Thursday, October 31, 2013

Holy cow and Halloween



By Greg:

I have often said that if I have to come back to earth as a cow, as some believe, that I hope I get to be a cow on the Hawaiian Islands.  But maybe a cow at Adam-ondi-Ahman would be nice too!

Today is October 31, 2013.  It is Halloween.  Debi and I were married 40 years ago, tomorrow.  We first set our wedding date as Wednesday.  But we soon moved it to Thursday when we realized Wednesday was Halloween.  I guess getting married was scary enough.  But we also did not want to spend all of our anniversaries trick or treating.  Well, we have rarely celebrated on the exact date as Halloween did interfere. Of course, our children have usually come first.  We did celebrate once in Hawaii.  But Halloween in Hawaii is another story.  The call it the Mardi-grais of the Pacific.  This is not at our wedding date, but I still think we look cute.

Today our sweet little Georgia Lewis, soon to be known as Gigi (with a strong G, not a Z) was born in West Virginia.  I don’t have all the stats, but the report is after a long day of labor, mother and daughter are doing fine.  She may have red hair like her mother.  She also does not have any teeth, like most of the people in WV. We now have 31 beautiful grandchildren and we love each one.
I guess Gigi will always be a citizen of West Virginia.

Debi left yesterday to be with Millie and Gigi and to tend Aurora and Dash. Oh Robert fits in there somehow.  So I am left "a lone man in the Garden of Eden".  Yes, remember, Joseph said the garden was here in Jackson County.  Is it good for man to be alone?

As I do not have a companion I have been working in the office today helping Elder Lilywhite with acquiring and furnishing apartments for missionaries.  We need to find 8 apartments and furnish them in the next week.  We have been buying second-hand furniture today.  We have what they call the “Bat Cave” in the basement of the Stake Center.  There is a full basement under the Church that is a multi-purpose area.  It is rough and unfinished, and it is a good place for scouts, storage and a tornado shelter.  Who knows what is there?  There must be over 50 missionary bikes, as well as odd furniture and stuff.  Some is really odd.


I went swimming this morning before reporting to work.  I turned on the radio.  I learned that if you are a sex offender in Missouri you are not allowed to be outside from 3 to 10 tonight (Halloween) and you have to put a sign on your home that says you have no candy to give away and that children should stay away.  Tonight that sounds pretty much like me.

Yesterday I went with the Sisters to Cameron to teach our investigator, Andrew, another lesson.  Debi was gone so I arranged with a member sister to go with us so there were three sisters and me in my truck.  That was OK, I guess?  We taught him the Plan of Salvation.  I tried to let the sisters teach, but I did add some, especially when Andrew asked questions.  I love teaching as a missionary.

At one point Andrew asked, “So when we were with our Father in Heaven before we came to earth we were pure, without sin, and then we came to earth and sinned, but you are telling me that we can go back to our Father in Heaven clean and pure again.  How is this done?  How is that possible?  I cannot even imagine that.  That is amazing!”

Yes Andrew, it is amazing.  It is possible.  It is true.  As the Lord told Enos when he asked the same thing, it is because of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  I felt such a spirit as I bore testimony that it is true.  And yes, I too am amazed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Impact Families

By Greg:

Several years ago, my mother compiled a book about the original settlers of our town.  She called it The Impact Families of Hooper.  Well, all families have an impact, but she selected several that she thought the family members especially were memorable.


This week we were out in the country looking for Young Single Adults who are on the Church records.  We met a young man, who, with his family, lived on a long dirt road many miles north of Richmond, Missouri.  The family is active in the Church.  I asked the father how he came to be in the Church “way out here?” He said that he was born in the Church.  In the 1930s, missionaries walked down these roads and met his grandparents.  They accepted the message and became an “impact” family in the Church.  All of his uncles, aunts and cousins were and are Mormons.  Now, his children are as well.  The young man had recently had a serious auto accident, but plans to serve a mission when he is fully recovered.


One of the “impact” families in Church History is the Whitmer family.  Peter and Mary Whitmer were one of the early converts.  It was in their home that the Church was organized.  They had eight children, five sons and three daughters,  one daughter died young, but the other two married Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page.  So, two of the Three Witnesses and five of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon were from their family (counting there sons-in-law).

