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, August 29, 2010


One of the amazing blessing of serving our mission here in Palmyra, New York is being so close to the Palmyra Temple. We live 1/2 mile from this beautiful edifice. This temple was the 100th temple announced and was the first temple in the state of New York. I love this view of the temple as seen from the Smith Farm.

The grounds are so well kept, with flowers, grass and trees that invite a spirit of quiet and calmness; a refuge from the busy world.

During the winter months Elder Watts and I are privileged to serve in the Palmyra Temple in addition to our work at the Sacred Historic Sites and the Rochester 2nd Ward. We don't serve in the temple during the summer months because we are busier at the sites and also because approximately 15 couples come to Palmyra to serve as temple missionaries. These summer temple missionaries are needed because of the increased number of visitors that come to the historic sites and also want to worship in the temple while they are here.


This temple has amazing stained glass artwork on each of the windows. The artwork represents the Sacred Grove, which is just across the street from the temple. In fact, as one enters the temple it is as if he/she is entering the Sacred Grove, since the front doors have lead glass trees etched on them.


Outside of this temple and all other temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inscribed, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD, THE HOUSE OF THE LORD" which indicates that this is the house of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."
                                                                 Habakkuk 2:20


Below is the east side of the Palmyra Temple. We are looking at the windows on the right side of front door. Once again, the windows have the magnificent stained glass trees.


The two pictures below show the angel Moroni atop the Palmyra Temple. Because of the angel Moroni's role in restoring the everlasting gospel to be preached to all the world, a statue depicting him as a herald [vs. 6-7] of the Restoration sits atop many temples throughout the world.


Below is the north view of the Palmyra Temple, taken early one morning. Just below the bench seen in the foreground of the picture are some stairs. Under those stairs, below the cement are some very special rocks.  The man that was in charge of the building of the temple told us that he wanted a class of young children he taught in church to write their names on rocks to be placed under the soon to be poured concrete of the temple steps.  His wife thought it would be wonderful to let every child that lived in the temple district place a rock under the cement and so an invitation was sent out.  Soon the UPS delivery person had boxes and boxes of rocks to deliver to the Palmyra Temple that was now under construction.  These rocks were lovingly placed one by one in the dirt where the stairs would soon be poured.  Then, the location of each rock, with each child's name, was recorded.  After that the cement was poured.  I was touched by this act of kindness that involved the children of the temple district in this soon to be dedicated temple.


Below is the west side of the temple. There are some very special windows in this side of the temple. They are clear and provide a view of the Sacred Grove. This is the only temple in the world with clear windows that allow those inside to look outside. President Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophet that dedicated this temple, felt it was very important to be able to look out onto the Sacred Grove from inside the temple.  He said at the groundbreaking for the Palmyra Temple on May 25, 1999: “I regard this temple as perhaps the most significant, in one respect, in the entire Church. It was right here in the Sacred Grove where it all began.”

President Hinckley dedicated this temple on April 6, 2000 exactly 170 years after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized in Fayette, New York, about 30 miles from Palmyra. The dedicatory services of the Palmyra New York Temple were broadcast over the Church's encrypted satellite system to stake centers and Church facilities throughout North America. Elder Watts and I were excited to be able to attend one of those broadcasts.


Church leaders commissioned Utah artist Tom Holdman to create the Sacred-Grove-themed stained glass windows throughout the Palmyra New York Temple including a stained glass mural of the First Vision, which hangs in the hallway.


The inside of the temples of the Church are just as beautiful as the outside. To see pictures of various rooms in temples throughout the world click on this link:  Mormon Temple Virtual Tour

Learn more about why Mormons build temples by viewing the video:

Saturday, August 21, 2010


In Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 we learn, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven," including " . . .a time to laugh."  To me this scripture is talking about balance and a healthy mental and physical lifestyle.  As full time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we work very hard and we love our work.  For 18 months we are serving our Savior, Jesus Christ, full time as His representatives and we don't take any time for vacations.  However, we do have one day a week called a "Preparation Day."  We can use this day to take care of personal needs, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  We can also use the time for cultural and recreational activities.  Today was our Preparation Day.  Our family from Oregon came to visit us. (Yes seniors, your family can come visit you while you are on your mission, so come on out and serve!)  We decided to go to the Strong Museum of Play.

