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

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Life here in the Rochester Mission has been, busy, rewarding, and spiritually uplifting. During the next few blog entries we hope to give readers a glimpse of what missionary life is like in the Hill Cumorah Historic Sites. This entry will provide a general overview of our life and the next six entries will go into more detail about the following:

The Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center
The Smith Family Farm
The Book of Mormon Historic Publishing Center or the EB Grandin Building
The Peter Whitmer Farm
The Rochester 2ND Ward
The Palmyra Temple

We have a monthly schedule, so that we work the same rotation of sites for one month at a time. Our schedule for February is:

MONDAY – 1:00 PM till 5:00 PM: The Smith Farm which consists of the Welcome Center (like a visitors’ center), the log home, the frame home, the barn, the cooper shop (barrel making shop) and the Sacred Grove. We have key messages and facts to learn about each of those locations within this site.

On Monday mornings we clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, etc. because we are busy working in Rochester on our preparation day.

Monday evenings are for Family Home Evening. Twice a month we meet with all of the Site Missionaries (12 couples) and often other missionaries couples for Family Home Evening. Besides site missionaries we have couples here on missions as Temple Missionaries that work in the Palmyra Temple and Facility Management Missionaries (3 couples). They often join us for Family Home Evening and other socials. There are two Senior Sisters that work at the Mission Home and they come also.

TUESDAY – 7:30 AM till 8:30 AM: District Meeting – The Historic Site Missionaries are divided into two districts. Our district meets Tuesday mornings and the focus of our meeting is missionary or site success stories and instruction from Preach My Gospel.

TUESDAY - 9:00 AM till 1:00 PM: The Book of Mormon Historic Publishing Site or EB Grandin Building where we give tours of three floors, the bookshop and EB Grandin’s office, the printing shop where the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormons were published and the bindery, where they were bound. This site has the most information to learn, but we really enjoy working at it.

Tuesday afternoon and evening we catch up on email, study and read, etc.

WEDNESDAY – 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM: The Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center – This is where visitors to Palmyra typically begin their tours. There are films, a room with the Christus and a Resource room with interactive videos about the history of this area.

Wednesday evening we have a “Site Meeting” with all of the Senior Couple Missionaries and all of the Sister Missionary Companionships (nine total) where we receive training and inspirational messages under the direction of our Site Directors, Elder and Sister Lenker. The young sister missionaries assigned to the historical sites work with us on Wednesdays and proselyte the rest of the time until we get more visitors, then we will have young sister missionaries with us at the sites all of the time.

THRUSDAY - 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM: The Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center – We work the same schedule as Wednesday. When we arrived on January 30, there was a display of bronze sculptures by artist Angela Johnson called “The Healing Power of Jesus Christ.” The exhibit came on October 25, 2009 and was scheduled to leave on January 31, 2010, but was held over until February 14. We felt so blessed to be able to enjoy the sculptures for 4 different days while we worked at this site.

Thursday afternoon and evenings are the same as Tuesdays. We study and prepare to proselyte in Rochester, NY.

FRIDAY – 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM: The Peter Whitmer Farm - The farm is not located in Palmyra, but is in Fayette and it takes us about 45 minutes to drive there. We usually leave at 10:00 AM. This site includes the (1)Fayette Chapel, which is beautiful and built in a Greek Revival style architecture, (2) the visitors’ center and (3) a replica of the Whitmer Farm. Again, there is a lot of information to learn at this site. At each site we have key messages, details, historical stories, dates, and related scriptures to learn.

Friday evening we go directly from the Whitmer Farm in Fayette to the Palmyra Temple to serve as Temple Ordinance Workers. We finish there at 10:00 PM

SATURDAY – We leave our apartment at 8:00 AM and drive to Greece, a suburb of Rochester, about 45 miles, to go to our Ward Missionary Correlation Meeting. After the meeting we go visit members of the Rochester 2ND Ward that the bishop has requested we visit. So far we have found 3 investigators for the young sister, assigned to our ward, to teach. We spend most of the day in Rochester and usually get home about 4:30 PM. If it isn’t too cold we like to go for a walk in the Sacred Grove when we get home.

