Trevor & Brittany’s visit
Just one week before our mission was over, we had a wonderful visit from our son Trevor and daughter in law Brittany. They went to many of the normal London sites,
and we did the usual Dover trip, but we also spent a night in Romford and then visited a couple other nice towns. The first was Lavenham, famous for it’s old and very crooked half-timber houses. They say these structures became crooked because they were originally constructed with green timbers, and as the timbers dried out they continued to grow and bend and warp, making the buildings incredibly unique and picturesque. A delightful place to wander and photograph. We also visited Cambridge and went for a punting ride on the river Cam.
One P-day we went to Greenwich and visited the “Royal Observatory.”
This is where the “Prime Meridian” exists, or the line of zero longitude, or the point where all other time in the world is measured from …. Greenwich Mean Time.
The museum there has a wonderful explanation of how Greenwich Mean Time came to be, and of how the world first determined how to measure longitude accurately enough for proper navigation at sea. Latitude is easily determined by measuring the angle of the North Star or Polaris above the horizon. Longitude is much more difficult. Determining it from celestial bodies is very complicated and fairly inaccurate. At sea longitude used to be estimated by keeping track of the time you traveled in a given direction, but in the ocean over long distances this is again very inaccurate. Ships unable to determine how far East or West they were at sea would often crash into unforeseen land masses or even other ships. In 1707 a particularly disastrous wreck occurred prompting the English parliament to offer a reward of £20,000 to anyone who could determine a method of accurately determining longitude. Two methods were pursued. One was to improve the method of observing angles between celestial bodies. The other was to determine and accurate method of keeping time at sea. If time could be accurately determined from a fixed starting point, a simple estimation of the sun or moon’s angle with the horizon (celestial navigation) would allow you to determine your longitude. If the clock was off by a few seconds it could represent many nautical miles of inaccuracy. The only accurate clocks at the time were those which used large swinging pendulums. But these would only be accurate on a stable surface, certainly not the environment on a ship at sea. To solve the problem, John Harrison developed several different time pieces designed for ship travel, called chronometers. They used various oscillation methods that would remain accurate in the wind tossed sea environment.
His 4th attempt was finally successful and allowed ships to determine their longitudinal position within a few miles. He basically spent his whole life developing these time pieces. And even when his 4th watch passed the test, 2 different times, the “Royal Astronomers” & parliament didn’t want to give him his reward. King George had to get involved and he was finally rewarded properly. It made him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards, but he was 78 years old by then and only lived 6 more years to enjoy it. But, he certainly made a name for himself and is well known for all his amazing technological advances. His method of time/celestial navigation was the standard for sea navigation clear up until satellite navigation became even more accurate. Of course your cell phone now figures longitude to within a yard or two no matter where you are using GPS technology.
A couple other interesting things in Greenwich. The famous red ball which has dropped for 100’s of years at 1 pm to help the people of London, including sailors on the Thames set their watches each day.
An early sun dial. When the sun is straight up, at noon, it shines through a magnifying glass, lighting a fuse, which sets off a cannon.
The painted ballroom at the Royal Naval Academy. Greenwich outside the Royal Naval Academy.
Visit from Devin & Lisa
In April we were pleased to receive a visit from our son Devin and his wife Lisa. We were happy to take them to our favorite sights in London. We also took a day to drive to Dover. As the Dover castle was closed, we opted to visit Leeds castle on the way, an nice alternative.
We walked the cliffs of Dover to the South Foreland Lighthouse.
On the way back we stopped in Canterbury to attend an evensong at the Canterbury Cathedral.
We even found a place to dress up like Star Wars characters, at the Beany Institute.
We enjoyed very much the short time we were able to spend with them, visiting, catching up and talking about home and missionary work.
One Saturday night we had considerable excitement at our visitor’s center.
One of our church members had a connection with the Spanish embassy’s in London and agreed to allow them to use our facility for their Latino Convention.
It was a competition / program that lasted 2.5 hours. There were performing groups from most Latino countries presenting their cultural dances in full costume. Some of them even provided their own live music. There were probably 25 different acts. The costumes were amazing and the dancers professional quality.
It was being recorded and televised as well. After each presentation, the news caster interviewed the group and at the end awards were given.
It was a tremendous experience. I thought it interesting that having lived so close to Mexico most my life, I had to come all the way to London to see the most impressive Latino performance of my life.
The Ashby Name
On Sunday I was standing at the front desk of the VC greeting members and visitor’s for church when who should walk through the door but my brother Lyle, here on business. It was a wonderful surprise. He stayed for church and ate lunch with us. Then on Wednesday he was able to get the day off, so we took advantage of his rental car and our P-day and Holly and I drove North with him to visit some small ancestor towns. Up in the Northampton and Leicester area of England there is considerable history having to do with the Ashby name. “Ashby” dates back to the Viking era. Some believe it may have come from a Norseman named Aski. Others think the name was derived from an ash tree farm or settlement by ash trees. Early maps show several Ashby settlements and many of them exist to this day. In reading the histories you find they were named because they were built in the “village of Ashby.” Some examples are: Ashby Castle, Cannons Ashby, Mears Ashby, Ashby Folville, and the more famous Ashby de la Zouch. I have read quite a bit about many of these small towns and can’t seem to find any ancestral connection other than the Ashby name. However, in this same area is a place called Quenby, near the town of Hungarton. Quenby has considerable Ashby ancestry, in our direct line. Near Hungarton there is a large Jacobean House, called Quenby Hall. It was built by George Ashby, High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 1618. His ancestors lived in Quenby as far back as we have records, about 8 generations. George’s son Thomas was born in Quenby Hall, then migrated to the US, settling in Salem Massachusetts, where his decedents lived for many more generations, until Nathanial Ashby joined the LDS church in 1841 and moved to Nauvoo. His wife and son, Benjamin crossed the plains with the pioneers. All of these Ashby’s and their wives are in our direct line.