This is the new monument in Liberty, close to the Temple, in memory of the Missouri Leaders, the Eight Witnesses, Zion's Camp, and the Sadler Farm.

The Whitmers ended up here in Missouri.  When Joseph Smith came with Zion’s Camp he organized the Presidency of the Church in Missouri.  David Whitmer was called to be the President with W.W. Phelps as 1st counselor and his brother, John Whitmer as 2nd counselor.


The financial and other troubles that happened in Kirtland in 1837 spread to Missouri.  Joseph and Sidney Rigdon found it necessary to leave Kirtland in the middle of the night in January of 1838.  Their families joined them and they traveled overland in the winter.  Emma was six months pregnant with four little children at her side.


While they were in route the High Council at Far West, under the leadership of Thomas B. Marsh (who was also the President of the 12) and Apostle David W. Patten, held councils and excommunicated the entire Missouri Presidency, as well as some of the other Whitmers, including Oliver Cowdery.  This must have broken Joseph’s heart when he finally arrived at Far West and found that many of his oldest friends had turned on the Church, and him!


Some of them came back, but none of them ever denied their testimony of seeing the plates.  In fact, their mother, Mary Whitmer, was also shown the plates by the angel, the only women on record to do so.


Oliver and several other Whitmers are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond.  Many years ago the Church erected a monument there honoring the Three Witnesses and the Whitmers.  David Whitmer lived longer and is buried in the city cemetery in Richmond. 

This is the stone at David Whitmer's grave.

Christian Whitmer was the first to die.  He died “in the faith” before that terrible period.  He is buried at another site.  A monument was placed there in 2011 to honor the Eight Witnesses, Zions Camp, the Sadler farm (where the Saints found work and refuge when they were expelled from Jackson County) and those who died during the Cholera epidemic at the end of the Zions Camp experience.


We were driving along a dirt road near Excelsior Springs when we saw a monument.  We stopped and found that it was the grave site of another Whitmer family member, Hiram Page.


John Whitmer is buried near Kingston.  We have not been to that site yet.  Kingston is named after Judge Austin King, who was one of the judges who tried Joseph Smith.  He later became the Governor of Missouri and is buried near David Whitmer.  When the Saints were driven out of Caldwell County, the citizens that moved in did not want Far West to be the county seat so they started a new town and called it after Judge King.  Today, Kingston is the county seat of Caldwell County.  This is Judge/Governor King's marker.

This mission is becoming an interesting and enlightening experience.  When I left the mission field, 40 years ago, I thought my life of “tracting” had come to an end.  I was not unhappy at that thought.


Sister Haws and I have embarked on a mission of “search and rescue” here in the Liberty Stake.  On the rolls are 568 individuals that are designated as young (18 to 30) single adults.  What we are finding is that many are not single, and a lot are no longer here.  They have moved on, often to points unknown.


I am the first to acknowledge a person’s right, or agency, to belong and participate in the Church, or not.  But, it is hard when the Church keeps a person’s record and assigns them to a particular unit.  The leaders of that unit, and often missionaries like us, who are there to assist them, have a charge to seek out all of those who once entered into the Church by baptism.


As we drove around the neighborhoods this past month, looking for the homes of those we were seeking, it was as though I could see the past.  I could see young missionaries going up and down those streets.  They were knocking on the doors of those very homes.  This happened many times and over a period of many years.  Most people did not accept their invitation or message, but some did.  A number of those invited them in and listened to what they had to say and a few, a small few, accepted it and decided to join with them in fellowship.  There then followed a joyous baptismal service. The missionaries wrote home and expressed their joy to their parents.  Then there followed a period of activity and involvement.  Often there were children who attended Primary and many of the boys were ordained to the priesthood at age 12 and the girls joined in the Young Women’s program.


We are happy to report that many stayed and the impact of them staying is being felt by those who are happily participating in the Church.


Now for some of them something changed.  If that family still lives there, the deacon or young woman (who is now in his or her 20s) most often does not live there.  They may have moved on to marriage, the military, school, or just moved on.  Most no longer want to affiliate with us; some are more adamant than others about that.  Some are angry and express rage.  This breaks our hearts.  We wonder what the source of such hurtful feelings was.  We know that we are not the true target, but it is to us that the rage is directed.  We then apologize, retreat and try to express love and an invitation:  Please come back!


