Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Importance of Palmyra – Part II

Continuing from the previous post with an article I read and the author’s approach to the place of Palmyra and the Hill Cumorah driving the events that occurred there, rather than the other way around. 
    As the author continued: “As incredible as these foretold events were, there is still more to consider. There were those who would provide invaluable assistance in bringing forth the Restoration. They were the “means” to further the work (D&C 5:34), those whom Nephi described as “three witnesses” who would see Cumorah’s record and “testify to the truth of the book and the things therein” (2 Nephi 27:12). Thus, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer also had to converge within reasonable proximity to the fixed geographical region of Palmyra, where they would be connected to the foretold seer. Their connection was necessary for the Restoration to be set in motion. The story of how the seer and three witnesses of the marvelous Restoration would meet in the proper place at the proper time is a fascinating one.”
Of course it is indeed a fascinating chain of events, but once again, it is not that they converged at Palmyra that is fascinating, but that they converged, period. The location was immaterial. It could have been at Marion, New York, a small town 7 ½ miles north of Palmyra that was part of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase and settled around 1795, when it was known as the “town of Winchester,” having separated from Williamson in 1825; or to the town of Phelps, 13 miles to the southeast of Palmyra, begun by Oliver Phelps who migrated from Granville, Massachusetts, where some of the Smith family had lived.
    Once again, we need to think not of the hill Cumorah being the center of these events and the drawing factor in them, but of the placement of the deposited plates that Moroni chose at some point to place the plates for Joseph Smith’s eventual discovery and use.
    That these events were all under the guiding hand of the Lord seems certain. President Thomas S. Monson’s feeling that “there is a guiding hand above all things,” is important to keep in mind (quoted in Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Lessons Learned in the Journey of Life,” Ensign, December 2000).
    Quite often, especially involved in things relating to the Church and the special events that effect it, events do not happen by accident. It is even the same in many of the events of our own lives, that age and retrospect often show us were not accidental events, but part of an overall Plan that guided our lives and enabled us along the way.
    When I was a young man with a very promising baseball career as a pitcher that could throw a baseball near 100-mph, I was devastated by a wild throw in a game that hit me on the point of my right shoulder—my pitching arm. There were no Frank Jobes in those days—at least not available to me nor the Cleveland Indians who had offered me a contract to pitch in an eastern league toward the end of the season with an invitation to spring training the following February.
    That wild throw ended my life-long dream, a stint in the military sealed my fate, and I was out of professional sports forever. But had I gone to Alabama, I would never have met my angel wife—no doubt the only woman that would ever have put up with me—had our seven children and 28 grandchildren, carved out a career and the education and all the other things that are my life today.
In the attic bedroom behond the upstairs window the Angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and told him of his future mission

    In this light, the hardships, trials, and mishaps experienced by the Smith family, and several other people and families of the period, not only molded their characters but served to move them in certain directions. Perhaps even the Smiths were surprised to find themselves in Palmyra, for there is no record of a divine manifestation directing them there. Unlike Moses or Lehi, who were foretold of a promised destination, it seems that the Smiths were able to make sense of the long journey to their destination only after they had arrived. And then it was difficult to ignore the “guiding hand above all things.”
    The Smiths’ pathway to this destination where the plates would be located, was a generational journey. Perhaps a good starting point would be Ebenezer Mack (Joseph Smith Jr.’s maternal great-grandfather). He was “a man of considerable property, and lived in good style.” He was in a position to leave his family in security with both property and style. Yet through a series of “misfortunes,” he was reduced to poverty, and his son, Solomon, was “bound-out” (apprenticed) as a youth. As Ruth Wallis Herndon, in Children Bound to Labor makes clear, pauper apprenticeship was an important source of labor in early America. The economic, social, and political development of the colonies and then the states cannot be told properly without taking them into account. Binding out pauper apprentices was a widespread practice throughout the colonies from Massachusetts to South Carolina--poor, illegitimate, orphaned, abandoned, or abused children were raised to adulthood in a legal condition of indentured servitude. Most of these children were without resources and often without advocates. Local officials undertook the responsibility for putting such children in family situations where the child was expected to work, while the master provided education and basic living needs.
    This experience influenced Solomon to spend his lifetime consumed with obtaining riches. His quest to find comfort and prosperity was never realized, and Solomon finally concluded that “the Lord would not suffer me to prosper” (Solomon’s accidents encountered over a long period of time as found in Solomon Mack, Windsor, Vt. 1810), 10, in L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University).
Rather than sinking deep roots on a spacious family farm, Solomon’s attempts to secure reasonable means to make a living eventually led him and his family to Gilsum, New Hampshire, where his son, Stephen, a successful businessman, returned with his sister, Lucy, to live with him and help care for his growing family, in Tunbridge, Vermont, in 1795, while her parents, Solomon and Lydia Gates Mack, remained in Gilsum.
    In Tunbridge, Lucy Mack met and married Joseph Smith, Sr., in 1796. While five of their first six children were born in Tunbridge, Joseph Smith, Jr., was born in Sharon, Vermont, in 1805, moved with his family to Connecticut in 1812, and to the village of Palmyra and finally to the farm across the line in Manchester in 1819.
    With the Smiths were living just off Stafford Road bordering Palmyra and Manchester, conditions were set for unfolding the Restoration. The roads taken to bring all the people to this location had been arduous and long—but they were finally in position for the restoration to begin.
    Could the Sacred Grove been in some other stand of trees? There was nothing sacred or special about the Sacred Grove before the Father and Son appeared to Joseph Smith within it. Having been there, and believe me it is very special experience now, it is just a large grove of tall trees.
Upon reaching the Sacred Grove from across the farmyard it appears like any other grove of trees, but once inside, the experience of its sacredness because the Father and the Son stood here is irrefutable

    It is not the places that were sacred, but what happened within or on them, what they said and what they meant. The Lord’s Plan to bring all the participants in the restoration together was not an easy one for most, and with some it was filled with disappointment and difficulty, like with the Smiths who lost money in farming  and were forced to New York where land was available to start again.
(See the next post, “The Importance of Palmyra – Part III,” for it was not that Palmyra was important, but what took place there)

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