Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Sunday, May 6, 2018


After leaving Washington D.C. we drove through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, across Virginia and Western Virginia and up to Kirtland, Ohio.

Kirtland has several sacred historical sites for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While there we enjoyed talking to senior missionaries serving missions similar to the one we just completed.

Below are some pictures from those sites and a brief summary of the Church events that occurred there. Besides many faithful members that came there shortly after the Church was organized, often at great sacrifice, we also learned about three remarkable families that joined the Church there and gave much of their time and means to help build the Church. The three families were, the Whitneys, the Morleys, and the Johnsons.

This state marker below summarizes what happened in Kirtland. I have retyped it for easier reading.

Mormon Community

Kirtland in the 1830s became an early gathering place and headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had been organized under divine inspiration by Joseph Smith in western New York in 1830. Here the Mormons, as they are known outside the faith, created a religious community and introduced doctrinal concepts, organizational programs, and social practices that have been central to the religion ever since. The Kirtland Temple, dedicated in 1836, was the spiritual center of the faith. Internal dissension and external persecution arose largely from the distinctive features of the religion and weakened the Mormon community in Kirtland. In 1838, the majority of the Mormons here followed Smiths westward to Missouri, Illinois, and eventually Utah.

When Joseph Smith and Emma first came to Kirtland the Whitneys, who were successful business owners, invited them to live with them above their store. Joseph and Emma stayed there for 6 months. The Knights also owned the sawmill (right) and ashery (left) below.

The sawmill was important because it was here that the lumber was milled for the Kirtland Temple.

The beautiful woodworking on the pulpits was also done here.

The ashery provided a nice income for the Whitneys. Ash from hardwood trees was put into large vats and water was added.

The ash was filtered with water once or twice and was then used to make soap.

Or ash was heated in large evaporation pots. This solidified the ash, which could then be sold.

Sometimes they heated the solidified ash even more until it turned white. Then it was even more valuable and could be sold for more money. So, the more intense the heat on the ash, the more pure and valuable it became. It seems there is a life lesson here as we face our own trials. 

The Whitneys donated all money they collected from selling this highly refined ash to the Church and eventually sold their store, sawmill, and ashery and moved with the Saints to Illinois.

After living with the Whitneys for 6 months Joseph and Emma were invited by Isaac and Lucy Morley to move onto their farm.  They were early converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

A small home was built where Joseph worked on a translation of the Bible and where he received numerous revelations. While living in the home, Emma gave birth to twins, who died soon after birth. The Smiths stayed on the property until the Morleys sold it in the fall of 1831, at Joseph’s request, and moved to Missouri to be Church leaders there. 

Log Schoolhouse

On the top of this hill, the Morley family built a log schoolhouse for their seven children and for the children of friends and neighbors living on adjoining farms.

In the Morley schoolhouse, the Latter-day Saints held some of their earliest meetings in Kirtland, including the fourth conference of the Church, which convened here 3-6 June 1831. In meetings accompanied by profound spiritual manifestations, the first high priests in the Church were ordained. Missionaries were also called to go to Missouri.

The Smiths then moved to Hiram, Ohio, where they lived in the home of John and Alice (Elsa) Johnson.  The farmhouse below is 85% original.

 John and Alice Johnson and most of their congregation, led by Sidney Rigdon, joined the Mormon Church shortly after Joseph and Emma came to Ohio. Hiram is about 27 miles south of Kirtland. The Johnsons willingly made room for the Smiths, giving them their bedroom and provided this room (below) for Joseph to run the affairs of the Church. Many significant and sacred events occurred in this room including many revelations now included in the Doctrine and Covenants.

During this time the Whitneys built themselves a new home across from their store.

This room shows the summer kitchen where canning and cooking was done in the summer to prevent heating the entire home. I like the idea of two kitchens.

The Whitneys invited Joseph and Emma to stay in their home above their store, which they did, so Joseph could oversee the building of the Kirtland Temple.

The sandstone quarried here (pictures below) was used in the construction of the Kirtland Temple. Workers spend long days cutting stone, drying it in the sun, then driving stone-loaded wagons to the temple site, two miles north. The laborers who worked in the quarry and at the Temple construction site did so with great convictions and sacrifice. Joseph Smith, founder and first church president, served as quarry foreman. The temple was begun in 1833 and completed in 1836.

Below is a picture of  the earliest know lithograph of the Kirtland Temple 1846 by Henry Howe and the Kirtland Temple as it looks today.  It is owned by the Community of Christ Church (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and is the original building constructed by the Saints while they were in Kirtland.

