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

Friday, December 31, 2010

CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS: VI - A Visit Better Than St. Nick!!!

Besides wrapping gifts for school children, watching the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, mailing Christmas cards, and decorating, what else can cheer up holiday homesick senior missionaries more than a visit from grandkids.  Of course it's always nice to see their parents too.

Picture at Grandin Building

So, imagine how happy we were to see our oldest daughter, her husband and their three kids when they arrived here two days before Christmas!  It was fun to do many of our traditional activities like hanging stockings . . .

. . .opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve . . .

 . . .leaving cookies, milk, and a note for Santa . . .

. . . and enjoying a nice Christmas meal.  (It's not that exciting cooking for two, so we were glad to have a group to cook for.)

Christmas morning was fun too!!!

On other days we loved taking our family on tours around all of the Sites.
The Smith Family Farm (above) and the Sacred Grove (below)

The Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site

The Peter Whitmer Farm

The Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center

We also enjoyed Skyping with our other children in Oregon and Minnesota.  We are so thankful for all of our children and their families and the kindness and love they showed us during this Christmas Season while we were away from home.  We are also thankful for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that gives us the knowledge of the wonderful principle of Eternal Families.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The theme of the past few posts has been about the things Holiday Homesick missionaries do to keep from being so homesick.  One thing that is very satisfying for me is sending and receiving Christmas cards.  I LOVE sending them, thinking of each recipient as I address the card and the good memories I have of the times we spent together, whether it was very recent or many years ago.  It reminds me of a Girl Scout song I learned as a kid.  We sang it in rounds - Make New FriendsIn case you don't go to the link, the words are:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver 
 the other's gold.

Besides sending Christmas Cards, I LOVE receiving them.  I love all kinds of Christmas cards, traditional cards, Christmas letters, Christmas cards with family pictures, and yes, even the electronic cards.  And being away from home this Christmas made them even dearer to me than ever. 

Every single card we received was a treasure, but we were especially touched by the one in the picture below.  It arrived very early in December addressed to Elder and Sister Watts.

On the left side of the card was the following scripture:

And his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace

On the right side of the card was the following message:

May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be in your hearts and homes as we celebrate the birth and mission of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
And it was signed by The First Presidency (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  It also had their picture below the message.  We know it was sent to all the missionaries and that they didn't individually sign it, but we love it anyway.  It will always be a reminder of our mission Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Decorating, for me, is an important part of the Christmas season. I guess I inherited the tendency from my mother, the only person I know that hangs Christmas ornaments from the ceiling (or she did when we were kids). When I was a child I thought it was magical! Now, our youngest daughter does the same. I like to decorate our entire house – it is fun for me. But, when we left Oregon in January, we didn’t pack any Christmas decorations – there simply wasn’t room.

And, it wouldn’t make sense to buy many decorations here, because going home there won’t be room either. So, I was not expecting much to happen in the way of Christmas decorating on our mission. I seem to remember stories of missionaries cutting out paper trees and putting them on the walls of their apartments (maybe our kids). In Elder Watts’ case, as a young missionary, he got a Christmas tree for free on Christmas morning.

For us, now as adult missionaries in New York, little by little, things started looking hopeful as far as decorations go. On our way to our mission last January, we stopped in Utah to see relatives. Our oldest daughter gave me my Christmas present, that didn’t get mailed. It was three very beautiful Christmas decorations, two ornaments and a cute box.

Then, last February, when our neighboring missionaries left, they gave us their beautiful lighted wreath and an artificial tree.

Another daughter and her husband gave us two more tree ornaments, relevant to our mission, a crystal maple leaf and a fox ornament.

When we moved to our new apartment in November, we found a table centerpiece and another wreath.

So, the day after Thanksgiving we hung a wreath on our door and another one on our wall. We put up our “Charlie Brown” artificial tree, with lights and decorations that came in the box.

To my delight we found some other decorations in the box including a darling nativity set.
We did buy ourselves some stockings – I couldn’t get through Christmas without stockings.

Next, an unexpected package arrived in the mail from yet another daughter, gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas, most of which were more decorations. YEAH!

As we went to work at the Smith Farm one morning shortly after Thanksgiving, it so happened that the Facilities Management team was there to decorate – so, they were kind enough to let me help.

