Building personal historic sites

Published: Wednesday, July 13 2011 1:20 p.m. MDT

The importance of preserving historic sites to help us build testimonies and make connections to the sites and their significance in LDS Church history was the topic of a June 2011 Ensign article titled “Building History, Building Testimonies” and penned by Heather Whittle Wrigley.

In the article, Steven L. Olsen, senior curator of the Church History Department and former member of the Church Historic Sites Committee, explained why the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wants to “stop time in its tracks by preserving places of historical value to the church” because “the simple messages of the Restoration (are those) that anchor our identity … as Latter-day Saints.”

He continues, “'We preserve sites to help provide an experience that opens a person’s heart and soul to the message (of the gospel)….Many have found the beginnings of their testimonies when they have gone to the historic sites and had the Spirit bear witness to them.’”

As I was reading Wrigley’s article, I remembered the many historic sites my family and I have visited: Nauvoo, Ill., and surrounding areas; Palmyra and the Sacred Grove, N.Y.; Sharon, Vt.; Kirtland, Ohio, and many of sites around Kirtland; Winter Quarters, Neb.; Martin’s Cove, Wyom., where we pulled handcarts for almost three days; and many, many other sites. While contemplating these visits, I felt the Spirit and remembered other instances, especially as I re-lived an early morning walk with my daughter Hailey through the Sacred Grove and the trek through Martin’s Cove. What incredible spiritual witnesses I received through these historic sites!

It came to me: What about my historic sites and events? What am I doing to preserve my historic sites and experiences I have had through my years? What do they actually mean to me? What should they mean to me? What did I learn from them? What did I teach my family about them? What do they remember from them? Did these events or me telling them about my historic events strengthen their testimonies as they did mine?

Some historic sites rushed through my mind: my family’s sacred sealing in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple when I was 7 years old; my patriarchal blessing; my mission call to southern Chile; my courtship and temple marriage; serving as a bishop; the miraculous births of our two daughters; my graduations from college; my first job and the various subsequent jobs; my daughters’ school and church activities; our visits to LDS Church historic sites; my daughters’ graduations from college and their marriages in the temple; our first granddaughter, and our own calling to serve as Welfare Specialists in the Caribbean Area/Dominican Republic.

As I reflected on these historic events and experiences, I had to ask myself how I was preserving them and how was I doing. Here are a few of the ways I am attempting to preserve my historic events and sites.

Journal: My journal is an excellent preservation tool. When I think of one of the historic events in my life, I can turn to my journal and relive them. Granted, some of the events are more vividly written than others. I remember early one morning on the Martin’s Cove trek, I took my bucket, sauntered out into the prairie, plopped my bucket down, and began writing my feelings of the trek. They flowed willingly and poignantly, splashing on to the paper like a spring rain. Today, I can re-read those words — and I have — and the spirit that was with me that day flows through me again, and I feel it each and every time.

Photos: There is nothing like photos from one personal historic events or experiences. While a photo captures a wonderful moment, a scene, people, the feeling can still come when a photo is viewed later. It is amazing the feelings that emerge for me when I view pictures. The scrapbookers know how to arrange them in story form. Plus, with many photo software editing programs, a historic masterpiece can be created. The key is to remember the feelings and the stories behind the photos. Perhaps, a story from the journal can accompany each photo.

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