This concluded our tour of Kirtland.  We were thankful to have the opportunity to visit these historic sites and for the inspiration we received from the example of faithful Saints that lived here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

ON TO WASHINGTON DC or Monuments, Museums, and More OH MY!

Can you tell from the title of this blog that we are in Kansas as I post it?  But, we had a marvelous time in Washington DC.  We were there a week ago and spent 4 days.  We could have spent 4 weeks, there are so many things to do and see.

We started off with a tour of several monuments: The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, The World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument.  It was so gratifying to see in person these famous landmarks that we've seen pictures of all of our lives.  My favorite - The Lincoln Memorial.


It was very, very hot and humid while we were in DC, so we were thankful for air conditioned museums in which we could spend hot afternoons.  Our first stop was the National Museum of American History.  I made so many connenctions in this museum: The ruby slippers from one of my favorite childhood movies, an elephant from Disneyland (I might have ridden in it!), my first Barbie doll, and our first mini-van.  What does it say about a person when her life is on display in a museum?


The Museum of Natural History and The Air and Space Museum were also favorites of ours.  We saw an incredible 3 D movie about repairing the Hubble Telescope, the Hope Diamond, and other great displays in these two museums. 


Listening to Congress debate the Finance Bill was on our list, but alas, when we arrived at the White House it had been evacuated of visitors and was temorarily closed while an investigation of some sort was going on.  It was still great just seeing the White House from the outside.


We discovered that in Washington DC there are lots of free museums and monuments to see and their public transportation is the best of the major cities we visited.  Below is the Metro tunnel beneath the streets of the city and a crowded Metro car.  We got pretty good at riding the "Orange" line.  Also below is the amazing Union Station.  When it was built it was the largest train staion in the world and is visitied by 32 million people each year.


Saturday evening we took a night tour of DC, learning more of the history of our nation's capitol and enjoying the lighted monuments.  The top left picture is the gate to China Town, then clockwise, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Monument.

Can you tell the capitol was my favorite night view?


We discovered early on during this trip that it is hard work having fun.  We were thankful for Sunday and a day of rest.  We enjoyed church service and then visited the Washington DC Temple and Visitors' Center.  We were very impressed with both!  We enjoyed listening to videos of the three new apostles' witnesses of Jesus Christ.  We especially enjoyed listening to Elder Christofferson's testimony, since he filmed it in the Sacred Grove while we were serving in Palmyra and then spoke to the Site Missionaries in a small meeting.  So, this day on our trip home it felt good to be spiritually fed and to have a quieter day.   

Monday morning was our last time to spend in Washington DC and we were pleased to be able to visit the Arlington National Cemetery.  We arrived in time to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.  It was a reverent and impressive ceremony.

That's it for Washington DC, an amazing city of monuments and museums.  We hope to visit again.  Next, it's a drive throught the Apalacians.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


After sightseeing in New York City we drove to Pennsylvania.  Our objective was to visit Gettysburg and review some of the history of the Civil War.  However, on the way there we took a detour to a very fun place, one that I have long wanted to visit.  What city would have a street named "Chocolate Ave" . . .

 and chocolate kisses for street lights?

If you guessed Hershey, Pennsylvania you would be correct!  What's not to love about a city founded because of chocolate candy!  Below are the smoke stacks from the actual Hershey Plant.

Milton Hershey, a successful candy maker,  wanted to produce milk chocolate candy so he acquired  1,200 acres  of farm land near his birthplace in PA. There, he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to perfect and produce fine milk chocolate. Through trial and error, he created his own formula for milk chocolate. On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing plant.  Hershey’s milk chocolate quickly became the first nationally marketed product of its kind.

Because the land was surrounded by dairy farms, he was able to use fresh milk to mass-produce quality milk chocolate. Hershey envisioned a complete community around his factory site. He built a model town for his employees that included comfortable homes, an inexpensive public transportation system, a quality public school system and extensive recreational and cultural opportunities. 

Hershey avoided building a faceless company town with row houses. He wanted a home town with tree-lined streets, single and two family brick houses, and manicured lawns. He was concerned about providing adequate recreation and diversions, so he built Hershey Park, which opened on April 24, 1907. Amusement rides, a swimming pool, and a ballroom were added.
We had a good time going through "Hershey World" learning how milk chocolate is made.  The company uses 250,000 gallons of fresh milk each day to make their candy.  We watched a 3D movie and felt like kids in a candy store!  (Well, we WERE in a candy store.)


The next day was reserved for more serious activities - touring the battlefields in Gettysburg.  We learned a lot about this famous Civil War conflict.  We saw the battlefields that are being restored to the way they looked during the encounter between the Union and Confederate Troops.