SUNDAYWe leave for church at 8:15 AM to attend Sacrament at 9:30 AM. After the meeting block we spend the rest of the day doing visits. We have to say that the people in our ward don’t really believe in shoveling the snow off of their sidewalks and steps. Every single place we have visited has an accumulation of snow. Thankfully we have boots and adequate shoes for tromping in the snow!

Sunday evenings we sometimes have dinner invitations from other missionary couples or firesides. Otherwise we catch up on life.
The site couples here are a social bunch! We have been invited to dinner 5 times and there have been to 5 socials and firesides in three weeks. These couples are amazing people and we love getting to know each of them. They have such faith promoting stories about their circumstances of serving missions.

General Information: The weather here is cold and it snows almost every day, though the roads are nearly always clear and our driveway gets cleared early each morning by a company that clears the driveways, parking lots and sidewalks at the Church Historical sites. The salt they put on the roads ruins cars and shoes.

This is an example of a rusted out bumper. Notice to the right of the bumper; it is being held on with bailing wire!

Monday, February 15, 2010


January 26, 2010 - Tuesday
As we drove away from Provo and the MTC on our way to Palmyra, NY, we remembered how apprehensive we were about entering the MTC– not knowing what to expect. We found that everyone was kind, helpful and dedicated! Now we were starting our trip across the United States, with great concern about the winter weather. The words of a hymn came to mind. “The night is dark and I am far from home; Lead thou me on! Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene-- one step enough for me.” We thought, "We are taking one step at a time on this mission journey and are going by faith. The first step was turning in our papers – which was a job! The next step was preparing to leave our family and home in two short weeks. We then entered the MTC. Now we are driving across the US, fearful of winter weather. Finally, we will arrive at our mission in Palmyra, NY. We go by faith!

We spent the first night in Cheyenne, WY and were blessed with good weather. We crossed the Rockies reaching altitudes of 8700 feet. The next day we drove through Nebraska and most of Iowa, spending the night in Ames, Iowa, just north of Des Moines.

January 28, 2010 – Thursday
It was -2 degrees when we left Ames, Iowa on Thursday morning at 8:00 AM. In the first 10 miles of our trip we saw many cars off the road with emergency vehicles trying to move them. It appears they ran off the road during the night. We were grateful we decided to stay in Ames instead of pressing on to Winona. We were too tired to drive further anyway.

We stayed Thursday night in Winona, MN with our daughter Meghan, her husband Ryan and their daughters. It was out of our way, but the granddaughters were tugging at our heartstrings.

When we left Winona on Friday morning our car thermometer read -6 degrees. Our poor PT had never been that cold before and the radio wouldn't work for a while.

We drove through Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana on Friday. Somewhere around Gary, Indiana we crossed paths with a couple we met at the MTC. After leaving the MTC they flew home to Pennsylvania and packed their car and started driving west to their mission assignment in Nauvoo. We were driving east to our mission assignment in New York. We thought we might pass each other on Friday, so we talked on our cell phones and waved at each other as we passed. Friday night we stayed near Cleavland, Ohio.

January 30, 2010 – Saturday
We stopped for about an hour and a half in Kirtland. We didn’t have time to see all of the Church sites because they were waiting for us in Palmyra, but we did take a tour of the Kirtland Temple.

At 5:00 PM we arrived in Palmyra at the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center and met our directors, the Lenkers. Elder Lenker took us to our apartment, which is about 2 miles north of the visitors’ center. We passed the Palmyra Stake Center and the Palmyra Temple. We can see the temple from the front yard of our apartment and the Sacred Grove is about 100 feet out our back door. Elder Lenker and Elder Kinghorn (our upstairs neighbor) helped us unload our car. We have been living out of suitcases for almost three weeks. Too long! Then we went to the Lenker’s apartment for dinner. Their apartment is at the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center.

We are blessed with a nice apartment. (See pictures below.) Our directors, Elder and Sister Lenker have been on four other missions, this is their 5th plus multiple local service missions. They said this is the best missionary housing they have seen. The down side is we don’t have a dishwasher. The up side, we have a heated garage, in this country that is way better than a dishwasher!
After dinner we returned to our apartment, unpacked and collapsed in bed.

