Caretaker watches over Sacred Grove

Published: Thursday, Dec. 17 2009 1:00 a.m. MST

Newly assigned Sacred Grove site missionaries are always excited when they learn that Parrott is not a baptized Mormon.

"They immediately jump to the conclusion that they've got a live one, if you will, and all they've got to do is reel me in," Parrott said, a smile in his voice. "That doesn't bother me. I know where it's coming from. That's what they are supposed to do. ... Even though I understand it, I would prefer that they just accept me as I am. ... It's part of being here. It's not a big deal."

Treating the grove as a sacred place, however, is a big deal for Parrott. Most visitors don't realize how much work goes into maintaining the grove.

"It takes an amazing amount of work to make it look as if I didn't do anything," Parrott said. "It's a little frustrating at times because there is nothing to show for what I am doing ... it's a unique skill to do a considerable amount of maintenance and care and still make it look as natural as possible."

Parrott gets particularly frustrated when a few visitors carelessly carve their initials into trees or let children run off the paths to trample the vegetation. Some visitors even pull down young trees for sport — trees that could have lived centuries.

In 1962, the USDA dated about 30 trees in the grove, including several that were old enough to have been alive in 1820 when Joseph prayed and received his vision.

"We point out to visitors that there are still trees present that were here at the time of the vision, but we don't specify which trees they are," Parrott said, "because if we did, they would, in the words of President Hinckley, 'They would love them to death.'"

But some visitors do remember the location of at least one of the witness trees. They gather the family around for a photo and then pull off pieces of bark for souvenirs.

Parrott said this illustrates why they don't point out which trees are the witness trees. For him, it distorts what the grove is all about.

"The grove isn't about the witness trees," Parrot says. "Eventually they'll all be gone and it will still be the grove and the same Spirit will be there."

Dark winter days give way to beautiful spring mornings. Storms are followed by still nights when fireflies blink among the wildflowers. Visitors, missionaries and years come and go. But Parrott remains, watching over his silent flock — saying a prayer every time he enters the grove that Heavenly Father will teach him what he needs to know to care for the woods.

E-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com
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