I am a big advocate of play.  I think it is one of the healthiest things we do as humans, and for children, play is their work.  As a trained educator in Early Childhood Education, I am sometimes dismayed at the trouble some children have in being able to enjoy good old fashioned play.  To find good ideas about how important creative play is go to my blog post for American Mothers.

We had a great time playing with our grandkids from Oregon.  This museum is wonderful,  I recommend it for all ages!  Below are some pictures of our day at the museum and some wonderful quotes about the importance of play.

"Play is our brain's favorite way of learning."
Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American Author

"It is a happy talent that knows how to play."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Writer

"A child loves his play not because it's easy, but because it's hard."
Benjamin Spock

See my Superhero rescue my grandson!

"Almost all creativity involves purposeful play."
Abraham Maslow, American Psychologist

The Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is amazing and I fulfilled a lifelong dream, I got to see a Morpho Butterfly!  Unfortunately, they didn't land for long so I didn't get a picture, but I enjoyed watching them.
The fish were fun to watch too!

About a year ago, one of our 12 Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar gave an address to some college students titled, "Things as They Really Are."  He was admonishing young adults, but really all of us, to take care that we participate in real world activities with real people (adult play).  He said, " . . .all of us can find enjoyment in a wide range of wholesome, entertaining, and engaging activities."  He continued, " Sadly, [people] today ignore 'things as they really are' and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions, and detours that have no lasting value."  This is an excellent address and I highly recommend it for everyone. 

And don't forget, go out and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Saturday morning we stopped by the Wayne County Fair for a couple of hours.  We wanted to support our local community; the fair was less than a mile from our home.  We also wanted to support our missionaries, who had a booth at the fair.
We enjoyed the barrel racing and draft horses (above) and the fruits and vegetables and flowers (below).

We especially enjoyed the Tractor Pull.  We had never heard of this event until our granddaughter from Minnesota won two tractor pulls in a row.  We think she wins because she has her own toy tractor with a wagon and she pulls her little sister around the house in it at amazing speeds. We took these pictures in her honor. 

I always enjoy looking at animals and taking their pictures.  There were some very colorful roosters, noisy geese and adorable rabbits to keep me happy and my camera busy.


Of course fun food is always a treat at the county fair.  Steven selected sauerkraut and a sausage for a taste of Slovakia.  I on the other hand couldn't resist the Scout in the taco costume, so I had a taco plate. We passed on the BBQ Chicken, even though it was amazing to see so much of it on the grill.  We had this dinner during the pageant and wanted to spread our wings (not chicken wings) and try something new. 

But our very favorite spot at the fair was the booth sponsored and ran by our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Sister Brent and Sister Meaders were working at the booth when we stopped by. They had quite a group gathered around waiting their turn to shoot hoops and win a prize.  Those who hit seven out of seven baskets got a free DVD about Jesus Christ.  Hitting four baskets earned the contestants a free Book of Mormon, and everyone won a piece of candy and a picture for trying.  Of course, anyone was welcome to request a visit from our missionaries to bring them a message about Jesus Christ.

You can learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by visiting mormon.org.

Coming next week: The Palmyra Temple

Thursday, August 12, 2010


In the 1960's my family went to Disneyland in California.  One of the newest rides was "It's a Small World After All".  I fell in with the ride and in subsequent visits to Disneyland it remained one of my favorites. I know, I know, how can it compare to the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones or even Pirates of the Caribbean, but don't forget, I'm from the generation that thought the Tea Cups and the Jungle Rides were amazing!

I especially liked the song, though my husband says once he hears it it gets stuck in his head.  I guess it gets stuck in my head too, since I have named this and a previous blog post by the title of the song.  Just for fun click on the link above and you will feel like you are right there in Disneyland on the ride.  (A person can find anything on the Internet!)

Anyway, we continue to love greeting and meeting people and hearing their stories as they visit the sites here in New York where we are serving our mission.  And we continue to be amazed at the connections we have with what seem to initially be complete strangers.  So, here is our second post of "It's a Small World After All":

We ran into Shelley Brady and her family at the Smith Farm.  Shelley is the 2010 Mother of the Year for Oregon (I was the 2009 Mother of the Year) and our husbands knew each other as stake presidents of neighboring stakes.

This is Bruce and Sharon Parker from Rexburg, Idaho and they know our son-in-law's father, Sam Christiansen.

This family is from Utica, New York where the father/husband attends Cornell and they know my niece, Mindi Martin, who also attends Cornell.  They are in the same ward.

