We’ve had a glorious week at Adam-ondi-Ahman! On Monday, we awoke to five or six inches of very wet snow. It was a much-needed blessing to our area. But a greater blessing was a brief visit from Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Rodney A. Ames that morning. Waiting for their arrival in the shop felt a little like Christmas morning. We formed a line so we could greet both men. The Spirit an Apostle brings with him was immediately evident. What an honor to shake hands with Elder Gong! We heard briefly from both men. Elder Ames is an Area Authority Seventy, who served as a mission president. He said that Elder Gong’s testimony is evident to any who simply observe him. Elder Ames witnessed that Elder Gong truly lives by the Savior’s counsel in Matt. 23:11,“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Elder Gong is a gracious, kind, gentleman with the demeanor of an Apostle who is quick to serve all he meets.
Elder Gong was a Stake President at BYU who reported to the Brethren routinely concerning current events and conditions in the world—prior to being called as an Apostle. He cited a few incidents to illustrate how groups of people are often inter-connected. As an example he shared the fact that Elder Ames was Elder and Sister Nielsen’s(current AOA missionaries) former mission president, and Elder Nielson’s uncle was Elder Gong’s mission president. He said that many places are inter-connected in a similar way. He shared that wood from Adam-ondi-Ahman was harvested and used in the Kansas City Temple. These two places are connected in a significant way.
Considering the adversity the saints faced in Missouri, it is significant that the motive in that temple is an olive branch. Elder Gong reported that is what we desire to offer those now living here. He mentioned that as temples are built closer to the people, it is hoped that the people see that pattern as evidence that we each need to draw closer to the Savior. Temples help us establish a connection with the Savior in a powerful way. Finally Elder Gong suggested that the past is inter-connected with the future. Adam-ondi-Ahman is among the very few places on earth where the Prophet Joseph Smith walked and where Adam and Eve walked, and where the Son of Man came with the promise that He would return. How blessed we are to live and serve in this sacred land.
As an advisor to the Church History and Temple Departments of the Church, Elder Gong said that the estimated number of people who have lived in the earth is between 70-110 billion, making 100 billion a good average figure. He said although that number is large, it is still finite, and because it is finite the Church intends to find them all. He reported that 99,000,000 names were added to public resources in 2021 alone. It was a boost to the Sisters to know that indexing is an essential part of that effort.
Tuesday was our GA dinner with Elder and Sister Walker. We gathered in the director’s home for that occasion. The more casual nature of the location influenced the message Elder Walker shared. He shared numerous stories from his experiences as a mission president in Japan, as stake president to Elder and Sister Packer, and as a member of the Temple and Family History Committee of the Church. I wish I could share them all! He shared a journal entry regarding his experiences with the Winter Quarter’s Temple while serving as a Stake President. The Winter Quarter’s Temple was one of the first temple dedications broadcast to Stake Centers throughout the Church. He told us that his wife, Vickie’s great-great grandparents had both died in Winter Quarters and are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. His own great-great grandparents buried a six-month-old baby there.
He reported that President Hinckley as very emotional as he spoke of the sacrifice of the early saints that included ice, snow, mud, scurvy and other illness, and both extremes of cold and heat. Many buried loved ones along the way and many others are buried at the pioneer cemetery adjacent to the temple. When President Hinckley heard that the Church did not own the cemetery he sent a representative immediately to make arrangements to purchase it from the City of Omaha. The city responded with the deed. President Hinckley concluded that we owe those who paid the price to establish the foundation of this great work a debt of gratitude that we must never forget!
Elder Walker then turned to a book he has written and published for his posterity. It is entitled, “Experiences with Prophets and Apostles.” He reported to us on his first day here that Sister Packer had passed away. Receiving that news was a tender experience for Elder Walker, because he served as the Packer’s Stake President for eight years and loved them deeply. He had also served with Elder Packer as a General Authority for a time. Because of Sister Packer’s passing, he chose to share two chapters of his book that recorded experiences he had with them.
One was entitled, “Do you know anyone who is perfect? Elder Walker was assigned to accompany Elder Packer to a leadership training meeting. Elder Packer was speaking on the Atonement and the need for repentance. He asked those gathered, “Do you know anyone who is perfect?” None responded, so he turned to Elder Walker and asked, “Do you know anyone who is perfect?” Elder Walker responded without hesitation, but to Elder Packer’s surprise, “Only Sister Packer.”
Elder Packer paused and then started to chuckle. He chuckled until the whole audience was chuckling with him. He turned to Elder Walker and said, “Good answer!” Then he turned to the congregation and asked, “Other than Sister Packer, do you know anyone who is perfect?” He then continued his timely message.
Elder Walker bore a powerful testimony that the Lord will direct us if we will let him. He boldly declared that he believes in personal revelation and shared a few examples from his own life of being assigned to re-organize a stake and call a new stake president that brought him to that conclusion. Elder Walker mentioned going with Elder Maxwell to reorganize a Stake. Elder Maxwell was weak from leukemia treatments and said he couldn’t hold up under several long interviews. Elder Walker asked how long he would like the interviews to be. He responded, “How long does it take for the Lord to whisper, “He is the one?”
Elder Walker expressed his love for us and that he prays for us daily. Everyone just sat for several minutes to savor the richness of the Spirit. How grateful we are to have been there.
The work went on amid our honored guests’ time here. Darrel spent most of his week finishing up the 4-plex renovation project, or pushing snow. The home we live in has yards and yards of carpet flooring. A group came in on Friday and cleaned it all. It looked and smelled wonderful. I can honestly say it even feels different since that day.
We concluded the week on a very different note with an incident that reminded us that we are living in the latter-days. Adam-ondi-Ahman attracts the best of the best, as well as some of the most confused and wayward. We learned that “Adam” was released recently from the Pattonsburg Jail with a one-way ticket home, but left with the promise to return. We also had an ex-military man who lives nearby, who was reported lost somewhere on the grounds on an extremely cold night. With 3500 acres on this side of the Grand River, it was no small miracle that they were able to locate this man in the dark within an hour. He was near the saint’s settlement city center. He had fashioned a shelter and built a small fire to weather the night. The following night he returned to the director’s home at 1:00 a.m. banging on the door. Elder Dunford learned that this man felt God had told him he should spend the night in that home. When Bob refused the man pulled a paper out, fell to his knees as if in prayer and then headed south. Law enforcement was summoned and arrived just after this man’s wife came looking for him. It is clear that this location is not only of interest to saints. Some new security measures and practices are being formulated.
Darrel spoke in our sacrament meeting this morning. He gave a summary of President Nelson’s three messages from last conference. He did a great job! We can look forward to conference as a time to hear pure truth, learn pure doctrine, and receive pure revelation for the questions in our lives. We can strengthen our personal spiritual foundations by making and keeping sacred covenants. President Nelson taught that the temple is a key factor in learning of the Savior and coming to know Him. He concluded by pleading with us to strengthen our foundation by making time each and every day for the Lord. How blessed we feel to be serving here where doing that is built into our schedule. We love and miss you all!