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

Monday, March 22, 2010


Welcome to the Smith Family Farm. Please step inside the Welcome Center and join us for a tour. . .
Hi, I'm Elder Watts, from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to the Smith Family Farm. Where are you from? Have you been to the sites before? This is Sister Watts. She will be taking you on your tour today. How much time do you have? What are you most interested in learning?
Welcome to this Sacred Site. Here in the Welcome Center I will tell you a little about the Smith Family. They arrived here in Palmyra in 1816 and for about two years they rented a home on Main Street while they earned enough money to obtain a farm. In 1819 the family purchased 100 acres 1 1/2 miles south of Palmyra. The reason this is a Sacred Site is because of a prayer offered by a young boy when he was 14 years old. In answer to his pray he saw a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Come with me to the Log Home and I will tell you more about that amazing event.
This log home was built by the Smith Family the first year they owned the farm. They cleared approximately thirty acres of timber (the land had as many as one hundred trees per acre) and used some of this timber to build the home. This home is a recreation of the original home, built on the same location as the original home. It took twenty years of historical and archaeological research to recreate this home. Eleven members of the Smith Family lived in this log home.
The recreated home was built by hand - using the same tools that the Smiths would have used. Tress were used primarily from the 100 acres. The pottery and ceramics were replicated based on fragments uncovered during the restoration using the same molds and glazes as the original fragments.
This first room we enter is called the kitchen or "keeping room." Here the family gathered for meals and each evening for reading of the bible by Father Smith.

This room (below) is the parlor. Here guests were welcomed; it was know as the"best room" for visiting and also as a sitting room for the family. However, its primary function was to serve as a master bedroom.In this home Joseph Smith learned of God, learned to love the scriptures, and pondered about religion. Here he read the scripture in James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him [her] ask of God, that giveth to all men [women] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him [her]. But let him [her] ask in faith, nothing wavering. . ."
As Joseph pondered on this scripture, he decided to ask in prayer, so one morning in early spring, in the year 1820, he went out the back door of the log home. He entered a grove of trees on the family farm and knelt in prayer. As he prayed he saw God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ. They spoke to him, calling him by name, telling him they had a work for him to do.
Three and a half years later, in this log home, Joseph was wondering about his standing with God, and was praying when a messenger sent from God, Moroni, a prophet who had lived on the American continent 4 centuries after Christ, appeared to him in the upstairs bedroom. He visited Joseph three times before daybreak and one time the next day. He came to instruct Joseph about a record written on gold plates, buried on a hillside close to his home. This record contained the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was another testament of Jesus Christ. This series of events happened on September 21 and 22, 1823.
At the age of 22, Joseph's older brother, Alvin, began to build this frame home. He started in November of 1822, but died in November of 1823 before the home was completed. Work on the frame home was finally completed three years after construction began and in November of 1825 the Smith family moved in. This first room we enter (pictured below), is the Parlor. This home has been restored and is 85% original. The parlor is the only formal room in the house and was used for receiving guests. The box on the dresser is a recreation of the box where Joseph originally kept the gold plated he retrieved from the Hill Cumorah, under Moroni's instructions. The original box is in Salt Lake City.
The boards on the left side of the room (below) are original, with the original siding showing through in the cracks. This is also the room where Joseph hid the plates under the hearth.

A small room off the kitchen served as a bedroom (below) when some of the daughters of the family would sleep at night to keep the fire going.
The pantry was next to this small bedroom and food and dried spices and herbs were stored in this room. Lucy Smith, Joseph's mother, was skilled at ministering to the sick with herbs and her skills were often in demand.
The kitchen was once again a gathering place for the family, and this is where Martin Harris had to report to Joseph Smith that he had lost the first 116 pages of the translated manuscript from the gold plates. This next room was the sitting room. The sitting room was an active, everyday workspace requiring a variety of household skills.
This room also served as a master bedroom. The blanket, sheets and window coverings are all homespun, hand-woven, and stitched up in the popular fashion of the time.
The floor covering is similar to the oilcloth covers that Lucy Smith made for floors, tables, stands and cupboards. She sold these covers and furnished the home with the money she earned.
Across the road from the frame home you will notice the threshing barn and cooper shop. These were very important building in the running of the farm.
We will visit the barn first. The original barn was demolished but this barn is located in the same space as the original barn. It is a renovated and relocated barn that belonged to John Young, Brigham Young's father. It was similar to the Smith barn and used for the same purposes.
It is called a threshing barn because it wasn't for the use of animals, but instead for threshing and storing grains. The bins (below) were for storing the grain once it had been threshed.

The tools are authentic for the time period when the Smith family would have lived and worked here. The large open floor space is for threshing the grain.

The harness room was a multipurpose room, used for storing harnesses and tools and doing odd jobs around the farm.
Beech trees are naturally hollow and made great storage containers for grain and other items in the barn.
The Smith family tapped twelve to fifteen hundred maple trees in a single season to produce maple syrup and sugar. Fires had to be kept going continually during the season in the early spring when the sap was harvested. It is probable that they boiled the sap to syrup in the yard area outside the barn.

Joseph, Sr. was a competent cooper. His greatest skill was in the making of barrels and kegs, but he also made buckets, tubs, butter churns, dye vats, and other common wooden containers.

