Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Summer Story Actually Began 4 years Ago

I was asked to teach early morning seminary in my basement to ten teens.

Curriculum for the year was Church History and Doctrine and Covenants.
Being that we now live 7 hrs (6 depending on time of day) from Kirtland/Hiram, Ohio, where the Prophet Joseph Smith established several Firsts for the Church.

First Headquarters of the Church
First Presidency formed
First Quorum of Twelve selected
First Quorum of Seventy (one of which is David's 4Th great grandfather Nelson Higgins.)
First Patriarch called
First High Priests ordained
First Stake formed
First High Council organized
First Bishop's Store House
First Missionary Training Center
The First temple in this dispensation and
Over half of the revelations recorded now in the Doctrine and Covenants - 65 to be exact.

You can see why we decided to take a mini family vacation to this area as well as Palmyra,New York where the sacred First Vision occurred.

Balance is important so we mingled church historical sites with amazing world wonders and then some man made fun stops.
Like Niagara Falls - Canadian side is so much more lively!

and Cedar Point (Home of the Worlds largest roller coasters, with plenty to choose from.

Molly was in heaven.Anna not so much and do you blame her after we put her in stocks)heehee

Back to my original story.
I was hoping to gain a better grasp of our Church's history and I admit it, I wanted my own spiritual experience in Kirtland.
I was so excited to enter the Kirtland Temple to see where Moses, Elias, Elijah and our Savior appeared at various times in the 1830's, but sadly I was disappointed.
I felt nothing and I mean nothing.
Our tour guide just basically said, "here's a room, yada, yada, yada.
She never mentioned the remarkable manifestations that happened here in 1836 at the dedication of the temple.

It was just an old building that took a ton of man hours and cost a bunch back in the day.
We went to the Newel K. Whitney Store - Nothing.
We went to the Morley Farm - Nothing
Three awesome places where the Saviour appeared and I felt NOTHING.

While at the Morley Farm I met up with my roommate from 23 years ago.
P.J. Riczo who lives in the area.
We then went to a park a couple of miles from the temple.
It's the quarry from whence the Saints chiseled out the rock to make the temple. It is now part of the Chapin Forest Preserve
While standing on the quaint bridge in the forest and looking at the old quarry where marks from over 170 years could be seen, I finally felt the sweet spirit confirm to my being the sacredness of this area.
I was so happy. I was thrilled, I can't even describe that incredible feeling.
It was just lovely to me.
I just wanted to stay in the woods.
I wasn't expecting any sort of feeling from being there and it just happened.
How Come?

I questioned myself, "How could this be? No vision occurred here that we know of. The members just worked really, really hard to cut and haul rock from here 2 miles up the road.
David said, "Maybe because the earth remembers what took place here"
That was sufficient for me at the time other than I was deeply disappointed I didn't feel anything from the other sites where I thought I would.

My friend told me about her mom's cousin, Karl Anderson, Mr. Kirtland as he's known in those parts.
How he wrote a book about Kirtland and how he's the expert on the area.
I knew I had to get that book if I was going to teach Church History that year.
We then said our goodbyes.
The next morning our family went to Hiram, Ohio about 30 miles south of Kirtland to the John Johnson Farm, home to over a dozen revelations and the visitation of God the Father and his Son.
How cool is that?
Most members skip this little gem cuz it's out of the way, but I highly recommend that you visit the farm.

After the tour we were standing in the barn when an older gentlemen came in.
The missionaries addressed him as Brother Anderson.
I immediately knew he was my friends cousin and started a conversation with him.
I asked him how could I get his book on Kirtland.
Just so happened he had ONE last copy in his trunk and he even autographed it for me. What are the chances?
I knew it was meant to be.
I love how the Lord helped me in my quest to gain more insight in Church History by placing Bro. Anderson in my path.

Fast Forward 3 1/2 years later. David informs me that we've been asked to head up Youth Conference in July 2010 and the Stake Presidency wants us to take the youth to Kirtland.

My immediate response was, "We've got to get the youth to the quarry" and David's was "We've got to get Karl Anderson to be our opening speaker"
Scheduling Brother Anderson was no problem, we really lucked out. (what kind of term is that lucked out?)
Anyway he was delightful. He truly set the tone for our Youth Conference.
One point he made that impressed us all was the most asked question he receives and I might point out that he's given tours to five prophets, numerous General Authorities and hundreds of other leaders over the years.
Back to the question he gets asked the most by us commoners.
"Why doesn't the LDS Church own the Kirtland Temple?
Why don't they buy it from the Community of Christ?"
In a sweet way he just firmly stated, "The LORD doesn't want the LDS to own it.
The LORD wants the Community of Christ to own it now and they are doing a great job of taking care of it."
It is still standing, even after mobs had tried to burn it down, it was even used as a barn after the saints headed out west.
The Reorganized Church cleaned it up and now anyone can use it.
What happened to the original Nauvoo Temple? hmmmmm Fire, then Wind destroyed it.
So The Lord is in control.