I know all the research.  I understand the categories. I can speak to why some choose not to affiliate with the Church.  But we are now looking into the faces of the people.  Most of the people we contact are experiencing various levels of upheaval and drama in their lives.  We wonder if they had stayed with the Church and the principles taught by the Apostles and Prophets would they have found more happiness in their lives.  We have. We know God has a plan of happiness.  I have always held that the root of sin lies in thinking that we have a better plan of happiness than God does.  When we repent, we first have to acknowledge that we were wrong, and he was right.  That is a very hard thing to do, and that is where both humility and godly sorrow enter into the process.


When I was a young missionary, and we encountered a person who gave us a strong rebuke, we felt the influence of that rebuke for several minutes, often hours, and in a few cases days.  We did several things to dispel the negative feeling, but always we had to have sorrow, empathy and love for the person who rebuked us, before we could move on.  I remember several times stopping and saying a pray that both them and us could overcome the darkness we felt.  Sister Haws and I have now had that same experience several times, and we are certain we will have it again, but we hope we can move on.  We know it will still take sorrow, empathy and love.


Our message to all is “Come Back”.  The scriptures say there is joy in Heaven when someone comes back.  The joy is felt not only by their friends and fellow Church members, but we know there is joy that is to be felt by them.  So, again, our message is, “Come Back!”


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Elder Ballard and this week

By Debi:


This last week we have been traveling all other northern Missouri.  The autumn leaves are starting to turn bright red, orange and yellow.  The weather has been beautiful but it is getting colder every day.


We have had two experiences this week that I would like to share. One late afternoon we were looking for a Young Single Adult in the town of Richmond.  Just as a side note, there are a couple of special monuments in Richmond.  One is the statue of General Doniphan who plays a big part in Mormon Missouri history and the Monument to the 3 witnesses. Back to the story, the apartment was located in a very old dumpy two story school.  The kind of school that most have burned down or been torn down.  As we walked in the door there was a big sign telling all tenants the rules; no drugs, no selling drugs (even in the parking lot) no going into other apartments and stealing stuff, etc. I was very surprised to read the rules but I was also determined to knock on the apartment door.  I wasn’t going to come this far and have fear stop me from finding that YSA.  We knocked on the door and no one answered.  But out of another apartment came a young man who actually looked very nice.  He asked us who we were looking for and he told us that the man we were looking for had moved to another town.  This young man saw our name tags and asked us about our Church.  He asked if we were preachers.  We told him that we were missionaries.  He told us that he use to go to a Baptist church but his mother had died 6 months before and he felt lost and wanted to be part of a religion.  We talked to him for a little while and he said that he would like the missionaries to come and teach him about our church. We wrote down all of his information and promised him that the young Elders would be by soon.  As we left the building I couldn’t really believe that we had just had that experience.  We almost didn’t go in because of fear and we would have missed meeting and helping this special young man.  We have called the Elders with the information and they are right on it.


The second experience was that same night. We went to a home of a young man that we were looking for.  He was at work but his mother spoke to us for quite a while.  She told us that she was not happy that her son had joined our Church.  She is Catholic and she was very hurt.  She told us that she doesn’t think Mormons are Christians and that we are a cult.  We were very sympathetic to her feelings and we both bore our testimonies that we are Christians and that we have a firm testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer.  I think she felt a little better after our discussion.  We told her we would talk to her anytime she wanted to explain our beliefs and help her understand that her son is not part of a cult.  She had been to a meeting with her friend of a Pentecostal church and a special speaker had come and told them all about the Mormon Church. It made me very sad that there are still people out there preaching that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not a Christian faith.  I hope we were able to soften her heart just a little.


Wow, we are having all kinds of experiences.  I have to say that this assignment is a little different from auditing!  We will truly have served two different missions. 


Our camera did not do this justice.  It has been a full moon this week.  We have been marking our mission by full moons.  The moon comes up on the horizon without mountains and it looks so huge.  It nearly takes our breath away.


