Shortly after arriving in New Jersey we were informed that President Jeppson allowed senior missionaries to attend the Hill Cumorah Pageant. We promptly received permission and made our plans. We would drive to Canandaigua, New York, on Monday, July 14, 2014. On the way we would stop at the Peter Whitmer Sr. farm where the Church was formally organized on April 6, 1830. On Tuesday, July 15, we would attend the pageant, and on Wednesday we would return to New Jersey.
Everything went pretty much according to plan, with a few surprises along the way. Just after checking into our hotel in Canandaigua we went to a nearby store to buy batteries for our camera. The skies had been threatening rain for much of our trip and had provided a few sprinkles, but now it was looking very black toward the west. As we were walking in the store parking lot our cell phones started making unusual sounds. We looked at them and the message was, "Extreme Alerts: Tornado Warning in this area . . . Take shelter now." At the same time we could hear cell phones all over the parking lot sounding off. I figured that a Wal-Mart was as good a place as any to take shelter but Sister Shaw wasn't so sure. As we walked up to the door she asked a local, who was standing there, what we should do. The answer was about what I expected but was not at all reassuring for Sister Shaw. The exact answer was, "I don't know."
The store was abuzz with tornado talk. We bought batteries. If there was going to be a tornado I wanted pictures. Back outside I looked up and could see that the blackness was now directly overhead and appeared to be rotating. Time to get in the car and make a run for it. The only problem was our front brakes were making a terrible noise. It sounded like the old warning when the brake pads wore thin, only it was worse. That was back in the day when I did my own brake work. Do they still work that way?
Anyway we drove the block or two back to our hotel with our brakes screeching all the way. This was beginning to remind me of the old nightmare I had repeatedly as a kid where the monster is chasing you but you cannot run fast enough because your feet are like lead or stuck in tar or something.
We sat there in the hotel parking lot while Sister Shaw looked up a brake shop on her smart phone and I looked up at the sky. There was a brake shop close by but going there would take us in exactly the wrong direction if our object was to flee. So much for fleeing. We headed for the brake shop. The pictures would be amazing!
After driving a short distance toward the storm we made a right turn, as directed by our GPS, and suddenly the screeching brakes stopped screeching. We did not spend a lot of time analyzing this miracle right then, but instead reversed the direction of our travel via a nearby parking lot. We then turned east for a short distance on highway 20 and then turned north on a country road with the name of Smith. It was time to put some distance between us and the storm. So much for my amazing pictures.
As we sped northward we could see that the sky ahead was not nearly as threatening as what we were leaving behind. Just as we were beginning to feel a little more secure the rain came. This was not a pleasant little California shower. It came down so hard and with such volume that the most extreme wiper action had no chance of clearing the windshield. We had to slow down to a crawl in order to maybe stay on the road. I began to wonder at what point the paint would start to peel off the car. I had no doubt that there would be significant damage if the rain changed to hail. I glanced quickly at the outside temperature displayed on the dash. Can it hail when it is in the mid 70s? I suspect that it can. Fortunately it did not happen this time and a few minutes later we drove into Palmyra on dry pavement
Our first stop was the Grandin print shop on Main Street where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed. The job was to produce 5000 copies of a hard bound book in the neighborhood of 400 pages. This was a monumental job for a frontier print shop. Actually, this was a monumental job for any print shop of its day. The equipment was so primitive. There was so much hand work to be done. In spite of all of this the job was completed in March of 1830, after less than eight month's work.
Just a few months earlier it could not have been done at all. The building that Grandin's print shop occupied was not even completed until 1828. The new printing press had just arrived via the just completed Erie Canal. These are only a few of the things that had to come together in order for the Book of Mormon to be published.
As we stood there in this special place and considered what was done and how it was done we could clearly see the hand of God all over this project. We can also see the hand of God all over what happened next as the Book of Mormon has gone forth from its humble beginning in this place to fill the whole earth, just as was prophesied by Joseph Smith.
All things considered, it is far easier to believe that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Church was an act of God than it is to believe that Joseph Smith made it all up. Other than the fact, of course, that if it was an act of God, then you may feel compelled to keep the commandments. And, keeping the commandments is just too big a price for many people. So they desperately grasp hold of this or that outrageous explanation of how Joseph Smith performed this miracle, with about the same odds of being right as a lottery player has of winning the jackpot.
But, none of this kind of thinking means much to me anymore. My testimony long ago crossed over from being based on careful logic and discussions of probability to being based on personal revelation from my Father in Heaven via the power of the Holy Ghost. I have read the Book of Mormon many times. I have prayed many times to have that personal witness. Over and over again my prayers have been answered as I have felt the Holy Ghost testify to my spirit that these things are true. As I stood in Grandin's print shop I once again felt that powerful witness.
Now all I need to do is keep the commandments.
The next day (Tuesday) we visited the Smith farm, the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah, the Palmyra Temple, and then watched the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Somewhere in between we went back to Palmyra and visited an LDS bookstore and gift shop where we bought a book titled "A lion and a Lamb" which is about Willard and Rebecca Bean. They were called on a five year mission in 1915 and were released 24 years later. Their mission was to take care of the Smith farm, which the Church had acquired, and to lead the way as the Church re-established a presence in Palmyra. The story of their amazing adventure is well told in this book which I read in about three days.
On our first visit of the day to the Hill Cumorah we bumped into Elder & Sister Loertscher who were on their way home to Bluebell, Utah. We knew that their return home plans included a stop in Palmyra so we thought we might see them. Sure enough, there they were. It is amazing that you can establish such great friendships in a very short time while serving the Lord together.
The Pageant was amazing as were the protesters. That's right, there are actually people who think their point of view, that The Restoration was a hoax, is enhanced by standing in a field nearby and yelling at us through a bullhorn. The yelling stopped once the Pageant began but resumed when it was finished. Someone told me that human kindness was not the motivation for the heckling recess but rather the police had something to do with it. I really could not make out what they were saying (hearing loss can be a blessing) but it did not seem to have a loving tone.
Actually, I was glad they were there because it is a sign that Satan is still seriously disturbed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a long established pattern that whenever the truth is on the earth there will be persecution of its followers. So, I would be worried if we were just left alone. Jesus referred to this pattern in His Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)
I have always found it interesting that the persecutors never spend much energy trying to expound the wonders of their philosophy of life. Rather they feel compelled to attack others. And, what a cheap attack it was. With a bullhorn.
Who knew there is an Auburn, NY?
Type setting room in Grandin print shop.
Sister missionaries and the "Smith Press" which produced the Book of Mormon.
Exterior of Grandin print shop in downtown Palmyra.
Smith log home.
A couple of missionaries who are way outside their mission boundries.
View of Pageant setup from top of Hill Cumorah.
Angel Moroni on top of Hill Cumorah.
Cast members in front of Pageant stage.