Coopering was a very careful and demanding skill, particularly if barrels were designed to hold liquids. Sap buckets, in particular were in great demand in the spring when the sap began to run in the maple trees.
At one time Joseph hid the gold plates in the cooper shop, in a box under the floorboards to keep them safe. Receiving a prompting he removed them from the box and placed them under some flax in the loft. A malicious gang broke into the cooper shop, ripped up the floorboards and smashed the box, but didn't look in the loft and the plates were safe. As promised, Joseph through his obedience was able to keep them safe in his hands. I hope you have enjoyed the tour and felt the spirit of this place and these miraculous events. From here you can walk in the Sacred Grove. It is in this grove that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
This Sacred Grove is also the site where the 8 witnesses were able to hold the gold plates and later testified that they had handled the plates and knew of a surety that Joseph had translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.
Enjoy you walk in the Sacred Grove and allow yourself to feel of the quiet reverence in this sacred spot. Thank you for coming!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Welcome to the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center! We hope you enjoy our tour today.
We are Elder and Sister Watts from Boring, Oregon (we really say Portland) and we will be your tour guides.
We invite you to look around, pick up brochures you might enjoy, then we will begin the tour at the display across from the desk.
We think this site is the best place to start your tour of the Sacred Historic Sites in and around Palmyra. At the display below you will have an overview of all the other sites. We will give you a map to help you drive to the other sites.
The lobby in this site is welcoming and comfortable!
The Christus Room is one of the most beautiful parts of the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center Tour. This room is round and you will notice a large statue of Jesus Christ in the center of a curve of trees, painted to represent the Sacred Grove. As you sit quietly on upholstered benches, a recording of scriptures, spoken by Christ,will be played. This is a reverent and often touching part of the tour. (After listening to the recording we ask visitors to share their thoughts or feelings. Hearing these has been a choice experience for us.)
When you leave the Christus Room you will be taken to one of two theaters. There you will have an opportunity to view one of several videos about Joseph Smith or Testimonies of Jesus Christ. They range in length from 3 - 68 minutes.
Now that you have watched the video, please come with us into the "Resource Room" where you can wander on your own and look at displays and watch short videos on touch screens. The first display you will see is one of a statue of Joseph Smith during the First Vision.
Obtaining, protecting and translating the plates were important events leading up to the organization of the Church. Many interesting stories about those events are shown on the short videos in these displays.

One of our favorite learning experiences has been learning about the printing of the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. This display gives a brief outline of that story.
These displays show short video clips of events from the Book of Mormon. What is interesting is the figures in the displays match those in the video clips, hair color, clothing, gender, etc.

On April 6, 1830 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized, with 40 - 60 saints present in the little log home of Peter Whitmer, Sr. There were 6 members that signed the official charter: Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr. Samuel Smith and Oliver Cowdery. This display give a brief account of that event.
Hearing witness of the Book of Mormon in our day and the Restoration of the Priesthood in 1829 are the messages of these two displays.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world as taught here. These film clips show His teaching in the old and new worlds.
The last interactive display in the Resource Room is the one depicting modern prophets. Here you can use the touch screen to play several short clips of talks given by President Thomas S. Monson.
Now that you are finished in the Resource Room we invite you to go to the top of the Hill Cumorah. You can either drive or hike to the top. Once you arrive at the top of the hill you will be able to see the monument erected to honor Angel Moroni and the sacred events that transpired here.

Thank you for joining us on a tour of the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center. We hope you enjoyed the time you spent here. We suggest you next visit the Smith Family Historic Farm Site which is about 2 miles north of us, just off of Hwy 21 on Temple Road. You might enjoy looking at the Palmyra Stake Center on your right and the Palmyra Temple on your left as you drive on Temple Road to the Smith farm.

Personal Notes: We have enjoyed a variety of tours at this site. Two different people came for peace in their troubled lives, not really interested in a tour, and we were able to spend some quality time visiting with them. Two days ago we had a tour of 7 young men in a rock band. They were on a music tour and were from Salt Lake City, Utah. They had been on the road for 5 weeks and had three weeks to go. They were passing through on their way to Brooklyn and stopped in. We enjoyed visiting with them - they soaked up the spirit of this site. Many of our visitors share spiritual experiences with us as we conduct the tour. We had a newly wed couple, several large families, single adults, and older couples.

On the Friday we had a bad storm and we were assigned to work at this site. All of the schools were closed for miles around. The temple closed because of the storm and flights in and out of the Rochester airport were delayed, sometimes by a couple of days. A fellow missionary dropped us off to work because our car needed the brakes fixed and was in the shop. After she left us she ran off the road into a snowdrift so deep she couldn't even get out of her car. Luckily the couple we replaced was right behind her and came to her assistance. We asked ourselves if it was wise to keep the sites open under those conditions.

We got our answer when a family from Kentucky finished their tour. We talked with them and learned their story. It was a family with a grandmother, father, mother, and four daughters ages 11, 10, 7, and 5. They drove up from Kentucky the night before, a 13 hour drive, in the storm. The grandmother was in a wheelchair and using an oxygen tank. She told us she had been on life support 5 times in the past year. She lived in Florida and was in Kentucky visiting her daughter and her daughter’s family. It was a long time dream of hers to visit the Church Historic Sites in Palmyra and she was due to return to Florida in a week, so their time to come was limited.

So, in spite of the storm they drove those 13 hours to come and grant her a death bed wish. They had to return home the next day. Imagine if the site was closed when they arrived! I was so grateful we were there, even though the weather was treacherous.

We continue to be blessed with wonderful experiences at each of these special sites. Perhaps some of you can come see us and take a real tour!

Below are two of the bronze sculptures from a special exhibit here at the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center called The Healing Power of Jesus Christ.