By Greg:


Yesterday we took a day and went biking on the KATY rail-to-trail bike trail.  We over did it but it was so beautiful.  We have previously ridden this trail from St. Louis to here.  After a long ride we were very hungry so we decided to stop to eat at the local Golden Corral.  We were worried that we would not be properly dressed, but our fears were put to rest when we got in the restaurant.  I think this is the local chapter of the Duck Dynasty.   About half the men had long beards and many of the women were wearing duck hunting jackets.  We enjoyed listening to their conversations.  This was country at its best. I said those duck men were starting a fashion trend and Debi thinks these people have always dressed and looked like that and the duck men are just a reflection of reality.


Well, so much for that. We have had quite the week.  Last weekend we participated in the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Liberty Jail Visitor center.  It was wonderful.  They had a “reader’s theater” that was put on by direct descendants of Joseph Smith, some who are members of our Church.  One of them has been a bishop.  It was very moving.


Sister Susan Easton Black Durrant came and gave a presentation.  Many of our children have taken classes from her.  Her husband died and now she is married to George Durrant (father of Devin) and they are serving a temple mission in Nauvoo.  It was fun to meet her after all we have heard about her.  She also knows our son JB and said nice things about him.


As part of the Liberty Jail 50th anniversary the Kansas City Chapter of the BYU Alumni Association held a BBQ, a fundraising auction and hosted an additional speaker.  They auctioned several things.  One of them was a replica of one of the keys to the original Liberty Jail.  The RLDS claim to have the real one, but we also have one, and ours is much bigger, and it is on display in the visitor’s center.  Anyway, they are not making any more of these replicas so they auctioned it off.  It started at $20.  I was willing to pay that.  We would have probably given it to JB.  As some of you know, I was once involved in the Christmas Tree Festival in Ogden.  I know a little about charity auctions and how to bid things up.  Well I helped out this BYU chapter by bidding on this. It sold for $300!  I got out just in time, and I don’t think the guy who won knew what happened.  It was fun, but I scared Debi a little.  Oh, the RLDS does have the door, and they loaned it to us for a while to display.  But now it is in the basement museum at their temple.  So it might make sense that they also had the key.  Ours was given to us by a lady from Liberty in her will who said it was the actual key and she wanted the Mormons to have it when she died.


As I said, Elder M. Russell Ballard came and gave a fireside Sunday night.  Everyone that came needed a ticket to get in.  It started at 7:00pm and they opened the doors at 6:00pm.  All of the seats were gone by 6:30.  It was a great event.  He came because Hyrum Smith is his great-great-grandfather (Elder BallardHis mother, who was a Smith—Her father, Hyrum Mack Smith, who was also an apostle—His father, Joseph F. Smith, who was the 7th president of the Church—son of Hyrum Smith, brother to the Prophet, Joseph). Of course, Hyrum was in Liberty Jail with Joseph.  He was always by Joseph’s side.


Elder Ballard also has his family on his father’s side which includes his grandfather, Melvin J. Ballard, who was an apostle.  But his great-grandfather also has a Missouri story.  I discovered this while reading about a river boat on Good Friday on April 7, 1852.  This is not a story about Missouri persecutions, but rather of kindness and Christian service by the citizens of Lexington, Missouri.


Henry Ballard was 22 years old and a single man who came from England to New Orleans on the sailing ship Kennebee.  He was a sheep herder traveling with the family of his fiancĂ©e, Elizabeth, who is listed as being 26 years old.  Her father, George May, was also a shepherd.  Henry Ballard had with him two sheep dogs.


They traveled up river to St. Louis on a Mississippi riverboat.  At St. Louis, they boarded the Missouri riverboat, Saluda.  It took several days to get up river.  They had booked passage to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they planned to join a wagon train company and “cross the plains”.

At Lexington the Missouri River makes a bend.  The current was very great in the spring.  The captain made several attempts over several days to get around the bend.  Then on the morning of April 9th he apparently said, “I will round the point this morning or blow this boat to hell!”


Well, we don’t know where the boat went, or the captain, but about 100 people were killed, including 28 Latter-day Saints.  At least that many Latter-day Saints were also wounded; some losing limbs.  There may have been 175 people on the boat, not all were Mormons.

Henry Ballard and the May family survived, but his two sheep dogs were never found.  The sad thing is that when they began their overland segment, Elizabeth died of cholera. So instead of marrying her, he helped bury her.

