I’m starting in the middle of our New England Tour rather than at the beginning. Because it’s Sunday today, and there was a concert in this tour that was pretty special to the souls of us three girls who experienced it. I think it was extra special to me because of music, beauty, and the scripture in James 1:5 that says “If ye lack wisdom, ask of God.”

We may as well get the full verse in here, because it’s a pretty powerful one:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

Gosh I felt that truth in my very bones when Lucy’s choir sang those words on a hill, encircled by the audience, every one of us absolutely drenched from a surprise rainstorm.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

starting at the beginning

Let’s start at the beginning of the day when we met up with my brother Noah and his family in Palmyra to see the church history sites before the outdoor concert that night.

In all my years of life, I have never visited the church history sites. Places where important things took place in the history of our church. Lots of them happened in Palmyra and also Kirtland, Ohio. We lived back East for six years and thought we’d make it to visit some of these places on multiple occasions. But somehow that just never worked out.

This is by no means a comprehensive coverage of these church history spots. On this MCO tour we got to visit a few of them, but honestly we barely scratched the surface. There is so much to learn! But I’ll take it for a start. We listened to part of a book called Saints as we drove. Those books are filled with so much to learn. From the trials and mistakes and also the goodness and beauty that came from sometimes-messiness of the restoration.


I mentioned in my 4th of July post that my brother and his whole family were on this New England tour too. And we loved getting to experience these church history sites together. Our journey to get to Palmyra from Boston was quite eventful, complete with an accident right as we pulled up to our Airbnb, so it felt good to be in this peaceful spot of Palmyra.

A spot where there was so much religious strife (some call the “second great awakening“) back in the early 1800s when Joseph Smith lived close-by as a fourteen-year-old teenager. There were so many different religions he was learning from which led him to ask his own questions to God.

Four Churches Corner

I loved these “four corners churches” where there is a church on each corner of an intersection. These weren’t here when Joseph Smith lived there, but pretty symbolic of all the questions and missionary work going on in that area.

Hill Cumorah

Our first stop was the Hill Cumorah. This is actually just outside Palmyra in Manchester, NY, but we’re going to include it in the Palmyra stuff. It is the place where Joseph Smith found, directed by Angel Moroni, the gold plates that contained the ancient records that made up The Book of Mormon.

There is a visitor center there filled with lots of background information.

We walked up the hill…

…to the monument at the top.

We also walked across the spot where the Hill Cumorah Pageant was performed every summer for 82 years.

It made me a little teary to be in that spot where my mom had her own experience being “born again” as a teenager years ago.

Palmyra Temple

Lucy has been asking to do baptisms at every temple we can and there were no appointments at the Palmyra Temple that day. I mean, there were thousands of MCO musicians in that small town, so I wasn’t surprised, but we decided to at least go check.

And guess what? They had a lull and got us in.

It was a pretty special little miracle for us all, especially for Lucy’s heart she is trying so hard to soften. That girl is a true seeker of Jesus these days, even if she’s angry sometimes.

So my heart was spilling over with gratitude for that opportunity.

Smith Family’s First Home

The Smith Family Farm is where Joseph Smith lived as a boy. The original house where the Smith family lived has been rebuilt to look just like it was when they lived there.

I loved this Bible opened to James 1:5 on the table:

Smith Family Frame Home

Later the Smith family moved to this house, and it was an important spot for lots of happenings pertaining to the Book of Mormon.

Cooper Shop

The Smith Family had a spot set apart for the “materials needed to make barrels, baskets, and light furniture, both for their own use and to sell or to repair for neighbors.”

This is what it looked like.

The Sacred Grove

Then it was on to the adjacent grove of trees where we believe Joseph Smith had what we call the “First Vision.” It is where Joseph Smith asked God which church to join and was given guidance to restore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I think about this sacred grove experience of Joseph Smith’s often. How much do we seek our own “sacred groves” to figure out purpose and meaning in our lives?

It was so beautiful, the birds were chirping despite the stifling heat, and we really felt the beauty of it all. Especially since Lucy played us some beautiful music including a recording of her playing one of my favorite songs on the piano as we sat and pondered.

The Concert with a Surprise Rainstorm

From there it was time for the concert I mentioned back at the beginning of this post.