Our goal for the day, as you can imagine, was to visit Quenby Hall. But on the way we stopped at Canons Ashby, a town named after a group of ‘canons’ or priests who founded an Augustinian Priory in the 12th century. The town is quite small, but has a large Elizabethan manor house and an old parish church.
We next visited Ashby Castle, another small village with a huge manor house, Castle Ashby, built by Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry in 1306. The Castle is privately owned and not open to the public, but we enjoyed a nice lunch in a local café.
We next visited Mears Ashby. It also had a large mansion house, several smaller residences and a beautiful church on a hill.
By the time we made it to Quenby Hall, it was dusk. The Hall sits on a hill above the small village of Hungerton and is surrounded by large trees and beautiful green pastures, filled with grazing sheep, in all directions. Again, the Hall is private and we couldn’t go inside, but we were able to walk the ½ mile up a tree lined lane to a large gate and view the impressive front entrance. It was amazing to contemplate how many of our ancestors had lived, worked and played here, and called this beautiful part of England home. I felt at home with all the grazing sheep, as our family raised sheep most of my growing up years in Garland UT. It was also sobering to look at Quenby hall, an impressive stone structure that was built a couple years before the pilgrims first came to America, a building as old as our country. And it was incredible to think that one of our own Ashby relatives was born here, in Quenby, migrated to America and died there just 20 years after the pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. And, it was quite nostalgic to spend time visiting and walking around in the very region on this earth where the Ashby name first came to be.
The English like to have “tea” in the afternoon. It’s a tradition that originated in the 1800’s when a royal duchess felt there needed to be something in between lunch and dinner to perk you up. Holly and I have engaged in said activity several times. It’s not my favorite, because it doesn’t bode well on the practical meter. For quite some time Holly has been anxious to go to “High Tea.” I’ve been dragging my feet. High tea, I guess, means you have tea at a ‘proper’ English establishment. The only thing really high about it, as I see, is the price. But, if you’re going to have high tea, you might as well have high tea, so Holly got us a reservation at the Kensington Palace Orangery. Tea itself, even fruit/herbal tea, is a drink that is not really palatable, unless you add a lot of sugar, which thankfully they provide. Tea, and especially high tea always comes with an array of snacks….helps get the tea down. So at high tea, at Kensington Palace, we got a 3-tier snack tray with an assortment of small snacks, small sandwiches, small scones (biscuits) and small desserts. Now you know a sandwich is small when it makes no sense to take a bite of it. Still, you take a bite so as to be proper, allow for more conversation and extend the eating experience. The scones were really good, especially with plenty of clotted cream & jam. The desserts were good too, but very small. They served chocolate mousse; in a mouse sized cup… “there must have been two spoon fulls.” Also for dessert was a small wedge of cake, Christmas cake, i.e. Fruit cake. Now in the states they claim there is really no new fruit cake, it just gets passed around each Christmas; cause no one eats it, but this cake was fresh and really quite good. Yes, small portions. Holly was worried that we might be too full to eat again at 5pm. No worries. Tea portions were invented such that you really “need” to eat again at 5pm. Yes, it was a bit pricy, perhaps because of the royal grounds we were eating on, or the royal Orangery we were in, or the royal plates we were eating on, or even the royal service we received, but the experience was a good one, mainly because of the royal company I keep…my wife.
One P-day Holly wanted to try standing in line for some theater tickets. Here in London many shows reserve several tickets, usually the front 2 rows, which are perhaps not the best seats, but certainly desirable ones, and hand them out on the day of the performance. So, if the show is good, people will come and stand in line to get the tickets for a significantly discounted price, usually £10-15. If the show is really good, the line starts many hours before the venue opens. Each person in line is able to get up to two tickets. So Holly got in line at around 6:30 am to get tickets to see “Photograph 51” with Nicole Kidman. I left home about the same time, but didn’t go to the theater. I rode the tube to Bermondsey and took pictures of the sun rise over the Thames and on Tower bridge. Then I walked from there to the theater district to meet Holly. She did get tickets and we went to the Matinee performance of Photograph 51. So to complete the day we got day-of tickets for “Bend it like Beckham” and went to the evening performance of that. We sat on the 1st or 2nd rows for both performances and loved both of them.
Another day we took a walk to the Thames again, this time in Chelsea, around sunset and caught the “Albert Bridge” looking pretty nice.
Looking Down on London
To celebrate Holly’s birthday we decided to spend a day seeing the London sites from heights. We started the day rather early by eating breakfast at the Ting restaurant. The Ting is located in the 5-star Shangri la hotel on the 35 floor of the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe. It kind of looks like a shard of glass on the London skyline.
We arrived early, with enough time to watch the sun rise over London before we sat by the window to enjoy an exquisite buffet breakfast, as the changing morning light reflected off of all the famous London landmarks.
After breakfast we walked to several of the landmarks we had seen from above. The first was Monument. This is a tall tower built near the spot where the great fire of London started and stands as a memorial to that tragic event.
The Shard had an elevator. The observation deck of Monument require us to climb a 310 step spiral staircase.
We needed something to start working off that breakfast anyway. We visited several other sites, but one of note was St Paul’s Cathedral. Though we had visited this famous church before, this time we took the tour and climbed to the top of the dome.
