To Build the Members’ Testimonies

To Build the Members’ Testimonies

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

To Build the Members’ Testimonies

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

D&C 4:2

I grew up in western New York and attended the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra several times during my youth before meeting with LDS missionaries, listening to their message and joining the Church. Less than a year later, I moved to Utah to attend Brigham Young University, where I met and married my husband and where we made our home. Whenever we return to western New York to visit my family, we always visit Palmyra and the Church sites there.

After one particularly trying period, my husband offered to take me on a vacation and asked where I’d like to go. “Home,” I answered. Home to me was still western New York—where I grew up, where I joined the Church and where the Church was restored.

For many years, the Church historic sites in Palmyra remained very much the same. Then when President Gordon B. Hinckley became prophet, he mounted a campaign to more completely restore the various Palmyra Church sites.

The original Smith log cabin where Moroni appeared to Joseph was reconstructed. The Smith family frame house was restored to its original design. The barn and shop across the road from the house were reconstructed. The road was moved. Instead of one path leading into the Sacred Grove, several paths were created that wound through the grove of trees, ending in the field behind the log cabin. The Grandin Print Shop was expanded. A temple was built. Missionary housing was constructed. The old stake center was given to the city, and a new stake center was built near the temple. The old visitor’s center at the Hill was replaced with a brand-new one. The Hill Cumorah Pageant was improved. The Martin Harris home was purchased, and a park was built adjacent to it. More work was done at the Peter Whitmer Farm in nearby Fayette. Indeed, what used to take only a few hours to visit now takes a couple of days. (And it’s not just Palmyra: the Church is busily improving nearly all its historic sites.)

Because I go home almost every year, and visit Palmyra every time, I have watched with great interest all the new and additional work being done there over the years.

I remember the first time I approached the newly reconstructed Smith family log cabin. Tears streamed down my face as I contemplated what had transpired in that little log house in the western New York wilderness so many years ago. When I entered the upper room where Moroni had appeared to Joseph, I felt the Spirit more strongly than I have ever felt it in my life.

I remember when President Hinckley announced that the 100th temple in the Church would be the Palmyra Temple. I ran to tell my husband but could not, because I was weeping with joy so much that I couldn’t speak. Once I calmed down, I called my LDS brother and sister who still lived in western New York at the time, and we cried with joy together. We never thought we would have a temple so close to our childhood home, let alone in our beloved Palmyra.

I remember the first time I approached the temple site while it was still under construction. Tears welled up in my eyes as I contemplated the significance of a House of the Lord in the very place where Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ first appeared in this dispensation, in the very place from which the Saints had once been driven. Surely Joseph was smiling from on high.

I remember the first time my husband and I attended a session at the new Palmyra Temple. I began crying when we pulled into the parking lot, and I didn’t stop until we departed.

Western New York is my childhood home. Palmyra is my spiritual touchstone.

Once when visiting the newly restored Smith family frame house, I asked the missionary conducting the tour how many of their visitors were LDS. “Ninety-five percent,” he answered.

“Only five percent are nonmembers?” I asked incredulously, thinking surely all the new work was meant to attract more nonmember visitors, more missionary leads.

“Why would the Church go to such lengths for members?” I asked, assuming members already know the truth and don’t need all this to confirm it. I was surprised by the missionary’s answer.

“President Hinckley said,” he answered with a knowing smile, “it’s to build the members’ testimonies.”

I was dumbstruck.

I come here to shore up my testimony almost every year, I thought. Of course, other members do the same—and, of course, a Prophet of the Lord would know that.

During his presidency, President Hinckley has not only made every effort to restore to its original state every Church historic site in Palmyra, but also many other Church historic sites throughout the country “to help build the members’ testimonies.”

When we walk the paths in the Sacred Grove, the faith with which Joseph approached Heavenly Father in prayer is almost tangible.

When we visit the log cabin, the faith with which Joseph listened to and followed Moroni’s instructions is almost tangible.

When we tour the frame home, the faith with which the Smith family supported Joseph in his great work is almost tangible.

When we explore the Grandin Print Shop, the faith with which Joseph printed the book that would change the world is almost tangible.

When we enter the Palmyra Temple, the faith with which that temple was built is almost tangible.

In feeling the tremendous faith once exercised in Palmyra (and other Church historic sites sacred to us), our hearts swell, our minds expand, our faith grows, our testimonies strengthen—so we, too, can participate in this great work with all of our heart, mind, might and strength—as we commemorate the 175th anniversary of its restoration.

Peg Fugal

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