Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning

We woke up Saturday morning and attempted to make pancakes for breakfast, realizing that we’d forgotten to bring a method of greasing the pan only after we’d mixed up the batter. 

We had oatmeal for breakfast. Then we headed over to the Smith Family Farm, where Joseph Smith spent his childhood. 

The cabin is a replica of the one that once stood in its place (on the original foundation, I believe). It’s fairly small, considering the Smiths had nine children (it's small even if you fail to consider that). 

The upstairs (attic) was divided into two bedrooms. The three girls took the smaller bedroom in the back of the house while the six boys stayed in the bigger bedroom. 

“They had to sleep two to three children in each bed. Can you imagine sleeping in the same bed with your sister?” one of the missionary guides asked my children. 

Miriam grabbed Rachel’s arm and jumped up and down while excitedly nodding her head. Sleeping in the same bed is a big privilege in our house—it only happens on non-school nights and because we’re on summer break the girls have been on a month-long sleepover in the top bunk (again, “super safe,” I know but when I was growing up I had a bunk bed without a railing so it seems safety is somewhat relative). They love sleeping in the same bed (though it does make going to sleep a somewhat sillier process I’m sure if it became routine they’d go to sleep better than they do when they’re excited about the “sleep over”).

Back to the Smith House…

Upstairs in the boy’s bedroom is where the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith, probably in the middle of the night because that’s when things were quiet. That same missionary said that she enjoyed working in the house and being “in the same airspace as the angel Moroni—because he never touched the ground, you know." I thought that was a cute way to put things.

Being in that tiny house with so many other tourists made me wonder if the house was ever quiet. With ten other people milling about, it was no wonder that Joseph Smith sought out solitude in the woods to pray.

In the main part of the house is the everything room (kitchen/dining room/living room) and a master bedroom off to the side. On the kitchen table there was an old bible (from the 1800s) open to James 1:5—"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." That is the scripture that prompted Joseph Smith to try praying for an answer to the question of which church to join. 

Here are Rachel and Andrew reading it together:

The village of Palmyra has a population of around 3500—so about the same as Raymond, Alberta, my birthplace (to put it in perspective for anyone who has ever been to Raymond (and you'd be surprised to know how many have been—my grandma always said that no matter where you go in the world you'll always run into someone from Raymond (in my case this is always true because of me))—but it seems much bigger because the village of Palmyra is located in the town of Palmyra (because that makes sense?) which has a population of about 7000. 

I'm never sure if I'm in the village or the town. But apparently that's an important distinction in these parts. Townships and boroughs and villages and what have you. 

Anyway, the village of Palmyra boasts the only intersection in the United States that has "four churches at a four corner intersection facing each other." Religious debates were common back in Joseph Smith's day (and, as we learned, in our day as well). 

He says in his history that "there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion.... Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people...." Joseph wanted to know which church he should join and that is the matter he brought before the Lord in the Sacred Grove.

We still had to amble through the Smith's farm before getting to the Sacred Grove, though, so I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. 

This is the bigger house that Alvin built for his someday-family (though he died before he could finish it or even get married). Joseph Smith Sr. ended up finishing it and the Smith family moved in for a while.

It was in pretty good condition when the church acquired it, I suppose. The sister missionary inside said that the whitewashed boards were original to the house.

And this is the very fireplace where the hearth was torn apart so Joseph could hide the golden plates under it. I'm not sure if the brick is original. I should take notes during tours or something.

Here are the kids ready for an 1820s-style meal:

We saw some other hiding places for the golden plates in Joseph Smith Sr.'s (replicated) cooper shop (under the floorboards and up in the attic). My kids were more interested in the chopping block outside the shop.


We had a lovely walk through the farmyard on our way to the Sacred Grove. Cue a million pictures of us and old-timey fences (the plethora of pictures suggests I may have developed a fetish for fences, though my kids were also drawn to them like magnets so perhaps it's them with the fetish and I'm simply stuck following them):


Last fence picture (for a while), I promise:

Now for something completely different: bridge pictures! (Yay!)

