Saturday, October 29, 2011

End of the Six Month Mission

Utah Here We Come!!

We have come to the end of our six-month mission. It has been an incredibly spiritual experience. What an unparalleled opportunity for the two of us. We have been so blessed, have grown spiritually, and grown closer to one another.
As many of you have heard, we’ve been asked to extend our mission for another year. How thrilled we are! Of course, we know that we will experience the winter where the cold will drill into our bones when we step out of the temple into the blast of wind off the Mississippi. Tom has already purchased a long winter overcoat. I’m buying some clothing so I can use layers to help ward off the cold.

The weather has been lovely lately. The leaves are falling—lots of reds, yellows and greens. The temperatures have been in the 60s and 70s, but are dropping into the 50s tomorrow, through the rest of the week. Low temperatures will be in the 30s. Following are some pictures taken this morning to give you an idea of what it’s like here.

A few weeks ago we went to see the site called Zelph’s Mound near the Illinois River, close to Springfield. It is a gravesite found by Zions Camp when they were traveling to Missouri from Kirtland. Joseph Smith identified the skeleton they unearthed as a white Lamanite who was righteous. His name was Zelph. He still had the arrowhead between his ribs, which undoubtedly caused his death.

Last Friday on our preparation day, we went to Moline, Illinois, and went on a Mississippi River Cruise. We rode
on a paddle boat for about 3 hours down the river. We were served lunch and a couple of snacks. From the top deck we enjoyed the beauty of the river and its surroundings. It is amazing the amount of shipping that occurs on the river. Huge barges move tons of grain and such things up and down the river for a fraction of the cost that would be incurred by shipping them by land in trucks and trains.

Tom’s book will be in the stores this week. We are so excited to see it “in person!” Tom will be doing book signings when we get to Utah. It is so amazing to think that this is happening!!

Today we went to Kalona, Iowa, where we took a tour of Amish country. We loved seeing the
Amish children playing in their school yard. The girls can throw a ball and bat as good as a boy! (which is amazing to me—Marilyn—because I am such a girl!) The children play all summer and into the Fall in bare feet!! They must have tough feet!! All children wear something on their heads; the girls wear dresses. We stopped and talked to the teacher to see if we can visit their school class one day. She said that we would be welcome any time. One thing we learned was that the children do not learn to speak English until they go to school. German is the language native to the parents. The tractors and other farm equipment in the fields have iron wheels (no rubber tires) and some of the equipment is pulled by big draft horses—definite horse power!

Tomorrow is the Halloween celebration for the Nauvoo community. Everyone participates in a parade and displays, as well as handing out treats along the main street. It is called “Boo-tiful Nauvoo”.

On Sunday morning we will hold sacrament meeting at the stake center, then have a testimony meeting in the temple Assembly Room. In the afternoon we’ll have dinner groups in our apartments—the extending missionaries are treating all those going home. At 5:30 we have a temple devotional in the Assembly Room. Tom and I are singing in the choir. I hope we will be able to sing, since it will be so emotional. It will be hard to say good-bye to those we have grown close to and respect and love. Serving in the temple 5 days a week, 7 hours a day, participating in social events, p-day activities and church with these great people has been a Zion experience! We are humbled to be associated with them. It’s like living in the city of Enoch. We echo a statement made by one of the temple missionaries, “It isn’t what you do, it’s what you become!” We are glad for the change. We leave for home on Monday, while the temple is closed, to attend Jana’s wedding and get clothes for winter. We look forward to enjoying a brief visit with family and friends. We’ll be back in Nauvoo after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall is in the Air!

Now that the crowds have gone, some of the missionaries decided to do the pioneer handcart trek--only a mile, but the sun was hot, we drank lots of water and used muscles that haven't had to strain much for ages!!! It was lots of fun. Tom pulled and I pushed up and down hills and across streams--two couples per cart. This is the group that we went with. (We have a "daughter", hence the extra person!)

One week our P-day group went to Springfield, Illinois, to visit the Abraham Lincoln sites. It was very special, sobering, and thought-provoking. We went on Thursday night so we could do the Ghost Walk (visiting sites that people say are haunted by ghosts). We learned that Mrs. Lincoln had seances some times because she hoped to communicate with her sons who had died.
Tom's book is being released November 1. It is such an honor and very exciting to see Tom's name in print on this beautiful book, which is a testimony of the Book of Mormon: his discoveries after all of his years of research, teaching, and study of the book. Cedar Fort is publishing it. is having a pre-sale for it. It's entitled Proof: How to Know the Book of Mormon is True.

The other day I was looking out our window and noticed that the tree across the street at the Heber C. Kimball home is turning beautiful Fall colors. I tried to capture it and hope you can tell how beautiful the scenery is here in Nauvoo. Today Tom took the updated picture so you can see how quickly the leaves are changing! So gorgeous!!

Our mission president is Elder Spencer Condie. His wife was born in Dresden, Germany. The last Sunday in September she gave a fireside (called a Sociable) for all of the missionaries and told about her experiences during World War II. What a blessing it was for her family to be members of the Church because the members watched out for and cared for each other. She was able to escape from East Germany to visit her sister in West Germany and then immigrate to Canada. She is such a lovely person, very soft spoken and beloved by all of us. President Condie is delightful--always quick with a relevant story or joke and always striving to make everyone feel welcome and loved.

We are so delighted to be extending--to be here another year. This place is truly filled with the Spirit of the Lord. How blessed we are to serve in the holy temple. Today we had the opportunity to participate in baptisms for the dead, actually doing the baptisms ourselves. We are very grateful to the Father for all of the opportunities He gives us and all of the blessings that make our lives so enjoyable. General Conference was one of those. What a wonderful weekend, listening to counsel from living prophets and apostles.