The townspeople of Lexington came to the aid of the injured.  Almost everyone lost all their belongings.  There were some orphans that were even taken into the homes and adopted.  They helped bury the dead, and raised money to help the victims.

There is a monument at Lexington in a nice little park.  The bell from the boat went shooting in the air along with a 600 pound safe.  They both landed high up on the river bank. The safe still had a spotted dog tied to it and the bell was recovered and placed on a church, where it is now on display.

Henry Ballard made it to Logan, married and had children.  He was a bishop in Logan for many years. His great-grand-son is a wonderful man, and is truly an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Liberty Jail Celebration

By Debi:

As we travel around the Liberty Missouri Stake we have been privileged to visit many of the sites that we read about in Church History.  Again, this is a very lovely place.

Yesterday Greg and I drove to Gallatin, Missouri to visit with the Bishop of the ward.  Gallatin is the city were the early Saints in the area tried to vote in the elections exercising their rights as citizens of the United States and citizens of the State of Missouri.  When the members were not allowed to vote a fight broke out.  A few fists were thrown but nothing too serious happened.

Later, reports were sent to Governor Boggs that the Mormons were in rebellion and that several Missourians were killed in Gallatin. Governor Boggs, just days later,  issued the Extermination Order and two days later the tragedy of Haun’s Mill occurred where 17 people were killed.

Time heals all wounds.  Here in the city of Gallatin, where the Saints were so persecuted, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a thriving ward and from this ward there are FOURTEEN MISSIONARIES out in the world spreading the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

We were so struck by the amazing turn of events.  “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

Truth and Righteousness will overcome all evil.

To prove that very point the Kansas City Temple is literally just a few miles from the Liberty Jail.  We were so excited to be able to go to the Kansas City Temple last Thursday and go through a Temple session.  The inside of the Temple is as beautiful as the outside.  There are three chandeliers in the Celestial room and a beautiful tall window with the light of the sun shining through.  The Temple sits on a hill and looks over the sweeping valleys and hills of the Liberty area.

Also, it is the 50th Anniversary of the dedication of the Visitor Center for the Liberty Jail.  As many of you know the Liberty Jail is where the Prophet Joseph Smith was incarcerated for 5 months.  There he received many revelations and experienced blessing not expected in such a dark dungeon. We were so blessed to be able to attend several lectures and a wonderful fireside by Professor Alex Baugh. Dr. Baugh teaches at BYU and he works with our son J.B.  We enjoyed his wealth of knowledge and his good humor.  It will be a day we will not forget.


Our work with the Young Single Adults and with all of the historical events happening we are very busy.  We are so thankful for this amazing experience.


By Greg:


As Debi said, we went to the Kansas City Temple this week. It is a very lovely temple. We were struck by the motif of this temple.  It has the “Olive Branch” or “Olive leaf” as a theme.  At first we wondered what that was depicting.  Are there olive trees here?  Then I thought of the olive leaf from Noah’s arch.  Soon I came to the idea that it must be like “extending the olive branch” which is a token of peace.  Debi asked JB about it and he told us that Brother Baugh suggested this theme as it applies to Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants. 


The introduction to that section reads:


“Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet at Kirtland, Ohio, December 27, 1832.  It was designated by the Prophet as the “olive leaf...plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us.”   There had been some tension between the two groups, those in Kirtland and those in Missouri, and this revelation was sent from Kirtland to W. W. Phelps in Zion (Missouri)  to print and publish in order to heal the tensions.  Thus, the olive leaf motif of the temple.


During that big storm that happened last week, apparently the Temple was hit by lightning.  It is not unexpected as it sits on top of a tall hill and it is even tall on the hill.  I am sure there is a lightning rod system in place, but this time it blew out the mother board of the elevators, so we all had to us the stairs, which was not a problem for us, even though the sister at the top of the stairs offered us a chair to sit in and rest.


One of the personal challenges we face as we drive around is that we have a need to use the bathroom.  Now this should not even be brought up after our experience in Africa, but still it is an issue.  We have come to “feel the pain” of bus drivers, UPS drivers and other delivery personnel.  Well, we sometimes have been lucky to find a park with the restroom open and clean.  But lately we have discovered CVS and Walgreens.  Now, these two companies must be brothers, because they are identical inside and always seem to be on a corner lot.  They have very nice restrooms!  I feel an obligation to buy something, so I have been eating a few Snickers candy bars.  This is going to work out better than asking some stranger if we can use their house.  Can you imagine, “Hello, we are missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Before you yell at us and tell us to never set foot on your property again, could we use your bathroom?”


