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, September 25, 2010


Palmyra was founded in 1789 and the Erie Canal played an important part in its early history as well as much of the early history of upstate New York. In fact, even today Palmyra is often referred to as "Canaltown".  Last weekend, September 18 and 19 was the 43rd Annual Canaltown Days here in Palmyra, complete with a parade on Saturday. 


Elder and Sister Werner, one of the senior couples here at the sites thought it would be a good idea if the local missionaries entered a float in the parade.

So Elder Werner drew up some plans with the help of his computer, and the missionaries started to work.  We projected the words, that were to carry our message on the float, onto a wall and traced them onto freezer paper.

Tables were set up in the basement of the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center, and as missionaries had time, they painted in the letters.
We are blessed to have Sister Weber, an art student, here on a mission. She did a large part of painting the frame divider for the float.  The front half of the float had a living room scene of a pioneer family and the back half a scene of a modern family.  The following message was on the side of the float:
On Saturday morning, the senior missionaries that weren't working at the sites met together to assemble the float.

We pounded and wired and stapled and taped!
We climbed ladders, draped crepe paper and had a good time!

Then we rested a little!

The parade took place on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM in downtown Palmyra.  Elder Watts and I didn't get to watch it because we were working at the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center, so Elder Hales, a fellow senior missionary took pictures for this blog post.
The family dressed as pioneers rode on the front half of the float . . .

. . . the modern family rode on the back half of the float. . .
. . . and six young missionaries walked beside the float handing out free copies of the DVD,
Together Forever and the pamphlet,

AND . . .our float took 3rd place! 

BEST OF ALL, we were able to share a message about the importance of families!

To get your free copy of Together Forever call the number on the sidebar of this blog.

Next post - more about the Erie Canal

Monday, September 20, 2010


In Preach My Gospel, a guide to missionary service, it states that our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  So, Elder Watts and I were excited yesterday to participate in the baptism of our friend Jim.  We met Jim several weeks ago when he attended Church and sat by Elder Watts.  He was seeking for a place to worship so we invited him to stay for other meetings and he did.
The next day we went to visit him with the sister missionaries who serve in our ward, Sister VanDenberghe, and Sister Valele.  Jim expressed a desire to learn more, so the two Sisters taught him, with our support, when we were able to have time away from the Sites. 

Last week we were also able to take Jim on tour of three of the sites where we serve.  We started at the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site.

From there we went to the Smith Family Farm and the Sacred Grove.

After a picnic lunch, which we ate indoors because it was cold, we spent some time at the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center.  It was a wonderful day!

It has been a blessing watching Jim grow in knowledge and testimony.  Yesterday was a real highlight for us when he was baptized.  Elder Watts baptized Jim and both Sisters spoke at the service.  Many members (about 40) of his new ward family and Jim's friends and family members attended to show support.

Baptism is an essential ordinance of salvation.  Christ set the example for us by being baptized.  We are excited to see our new friend, Jim, begin the process of being born again and becoming a spiritual son of Christ.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


While I was working as an elementary school teacher I was always delighted by the "apple gifts" students and families gave me as tokens of appreciation. I received a blackboard eraser with my name and an apple painted on it, kitchen towels with apples embroidered on them, apple aprons, apple stationary, apple jewlery, and yes, even real apples.  One student even brought me in a beatiful apple of enormous size!  It was about the size of a small pumpkin.

Now, while here in Palmyra, New York, serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am even more in love with apples.  Upstate New York is famous for its apples.  I'm sure you've all had a Seneca apple product.  These apples come from the beautiful apple orchards near where we live.  Last spring we went for a drive and ejoyed looking at the acres and acres of beautiful apple trees in blossom.  You can get a feel for what I'm talking about by viewing the pictures I took displayed in the short collage

Recently, we took the same drive, near the shores of Lake Ontario, in the rolling farm lands of upstate New York. We saw the same trees laden with delicious looking apples, nearly ready for the harvest!  See pictures of those trees in the following collage:

Since thinking about apples I've started wondering where the tradition of giving apples to teachers came from.  Because we have two farms here at the sites, the Whitmer Farm and the Smith Farm, I have also been thinking about farmers in the early 1800s a lot.  Most people during that time had gardens and fruit trees.  School started in the fall, after the harvest and apples would have been a gift  almost any family could afford to send a teacher.

This is an apple orchard on the Smith Farm and a close up view an apple on a tree in the orchard.