Again, no elevator, but 528 steps. We listened to a bit of the noon mass from the “whispering gallery.” Yes, you could hear the priest whispering far below, but could not understand a word he was saying. It was a great day. The views from the Shard, Monument and St. Paul’s were all unique, lovely and interesting. At the end of the day we figured we had climbed up and down well over 1000 steps, but it was all worth it.
Church history in london
One day we went to visit some of the church historic sites in London city center, mainly in the East Shoreditch area. This has been an area of significant religious activity form many centuries. It was in this area, in the 16-1700’s, where many of the early reformers began to preach, teach and assert their beliefs in opposition to currently organized Christianity. The ‘non-conformist,’ as they were called, included men like William Tyndale, who translated the bible into English; John Bunyan, an itinerant preacher and writer; George Fox, founder of the Quakers; Isacc Watts, a well-known religious hymn writer; and John and Charles Westley, who founded Methodism.
There is a cemetery in this area, the Bunhill cemetery. It was originally a burial place for victims of the plague. It was never consecrated by the Church of England, so it became a burial place for many of the rebels, or non-conformist, who according to some did not deserve a proper Christian burial. Just across the street from the Bunhill Cemetery stands the Wesley chapel, the very first Methodist church.
Both John and Charles Wesley received their ‘conversion’ to Christianity in this area as indicated by a plaque just outside the Museum of London, also in this area.
The Anglican Church serving this district of London or parish was St Luke’s. The church building still stands but is now used as a music school and hall.
LDS missionaries first came to London to preach in September of 1840. The church had already been well established in other parts of England. Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith were the first missionaries. Their first stop in London, was to visit a relative of a missionary they knew from Northern England who lived South of the river Thames in Borough. They stayed the first two nights at the King’s Arms Inn in Borough. Their first 10 days of preaching were met with “total indifference.” Then they met Henry Connor, a watch maker who lived on Ironmonger Row just North of St Luke’s church in Shorditch. He accepted their message and helped them in their preaching efforts. He became the first convert in London and was baptized in Peerless Pool, a public bath (swimming pool) on Ironmonger Row.
After a few months 11 people had joined the church and they were able to rent a hall for meetings at the Barrett’s Academy on King’s Square where they preached 4 days a week.
By February of 1841 there were 46 converts in London and the three missionaries returned to the North leaving a young Lorenzo Snow to preside over the London conference.
The church has grown significantly in London since these early days. There are now 10’s of thousands of members and over 20 church buildings. There are two wards organized in the area of St. Luke’s parish but to date they have been holding services in a rented school building. The church has been looking for a site to build a permanent chapel in the area for the last 18 years. Locating and securing property in central London is very difficult, competitive and expensive. Two months ago a joint fast was observed by the members of the London Hyde Park stake to petition the Lord’s help in securing a suitable site for a church building. In July of this year (2015) our prayers were answered and a site was identified and purchased. It just happens to be located adjacent to the Wesley chapel, just across the street from the Bunhill Cemetery and a short walk from St. Luke’s church, Ironmonger row and King’s Square. We can’t help but think that perhaps some of these early LDS missionaries or even some of the early English religious reformers were helping us in some way from the other side.
The Foundling museum
One P-day we went to the Foundling Museum. The Foundling Hospital was UK’s first children’s charity. It was established in 1739 to care for babies who would otherwise have been abandoned on the streets of London, and operated until 1926. There were many challenges in London in the mid 1700’s. The population soared from 575k to 900k. The infrastructure of the city could not keep up and in most parts of the city the water was not fit to drink and would make you sick. Gin and boos became the substitute because the alcohol tended to kill the impurities. Alcohol became cheaper and more accessible than clean drinking water. One in six houses in London sold gin. One sign read: “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence, straw for free.” Poverty, laziness, drunkenness, irresponsibility, prostitution etc. all became considerable problems. That of course had its toll on the family. Mortality rate was high. 75% of children born died before they were five years old. It was believed that over 1000 children were abandoned on the streets of London every year.
Thomas Coram was a seaman and merchant. When he returned to London in 1704 he was horrified to see all the babies abandoned on the streets between his home in Rotherhithe and the city center of London. Coram set out to establish a charity to receive exposed and deserted children. The Foundling Hospital was the result of his valiant efforts. At first there was limited space in the hospital and many babies still had to be turned away. At length the government stepped in and provided some support, but in return they required that the hospital accept every baby delivered to its doors. The enrolment soon soared to 15000 children. It was not easy for women to abandon their children, even at the hospital, but poverty, widowhood, desertion by the child’s father and the shame of illegitimacy were all common reasons why women felt compelled to leave their babies. The hospital offered the opportunity of a better life for the child but it was a painful decision for most mothers. At the hospital, most boys were trained to join the military. Some became apprentice to various trades. Girls were trained mainly as domestic servants.
Oddly enough the Foundling Hospital also became England’s first public art gallery. The community could see the benefit of the hospital, so more funds, from the government and charitable individuals became available. But, with many willing to contribute, the number of charitable establishments for children began to increase as well.
To compete for available funds, the Foundling hospital began to display art to draw people to its facility and encourage them to donate to their cause. Over the years outstanding artists, musicians, writers and craftsmen gave their support for the hospital, creating a model for the way in which the arts could support charity and children’s welfare. Today the Foundling center is no longer a hospital, but it is still a very nice art gallery and has a wonderful museum to help the public understand its history.
Visit from our Kids
A few weeks back Keir, Liesel and Liesel’s husband Austen came to London to visit. We had some great experiences together doing a whirlwind tour of London and Dover.