I basically had to amputate my children from this bridge (it was a painful operation, too):

They were so adorable, intently watching all that water pass under them (though Andrew and Rachel had clearly moved on—they're in the upper righthand corner of this picture):

Everybody was so excited to visit the Sacred Grove. It's a place that we've all heard about since childhood and it really is remarkable to go there. We did have to pull the kids aside to give them a talk about reverence before we entered the woods. Our actions needed to respect the sacred nature of the site—quiet voices, quiet feet. The children did remarkably well and both girls were impressed with the feeling of peace that they felt, though they were still skittish about the bees.

"It's all part of the experience," I told them. "Bees were humming, sweet birds singing."

It truly was a remarkable feeling to be standing in the very grove where Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It felt very similar to me to the feeling I had at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

Even though we can't tell for sure if the Garden Tomb is the tomb where the Savior was lain after he died, people approach it as if it is—with reverence and awe—and their faith helps draw the spirit there. It's really a beautiful thing. We liked it so much we were sure to go twice while we were in Jerusalem (and we were there only for a couple of days).

Likewise, we don't know the exact place Joseph knelt in the Sacred Grove, but there is a spirit throughout the grove that is undeniable. So many people have gone there seeking truth and light throughout the last two centuries. It was wonderful to get to visit it ourselves. It's truly a place you can go to feel at peace.

We took some pictures of everyone in the grove and for the most part everyone cooperated...

...until we got to Benjamin.

That boy! He was running around like crazy, trying to pick up everything in sight, declaring fallen logs were sharks (and screaming and running away), scouting out mud puddles to jump in. He couldn't stand still for a picture so I threw him up on my shoulders. That didn't work very well either. He leaned backward. He went boneless...

...he kicked his legs and gouged my eyes and pulled my hair and was a regular little terror. But all that came through in the pictures was his cute side.

Let's see.... Here are a few more pictures from our walk through the grove:

An old fence
Miriam balancing on a...something

Benjamin smiling "nicely" for the camera
Benjamin saying, "Mom! 'Ook 'dis!"
 And here we are leaving the grove. That was hard because no one wanted to go, but there were more adventures to be had so away we went... the Hill Cumorah, where the Angel Moroni showed (and eventually gave) the Golden Plates to Joseph Smith. The visitor's center was lovely. They have a room with the Christus statue, where you can sit and ponder for a minute and that was lovely.

Benjamin ran right up to the statue the minute we entered the room. "Sheshesh!" he said, reaching up for the statue.

He's a sweet boy. I can't blame him for running up to the statue. It looks so warm and open—like the Savior is ready to wrap you up in a warm hug. And that's exactly how I imagine it will be when he comes again.

I can't help but be moved almost to tears by pictures like this:

It reminds me of Matthew 19:14—"Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." My little children are so sweet. And this gospel is so good. And I'm so happy I have both of them: my family and the gospel.

Sure, people might think we're a little crazy, but I embrace crazy.
I married that guy—the epitome of craziness. And I think I had my camera set to
Speaking of crazy, we made the girls reenact a moment from a trip Andrew's family took to Palmyra about twenty years ago.

Auntie Emily was a very emotional child—but she's turned into a very rational adult so that's been the straw of hope we've been grasping while dealing with our own bundle of emotions (*cough* Rachel *cough*). Rachel feels all the feels so strongly that she simply can't keep the lid on them, though I will admit that she's already much, much better at containing her emotions than she was when she was three.

When she was three I didn't know if I would ever enjoy being her mother. Now that's she's seven (in one week—what?!) I can truthfully say that she is one of the awesomest kids I know and I love her bits and pieces. But things were a little touch and go there for like five years or something.

Her childhood was harsh on my nerves. So much screaming. So. Much. Screaming.

From what I hear, Auntie Emily suffered from a similar temperament.