I did some internet research on why we give teachers apples and learned the following:

One of the common practices in Sweden, Denmark and the U.S. at the first day of school is giving apples to teachers. This tradition is practiced to show appreciation for the efforts of teachers in educating children and young people. To know why people associate apples with teachers, it is important to know the history of the tradition. In addition, it is also necessary to know what apples symbolize.

Apples and Teachers
Why are apples associated with teachers? People commonly see the fruit as a symbol of variety, change and growth. It symbolizes change and variety because it comes in different colors such as green yellow and red. Additionally, the fruit has various tastes like sweet, sour, as well as tangy.  Likewise, teachers play important roles to the emotional, mental as well as physical growth of students.

An apple from the Whitmer Farm

The PeterWhitmer farm home in Fayette, New York

The Tradition of Giving Apples to Students
Why are apples associated with teachers? Another reason why people associate apples with teachers is the tradition from the 16th century until 18th century in various countries including Denmark and America, in which parents paid educators with foods like fruits. During this time, teachers did not receive enough salary to sustain them. To compensate the efforts of educators and to make them feel special, parents paid them with different varieties of the fruit.

Teachers and the Bible
Some people associate apples with teachers because of the story in the Bible, which says that Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Even if the apple is not stated or mentioned in the first book of the Old Testament, there are people who still believe that apple is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Since teachers offer knowledge to students, individuals associate apples with them.

Modern prophets of the Mormon Church have always valued education and tried to instill that value in church members.  Additionally, in July of 2001, under the direction of the current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, the Perpetual Education Fund was established.  Through this fund The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped over 40,000 men and women throughout the world receive education, training and employment opportunities to better their lives and the lives of their families.

I want to send out to all students, of every age, and especially my grandchildren, that are embarking on a new year of education, the very best wishes for a wonderful and productive school year.  I also want to send great appreciation to teachers everywhere for their dedication and service to the cause of education!  Thank You!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


For the past few weeks at the Smith Family Farm and the Peter Whitmer Farm there has been an abundance of beautiful butterflies.  They love the butterfly bush and colorful flowers and I love taking pictures of them!

I found that if I stood very still the butterflies would land and drink the nectar from the flowers and I could take pictures to my heart's content.  It reminded me of this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne:

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

I remember the joy of my first grade students as they watched our class caterpillars turn into chrysalises and then to monarch butterflies. 
A day or so after they emerged as beautiful butterflies we would go outside and let them fly free.  Sometimes they would light on the children, much to their delight. But, before they became beautiful butterflies they had a difficult struggle becoming free from their chrysalises. 

In our own lives we also have many struggles.  It is part of our Heavenly Father's Plan.  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his conference talk, Finding a Safe Harbor, explained it this way:
 Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a special love for those who suffer. He is the Son of God, an eternal king. In His mortal ministry He loved them and blessed them.
To the meek and discouraged, His every word was one of compassion and encouragement. To the sick, He brought a healing balm.
Today Jesus the Christ stands at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. Do you suppose that today He is any less inclined to aid those who suffer, who are sick, or who appeal to the Father in prayer for succor?

Be of good cheer. The Man of Galilee . . .will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him. I testify that the Man who suffered for mankind, who committed His life to healing the sick and comforting the disconsolate, is mindful of your sufferings, doubts, and heartaches.
"Then,” the world would ask, “why does He sleep when the tempest rages all around me? Why does He not still this storm, or why would He let me suffer?”

Your answer may be found in considering a butterfly. Wrapped tightly in its cocoon, the developing chrysalis must struggle with all its might to break its confinement. The butterfly might think, Why must I suffer so? Why cannot I simply, in the twinkling of an eye, become a butterfly?
Such thoughts would be contrary to the Creator’s design. The struggle to break out of the cocoon develops the butterfly so it can fly. Without that adversity, the butterfly would never have the strength to achieve its destiny. It would never develop the strength to become something extraordinary.

President James E. Faust explained that “into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful.”  And then the suggestion that the adversity we experience allows our souls to become like clay in the hands of the Master. “Trials and adversity,” President Faust taught, “can be preparatory to becoming born anew.”
Adversity can strengthen and refine us. As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people. Even when we are called to sail through troubled waters, we need to know the place of adversity in shaping our divine potential.

If only we would look beyond our present suffering and see our struggles as a temporary chrysalis. If only we would have the faith and trust in our Heavenly Father to see how, after a little season, then we can emerge from our trials more refined and glorious.


I hope you enjoyed my butterfly pictures and the wonderful message of hope by Elder Wirthlin.  Watch for my next post, coming soon about apples - I know, the schoolteacher coming out in me again!