April 18, 2021
It has been another glorious week at AOA. We spoke in sacrament meeting for the first time today. We probably over prepared because we felt rather intimidated by the caliber of missionaries here, but it went well. I spoke about HEARTS in general and Darrel spoke about broken hearts and contrite spirits. The Spirit is always generous here as are those we serve with. We had a few visitors. A previous missionary couple and some friends returned to say “hi” and our fireside speakers for FHE tomorrow attended. The Weavers are a sweet, young Amish couple who made the courageous decision to accept the gospel and leave their old life behind. Their story was featured in LDS Living a few months ago. It will be a treat to hear them tomorrow.
Darrel was involved with mowing on Monday and half the day Tuesday. On Wednesday he was back at the Duplex. He hauled sand and stockpiled a bunch to use as they back fill drain trenches. The next day and a half he worked on back filling before moving inside to help with the plumbing. He and Elders Snow, Steffenson, and Brown were able to get hot and cold water the bathrooms, kitchen sink and washroom, with a little time to clean up and make a garbage haul.
Tuesday was the day that things just got better and better. We had our first visitors from home! The Bott Family from Levan made a surprise visit. They sent us a text the night before. We were able to set our usual labors aside and fix breakfast for them. We shared Adam-ondi-Ahman with them allowing us to share feelings and testimony we have previously not felt comfortable to share. We have ministered to them for many years and been through some dark times with them. Being able to share the peace and Spirit of this place with them brought us great joy.
We had our first interview with Elder and Sister Schwitzer later that day. Having 30 minutes each month to have a private meeting with a General Authority is a rich and humbling experience. It is so easy to love them instantly. That evening we had dinner with all the missionaries, followed by a fireside. The one take away I will share from Elder Schwitzer’s message focused on the Law of Consecration. He said the law is alive, functional and in full force within the Church. All who freely give time, energy, means, or talent to build God’s Kingdom function within that Law. Because the basic unit of the Kingdom is the family, dedicated, intentional, loving parents are among those who live it the most fully. He spoke with gratitude and admiration of parents who give their all to provide for, teach, empower, strengthen, and prepare their children to stay on the covenant path, give needed service and greet the Savior at His Coming. He identified them as the best example of living the Law of Consecration. We loved that thought!
We came home from the fireside just in time to join our grandson, Andrew, as he opened his mission call via ZOOM. He was called to serve in the Columbia, South Carolina Mission and reports to the Provo MTC on June 16th. Incidentally, that is the day his brother, Taylor, returns from the Sacramento, California Spanish speaking mission. They are hoping to have at least enough time together to snap a family picture!
- In the early days of the AOA project, couples were called to serve here through the missionary department. When the first baby was born to a couple serving here, it was reported to the missionary office that one of the sister missionaries had given birth. This caused some stir in SLC! One of the Brethren was assigned to get to the bottom of the situation and take appropriate action. When it became clear what a beautiful thing had happened here, it was decided that all future calls would be made through the First Presidency. That pattern continues today as the emeritus General Authorities called to oversee all efforts at AOA report directly to the First Presidency.
- President Joseph F. Smith was born in Far West shortly after the Extermination Order had been issued by Governor Boggs. His father, Hyrum Smith, had been arrested and incarcerated along with his Uncle Joseph on Nov. 2, 1838. Eleven days later, Hyrum’s 2nd wife, Mary Fielding, gave birth to her first child. Shortly after, mobsters entered their home and took some of Hyrum’s papers and valuables. A mattress lying on the floor was flung onto the bed where tiny Joseph F. was sleeping, completely covering him. There it remained until the men left. Some feared he would be found lifeless, but through Divine providence, he was fine. His mother was not well following his birth, so his Aunt Mercy, Mary’s sister, took care of her and nursed Joseph F. along with her five-month-old baby, until Mary improved.
Our adventures to us to Far West and Richmond this week. It was a moving experience for us to stand at his memorial in Raymond, MO. He defended Joseph as his attorney and was a friend and defender of the saints on many occasions. The inscription on the memorial reads, “Colonel Alexander William Doniphan was of immense stature, noble appearance, brilliant parts, fearless, of great moral courage, sanguine, faithful, just, poetic in temperament, the champion of the down-trodden, eloquent beyond description and without a doubt entitled to be classed among the greatest orators and lawyers that ever lived.” The spirit we felt there echoed the truth of those words and my thoughts turned heavenward to offer a word of gratitude for life of this great man. We stood at the spot where Joseph stood “chained in terrible majesty” as he rebuked the vile jailers. We found the pioneer cemetery where Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Sr., his wife, Mary, and their son Peter Jr. are buried. The Three Witnesses Memorial is there. It keeps their combined testimonies of the truth of the Book of Mormon ever visible to the world. Just for fun we went to the Richmond Cemetery and found the headstone of David Whitmer. It was a large cemetery and rather like finding a needle in a haystack, but we persevered.
A Bit of History: Far West was the principal city and county seat of Caldwell County. The county was surveyed and created through the efforts of Alexander W. Doniphan for the saints when they were driven from Clay County. It was the largest Latter-Day Saint City that ever existed in Missouri, but ironically no physical remains of their lives and industry there remain except for the four cornerstones of the temple. The corner stones were laid in the public square at Far West. The groundbreaking ceremony was on July 3, 1837. (In 1996, the cornerstones were 135 feet apart east to west and 90 feet apart north to south). The corner stones were quarried from a ledge west of the settlement and were 7 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2 feet thick. They were laid the next day on July 4th. The SE cornerstone was laid by the presidents of the stake and represent the First Presidency. The other stones were laid clockwise by other priesthood holders. The SW cornerstone represents the “High Priesthood.” The NW cornerstone represents the Quorum of the Twelve, and the NE cornerstone represents the “lesser priesthood.” Those present participated in the Hosanna Shout. Four days later, Joseph Smith received D&C 18. The Lord told the Quorum of the Twelve that on April 26, the following spring they would leave from the temple site in Far West and cross the great waters to take the gospel abroad. By then, the faithful saints had been driven from the state due to the Extermination Order and were living in Nauvoo, Ill. It would be dangerous to return to Missouri and leave from the temple site as prophesied. Yet, early on the morning of April 26, just past midnight, five Apostles arrived in Far West. Later in the morning, they met at Samuel Clark’s home and excommunicated 31 dissenters from the Church before going to the temple site. Several people gathered at the site with them. After singing a hymn, a large stone was rolled onto the SE cornerstone. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball then ordained Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith as apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve. Two others were ordained seventies. The apostles each prayed vocally while kneeling on the SE cornerstone. They sang the hymn, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and the meeting adjourned. The men made their way back to Illinois and left for England in August and September 1839, to preach the gospel.
We love being in the cradle of the Restoration. Being on location makes each incident and the people involved very real. Although the saints left this area, the valiant lives lived here has left a residue of Spirit that easily recognized. May this week be one of growth and peace for all. Our love!