Andrew's family was visiting the Hill Cumorah and had hiked up to the very top when Emily became completely unglued about something or other and took all her emotions out on the hillside. She was screaming and rolling around, pounding the ground, kicking her legs, having a full-on tantrum. The rest of the family calmly walked away from her like they had no idea whose child she was. A missionary couple stepped in to talk to her and try to calm her down so they could help her find her family. And I don't believe she was very kind to them. Oh, and Auntie Emily has never lived this story down.

It comes up whenever a trip is being planned.

So, here are Miriam and Rachel recreating the temper tantrum scene inside the visitor's center:

That was before Andrew remembered it was actually outside on the top of the hill. Rachel was too embarrassed to get on the ground to throw a fake tantrum again, but Miriam was game:

Anyway, the visitor's center was great for the older girls who could purposefully work the multimedia screens and were interested in looking at pictures and reading captions. But it was a nightmare for containing Benjamin. He was Mr. Push-All-The-Buttons, Move-All-The-Books, Climb-All-The-Things. And he had a great time doing it.

All the artistic displays were lovely, but they certainly could have used a child-corner. I, at any rate, could certainly have used a child-corner. Other visitor centers have one. I don't know why this one doesn't.

Eventually I got fed up and announced that—ready or not—it was time to hike up the hill. The girls agreed to leave their activities and chase after Benjamin, who was by this time hollering, "Outside! Outside!" and smearing his face and hands all over the glass door. As soon as the door was open, that little boy took off like a rocket. He blasted up the hillside, trying to keep up with his sisters and Daddy. They left us in the dust, though. Soon it was just me and Benjamin slowly wandering up the Hill Cumorah together.

Benjamin was doing his best to step on every exposed root on the trail. "Sep, sep, sep," he said every time he stepped on one (because saying 'step' is too much work). He was being so adorable that I thought I'd run up in front of him a small way so I could take his picture. I only got one, and it's a little blurry, but it proves how steep the trail is.

If you can't tell, that is a picture of Benjamin going down. Hard. He landed right on his head, of course, because that's where he always lands. But look at his face—the way he's eyeing the ground like, "Here we go again..." He kills me!

And here's his sad little baby face:

Woe is me.
 I didn't have anything to clean him up because Andrew had the diaper bag so I just left his face and we struck up the trail again. We met a elderly couple coming down and the man said, "Looks like someone's been eating chocolate!"

"Someone's been eating the trail," I said. "He bit it hard."

"Trail...mix?" the man asked.

"No, dear," his wife translated. "That's not chocolate. That's dirt. He must've fallen on the trail."

Soon after we parted with that couple Benjamin asked to get down so he could walk. 

"Sure," I said. "And look—there's stairs now so that'll make things a little easier for you!"

He tripped on the first step and scraped his shin up. Naturally. He's been complaining about it ever since (like today at church when he kept trying to climb over the bench and I kept grabbing his leg to pull him back down—he'd pout, point to his leg, and whine, "Dis. Dis. Mommy. Owie." I tried to explain to him that I wouldn't have to grab his leg if he'd stop trying to climb over the bench but apparently that lecture went over his head).

There's a monument of the angel Moroni at the top of the hill, which was erected after the church acquired the property in the 1930s.

From the top of the hill we also had a lovely view of the 8000 chairs set up for the pageant.

The stage for the pageant is 10 storeys, I read somewhere, but I'm not sure if that includes the tip top of the hill (which is used for the pageant as well as the actual stage part). This is what the stage looked like from where we sat:

But I won't go into detail about the pageant now. After all, this post is only about what we did before lunch on Saturday. I still have the whole afternoon to tell about before we can get to the pageant, but it really was a lovely morning!

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Emily's tantrum was at the bottom of the hill. We had come out of the visitors center and headed across the wide expanse of grass towards the chairs. Emily probably wanted to be carried, and we just wanted her to walk for a while. She had an enormous tantrum, so we left her behind because we could see her there. We weren't very far away when that sweet sister missionary intervened. The second huge tantrum of the trip was on the floor of the entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Grandpa Frank was in charge of her at the moment, and he really got flustered!