Lucy changed into her concert attire (pre-shoe change but look at that smile!) and joined the throngs of other choir members to get ready for the concert.

We all gathered under that blessedly cloudy sky (the sun had been SO HOT all day), and the concert began. All those hundreds of performers complete with the amazing orchestra all lined up on a little hill adjacent to the Sacred Grove.

That music started to wash it’s way over us.

Yes, we were grateful for those clouds, but that gratitude started to turn to worry when we saw this coming our direction:

But the concert went on until this moment that Grace happened to catch perfectly on video:

Those huge raindrops just started absolutely POURING and everyone ran for cover.

I was dying for all those instruments up there, praying they would get covered and safe, and also dying for all the work and effort that had gone into making that concert happen. Would it really be canceled? Would this rain ruin everything?

I know two cousins who certainly didn’t think so:

Lucy is a rain fanatic, so she was thinking this was the absolute best thing that could ever happen to her.

There was a long pause after the pandemonium: everyone running for cover, thankfully plastic quickly protecting the instruments, the shock of the possibility of all that planning and painstaking efforts to make this come to fruition for a good part of a year washing away with the rain.

The rain caused the speakers to short out and it would be difficult to recover.

Saving the Concert

But then the rain passed and the adult choir members started to gather back on the field.

Everyone started cheering.

More came out to join them.

More cheering.

And the conductors made a decision: The show would go on.

These girls were pretty excited about that:

To make it happen with no sound system, they had the audience encircle the choir and orchestra. Can you see the conductor there in the middle below?

The first song they sang after the rain was Lucy’s favorite filled with the title of this post: “If Ye Lack Wisdom, Ask of God.”

There was something about that whole choir, especially those teenagers after a rainstorm, everyone soaking wet, singing those words that just did something to my heart.

It made me believe, more than ever before, the truth of that statement. If we lack wisdom, God cares. He wants to help us make our hearts whole. We don’t have to go through the tough spots alone. He wants to carry us. He doesn’t want us to be lost in the darkness, He wants us to find answers.

If we will only open our hearts to let Him in.

There was such a thick love blanketing that whole soggy field. I think every one of us felt it.

And not only did we feel the love, there was something about that triumph of overcoming that rainy trial and coming out feeling more deeply His love.

It was a pretty special night.

Kirtland, Ohio

From Palmyra we went to Niagara Falls, but I’m sticking with church history stuff today so we’ll skip to our last stop. I wish we had more time here. Once again, this was just scratching the surface of all there is to learn about church history in and around Kirtland.

Kirtland Temple

It was Kirtland, Ohio where the early church built the very first temple, and was recently acquired back from the Community of Christ church.

We listened to President Nelson’s latest conference talk as we drove to get there. It is filled with so much to think about including so much about this temple, and temples in general. In his talk, President Nelson also encouraged us to read and study D&C Section 109 which is the dedicatory prayer for this temple. So we listened to that too.

They were a pretty good preface for our visit.

Loved visiting and learning in that place with my girls, and also my brother Noah’s family.

So much more to say but I’m out of time…maybe I’ll come back some day to write more, but there’s also so much written about this place on the church website.

Newel K. Whitney Store

We left my brother and fam, and went to do a speedy tour of historic Kirtland before we had to catch our flight.

It was too bad that we didn’t have time to wait for the tour that would be starting soon.

So I was reading the girls a little more about this store and it’s significance when we heard a familiar voice.

It was Grace and Lucy’s handbell teacher from elementary school of all people. She is serving a mission there and was there right at the very moment we sure wished someone could explain some things for us.

Man alive, there were sure lots of tender mercies on this trip. Times when we really did see God’s hand in our journey.

Sister Allen took us into the store and explained so much.

School of the Prophets

This room was the most special part in my opinion for lots of reasons. I just loved how Sister Allen explained it all. Most of all I loved that she said “when something sacred happens in a place, that place becomes sacred.”

Made me want to create more sacred spots in my own life.

Ask of God

This trip was filled with so much. But maybe the bottom line of it all is that I want to learn to ask of God more often. I want to invite Him into more of my problems, my worries, my joys. I know when I do, things change.

That’s what I learned poignantly under that black raincloud at Lucy’s concert.