This is Amanda.  She is the niece of my high school friend, Aleda Nelson.  I haven't seen Aleda for over 41 years, since high school, but I really looked up to her.  It really is a small world!

My twin brother, Michael, lives in California, and this is his bishop, Bishop Heath and his son Mike.  They were both involved in the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

We ran into this great lady at the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center and then again at the top of the Hill Cumorah.  She lives in Utah and is Goldie Burton's younger sister.  Goldie was Mother of the Year for Oregon in 2008 and was in a couple of parades with me.

Here is Joe and Shelley Belingheri from Henderson, Nevada.  Henderson is a neighboring town to Las Vegas, where I grew up.  The Belingheri's are good friends with my sister-in-laws' parents, the Millers.  My sister-in-law is Leslie Miller Martin, married to my younger brother Jerry.

Alan and Jennie Jones came to the Whitmer Farm while we were working there.  They now live in North Carolina, but they used to live in Portland and Alan worked with our good friend, Paul Hayball.  While working in Oregon they used to go visit Paul and Sally in Boring, Oregon, our town. And please don't ask if it's boring in Boring!

The three boys on the left are the sons of Mark Beck who now lives in Corning, New York, but grew up in Sandy, near our home in Oregon.

Our friends from Gresham came to see the sites and the Hill Cumorah Pageant.  They are Brock, Ariel, Steve, and Paula Johnson.  We were so happy to see them and to attend the pageant with them one evening!

We also saw the Houstons, that we know from the Portland temple.  They worked the same shift at the temple as we did.  They also came to see the pageant.  It is so fun to see friends from home!

While we were working at the Grandin Building where the Book of Mormon was first published, we were excited to see an old friend from Oregon, now living in Arizona, come in for a tour.  Sarah was in our stake when Steven was Stake President, attending the Young Single Adult Ward.  She is also friends with our daughter, Nola and her husband, Mike.  Sarah is now Sarah Horwinski and the Horwinskis are expecting their first child in April!

Not pictured:

Mary and David Lunsfod and Laurie and Rob Burdett and Barbara  - These people knew Heidi when she was in high school.  Heidi is married to our son Slade.

Marilyn Beck is a good friend that used to live in Oregon and now lives in Utah.  Our kids were also friends with each other.  She was in Corning visiting with her sons, Mark and Andrew and brought her sister to Palmyra to see the sites.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Boy Scouts Came . . .

This year the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 100th year here in America at their National Jamboree in Virginia.  Our grandson, Kolby was one of over 43,000 Boy Scouts that attended!
Many of these Boy Scout Councils came to the Hill Cumorah Historic Sites either on their way to or from the Jamboree. 

Below is one group of Scouts that stopped by the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center during the
pageant.  Another  group attended the last night of pageant and got in a good turn for the day by helping a very grateful pageant cast put up over 6.000 chairs at 10:30 PM!

Today "all hands were on board" to meet and greet and take on tour over 800 Boy Scouts on their way home from Jamboree.  These are a few of the 18 charter buses that visited the sites today.  (This picture was taken on our back patio.)  All of these boys visited all four sites here in New York.


We, Elder and Sister Watts, worked at the Smith Family Farm, greeting Scouts as they entered the Sacred Grove.  It was a choice experience.  They were reverent and respectful of this sacred site.

Usually we have six missionaries assigned to work at the Smith Farm.  Today we had 20 missionaries to handle the large group of Scouts.  Even still, they had to wait their turn for a tour of the farm.  They  waited patiently.

Once it was their turn they went in groups of 30, guided by our wonderful Sister Missionaries.


When they weren't on tour of the Smith Farm they gathered together for instruction from their leaders before entering the Sacred Grove.  Part of that time included passing out letters written by their parents, to be read in the Sacred Grove.  Scouts could be found throughout the Grove quietly reading these special letters.


We handed out maps of the Grove and gave directions all afternoon.


The boys came, with letters in their hands, into the Grove.  Many were touched by the experience: the tour, the Grove and the letters; as we noted when they left the Grove.


And then they departed, in large bunches, just as they came. . .reverent, respectful, and renewed.  One leader told us the parents were so excited about the opportunity their sons would have to tour these Sacred Church Historic Sites.  They go to Niagara Falls and Church Sites in Kirtland, Ohio tomorrow and then fly home from Cleavland on Tuesday.

We were thankful for the chance to meet so many fine young men.  And we were also thankful for their wonderful leaders that sacrificed so much to give these boys such a memorable experience!