Thursday, August 16, 2012

Palmyra Pageantry

I'm ready to finish up the tale of the last half of our New York trip.  It will probably take several posts.  We'll begin 2 days after our return from New York City:
Friday, July 13:
Hill Cumorah

After our return from New York City on Wednesday evening, we used Thursday as a leisurely day to get our laundry washed, relax, and visit with family.  We even went out to dinner again with Ed’s mom, his Grandma Busby, and his Aunt Dorothy.

On Friday morning we headed to Palmyra, New York, which is just a 20-minute drive from where Ed’s mom, Caryl, grew up in Canandaigua.  Caryl’s family belonged to the Presbyterian Church and knew little about the Mormon (LDS) Church.  When young Caryl asked about the nearby Hill Cumorah, her father simply told her some church had it but she wouldn’t be interested in it.  She remembers that the hill was beautiful, with “Hill Cumorah” spelled out on it in flowers.

Palmyra is important in the history of our church.  This is where a 14-year-old farm boy, Joseph Smith Jr., read James 1:5 in the New Testament: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” This was during a period of great religious revival in the Palmyra area, and young Joseph was confused by the many different doctrines taught by all the different preachers.  Even his parents had chosen to join two different churches.

So Joseph did as the scripture directed and went into a grove of trees on their property, praying to know which church was correct.  The answer he received was far beyond any expectation he could have had.  God the Father and His beloved Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph, telling him not to join any of the churches.  Soon, they said, the fullness of Gospel of Jesus Christ would be restored to the earth.

Eventually, Joseph was led to a site on nearby Hill Cumorah where he found gold plates buried in the hillside, containing records of ancient American prophets bearing witness to the divinity of Christ.  Through direct revelation, he translated those writings and that record became known as the Book of Mormon.  In time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established, with Joseph Smith Jr. as its president and prophet.

The Grandin Building in downtown Palmyra, NY,
where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was published.

We began our Palmyra visit by stopping by the Palmyra Temple. Again, we’d hoped to attend a session, but it didn’t work out due to limited time. However, we were able to get some nice pictures.
The Palmyra Temple

These are the stained glass windows looking out from the Celestial Room.
In all other temples, the stained glass windows are opaque so no one can see in or out,
but the windows in the Palmyra Temple are clear because they overlook the Sacred Grove.

13 July 2012: Dylan (age 15) in front of the Palmyra Temple.

From there, we drove about one block west and found ourselves at the farmstead once owned by Joseph Smith Sr. and his wife Lucy.  We toured the tiny log home where they lived with their seven children (including their 3rd son, Joseph Smith Jr.).  After spending three weeks with four of us in a small fifth-wheel trailer, I can’t even imagine what it was like to have nine people living in such a small space, especially in the winter when they were stuck indoors.

The Smiths’ log home in Palmyra, NY.

Then we toured the larger frame home their older son Alvin built for them on the same property.  It had to be finished after his untimely death, probably due to appendicitis, when they were unable to reach the local doctor in time.  All the family could do was treat him with a folk medicine, probably chamomile.
The stone sink in the frame home.  Water had to be hauled in from the well,
but at least there was a drain to empty the sink. 
(Visible through the window is the golf cart on which Caryl, Grandma Busby, and Ed
are waiting for me.  We were provided the cart due to the elderly ladies in our party
and the difficulty of the terrain.)

Finally, we took a long walk through the Sacred Grove, the area in which Joseph prayed and was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  It is a beautiful and peaceful place with a sweet spirit.  We lingered there as long as we could.

A scene in the Sacred Grove.

13 July 2012: Our path through the Sacred Grove.

Lots of green growing things on the floor of the Sacred Grove.

“Suddenly a light descended, brighter far than noonday sun…”

From there, we went to downtown Palmyra to visit the Grandin Building (see first photo, above), where the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon were published.  It was amazing to see how much work went into publishing a book in the early 1800s.

Publishing equipment from the early 1800s in the Grandin Building.

A rare First Edition of the Book of Mormon.

We also went to see the farm once owned by Martin Harris, who mortgaged his farm to pay the publisher, but we were disappointed to learn that the beautiful house on the property was in no way related to the house he actually lived in, which is long gone.

Grandma Busby had joined us on our tour up to this point, but we knew she wouldn’t be able to stay up late for the pageant so we drove her back to her home in Canandaigua.  We said our final good-byes then, because the next morning we would be on our way west again.

When we returned to the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra at 5:30, we found seats (there were 9,000 chairs, and about 6,000 of them were in front of us) and settled in to wait for the pageant, which didn’t begin until 9:15.  Dylan and I passed an hour or so by checking out the nearby Visitors’ Center, where they had dozens of costumes on display from previous pageants.  There was a time I thought about becoming a fashion designer, so I love displays like these.

13 July 2012: Dylan with some of the costumes on display in the Visitors’ Center.

When we returned to our seats, we found that many of the cast members were circulating among the crowd to chat.  Before long, we were joined by the two young ladies who are posing with Dylan in the photo below.  They tried unsuccessfully to convince Dylan to try out to perform in the pageant next year.

Dylan poses with two young actresses from the Hill Cumorah Pageant. 
(Dylan’s expression says it all.)

In upstate New York it doesn’t get dark until after 9:00 in July, but it was almost fully dark when the pageant began.  It was a magnificent event, featuring something like 700 performers on an incredible set built into the side of the mountain.  The special effects were also amazing.
13 July 2012: The first night of the Hill Cumorah Pageant begins.

The pageant features reenactments of several stories in the Book of Mormon, from the prophet Lehi being warned to take his family and flee from Jerusalem, to the resurrected Christ’s visit to the faithful people living in the western hemisphere.

Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

Lehi’s family sails west to their Promised Land.

Jesus Christ appears to the faithful in the western hemisphere.

Jesus asks the people to bring their children to him.

It was a pretty incredible night.  The pageant ended at 10:30 and we returned to spend one more night in our trailer parked at Uncle Hal's place in Canandaigua.

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