They hit most of the main tourist sites in London. We got to join them some times. We spent an afternoon at Kew Botanical gardens, the largest in the world.
Back to Gilwell
As you know, I’ve been involved in scouting most my life. Several years ago I went to woodbadge training, the premier training for adult scout leaders. At Woodbadge they sort you into groups and give you a critter name. I’m an Antelope. At training you sing this rather silly song about your critter and going “back to Gilwell, happy land.” Gilwell was the first, original, organized scout camp in the world, back in the days of Baden Powell, founder of scouting. Of course scouting started in England and Gilwell is just North of London and is still a huge scout camp. So, on one of our P-day’s Holly and I went “back to Gilwell.” We found the place the true scouting way, by traipsing through the forest for a couple miles. It’s a really cool place and looks very much like most other scout camps I’ve been to. We met an old guy from Scotland there, who had clearly been telling scout stories his whole life. He shared several stories with us. It was awesome. He could have talked all day. Before we left, mom and I had to sing the Gilwell song, at Gilwell. You can see it here.
THe complete package
Sebastian came into the visitor’s center in March 2015. He was enthusiastic, happy and eager to learn about our church. He said he came in because he noticed our church on the map and a sign outside that said “free film inside.” He took a tour, watched “Because He Lives” and part of “Meet the Mormons.” He also asked lots of really good questions. He then indicated he had just arrived in London, he no job, no place to stay, and very little money. We told him about our self-reliance center, helped him locate a shelter close by and helped him with directions. The next day he came back to the visitor’s center, watched The Restoration video and went to the self-reliance center. Over the next couple weeks we saw him almost every day as he came to work with Elder &Sister Baxter. He started taking the missionary discussions and came to church each week. Sometimes he would just sit and ask questions about our church and religion in general. He had a good Christian background, knew quite a bit about the Bible, was very intelligent and had some really good questions. He said his mom and dad had taught him a lot about Christianity. Still, his main focus was getting a job, but the weeks dragged on and on, and still he had no work. His enthusiasm, appearance and countenance continued to deteriorate. He would receive money from his mom once in a while, but I think most nights he was probably sleeping on the street and had no place to clean up. He began to smell pretty bad and we finally had to talk to him about not hanging around the visitor’s center all day, every day. He remained pleasant and optimistic however, at least on the outside, but I’m sure he felt depressed, alone and discouraged. Then one day, after several weeks of searching, he reported that he had found a job cleaning an office building. It wasn’t consistent, but it was a big step in the right direction. Just having work made his countenance change dramatically. He was much more positive and happy. Over the next few weeks he found a second job, the part-time job became full-time and things continued to look up. He really was a hard worker and would always volunteer to help set up chairs or help anyone he could around the visitor’s center. He would often tell us about his work. He also told us that God sometimes gives us trials, but He does that so we can learn to be diligent and persistent, and if we are, God will give us what we need. He was still receiving the discussions and one day told us, “Next week will be my bap-ti-size!” On the day of his baptism he showed up at the visitor’s center at 10am — in a suit. His baptism was at 3pm. He was so excited and happy. He was clean and well-groomed, but had his tie in his hand because he had no clue how to tie it. We helped him learn and on his second try he had it down. He looked really sharp. His baptism was lovely. He bore a wonderful testimony about how God sends us trials and how importance it is to never give up. He soon received the priesthood and a calling on the activities committee.Sebastian is a great example of someone who was able to take full advantage of what the gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer and with his own hard work and persistence was able to bring considerable meaning, purpose and potential to his life.
Burgers & Dancing
We live quite close to the Hard Rock Cafe. This is the original, very first HR cafe. One day Holly and I walked there for dinner. The Hard Rock Cafe started years ago when a couple of Americans dudes were visiting London and complaining because they couldn’t fine a real American hamburger. They decided to start a hamburger chain, in London and named it the Hard Rock Cafe. It multiplied from there, all over the world and left them multimillionaires.
The food was good, heavy, proper, fatty, juicy hamburgers, a little pricey; hard rock music playing in the background, noisy, crowded…..yes, a pretty typical American hamburger joint. The best part however, was all the memorabilia they had hanging around on the walls from all kinds of famous bands throughout history. I’m not sure we’ll go back, but it is one of those experiences you should really have, if you’re going to stay in London for 2 years.
After that we caught a tube to the Hollaway area and took a rather long walk in the cold to the Irish cultural center/pub. There we participated in Irish set dancing for 2+ hours. It was much like square dancing, probably the forerunner of square dancing.
There were mostly older people there…like us, and a real proficient instructor/caller who taught us to do 4-5 different set dances. It was really a lot of fun. We thought they would all be done and tired by 9:30….we were. But they were still going strong, clear up until 10:20 when Holly and I figured we had had enough and had better start making our way home. We were to be at the VC early the next morning. The people were very nice, and asked us several times to be sure and come to the next dance…..wonderful Irish hospitality.
Irish set dancing has a lot of twirling involved, polka style dancing in circles. I’m not sure if I am just not used to that, or if I had eaten way too much greasy Hard Rock hamburger, or if I”m just getting old, but every time we did all that twirling I got quite dizzy and towards the end was even getting a little nauseous….another reason why we bowed out at 10:20. The long cold walk back to the tube helped to straighten my system out, but I think the cold, and perhaps a few random germs from the other dancers got to Holly, and she came down with a bit of a cold. Still, it was a great experience and we would enjoy doing it again some time.