This is where we live. There are three senior missionary apartments in this home. Ours is in the basement to the left side of the house. We can see the Sacred Grove right out our back door.

This is a very important picture; it is our spare bedroom, where YOU can stay when you come visit us in Palmyra to see the historic sites!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Preparation-Day finally arrived! We slept in until 7:15 AM and then dressed in our missionary clothing and went to breakfast. Missionaries cannot eat in the dining hall unless they are in missionary clothing. It snowed during the night and we woke to a winter wonderland.

That evening we went out to dinner. Senior Couples have a lot of leeway and can leave the MTC in the evenings and on their Preparation Day as long as they sign out. I wanted to go to Olive Garden and Elder Watts (Steven) indulged me. Again, we saw the hand of the Lord manifest and are convinced there are no coincidences. We were told the wait would be 35 minutes. Usually we won't wait that long, but decided to. As we were waiting (along with about 50 other customers), in came an older gentleman and his wife, dressed in Sunday attire. We were in our P-Day clothes, nice slacks, etc. and I had my missionary name badge on my outer clothing.

The older couple came and stood near us to wait. Eventually the older gentleman went to the host and asked how much longer the wait would be. Since we came in before them I was curious to know the answer, so I approached him and asked. He told me about 10 minutes and then, looking at my name badge, asked me what I did for the Church. I told him we were going on a mission and were at the MTC. One thing led to another and the couple asked us if we would join them for dinner and then they offered to buy us dinner, since we were missionaries. We agreed, knowing of the blessing that come from feeding missionaries.

They were from Colorado and it turns out the brother is serving as Stake President of the Castle Rock Stake and before that he was in the Mission Presidency with President Schultz, who is now the Portland Temple President. Since August of 2008 we have served in the Portland Temple as ordinance workers under President Schultz. Again, “tender mercies of the Lord.” We had a delightful evening visiting with them.

On Sunday we went to a MTC Branch to attend Sacrament Meeting. The branch we were assigned to attend was the international branch and there were young missionaries from countries all over the world. None from the US though. All of the missionaries were told to come prepared to give a short talk, from 3 – 5 minutes on humility and two were randomly called on to speak.

The young Elder that spoke said that he had never talked in front of more than 15 people before in his life and never in English (he spoke French). There were about 50 missionaries in attendance. He was humble and gave a very nice talk. The young sister that spoke talked about a special gift she gave her nephew. She was sure he would love the gift and hug her and thank her. However, he was disappointed because it wasn't the gift he wanted. She said that experience taught her to be more thankful for the gifts she receives from Heavenly Father. Then 10 Polynesian Elders sang a song in their native tongue. It was beautiful.

Relief Society was a wonderful and inspiring meeting, with a conversion story, and special musical number, and then a talk by Sister Matsumori of the General Primary Presidency. She spoke about how important it was for us as missionaries to show love to the Primary children and to learn their names. She showed a short video clip, which I have seen before, showing children from all over the world with the song I Am A Child of God playing in the background in many different languages. We sang I Am A Child of God for the closing hymn and those who from other countiries were invited to sing it in their native language or in the language that they would be speaking on their mission, and many did so. It was powerful listening to all of the sisters sing in different languages.

The first day we were at the MTC we met an Elder from Palmyra. We saw him the next day and after that we thought it would be nice to take a picture of him to show to his parents when we got to NY. Every day we looked for him but never saw him. As we were eating dinner Monday night, our last night at the MTC, I said a silent prayer that we would find him before we left. We still didn’t see him during or after dinner. Then we went to the laundry to wash one load of clothes and to read our assignment for the next day. We were there for about 20 minutes and there was only one couple of young elders doing laundry. They left and two more young elders came in. We were amazed to see that one of them was the Elder from Palmyra! It wasn’t his P day but he was leaving on Wednesday and had permission to wash his clothing that evening. Again, we do not believe it was a coincidence that of 2,200 missionaries, we would be the only four in the laundry room at the same time!
We had his companion take a picture of the three of us and talked for a bit while our laundry finished. It turns out that grew up in Aloha, Oregon and knew Elder and Sister Weston when Elder Weston was the Oregon Portland Mission President. Then, his family moved to New York and the Westons were assigned to be the directors of the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. What a small world and what “tender mercies!”