Last May I had the wonderful opportunity to join my oldest sister and her family, along with our parents on a church history tour. My sister Karin had meticulously planned the entire trip and followed LDS church history from visiting Joseph Smith's family home in Palmyra to the site of his martyrdom in Nauvoo. The above map shows the date and location of major LDS church history events, we visited all the ones highlighted in purple, so we covered quite a bit of ground!
To be honest, I hadn't studied church history in much depth before this trip, I knew some of the major events and knew a vague timeline of the major happenings. This trip completely changed my thoughts on learning about my church's history. Actually seeing and standing in the exact places where these events took place was life changing for me. I gained such a deep respect and love for the early saints and everything they went through to bring the church to the Salt Lake Valley and to restore the gospel. It also helped me connect all the events in my mind, as we traveled the same route the early saints did. Now I love to study church history, being able to place all the events in a much more detailed timeline and actually be able to visualize the different locations makes all the difference. I owe a big thanks to my sister for inviting me along on this marvelous trip of hers, it is definitely an experience I will never forget, and will cherish forever.
As previously mentioned, our trip began in the small town of Palmyra, New York. We rented out this adorable house during our short stay in this town, it was the perfect home base for us as there were 11 in our party, it was nice to have a nice, large common area for us all to gather. Plus the basement was a totally awesome game room which was a big hit with the boys.
This was the only staircase up to the top floor. It was steep and extremely narrow, it was actually pretty scary to go up and down.
This was my little room. The bed was insanely comfortable, especially with all the pillows and the big, soft comforter.
The game room! I taught the boys how to play around the world on the ping pong table, we got some good exercise in playing endless rounds of that game.
The pool wasn't open for the summer yet, but the boys loved playing on the swings and slide on the lawn.
We even found a nest of brand new baby birds hidden above the slide. We saw a mama bird robin close by eyeing us closely so we took a couple of pics and left the babies alone so mama could come back and check on them.
For dinner our first night, we took a stroll through our neighborhood to Nima's Pizza. I could not get over how lush and green everyone's yards were! It was super humid and muggy, the perfect climate for beautiful gardens, a horrible climate for me.
The neighborhood was made up of beautiful victorian homes, they were all so gorgeous.
Karin got a list of "must eat" places in Pamyra from one of her friends which is how we found Nima's. We ordered two of their largest pizzas and needless to say, we had plenty of really delicious pizza to go around!
The first day of our tour began at the Palmyra Temple. A group of us went early in the morning to do baptisms, then the rest of the family met up with us after to spend some time in the sacred grove.
This temple has beautiful stained glass windows that were created by Holdman Studios located in Lehi, UT, the city where I currently live!
Each of the 159 currently operating temples located throughout the world are beautiful and are designed and constructed to reflect the city they were built in, and there are things that make each temple special. The things that set the Palmyra temple apart from the others are, it is built on the original site of the Smith family farm, it is one of three temples built in locations of historic significance for the early Church. (The other two temples are the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple and the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.) The Palmyra temple was dedicated 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) on April 6, 1830. The Palmyra Temple is the only LDS temple with a transparent window located in the waiting rooms. President Hinckley visited the temple during it's construction and asked for a transparent window to be added over looking the Sacred Grove. The plans of the temple had to be changed around a little to accommodate his request, but it was all worth it to give people the wonderfully special experience of standing in the temple looking out over the sacred grove.
We had a little extra time after finished our baptism session before the rest of the family met up with us, so we took a stroll through some of the surrounding forested area. It is such a beautiful place.
My sister has six boys and they are the sweetest family. All the brothers are best friends and love spending time together as a family. I admire the special bonds and friendships they have all created with each other.
After our time at the temple, we drove the short distance to the Sacred Grove.
"The beautiful tract at the west end of the [Smith family] farm is traditionally honored as the Sacred Grove—the place where God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in spring 1820.
Joseph was only a boy when he experienced his vision in the grove. Sources indicate that from a very young age he had pondered concerning his standing before God. He sought spiritual understanding through Bible study and attendance at religious meetings. But the heated religious debates of his time seemed confusing to young Joseph, especially when compared to the beauty and harmony of the divinely created natural world around him. His revelatory experience in the woods near his home filled his heart with love for many days and ushered in the dispensation of the fulness of times."
The Sacred Grove is a very special place for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints, out of all the places we were planning to visit, the Sacred Grove was the one I was the most excited to visit.
Before our trip, Karin assigned all the adults one or two of the sites we would be visiting so that we could prepare a little devotional to give to the family while at that site. Karin had prepared the devotional for the Sacred Grove, she recapped the story of the first vision and it's great importance in church history. Karin had also asked my parents to type up their testimony of the Book of Mormon, each of us received a copy of their testimonies and were asked to find a quite place in the grove were we could each take some time to read through their words and ponder our own feelings of the first vision and the Book of Mormon.
The grove is so quiet and peaceful and has a wonderful spirit around it.
Karin had asked me if I would be willing to take some family photos of her boys while we were in the grove. I am by no means a professional photographer and I find people pictures exceptionally hard to do, but I agreed to take a few shots for her hoped they turned out well and were what she was looking for. They definitely aren't professional grade photos, but the boys sure do look handsome in them.
I also took a few cute candids of the family while we were strolling through the grove.
I also took a family photo for them to use for their Christmas card. They are such a good looking family!
A little insight into the process of taking these photos ...