In 1974 I left on my mission to the Philippine Islands. I took with me a brown leather belt which I wore every day, my whole mission. I put my initials on the back of it so as not to lose it. When I came home from my mission my younger brother Rodney was about to leave on his mission to England. So he took the belt with him and added his initial to the back. Sometime after that, it became a tradition in our family to take this belt with you when you served your mission, whether you wore it or not, and initial the back of it. It went with all four of my brothers, and one of my sisters, on their missions. It then went with my parents as they served a mission in West Virginia. After that, it started passing on to the grandkids, and this year will find its way to Minnesota where the first great-grandchild will serve a mission. By the end of this year, the mission belt will have been to 21 missions and 9 different countries. It has become a family icon. It represents the dedication of my parents, Marvin & Yvonne Ashby, to their family and to teaching their posterity the importance of spreading the gospel. It represents a legacy of missionaries and has become a motivation to our family to do what we can to further the gathering of Israel in these last days. It has particular significance to me as I was able to be the first to initial it, and am now able to add my initials a second time next to my wife’s initials, not to mention that all three of our sons have their initials on the belt.
When my brother Gary sent the belt back to me, from his daughter in Argentina, the clerk at the post office asked him what the value of the packaged was. He told her the monetary value was around $0.75, but the inspirational value…. priceless. He explained what it was and she was quite impressed. See also the Hyde Park VC Facebook page.
Cultural MELTING POT
I’ve mentioned before that we meet and work with people from all over the world. During the holiday season there have been several cultural events at our visitors center.
In our stake (a group of several congregations making up about 1000 church members) we are told there are 110 nationalities represented. The Chinese members sponsored a Chinese convention at our building one weekend. Another weekend the Portuguese members did the same thing.
One evening there was a cultural event. The walls of our cultural hall were lined with tables, all filled with foods from all over the world brought by various members.
There were probably 15-20 cuisines represented. One night we had an activity focused on the Christmas nativity. People brought nativity sets for display from different countries. We built a lve sized nativity background and had costumes for people to dress up in and get their picture taken in the manger scene. We love being involved in the preparation and experience of these activities and especially enjoy the wonderful people they draw to our building.
Christmas service with the Anglicans
We sang again with the Rehear Singers, the Anglican volunteer choir. This was their special Christmas evensong. To make it special they invited a PCC (Proper Church Choir) to perform at the service as well. The service started with the PCC singing in the choir pews, under the organ and our choir singing up in the balcony behind huge stone pillars at the other end of the hall, providing an antiphonal effect. We took turns singing back and forth.
Then our choir made a procession down the center isle through the congregation to the end of the hall opposite the PCC where we sang a few songs when it was our turn. At one point we walked to the other end of the hall, joined the PCC and sang together a Messiah peace “Lift up your heads, Oh Ye Gates.”
Now, our Rahear singers were quite good this time round. We had some good additional singers with us. But we were no comparison to the Proper Church Choir, which was certainly ‘proper.’ They were a few orders of magnitude better than us; probably the best church choir I have ever heard. I know, that may not be saying a whole lot when you consider the ward/stake choir circuit, but this group was definitely professional caliber. I would not mind owning a CD of these guys.
There were only 2 singers per part, but they had fantastic voices and superb intonation. One song they sang had very close a-tonal harmonies, very difficult to sing, but they sounded great in the reverberation of the huge St Barts cathedral. As for the service, other than the fact that they did read the nativity story from the new testament, and the PCC was fantastic, it was a pretty typical, slow, rather drab Anglican service, with lots of chants, and long slow hymns that tend to repeat themselves. Makes me appreciate our church services. But, the experience was awesome and being able to sing in a huge, very old, Gothic cathedral was something we’ll never forget.
Evidence of Faith
Sean and his friend came in to the VC. Sean works in politics in South Wales. He used to be Catholic but now has a much more scientific view on life. He believes in God but can’t figure out why he would allow so many bad people to exist and so many bad things to happen in this life. He asked about evolution. He believes in this because we see a tendency for goodness not only in humans but animals as well. He believes in God but struggles with accepting anything by faith, or on the feelings of your heart, because that is not real evidence. I explained that over the years, my experience with feeling the spirit over and over again, of seeing how following the promptings of the spirit has blessed my life, and how obeying God’s commandments has brought me peace and purpose has, in a way, become evidence to me that God does love us, that he directs our lives, and as such my faith has been substantiated with actual evidence. He seemed OK with that idea.
What’s the Catch?
Rupert & Tigau came in to find out more about our church. One was Orthodox, the other Protestant. We gave them an introduction to the restoration and the Book of Mormon. They watched God’s plan. After, they had many questions. We talked about life after death, about purgatory, and various kingdoms or rewards. They asked about progression between kingdoms. We talked about eternal marriage. They asked if we were the only church that teaches eternal marriage. They asked if we use all three testaments (Old testament, New testament & Book of Mormon) or just new revelation, and if we still follow the teachings in the Old testament. We talked about how the law of Moses was fulfilled, but how other commandments remain the same. We talked about those who haven’t heard the gospel hearing about it in the next life. They asked how big our church was. We talked about membership, our missionary force and the importance of spreading the word. They said, “This all sounds really good. I’ve never heard of a church that has all of this. What’s the catch?” I said, “Well, I’ve been a member for many years. I don’t think there is a catch. Perhaps if anything, there are commandments to obey, but when we follow them, God blesses us and the end result is happiness, a deeper understanding of our purpose and peace.” We then talked about how important it is that we all have free agency and make our own decisions about following truth, so we are committed to it and really want to become more like God. I love these in-depth, long discussions. Rupert was happy to give us his information so missionaries could come and teach him more.