The next day, at the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center, Elder Watts and I were there doing some organizing in one of the storage areas and to my delight, the Facilities Management Team was there doing some decorating, and again, they let me help. Let’s see . . .organize a storage area or decorate for Christmas . . .I choose decorating.

To me, these experiences testify that God is mindful of me and my insignificant desires. I love everything about the Christmas season and I especially love that we reflect on our Savior, Jesus Christ and His birth. And I love knowing that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me. He loves each of you too – that is the good news of the Gospel!

Here are some of the decorations from the Sites in Palmyra and Fayette:

You might also enjoy going to the following link to read about Christmas in Palmyra at the Historical Sites.  Elder Watts is quoted and Sister Watts has some pictures posted.  http://www.mormontimes.com/article/18922/Experiencing-Christmas-at-LDS-Church-sites-in-Palmrya


Friday, December 10, 2010


While it's true, we won't be home for Christmas and will miss seeing our grandchildren in Oregon,  it buoyed our spirits to help with the local elementary school's Santa's Breakfast last Saturday.
Several Senior Missionaries and Young Sisters showed up to help.  We started out before the breakfast officially began by washing tables in the cafeteria to prepare for the guests.

As families arrived they had several options, one of which was a visit with Santa.  Needless to say, that's where most families went first.

After meeting with Santa, families went to breakfast.  Elder Watts was a greeter and checked tickets.

 Some of the Senior Sisters helped serve the food . . .

. . . while the Senior Elders cleared and washed tables as families finished eating.

And, as families ate their breakfasts, other missionaries sang Christmas carols.

Another activity available to families was Santa's Shop. Here visitors could buy gifts for $1.50 each.  Once they were finished shopping, they could get their gifts wrapped for free. 

Some of the Senior Sister Missionaries helped out with the gift wrapping . . . I was one of them.  Those who know me, know that I love wrapping gifts and I love kids  . . .what a perfect combination for me.
It was so much fun to talk with these little shoppers. They were so proud of their purchases and happily told me who each gift was for, adding things like, "I know my grandma will like this."
The gifts were simple, but bought with love for each recipient.  It helped me focus on what really matters at Christmas.  It doesn't have to be a big, expensive, gift - it really is the thought that counts, as trite as that sounds.  And once again I realized, if a person is "down in the dumps", or in our case, a couple of "holiday homesick missionaries"; serving others is the perfect antidote.  This video clip eloquently expresses what I'm trying to convey.

Monday, December 6, 2010


What else do two holiday homesick missionaries in New York do to celebrate the holidays?  Well  . . . we won't be home for our traditional Watts Family Christmas Devotional where we share talents,

eat good food,

and act out the Nativity. 

We will miss these events.

But we can and we did watch The First Presidency Christmas Devotional

Elder Watts and I opened the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center after hours.  We usually close at 6:00 PM in the winter, but we kept it open until after the devotional was over at 9:00 PM, inviting missionaries to bring friends to watch it in the large theater at the center.   Unfortunately, blizzard like conditions kept many away, but there were 18 of us in the theater, young Sister Missionaries, young Elders, Senior Couples, and one investigator.

And even though it was cold outside, the devotional warmed our hearts and we were filled with the Christmas Spirit.

And, as usual, it was excellent!  We loved the music provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square.

President Dieter E. Uchtdort spoke first using one of my favorite children's stories, The Grinch, to illustrate the importance of focusing on the meaning of Christmas, encouraging us to "Rejoice in the birth of our Savior".

Next President Henry B. Eyring reminded us that part of the Spirit of Christmas is to bring joy to others and to remember the importance of the Atonement.

President Monson concluded with a message about giving with love.  He told of a man named John who was stationed in Germany after WWII.  John had a frail German woman that cleaned his house.  She gave him a gift out of her poverty that he remembered the rest of his life.

The gift was some worn postcards from the way this woman remembered the Germany that she loved before it was destroyed by war.  She had placed 10 of these cards in the shape of a star and left them on his desk with a handwritten message "Merry Christmas."  John said this humble gift taught him the true meaning of giving.

Look for our next post on how Holiday Homesick Senior Missionaries celebrate by serving.