Patriarch Karl Anderson "Mr. Kirtland"

When we were planning this youth conference I wanted the youth to feel that incredible spirit that I felt at the quarry but what will they do there?
Just walk around? Lame.
Have 200+ people look at the quarry and then skip on back to the buses?
I don't think they will feel anything in the woods with a bunch of giddy teens galloping around.

We discovered a mile loop of forest that started at the quarry and
eventually we came up with having a cast of characters portray what life was like for the Saints back in the day. David called it, "Trail of Trials.
Portrayals by Joseph Smith, his wife Emma, Newel K. Whitney, Sidney Rigdon and then for kicks we threw in the "Mob" Which turned out fun for the kids simply because they weren't expecting it and they knew the nice guys so they weren't very believing but it was humorous watching them try.

We sent groups of about 20 at a time on a journey through the woods.
The first four characters shared their story, then they basically asked "This is my story and what I sacrificed for building up the Kingdom of God, What will you be asked to sacrifice and what are you willing to give up?"
This part of the day touched many of the youth who had time to reflect on that question as they walked through the cool forest.

Joseph Smith played by Bishop Brik Eyre (He used to play Joseph in the Nauvoo temple pageant so he had the costume and the lines down)

Emma played by Gina Taylor our Stake YW's secretary. She was so nervous before hand but performed like a pro. The Youth loved her.

Newel K. Whitney played by Paul Taylor (he's our Bishop's Numero Uno, right hand man)Probably one of the most soft spoken men I've ever met. He was great.(I have to say that, his wife reads my blog. hahha) JK

Sidney Rigdon played by Bishop Trump. I honestly don't know how he pulled this off when he stepped in the last minute or how he didn't crack jokes. He stayed in character which was awesome.

I love this picture of our Mob man - aka Spencer Dunn waiting to recruit the wandering Mormons

Bishop Holbrook and Bob Donehey just can't be angry. It was more like Amish Cowboys invade the woods.

When the youth weren't wandering in the woods they were busying touring all the Kirtland and Hiram sites.

The room in the John Johnson home where the Prophet was taken, beaten, tarred and feather. His friends/family spent the night cleaning him up and the next day he preached a sermon from the front porch of this home below.

Yes Parker is yakking on his cell phone.

I love Maddie, one of our Youth Leaders.

The food really was good, even though you can't tell by these faces.

Oh but when Pres. Labrum hands out Air Heads, they're all smiles


Her face just epitmizes how I think we all felt.

What an incredible site. 222 Saints in 5 different matching colored shirts (by the way Molly designed it) "Got Roots"

That evening we all met together for our Testimony Meeting in the Kirtland Temple.

When we sang the first line "The Spirit of God..." I was just so happy to finally feel that Spirit in the Kirtland Temple. That's what I'm talking about.
To see my daughter have the opportunity to conduct in such awesome venue was just humbling.
For two hours we heard pure testimony after testimony.
I've never experienced such sweet heartfelt thoughts about our Savior and the Saints that went before us.
I of course was so touched when several of the youth shared their experience of walking in the quarry and asking themselves, "What am I willing to sacrifice?"
Everyone was changed for the better from the day before and that's what its all about.
At that moment when I heard the youth bear testimony of their love and desire to do good, I realized that the spiritual feeling I had in the quarry four years before wasn't for me, it was for these youth whom the Lord loves.
I'm just grateful to have had the opportunity to assist these wonderful youth in such a great experience. I love the youth, always have and always will.

Todd Cook

Rob Ogle

Sweet Whitnie


  1. Man OH Man Tami...you guys are Youth Conference Directors EXTRAORDINAIRE!!!! What a wonderful experience, WiSH I HAD BEEN THERE!!! I teared up big time reading some of this post and I am pretty sure that Bro. Dunn is a relative, if his ancestor is Simeon Adams Dunn that lived in Nauvoo back in those days. I absolutely loved how you did this post...I was going to comment "just bite the bullet and jump in" when you asked...a couple posts earlier but MAN OH MAN and I bet those early morning seminary classes were wonderful too!!

  2. Thank you Tami! I really needed to read this - to get a small feel for what the youth (and leaders) experienced this Summer. I hope my daughter let some of this affect her for the good :) Thank you for all that you do for the youth. You are amazing.

    Love Kim

  3. I love this story! Thank you for sharing. It sounds like you guys did a great job with the whole thing, and I'm not surprised! I love the pictures, too. :)

  4. I love this summary of Youth Conference. Thank you so much for all of your time and effort, it really paid off. I think our youth loved the experience and I wish I could have gone!

  5. Wow what an experience! I am so glad you shared all of that, you were obviously perfect for the job! Isn't it great to live so close to these sites where a spirit of such sacrifice and devotion for the gospel can be found? I'm glad it all went so well for you!!! (now, time for that massage, right?)