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.
Videos: It seems that everyone has a video camera ready and waiting to record the event. Plus, with many video editing programs out there, it's possible to learn to use the programs to develop videos to share with others or view in the quiet confines of a home. Who knows, maybe the video will go viral, and you’ll become famous!
Sharing: Our historic events can be and should be shared in many instances. Some of the stories may be too poignant to share — at least right now. Other stories are fun to share. Children and others need to hear these stories. And our children and grandchildren often clamor for the story to be told one more time. Sharing helps to relive the experience. More often than not, the feelings of that moment surface each time we tell the story. Perhaps, though, most sacred stories can be shared on special occasions.
Blogging: Ah, the wonders of the new technology! Now, personal historic events can be instantaneous. For some, blogging may be too new. My daughters convinced me to write a blog (which is at www.darrelhammon.blogspot.com) to record my feelings, my events, my thoughts and other musings. I have been amazed at the number of people who read it and then comment. My blog has become an outlet for me, whether it be poetry or an essay or just feelings about a particular event. It is a recording of my life — albeit in snippets.
However a person decides to record and preserve your historic event will be special to them, to their family and and throughout history. Just as Olsen believes that "as people catch a glimpse of modern-day history, their knowledge of church history will grow and their testimonies of the gospel will be strengthened," our testimonies will grow, too.
Like I, too, believe that as historic events and experiences are recorded, testimonies will grow, and those of family members will grow, not necessarily because the events were spectacular or earth-shattering. Rather, they are our events, our historic events, the ones that made us as we are and will be.
An Idahoan, Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. He blogs at www.darrelhammon.blogspot.com.