a rest" and that has been true for us.

We look forward now to visits from our family in the next few weeks and months. We will be released in the middle of June and will be home for the 4th of July so we are excited to see all of you again. Hope all is well there. We look forward to hearing from all of you when you have a minute.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Snowfall to Snowdrops!

Judy and Barbara

Beautiful bulbs in bloom

Snowdrops in the Cotswolds

Winter is quickly fading away. We now have almost 12 hours of daylight and that is a nice change from the 8 hours we had in December. The snow has completely melted, even the remains of the large snowman made by the office elders is now melted and gone.

This past week was half term week and all of the kids were out of school, so everyone came to the Temple and it was one busy place. We had between 100-200 visitors each day at the Visitors' Centre until Saturday when we had almost 300. We felt like zombies after that day was finished. As soon as we closed up shop on Saturday at 5:00 pm we caught the train into Victoria Station in London and then ran to catch the bus to Oxford and my cousin Judy's home in Lechlade on Thames. It was about a 4 1/2 hour trip, but very pleasant on both the nice train and coach.

We had a delightful weekend with cousins Donald and Judy. We ate delicious English cuisine, watched weepy World War II movies, went for long walks in the English countryside, introduced Judy to genealogy on line, visited a lovely garden centre, and spent some valuable time relaxing and even napping a little. It was great! We drove along the beauiful narrow little roads of the Cotswolds to a lovely country estate called Colesbourne Park. It is an amazing place renowned for its collection of snowdrops (a delicate bulb). The snowdrop collection at Colesbourne Park was started by Henry John Elwes (1846-1922), a traveller-naturalist who in the course of an adventurous life introduced many plants from all over the world into cultivation here. After his death, the collection lay more or less undisturbed for 60 years until his great grandson Henry Elwes began to identify the plants and spread them out through regular division. These delicate white flowers are planted in masses through the arboretum and lakeside landscapes, and in smaller groups in the garden. Snowdrops are found across Europe and the Near East, from the Pyrenees to Iran, but are not native to Britain. Turkey has the greatest diversity of wild species. The large estate was a beautiful site, acres and acres of white, yellow, purple, and blue bulbs blooming with intensity. The large stately homes and estates here are so fascinating to see. I love to imagine what life must have been like and is still like for these families of royal or moneyed birth.

We also were given our release date this week by our mission president who is going home at the same time as we are. We understand that the new mission president will be Lyle Shamo, who I went to Hurricane High School with a FEW years ago. Our release date is coming up quickly and is the 17th of June. Some of our children are coming over to pick us up and do a little touring around the UK before returning back to the good old USA on July 2. We are excited to be coming home. This has been a fantastic experience, but we are ready to see the grandkids and hug them all over and over again and get back to our lives once more. We look forward to lots of adventure once we return home. We will be chomping at the bit to go four wheeling with all of our buddies come the middle of July. What fun!!!

Life here is good. We have all of the French people here this week to the temple so it will be another busy week. My two sisters, Carol and Sheila and their husbands are coming to visit next week. We are excited to see them. Hope all is well with all of you. We love you and value the friendship that we have shared through the years.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

London England Missionaries

The beautiful old manor house.

Good friends from Mitcham ward.

Well, it is starting to feel and look like spring. The snow is gone, the lawns are emerald green, the spring bulbs are bravely sticking their heads up out of the ground, the primrose are brightly blooming, and the blackbirds are singing beautifully in the budding trees. We are hopeful that spring is truly on its way. It is not dark now until almost 6:00 PM so the days are much longer and we love it.

Today, I thought I would tell you a little bit about the senior couples who are missionaries here in the temple and also those in the London England South Mission. There are 10 senior couples in the mission right now. We and our friends, the Perrys from Prescott, Arizona, are the next couples to go home. We will be leaving here in the middle of June. Most of the couples are about our age, some are younger and some are quite a bit older. We have couples from California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona right now. They are a varied bunch, very capable and experienced. Five of the couples are serving in the London area doing church education (institute and seminary), proselyting, leadership training, filming census records at Kew Gardens, and working in the out-reach program with the young single adults. There are also four couples in the southwest, Plymouth, Weymouth, Portsmouth, and Bristol and Kenneth and I here at the London Temple in southeast England. Our mission president is Jeffrey Swinton from Salt Lake City. He will also be going home the first of July so his three years are almost over.

Since moving to the temple in September, we have been able to meet and associate with many of the temple missionaries here. There are about 10 American couples over here serving as ordinance workers in the temple. There are approximately that many that are from England also serving here. They have housing on site for all of the ordinance workers, plus all of the paid workers here: gardeners, security, engineers, janitors, cooks, etc. Each Sunday a few of us hold a big dinner for about 20 people each week. Some of us are the same each week, but we try to invite a few new ones each week. It is lots of fun to share food and visiting with the good people here. Kenneth was sitting and visiting after the dinner with the men while the women were in doing the dishes. They got talking about where they had all gone to school and it just happened that all of the men sitting around the table had all graduated from Utah State University so they had a good visit about the Aggies and how their basketball team is doing this year. The American temple workers are from Canada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Montana. Several of them are rich farmers and ranchers from Idaho. They even wear their Wranglers and their western shirts so they really look the part.

The old manor house is now finished after about 14 months and the temple presidency and some of the temple workers are moving over there. It is so nice and has such character. I was hoping that we would get a chance to live there for a few months, but they have a new rule that no one who is going home sooner than 6 months can move over there so I guess we will continue to live in our "Motel 6" room and just be happy to have it. We hope you are all well and happy. I'm sure the spring weather is gorgeous. Enjoy it for us!