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A word about geography


Can anyone guess where we are in this picture?

By Greg:


Almost all of the history classes I have taken, and I have taken a bunch, began with a look at the geography of the area we were studying.  So, here is just a word about the geography of this place. Oh, this picture of Debi getting a "facial" at Katie's house by our 9 and 5 year old granddaughters has nothing to do with this post, but I thought it was cute.


We live in Independence, JACKSON County, Missouri.  Some have claimed that this was the middle of America.  Well, I have tried to verify that.  Yes, it is 732 miles north of Houston Texas (which is not really the most southern point) and it is 754 miles south of the Canadian border, so one could say, “Half way!”  But, we are 1,808 miles east of San Francisco and only 1,196 west of New York, so I do not see how that is half way.  Still, this is called the “Center” of America.


As I have stated before, Jackson County was named after the 7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.  He has more counties in America named after him than anyone else.  Someone once called him a “jackass” and he took that as a compliment, so he adopted the kicking donkey as the symbol of his new political party, the Democratic Party.  They have a statue of him outside the courthouse here in Independence.


The Missouri River plays a big part in the entire story of the western movement in America.  It drains into the larger Mississippi River at St. Louis.  Anyone who has seen this confluence will remember the sight.  The Mississippi comes from the north and is really rather clean.  But, at St. Louis, the Missouri comes from the west and is dirty and very muddy.  It is a turbulent river and is also called “the Mighty Mo!” It has been said that Mark Twain described the Missouri as “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.”  Now that has also been said of other rivers, principally the Platte, but is describes the muddy water of the Missouri.


It was the Missouri that Lewis and Clark explored to its beginnings.  What they found, and still exists, is a constant erosion of the banks as the river changes its course.  Thus mud and trees and all kinds of other stuff are constantly being dumped into the water and mixed with it and floated downstream.  It is the longest river in North America. It starts in Montana and runs south and easterly until it gets to the state that bears its name.   In Missouri, the river then runs west to east from St. Charles to St. Louis.  Of course, Independence is on the western end. It is a lovely river, however.

Over the years, river boats and barges have traveled up and down the Mississippi River, utilizing the sea port of New Orleans to its fullest.  At St. Louis, another route west was available as boats and barges have been able to forge upstream on the Missouri, however, it has always been hard.  There are sandbars and snags everywhere.  With steam power, it became easier, but not easy.  Eventually a rail road line was laid along the river.  Over time, it became abandoned, and today, one of the finest “rail to trail” pathways follows the Missouri River across the state.  Debi and I, with my brother Alan, rode this KATY trail on our bikes a few years ago.  It was wonderful!


After Joseph Smith first visited this area, he and his companions traveled for a while on the river in canoes.  When they got to McLlwaine’s Bend, the river was almost too much for them.  The canoe that Joseph and Sidney Rigdon were riding in ran into a tree lodged and bobbing in the river.  The canoe was upset and they were almost drowned. W.W. Phelps reported seeing the Devil on the river.  Joseph and most of the others got off the river and returned to Kirtland by land.


There is kind of a “four corners” area here as four stakes connect.  We actually live in the Independence Stake, which along with the Kansas City Stake (which is west of here) is south of the river.  North of us is the Liberty Stake, which is where we are laboring.  It is across the river. So is the Platte City Stake.  There are others, but we are not entirely sure what our mission boundaries are.  We know that the Liberty Stake goes all the way north to Iowa.  Missouri and Iowa have a common border, as Iowa is north of Missouri.  Kansas is west and Illinois is east.  Arkansas is south.  Missouri also has a little bit of border with Kentucky on the southeast, Oklahoma on the southwest and Nebraska on the northwest.


Almost every day we pass the stadiums of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals.  I don’t think they are really in Kansas City, but they could be.  Both are beautiful. 


