So that you can understand why we were so excited to see these things, I will give a brief summary on what we believe. We know God loves all of his children. He puts prophets on the earth to help us. At times there have been periods of apostasy, but then God has called new prophets to teach the gospel (i.e. Noah, Abraham, and Moses.)
Before Christ was born, there were several hundred years when the gospel was not on the earth. Christ organized His church and gave priesthood authority to his apostles. With the death of these apostles, the authority of God (the priesthood) was taken from the earth. After centuries of spiritual darkness, a spiritual reformation started to occur. People wanted deeper spiritual meaning in their lives. The Reformation brought about many Protestant churches. It was during this time, in the early 1800's that a young boy named Joseph Smith prayed to God to find out which church to join. Joseph was only 14, but had faith that God would answer his prayers. He went to a grove, by his home, and offered a prayer. In his own words he said, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other -- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!!"
In this vision, Joseph Smith was told to not join any of the churches because they did not have the power of God and the correct doctrines. Over a period of many years, Joseph Smith restored the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that the same church that Jesus had in his day has been restored and brought forth again for us in these latter days -- complete with living prophets.
Matt and I had a wonderful experience in the Christus room of the visitors center. As you can see in the photo above, it depicts Christ standing in a grove of trees. The peace I felt in that room was amazing. It reminded me of the peace I feel when I am in the temple.
From the visitors center we walked up to the top of the Hill Cumorah. In this hill was buried a sacred record of ancient people on gold plates. An angel told Joseph Smith where this record was buried. Joseph Smith translated it into The Book of Mormon, which is another set of scriptures similar to the Bible, that tells the history of people on the American continent.
We went to the Palmyra Temple. Unfortunately it was closed, but we were able to walk around on the temple grounds. The temple is a sacred place where we receive blessings and are sealed to our family members for eternity. Those windows behind us are clear -- they are the only clear windows in the temple. Through those windows you can look out into the Sacred Grove, where Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ.
The photo below is the view out those windows into the Sacred Grove.
Photo of the Sacred Grove from the Joseph Smith farm.
Our first stop was a rebuilt home to look just like Joseph Smith's home growing up. Only parts of the foundation are original. This is the room where Joseph would've slept and had many visitations by the prophet, Moroni, in preparation for receiving the gold plates.
This is the Cooper's Mill where the gold plates were hidden for a time under the floorboards. Joseph Smith felt inspired to go and move them one night. He moved them to the loft that you can see in this photo. That night a mob came, looking for the gold plates. They tore up all the floorboards, but didn't bother to look in the loft. Once again, God kept his promise and protected the plates because Joseph was obedient.
We visited the grave of Alvin Smith, Joseph Smith's oldest brother.
We went to the Martin Harris farm. Martin Harris mortgaged his farm to provide the money needed to publish the Book of Mormon.
I found this interesting... on an intersection in Palmyra are four different churches -- one on each corner. How symbolic this was to me of the spiritual unrest people felt in the early 1800's when they were searching for a church to join. Churches would compete with each other for members.
Matt decided that he really wanted to drive down to Harmony, Pennsylvania (now Susquehanna). Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, lived there to escape persecution. The majority of the Book of Mormon was translated there. Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith received the Priesthood while there, and baptized each other in the Susquehanna River. The drive was several hours. I had a good nap in the car. Matt enjoyed the beautiful finger lakes on the drive. Our goal was to get there before the sun went down and we barely made it!
We were exhausted at the end of this day. We put 650 miles on our rental car during the four days we were in New York, and loved every minute of it. The Sunday that we were supposed to fly home, we had a few hours and went back to the Hill Cumorah Visitor Center again. We ended our trip by watching the movie, "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration." It was awesome to see all the places in the movie first hand. I highly recommend this movie.
I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is a true book. I know that we can get closer to God by reading this book and by striving to live the commandments. I hope I never forget the feelings I felt at these places. If you want to learn more about our church, you can go to lds.org.