We learned about skilled military leaders that fought with their troops in this famous 3 day battle of the Civil War that ended in a badly needed Union victory.

Interestingly, within this National Military Park there are 1,400 different monuments and markers and 400 cannons, many of them from the battle in 1863.  Many of these monuments are erected by the veterans of the Union regiments and depict some aspect of the battle.

The men from these regiments came from the same local and usually knew each other.  I was touched by the story about the monument below:  Most of the monuments depict aspects of battle, but the men in this regiment wanted to focus on happier times so they transported a rock from their local swimming hole to honor their regiment.

We were pretty awestruck by this Cylorama we saw in the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.

The painting is 42 feet high and 377 feet around.  It was painted by a French artist and his team in less than a year and weights an estimated 12.5 tons.  It was originally completed in 1883 and restored to be displayed in Gettysburg in 2008.

Again we were sobered as we walked in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  When the battle was finished and the armies left Gettysburg, over 51,000 soldiers were dead, wounded and missing.  Most of the dead lay in hastily dug and inadequate graves and some had not been buried at all.

Pennsylvania's governor made arrangements for a burial ground and within four months of the battle reinterment began on 17 acres that became Gettysburg National Cemetery. 

It was dedicated on November 19, 1863 and it was here that President Abraham Lincoln gave his now famous speech that gave meaning to the sacrifice of the dead and inspiration to the living.  His speech lasted two minutes. 

Contrary to popular belief, Lincoln did not write the speech on the back of an envelope during the trip to Gettysburg, but took great pains in its formulation.  He composed the first draft in Washington and revised it in Gettysburg.

We appreciated what we learned about this historic battle and were humbled to walk what is now know as "hallowed ground."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


A favorite children's book of mine is Fortunately by Remy Carlip.  The story begins this way:

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.
Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.
Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.
Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

That pattern could describe the beginning of our visit to New York City.  Here's how it went:

Fortunately we left Monday morning for our trip to New York City from Sharon, Vermont, allowing plenty of time to get there.  Unfortunately, we ran into lots of construction and traffic, at one point taking us 40 minutes to go 4 miles.


 Fortunately we finally made it across the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey, where we were staying.  Unfortunately we weren't real skilled at riding the subway, but eventually we figured it out.

Fortunately, we had tickets to a Yankee's game.  Unfortunately, because of the bad traffic, we didn't have time for dinner.  Fortunately, we got a hot dog at the ballgame.  It tasted good too.  (Notice the Yankee's  icon on the wrapper.) Unfortunately the prices were very high!  $5 for a bottle of water.

Fortunately we had good seats in the stadium and were excited for the game to begin.

Unfortunately it was raining and the game was delayed for two hours.

Fortunately, we saw a spectacular sunset and . . .

. . .some very good plays, like this amazing catch by Yankee player, Mark Teixeira.  Unfortunately, I was cheering for the other team, the Seattle Mariners.  Fortunately, we saw both teams make some amazing plays and loved being at the game.  Unfortunately, we had to leave after the 5th inning because the parking lot where we left our car was closing shortly after midnight.  We got back to our hotel about 1:30 AM and I didn't get to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  Fortunately, we had a great time anyway!  It's pretty special to be in the Yankee Stadium.

The next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent several hours there.  It is an incredible museum. 


Steven spent most of his time viewing the armor and the Egyptian displays.

I spent my time viewing the work of 1800 - 1900 European artists.


It was a busy day at the Metro, as you can see by the people outside the art museum.

After we finished at the Metro we grabbed a bite to eat and then went to a Broadway production.  We really enjoyed the singing and dancing and the energy of the performers.


I love crowds and really enjoyed walking through Times Square after the musical.  It was fun to see the Mormon ad on the billboard there. 


 And, of course it was fun to see all of the other lights too.


Our last morning in New York City was spent on Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  We were surprised to learn that about 1/3 of Americans today had ancestors that went through Ellis Island.  Some 12 million immigrants came through here.

Religious persecution, political strife, unemployment, family connections, the lure of adventure; these were the circumstances of the greatest migration in modern history, when shipload after shipload of people, mostly Europeans, came to the United States.  By the early 1900,s 5,000 people arrived at Ellis Island each day, with a record 11,747 on April 17, 1907.


After seeing Ellis Island we boarded the ferry and continued on to Liberty Island for a close up look of the Statue of Liberty.  We had seen the statue before from a ferry, but it was magnificent actually being on the island and seeing the statue up close.

This concluded our trip to New York City and then we were on to Gettysburg, VA, but fortunately, that is a story for another blog post!