In pioneer days, this was the staging point for trails to California, Oregon and Santa Fe.  St. Louis claims to be the “gateway” to the west (hence the big arch) but most of the people traveled here either on a river boat or by land before starting on the trails.  There were hundreds of blacksmiths and others making wagons, harnesses, wheels, and other things for the pioneers (not Mormon pioneers though).  They were also breeding mules.  Mules don’t sweat.  They don’t keep running until they die.  They seemed to do much better than horses on the long trail.  So the Missourians bred their mares to “jacks” and got mules.  Mules do not reproduce even though they are both male and female.  The Missourians made tens of thousands of these mules.  “Good ole Missouri Mules” became like Ford or Chevrolet as a brand.  Oh, if they don’t sweat, then they don’t need as much water and when they are done, they sit down and rest.  A horse will run until it drops dead.



We rode with this man in his wagon as he took us around Independence.  I was interested in his take on history.  He definitely had a "Missouri" slant and some of his points were well taken.  Both Jesse and Frank James were from here and instead of being outlaws, they are folk-hero's.

One more thing, Missouri was really a southern state.  It was admitted into the union in 1820 as a slave state.  Most of the early settlers of this area were from other southern states.  This was one of the reasons they conflicted with Mormons, who were mainly from the north.  They say the American Civil War lasted for 17 years in Missouri as conflicts occurred years before Fort Sumter, and years after Appomattox.  Most of the monuments we have seen celebrate Confederate victories.  Several battles were fought here in Independence.  Many of the CSA soldiers that died are buried in the cemetery next door to us.


It gets plenty of rain here to water everything.  It is very green.  The other night we experienced a rousing thunder storm that we thought would devour us.  In the morning I said to some of the other couples, “wow, that was quite a storm?”  They said, “Oh, did it storm?” I guess people get used to it.


They have good roads here, but the neighborhood roads are very narrow.  As we visit I do not like to park in strangers driveways, but my truck takes up most of the road.  There is no shoulder.  The greatest thing we have going for us is GPS.  Yesterday I discovered another feature. We can input six addresses and that sweet little lady in the dashboard organizes them and tells us the best route to go to see them all.  So now we don’t keep going in circles.  Oh the wonders of technology.  We wonder how the pioneers found their way west.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

1st Week in Missouri

By Greg:

Woodlawn Cemetery at Independence Mo.

We live next to a cemetery.  It is really cool and has a lot of old stones.  We have walked around in this grave yard and are amazed at all the people who are our neighbors.  One of them is William Earl McLellin.  He was one of the original twelve Apostles called in this dispensation and is a witness to the Doctrine and Covenants.  He was here in Independence (and also Kirtland) and he endured many hardships.  He was baptized by Hyrum Smith.  He also served several missions.  As with a few of the other original apostles he turned on the Church in 1838.  While Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, McLellin was leading groups that robbed the Prophet and his family’s home, as well as Hyrum’s. He was also accused of robbing others, and other sins.  At one point he asked permission to “flog” Joseph while he was in jail.  The jailers said they would let him fight Joseph if he wanted too.  They thought that would be pretty good fun.  He said he would if he could have a club. Joseph actually agreed.  But McLellin backed down.  After the Saints left Missouri he wandered around and eventually joined the RLDS movement and died here in Independence.  An interesting side note (at least to me) is that it was William E. McLellin’s papers that the forger/bomber Mark Hoffman claimed to have for sale that brought about his demise.  The funny thing is that the Church found out that they already owned this collection.  These papers were edited by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch in 1994.


We have also visited Liberty Jail and are going there next week for a celebration and symposium.  Elder M. Russell Ballard is coming in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Liberty Jail Visitor Center.  After the jail was abandoned it fell into disrepair and was mostly torn down.  The dungeon part became the basement of a house.  Brother Wilford Wood (whose grandson was one of my missionary companions) purchased it and later sold it to the Church and missionary couples lived there for several years, opening the basement for visitors to see.  The Church then tore the house off the basement and built the visitors center and restored the jail.  It was dedicated 50 years ago.


