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.