It’s been a bit of a “dry spell” making it hard to write, even though we’ve had plenty of rain. On June 12th, we were asked to test for COVID because a sister serving had become very ill with it and we are together daily. Sadly, three couples and three Elders also tested positive, so all activities and gatherings were cancelled to prevent further spread. Elder Schwitzer counseled that even all but the most essential work cease while companions spent time together studying, meditating, resting, and healing. With hot humid days and high heat indexes, it was a great blessing. I definitely enjoyed following that counsel.
Three days later, my brother, Mark, and is wife LeeAnn came to visit. With all activities halted, we were able to spend full time with them sharing the rich history of this area. I loved being able to get to know my sister-in-law on a level I hadn’t before. That relationship will be a blessing into eternity. Of course nothing compares to unrushed time at Adam-ondi-Ahman, but we all enjoyed our day in Lamoni, IA visiting our Amish friends, and touring Liberty Hall. (The mansion home of Joseph Smith III) Mark and LeeAnn stayed with us from June 15-20, and then I went on to Winter Quarters’.
The morning they left, we began our cleaning week. When everyone re-tested for COVID this week, I was the only one who tested positive! Although I wasn’t very sick and was easily able to do what I was called to do, it meant another five days away from the other missionaries. Including my trip home for Dad’s funeral, it’s been a full month since I’ve been able to really connect with the group. The extra time was helpful in that I was able to complete the sequel to the book I compiled on AOA history. It is entitled “ A New Millennium at Adam-ondi-Ahman. Because the first was so well received, I’ve worried that the sequel would be worth the time and effort. Not being with the missionaries for so long also helped me discover why being distanced from them has taken such a toll for me. It became the basis of the conclusion of the new book.
Here’s a part of that conclusion, “Clearly those called to serve at Adam-ondi-Ahman are improving, maintaining and beautifying the land, yet when the Lord comes in His glory and all is as the Garden of Eden, any work done will pale in contrast to the Terrestrial world as it dawns. Thus it is evident that God’s purpose here, has been what it ever has been, to build a Zion people. Prior to coming to AOA I doubted Zion in any sense was possible as I considered conditions in the world. But after serving here I am convinced that Zion is more than possible. Elder McConkie taught, “Zion is people; Zion is the Saints of God”… Zion is those who received the Holy Ghost; Zion is those who keep the commandments; Zion is the righteous; or in other words… “This is Zion—the pure in heart.” (D&C 97:21.) “Such people need to be gathered together to strengthen each other and to help one another perfect their lives.”
That’s what serving at Adam-ondi-Ahman has been to me! This is a work of great magnitude and importance. There is no work like it in all the world. I know the Lord’s hand is it. Our labors have been successful, and each feels we are the most blessed and favored people on earth.” Can’t wait to be back with them without restriction!
Yesterday I felt it was safe to attend an outside tour commemorating the 188th anniversary of Zion’s Camp that included 210 men, 10 women, and a few children. The perceived purpose was to go to the aid of the saints in Jackson County Missouri and help reclaim their losses. Clearly, the Lord had something else in mind, because after the long march, D&C 105 was given stating that the group should be disbanded and return home. The real purpose—in hindsight— was that a group of casual acquaintances were galvanized into a group who would die for each other. Nine of the twelve original apostles served in this group, all of the first quorum of the seventy and 85% of the immediate future leadership of the Church were taught, refined and prepared on this March.
We stood in the location were a mob threatened to annihilate this travel weary band. Here they were divinely protected as a small black cloud rapidly became a fierce storm that brought flooding and hail. The Fork of the Fishing River is where this miraculous story unfolded. It is the place where all drainage in the area comes together. Standing near the site on the Fishing River we could visualize the river quickly becoming a raging torrent that prevented the attack while Zion’s Camp moved to safety in a Baptist Church to the north.
To this day, Holt Missouri, near this location, holds the world record for the most recorded rainfall in an hour. They boast of 12 inches in just over 35 minutes. The NW corner of Nebraska holds the record for the largest recorded hail. The stone was 16 inches in diameter. It was no coincidence that Zion Camp met their greatest resistance in an area where conditions still dub it as a place to be feared in a storm.
We traveled to the meadow where the group camped for three days following the storm. It was here that Joseph realized that the pledges of the governor would not be honored, and D&C 105 was received to disband and move on. A huge pasta plant stands directed east of the field. It is where roughly 90% of all pasta in the U.S. is made.
From there Zion’s Camp moved to a member’s farm near Liberty to rest and obtain provisions for the long journey back to Kirtland. Cholera broke out taking the lives of thirteen people. We stood on the burial site of the victims and felt the Spirit that resides in locations where great sacrifice was offered. We learned that over time, three of the bodies were unearthed by cattle moving from the meadow above the berm the victims were buried in and the stream of water below. This discovery was within the last decade give or take. A sheriff was summoned, and the bones were removed for identification. At the suggestion of local members and some DNA testing, it was determined that they were indeed the remains of the cholera victims of Zion’s Camp. Those three were taken to Independence. The rest are presumed still buried there. Gratefully, a good member now owns and cares for the land.
Our guide, Keith Bowen, showed us a rare copy of the Book of Mormon printed by the Whitmerites, one of 120 remnant groups that still remain from when the Church was in its infancy. This group titled it, “The Stick of Joseph.” It contains changes from our current day, Book of Mormon, but essentially the story is the same.
That was a welcomed lift for me to be out with people learning and discovering. It was especially so as our family is sailing some dark waters this week. When the news bluntly arrived we were not terribly surprised, but the immediate hope of a better outcome vanished. For a time finding peace was difficult because of the dark clouds in my heart. I finally heard the Lord’s voice in this powerful statement sent by one of our sweet daughters.
“He knows your sacrifices and your sorrows. He hears your prayers. His peace and rest will be yours as you continue to wait upon Him in faith…Everyone one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine.” Robert D. Hales (Nov. 2011 Ensign, “Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done.”)
Suddenly my mind opened to the many personal promises made by God in the temple and since being called to serve at AOA. That experience was repeated as I sat alone on Tower Hill this morning. The pain and hurt lifted with the assurance that God’s promises are sure. I look forward with a sense of wonder rather than worry knowing that those on both sides of the veil are aware of the situation and stand ready to assist. I hold fast to a principle revealed to Joseph Smith as he languished in the Liberty Jail just miles from here. D&C 123:17, “Therefore, dearly beloved…let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed.”
It is difficult serving here to understand how one can lose hope and turn from the only source that offers strength, protection, and guidance in a world that is in turmoil and becoming more evil. I guess it’s because we live in a bubble. Scripture attests that such has always been the case when wickedness is rampant and is certainly a sign of the times. Even the elect can be deceived by the steady cadence of a philosophy that encourages men to create a god in their own image who allows them to do whatsoever is just in their own eyes all in the name of choice and personal need for time and space. (Proverbs 12:15 ) Such a philosophy has always been pleasing to the carnal mind.” (Alma 30:53)
Elder Holland expressed it this way, “…It is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it… Talk about man creating God in his own image!” (May 2014 Ensign, The Cost and Blessing of Discipleship.)
May we each hold fast to the iron rod, stay firmly on the covenant path, and pray for strength to remain faithful to the end come what may! May we watch from afar off as loved ones come to themselves, prepared to run with open arms to receive them.
Elder and Sister K.