Have a wonderful Fall. Enjoy the beautiful creations of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. Live each day as though it were your last!! Be happy! Live a Christ-like life!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Late Summer

Nauvoo in late summer is quite a different place from June and July. It is still hot but not as humid as it was in late July!! While attending the Country Fair, prior to the Pageant, I was standing watching a granddaughter making a braided head band. Suddenly, I realized that my neck and forehead were lathered!! I usually do not sweat so profusely, but what a shock! Thankfully, temperatures are down in the 80s and mornings are much cooler. The insects are loving it (well, they love any hot weather); you should hear the cicadas. They get so loud sometimes that you can hardly hear!!

The sunsets have been spectacular. There have been a few light rainstorms, but the grasses and trees are suffering from lack of rain. In June and July we had a lot of rain and many thunderstorms, but now we just get some cloudy days, but no rain!
The performing missionaries are gone. (This is us with Elder Rose!!) We miss their energy and enthusiasm. The crowds are dwindling as many families head home to start school. We've heard that tour groups will be coming in September, so that will be fun. It is always so enjoyable when we are busy in the temple.

Last Thursday was our first day serving as shift coordinators. All went well, but that's because our predecessors were shadowing us! This week we have to make up the whole schedule and hope that all runs smoothly as it did last week.

Our p-day activity last week was very interesting and educational. We drove to Iowa City, where we had a tour with the Iowa State Institute of Religion Director, Brother Murdock. He is very spiritual and infomative. We learned a lot about the handcart pioneers and what they went through as they prepared for the trek West. We learned about Governor Lucas, who served at the same time as Governor Boggs, but who treated the Saints with kindness and fairness, rather than hatred and jealousy. He said that they deserved every right as any other citizen of the United States to worship as they wished and to enjoy their rights under the Constitution. After we went to the different sites in connection with the pioneers, we drove to a community called Amana Colonies, settled originally by Germans, wishing to live a communal life style. Today the commune is gone, but the place has been preserved as an historical site.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Continuing On

There was a lot of rain throughout the month of June, and the end of May. When July came, we had very few rain storms which usually brought lots of lightning and thunder because of the heat and humidity. Thankfully, throughout the Nauvoo Pageant, there was only one night when it rained. The opening prayer was offered. The person asked the Lord to temper the elements, and the Lord answered the prayer with a "Yes!" The insects are the annoying problem!! We have to spray or we're "eaten up" by mosquitoes and other biting things!!!

During the Pageant, Tom was able to act as a translator for Spanish speakers for several nights. It was challenging, but fun. The Pageant brought many visitors to Nauvoo, swelling the population. We had many youth groups; i.e., youth conferences, EFY, and family reunions that came to the baptistery. The endowment sessions were often filled to over-flowing! Serving in the temple is a joy every day! Tom says he feels like "a kid in a candy shop," spending 6 to 7 hours a day in the temple with one P-day a week. Then, we are free to attend the sites, plays and musical programs, or visit nearby areas of interest. The spirit of the temple permeates our lives. It fills us with wonder and peace. We are incredibly blessed.

Several BYU performing groups came to Nauvoo during the months of June and August--the Folkdancers, Vocal Point, and Synthesis. They were spectacular! We tried to go to every performance. There is a group that was here from May through August called the Young Performing Missionaries. (They are 18-24 years of age, some are returned missionaries, others are preparing to go on full-time missions.) We fell in love with them. They are so full of energy, enthusiasm, talent and testimony. They did several different performances each day. They presented a special fireside for us, and we provided a breakfast for them. They came to the temple regularly. Today, we had the awesome experience of officiating in an endowment session with these young men and a few of the young sisters present. Their leaders attended, as well as the mission president and his wife and President and Sister Smith of the temple presidency. It was the culmination of their experience here in Nauvoo. We were privileged to have been part of it.
Throughout the summer, Susan Easton Black, a professor from BYU Religion faculty, gave several lectures about Nauvoo and Church history. She is a very entertaining and informative speaker, holding audiences spell-bound. Tom knows her from his association with the BYU Religion Department. We heard about her love of ping pong, so Tom asked her if she would like to play. She readily accepted so they played several games. Tom only won once!!!

Another wonderful highlight was the family members who came to visit. Hailey came in July with some of her friends. She could only stay a couple days, but we loved every minute. She got to do baptisms, with Tom being the baptizer. That was so special. At the end of July Sherilyn and her family came for a few days. We were so happy to have them stop by on their way to Minnesota. In August Tamarin and Jennifer and their families visited. Sadly Brett and Riley could not come because of football, but maybe next year! We had 7 children and 5 adults staying in our apartment. It was crowded, but lots of fun!

We are extending!! We are honored to have been asked to stay for another year. We were recently called to be coordinators of the Thursday morning shift. That is a challenge, but we hope to learn quickly. We will be home for part of November, then back here in Nauvoo!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nauvoo Adventure

We arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, on April 23, 2011. The new temple missionaries reported to the Arrival Center, where we were greeted by the temple presidency and the "winter warriors"--temple missionaries who had stayed through the winter--who helped orient us to our responsibilities and took us to our apartments. After orientation, we had our first shopping experience to "Wally World" where most of the missionaries do their bulk shopping to get settled in.

Our ward is like stake conference. We are combined with the site missionaries, who leave after sacrament meeting to be at the various sites for visitors. We stay for Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society. The Sunday after our arrival was Easter and we were invited to President and Sister Smith's home (counselor in the temple presidency) for dinner with two other couples. We thoroughly felt at home and found that we had known one of the couples in Northern California! Small world!! We even met the couple who replaced as CES missionaries in Guyana!