Two ladies came rushing in one Sunday, after the Young Single Adult (YSA) ward services had just ended. One asked if her friend could use the toilet. I directed her there, then I struck up a conversation with the one remaining. Her name was Anna, her friend’s name was Krisztina. I learned Anna was from Romania. She knew some about our church and said she was in to theology and studied religions. She had heard about Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon. Someone overheard that she was from Romania and said, “there’s Ionuts, he’s from Romania.” Ionuts is one of the councilors in the YSA bishopric. He came over and spoke Romanian with her for a while. Before they were finished Marius walked up. Marius is a very outgoing young single adult man, from Romania, so he joined in the conversation. Then Elder Rae approached us. He looked at the Romanian girl, she looked at him and they both said “I know you.” Turns out they had met on the tube (subway) a few days ago and had talked religion a bit. It so happened that these elders were teaching a young man who had just committed to baptism, named Alex, who was there with them, who was also from Romania. So Alex joined the conversation. Then another YSA, Eugnia, came walking by and joined the conversation, Eugnia is also from Romania. Everyone was exchanging contact information and having a wonderful discussion, mostly in Romanian. When Anna’s friend Krisztina came out of the loo there was a Romanian party going on. She happened to be from Hungary so Holly struck up a conversation with her and they talked for a long time. What was originally to be a quick trip to the potty turned out to be a very nice and involved visitors center visit. They both stayed for almost an hour and seemed to have a very good experience. I believe in this work there are no coincidences, just events that occur in accordance with a grand plan.
Afternoon tea is a big tradition in England. I think it came from the early days when most people only ate twice a day, so to get them by in the afternoon before dinner they would have a snack and some tea. Restaurants, cafes and pubs all serve afternoon tea. There are buses you can ride around the city, double decker of course, that are filled with little tables so you can sit and have afternoon tea while they tell you about the city. On the way home one afternoon mom and I decided to stop in a small shop and experience afternoon tea. A sign outside advertised “cake and a hot drink – £5.70” We both ordered a cake and since we don’t drink tea ordered hot chocolate. The cake was just wonderful. The chocolate bit was not! They brought us a tall glass of hot milk. The chocolate was in a cube on the end of a stick, wrapped in a nice little box next to the glass. You were to unwrap the chocolate, dip it in the glass of hot milk holding the stick and swirl it around until it melted/dissolved. That was a cool idea. The problem was that the chocolate tasted like pure baking cocoa, very dark and very bitter. It was quite nasty really. I would have much preferred having a drink of my backpacking Swiss Miss chocolate in lukewarm water, in a somewhat clean plastic cup…next to a stinky fire, than this stuff. We tried adding sugar. It didn’t help much. Then they tried to charge us for the chocolate saying it wasn’t part of the special. They didn’t in the end, but at present I’m not too keen on afternoon tea.
Toward the end of one busy day a family came into the visitors center from Poland, a father, mother and 3 children. It had been a long day and the kids were a bit restless. The father had many questions about the church and wanted to compare everything to the bible. We took them in the cinema to show them a movie, to give the kids something to do; but before the video was over, the father wanted to ask more questions. He wanted to know how our church got started and where we got the BofM. He asked if I had read the book and compared it to the bible. I said “I’ve been doing that my whole life.” The mother said “Didn’t God give us all his word when he gave us the bible? I said, “We look at it a little differently. Whenever God speaks to his children through prophets that is God’s word. God spoke to prophets in the bible, but he also spoke to prophets in the Americas, recorded in the Book of Mormon. He probably spoke to other prophets in the world as well and someday we’ll have that record too.” They asked about the 10 lost tribes and where they are. We spoke of patriarchal blessings and how lineages are scattered all over the earth. They told me that they began as Catholics, then converted to the Jehovah’s Witness, but later didn’t agree with all their teachings. They wanted to raise their children so they would know how to make the right choice about religion. They were happy to receive a BofM in Polish and he was excited to go home and read it and compare it with the bible. We talked about the importance of praying to God for understanding and confirmation and he read Moroni’s promise in Polish. He wanted missionaries to come visit him and his family. As they were leaving I asked if they were in London on holiday. He said “no, do you really want to know why we came?” I said sure. He said “we came to London because there was a huge Pentecostal conference and we were interested in attending to see if their beliefs were right for us. When we got there the man at the door said it would cost £30 each to go in. I told him the bible says freely you receive, freely you should give. So we didn’t go to the conference. As we were riding the bus we saw the Mormon visitors center. I had heard of the Mormons before, so we stopped and came back to check it out.” I said, “Sounds like you came to London seeking truth. Perhaps you found it it after all.” He said, “We’ll see, after I read this book.” It will be fun to follow up with this little family.
Oldest Church in England
While in Canterbury we went walking one morning. We arrived at St. Martins Church about 8am. St. Martins church was built around 590 B.C by St. Augustine and his missionaries who were the ones to first bring Christianity to England. The church has survived until today and is the oldest church still in use in the UK.
We just happened to arrive at the same time as a few other church members. They informed us that Wed mornings at 8am they have a short pray service. They knew we were Christians, from our name tags and invited us to join them. Of course we did. There were 6 of us total, sitting in a circle inside this historic church. They gave us a prayer book and we sang songs and read various prayers and chants from it. The scripture for the day was Matt 14: 44-47, comparing the kingdom of God to a treasure. One person would read the verses, then we would sit quiet for a minute or so to ponder, then the next person would read the same passage, then we would ponder etc. Then each would take turns saying a short prayer, then ponder again. They prayed for sinners, for Syria, for world leaders, for the victims of disasters etc. Everything was very much in line with what we think and believe, except, perhaps the sign of the cross. It was a wonderful experience. Had we not shown up at 8am, that day, we would not have been able to have this experience and see inside this historically significant church; and these good Anglicans would not have had a couple of Mormons in their prayer meeting.