We are really racking up the miles on my truck.  This is a big place and it takes a long time to get from one place to another.  This is the new look for my truck.  I don't look much like a developer without an open bed and a tool box.  I am trying to get use to my "gentleman" or "missionary" look.
We are serving in the Liberty Stake, which is north of the Missouri River and goes all the way up to Iowa.  We cross the Missouri River at least 2 times each day, but we use a bridge and we are glad it is not winter and that we have shoes. There are 13 units in this stake, but also in the boundaries are the Kansas City Temple (which is just barely still in Kansas City—we don’t think the Brethren wanted it to be either the Independence or Jackson County Temple), Haun’s Mill, Far West Temple Site, Adam-ondi-ahman, Richmond (the burial sites of the Whitmer family and also Oliver Cowdery—the Church has erected a monument to the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon there),   and the site of the Battle of Crooked River.


So much to see; so much to do; so much to think about.


We eat our lunch (actually dinner) in a public park nearly every night.  Here I am "pondering" after dinner. 

By Debi:


After a full week of missionary work we are feeling a little better about our assignment.  One night as I was pondering our mammoth task before us I asked the question “How do you eat an elephant?”  And then I answered my own question, “One bite at a time!”  All of a sudden I felt a little relief come over me and I realized that I didn’t have to do everything today.  I just have to do my best each day and by the end we will have accomplished our work here. I am trying to focus on each day and find the Young Single Adults for that day. 


We have accomplished a lot this week.  We have met with two Bishops and two Relief Society Presidents.  We have visited or left notes for 55 YSA and we have also identified a lot that have moved and some that are married.  I am always so happy to hear that someone is married. 


We drive by the Kansas City Temple at least twice each day.  Some days it is even more.  It is right off of the I-435 freeway.  It is on top of a hill and it stands out for all to see.  At night it is so beautiful with the lights shining on the building and the grounds.  Right next to it is a brand new Stake Center for the Liberty Stake.  This is the Stake that we are working in.  We have been to the Stake Center for three different meetings and it is beautiful inside.


Our days are starting to take a routine that seems to be working out well.  Every morning we get up around 6:15 and we go swimming at the aquatic center about 4 miles from here.  We then come home and have breakfast and get ready for the day.  We then have our study time of the scriptures. After that we sit down together and record what we did the day before and decide what we are going to do for the day.  We go over each YSAs information that we visited the day before and decide what needs to be accomplished further, i.e.: moved, married, active, needs another visit, not home and left a note etc.  After we have finished all of our preparation we then have lunch (which is more like dinner) and then we pack our dinner (which is more like lunch) and head out the door about 1:00.  We drive to our area, which takes about 30 minutes and then we start visiting the young people on our list for the day.  We arrive home around 8:00 or 9:00 unless we go to the Family Home Evening for the YSAs or we have a meeting with a Bishop. We then fall into bed! That pretty much wraps up our days.

(Here Debi is leaving a note at an apartment.  If we cannot see them, we leave a note along with our "calling card" which we made ourselves--address, phone, email, etc.)

We are doing great and we feel encouraged by what we have been able to accomplish this week.

We are trying not to run faster that we have strength but we also want to run as fast as we can!


P.S. by Greg.  We have met Bishop Lane Vance who is a brother to Sister Shannon Dunn, a dear friend of ours from Africa.  Sister Dunn’s husband, Gregg Dunn, was the DTA.  Small world!
Here are some pictures of our lovely apartment.  It is so cozy we are thinking of doing apartment living for the rest of our lives.  It is made even better by the fact that of the six apartments, all are occupied by senior missionaries.  Very good (and quiet) neighbors! Also, it is considerably cheaper than was our apartment in Africa.  One more thing, WE CAN DRINK THE WATER!

We are on the middle (2nd) floor on the right.

We feel like the couple in the movie, Up!.  We both have our chairs to sit in, but we do not have a TV (we can watch movies on our computer, though we have not done that yet).

Very nice kitchen for two people.

I am 61 years old and I am still not sure whether to leave the toilet seat up or down, or the lid up and the seat down, or what.  Debi's first response was, "why didn't you put the seat down before you took the picture?" My response. "I wanted to show how clean the toilet was!"

We have a very big bedroom with a queen bed.  In Africa we had a king bed in a very small room.

We are missionaries, so we have bikes, in case we run out of miles--right, they are for fun and exercise.  Debi has a little desk with her Ipad to do her family stuff.

We have a nice deck for BBQing

OK, we have a post box, so we need to get a few letters.  Debi got one already from Aurora.