Holly reminded me of Moroni 7: The spirit of Christ is given to ‘every’ man that they may know good from evil………And everything that enviteth to do good and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ…..
Singing IN an ANGLICAN evensong
Holly discovered on the internet that one of the Anglican churches in London, St Bartholomew’s,
was preparing an ‘evensong’ service and would feature a volunteer choir. She emailed the organizer and within a few days we had two copies of the music in the mail. They had two rehearsals and a rehearsal/warm-up before the performance on Sunday night. At the first rehearsal I was quite overwhelmed. A couple of the songs were pretty normal choir songs. We found versions of them on the internet that we could practice to and were fairly prepared for them. We were not prepared at all for the more traditional Anglican call & response songs and the ancient Gregorian style chants they were preparing. This music was written before anyone had any concept of music notation as we know it; measures, key signatures, notes with defined lengths, even notes that correspond to words. For example, one song had one line of choral notes written at the top of the page. The notes were divided into 4 sections with double bar lines. Each section had several notes for each part, mostly whole notes and half notes. The words were written below this line of music and were essentially text from the book of Psalms. Each line of words corresponded to a section of notes, but for the 3-4 notes in the section sometimes there were 5 words to sing, sometimes 10 words to sing. You would sing multiple words for each note, but there was no way to know when the words changed to the next note. If you grew up Anglican you might have a clue. Clearly we had no clue. The chants were a series of notes with no measures, with lyrics in Latin. We sang very softly on these songs, sometimes just mouthing the words, but by the end of the rehearsals and performance we were kind of getting the hang of it. Fortunately those around me were really good singers, had been doing this most of their lives, and happy to help.
The church we sang at was built in the 1130 and has been in continuous use since 1140, fortunately coming through the great fire of London and WWII unharmed. It is the oldest surviving church in London. We stood in the wooden choir pews at one end of a huge Gothic room, under a massive organ. For lighting we had small choir lights & candles. I relied more on the light coming through the windows. We were the bulk of the service but in between 3-4 different priests got up in various locations and read from the bible or read prayers etc. Everything was pretty familiar doctrinally, except the part where they prayed for the queen and the royal family. They prayed for those in prison and said some very nice things asking God to help them be dealt with justly.
The whole experience was just awesome. Singing ancient songs in an ancient style in an ancient cathedral with the reverberation of the hall and the organ was truly amazing. The people were so kind and welcoming and helpful. Don’t worry, I’m not going to convert! What would really be nice is if we could somehow get some kind of musical exchange going between them and the Hyde Park Chapel. We were invited to join them again in the future….and we will look forward to it.
Calming power of Christ
On Sunday there were many visitors at church from out of town. Scott Martineau from Mesa was one of them. He was there with his family and another family from the states. They spent some time looking around the VC after church. The other family had a baby girl. It had been a long day and the little girl got very fussy. They couldn’t seem to calm her down, so they decided to leave and walk around with her for a while. As they were walking out the mother showed her baby the Christus. She immediately stopped crying and just starred up at Christ for quite some time. Her husband pulled out the camera and took this picture.
Power Outage – a blessing
18/7/14: Today, just as we arrived at the VC the power went out. There were no lights or displays in the VC so the sisters went out to do some street contacting. Within a few minutes they both had met individuals who wanted to come into the VC and learn more. About the time they came back to the VC the power returned and they were able to have excellent discussions with them (coincidence? don’t think so). Both of these individuals expressed significant interest and each took a BofM to read. One stayed for about 1.5 hours and asked many questions. At one point the sisters came to ask if I would help with some of the questions. He was a young man, an Anglican, named Jonathan, and his first question to me was “what is the difference between your church and other Christian religions.” It so happened that a man had asked the same question the day before and I felt my answer was not very crisp or concise, so I had studied that very question that morning, had written down several concise answers and Holly and I had practiced them in our companionship study. I gave him the answers I had prepared (see inspiration page for more detail) and it opened up a significant discussion on many religious topics. He asked about personal revelation and things like: what if members of your church don’t agree with the prophet’s council, what if the 12 apostles don’t agree on some issue etc. He asked about our stand on gay marriage, on the rights of women and on them holding the priesthood. It turns out a few days prior the Anglican church had ‘voted’ to allow women to become bishops. We had a long discussion about life after death. We got into baptism for the dead, eternal marriages, degrees of glory, eternal progression after this life, even becoming as God is. He was very intelligent and a deep thinker. Here is an example of his philosophy (paraphrased a bit): “I believe that it’s not so important which church you belong to. What is important is what you believe, how well you obey the commandments and how close you are to God. I believe that many things in this world can distract you from this, including money and success and the praise of other men. All these things will no longer be available after we die so they can’t be important to God.” I was quite amazed at what I was hearing from a man who was not associated with our church. I told him he was ‘spot on’ and we had a great discussion about what is really important to God. He left us with the comment that he still feels the main difference between our church and others was what we believe after this life, that we are trying to become as God is, where he believes just being close to God is good enough. We complimented him on his understanding of truth and his desire to learn more and promised him if he would read what we had challenged him to read (the BofM) and pray as we had challenged him to pray that he would continue to understand more and learn more truth. We promised him that if he would look into our church that there is much we could offer him in terms of understanding, truth and closeness to God. It was a tremendous experience, as are all experiences when you get to seriously discuss the simple truths of the gospel.
Wanted to Argue
6/27/14: Richard came into the visitor’s center. It seemed he came in to preach to us, to impress us with his knowledge, to stump us or humiliate us or argue with us. For example, when our two sister missionaries showed him the Christus and were explaining to him about our focus on Christ. He interrupted them and said “how do you know Christ looks like that? Christ has blue eyes. You’ve never seen him. Why do you make statues like this to worship?.” When they showed him a picture of Christ ordaining his 12 apostles he said “I see 12 apostles here. Did you know there were 13? What about Satan? Why isn’t he here in the picture? Did you know Satan was Christ’s brother?” He went on and on about everything the sisters showed him and then he’d say “OK good, show me the next thing.” One of the sisters thought he was possessed, thought he should leave and became very silent. The other sister, a little gal from Taiwan very skillfully answered his questions and did a good job of focusing him back on the subject after his irrelevant comments. Then another investigator came in the center. I asked the silent sister to show him around and I joined the sister from Taiwan to deal with this antagonist. We showed him a picture of our first presidency and told him about our continuing revelation. Then he got off on a whole tangent about how churches are only established to take money from the poor and make church leaders like these men rich; how he and been homeless for years and the churches he went in just pushed him out because he had no money to give them. They never wanted to help him get a job, just wanted his money. He said “I’m sure these men live in mansions and have lots of land because all the members give them money.” We explained about our lay clergy, that these men were not paid, that we as missionaries came on missions paying our own expenses. I explained my experience in the Philippines where the church helped the members learn trades to help them after the typhoon and provided shelter for them. We were calm and patient with him and before long he began to settle down, act more reasonable and began to actually listen to what we had to say. I’m sure he came in to get us all wound up and have a good argument. He failed, and by the end of his ½ hour visit he was acting very reasonable, we were on good terms and joking with one another. He knew a lot more about the Mormons, mainly that they are not confrontational.
6/28/14 William came in the Visitors Center. He was from Columbia and spoke very little English. He came on the advice of some of his friends to learn more about the Mormons. He seemed very interested, but we were having a hard time communicating with him, so we asked if he wanted to watch a video in Spanish. He watched our video about families, in Spanish. He was very impressed and very moved. He said we were on a very important mission to promote and save the family and thanked us for it. It just happened that several Elders had come that morning to play some basketball, and one of them was from Spain. He talked to William in Spanish for quite some time, answered his questions and told him about our church. He was very interested, gave us his contact information and was happy to receive a Book of Mormon in Spanish and left very grateful for the experience.
Interest from the Book of Mormon Musical
6/29/14 Three people came in. They had been to the Book of Mormon musical and were interested to know more about the Mormons. I talked to them about the church Christ organized, Joseph Smith, the restoration and modern day prophets. We also talked about the origin of the Book of Mormon. They said historically the musical is very accurate, based on what I had told them. They asked if I had seen the musical. I told him I had not and they said I should go because it contained valuable insights. I asked them what insights they had received from the musical. They said to them it was trying to convey that everyone should be accepting, that there should be no prejudice for other people and that people can change and be converted and should be allowed to believe as they want. They asked what would happen if we were to proselyting to Muslim people. I told them it depends on where they are and who they are. I told them we can’t proselyte in predominantly Muslim countries, but I know several Muslims who have joined our church and are devout members. They were impressed with our facility and left with a good impression of the church.
The Visitors Center Team
We work with a very divers group of people. We have 3 different security guards, one from Ghana, one from Nigeria, one from Pakistan. We have sisters from South Africa, Congo, Australia, Norway, Taiwan, England, Idaho and …Flagstaff. Those who come to visit are from all parts of the world, countries I’ve never even heard of before .
Blast from the past
We met a couple at the MTC, the Bish’s. Sister Bish said she was from Garland. I asked her maiden name. She said it was Winter. Turns out her mother was my cub scout den leader and primary teacher. Her younger brother was Benjie Winter, one of my good friends in grade school. We exchanged info and she sent me some pictures her mom had of me and our primary class. (I’m the dude in the back blocking the girl’s face)
Her brother, Benjie told her: “Yes, I remember Laurin. I remember going to his birthday party once. At one point we all decided to go jump off his straw stack. I was fighting with another boy, Tim Thompson, which of us would be first to jump. Tim won. When Tim jumped there happened to be a log hidden under the soft straw. His foot hit the side of the log and he broke his leg – a compound fracture.” Benjie continued, “I have always wonder what would of happened if I had won the fight and been the first to jump.” That miss-hap ended the jumping and the party.
At another of my birthday parties, another year, we were all playing in the barn yard, this time swinging on an A-frame crane my dad had. We were swinging on the large steel hook at the end of the cable. One boy was not watching to close and as he walked by the hook smacked him in the back of the head. I believe he had to have stitches. Needless to say, before long no-one would come to my birthday parties.
God Speaks Korean
Elder Morgan was our instructor for the Visitor’s Center specific training.
He shared this story with us. A bus full of Korean tourists came to their temple Visitors Center in St. George UT. The tour guide came in and asked if they could use the restroom. He was very agitated and hurried, said they only had 2 1/2 minutes. While they waited their turn to go to the restroom, Elder Morgan turned on the Christus presentation, in Korean.
As it played, the very impatient tour guide began to melt. When it was over he said “I heard God speaking to me. He was speaking in Korean.” After that, he had plenty of time. They all stayed for 50 minutes and very much enjoyed the presentations and displays. The tour guide said he would always bring his buses to the visitor center in the future.
Scary Baptismal Fonts
The two pictures below were hanging on the MTC walls. The first is in So. Africa. The guys with spears and axes on the bank are patrolling for Crocodiles. The second picture was definitely not in Arizona.