God hears us.

Sometimes in very different ways than we hope or wish or envision. But He is there. And I am so grateful.

Similar Posts


  1. How can you stand in that Smith “family” home knowing what took place in there? Joseph Smith took multiple young teenagers as his “wives” and had sex with them against their will right there in that home? Think about it – girls younger than Lucy – who did not want to have sex with an old man…. Disgusting in any context, but so much more so under the guise of religion. And to think that even today, people like you and your family look up to this person.
    Could you please explain this to me?

    1. Oh you definitely read some wrong information. He was spiritually sealed to women to protect them. Womens crossing who has lost their husbands or women who wanted to have that ordinance done. Its đź’Ż proven that he has zero sexual relationships or children with anyone but his wife Emma. Do you truly truly think Shawni and women of the lds church would regard him so highly if they thought he did those things ?

      1. Actually in the official gospel topic essays written by the LDS church, it is acknowledged that Joseph would have had a sexual relationship with at least some of his wives. Why is it hard to fathom Joseph participating in polygamy for sexual reasons? The Book of Mormon explicitly states that polygamy is instituted to raise up seed. We don’t shy away from accepting that Brigham Young and later prophets had sex with their wives, why would Joseph be different?

        And the “why would these good people believe…if it weren’t true” is a very poor argument. There are vastly more intelligent, informed people outside of the church than in, most of whom do not feel drawn to join. Is that proof that it isn’t true?

      2. The church’s own website links to josephsmithspolygamy.org which confirms that not only were these sealings consummated but the women suffered greatly and only consented to the union because they were spiritually manipulated to do so. There are sworn affidavits that confirm the marriages were sexual.

        Oliver Cowdery even called out Joseph Smith for his “dirty nasty affair” and was later excommunicated. The podcast Year of Polygamy goes into great detail on this topic.

        There is no end to the whitewashing and lies presented by the church about the origins of its formation. It is very upsetting to learn—it crushed me to realize I had been lied to. But truth and history matter.

      3. Emily, this is not correct. Joseph Smith definitely had sex with multiple teenage “wives” when he was an older adult man. than them. The church has always acknowledged this even if they don’t like to talk about it now.

      4. “Do you truly truly think Shawni and women of the lds church would regard him so highly if they thought he did those things ?”

        Yes, actually, I do. These are the same women who believe they will be given their own planet to rule over when they become gods. So, yeah, they are a bit brainwashed and easily deluded.

    2. He lived in the Smith family home as a boy. Not a man. The community of Christ church mentioned was actually the church Joseph’s son CONTINUED back east. That branch never had polygamy. Emma said it never happened. If someone has found DNA evidence of his great grandkids or something coming from a different woman it was an affair and not legit even in the polygamy world. Brigham Young moved people further west. Emma and kids went east. She didn’t follow the polygamist or endorse his continuation of the latter day movement. This was the first split. The LDS Mormon doesn’t get more rights than any other branch to say what did or did not happen. Anyone can write names down on a piece of paper.

  2. Love reading about your trip! I wish we had come to listen from DC, it sounds incredible. The girls stopping to dance in the rain is the cutest. I’m from Idaho originally, and even though I’ve been in the East for twenty years, I still cannot get over how fast and hard it rains here. You can’t explain to anyone how WET the rain is instantly! Glad it all worked out.

  3. I went on a church history trip last summer and listened to Saints as I drove. This did bring up some tough questions and feelings for me. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the following conclusion–
    I don’t know every single thing/detail/circumstance that happened. No one can. Were there things that happened that are difficult to understand or that I don’t agree with? Yes. But, do those things mean that every single thing Joseph Smith did was wrong? What about David in the Old Testament? Do we throw out the beloved Palms because he sinned? Is the fact that he defeated Goliath any less faith promoting? For me, the answer to those questions is no. I am not saying that Joseph Smith was a perfect man, of course he wasn’t.
    There are no perfect men/women other than our Savior Himself.
    The other thing that has helped me grapple with this is issue, is “show me the evidence”. What I mean by that is, what is the influence of the church on the members? What evidence is there in the lives of the members of The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I know that my life is greatly benefited by being a member of the church.
    All that said, the truth is, I have had a witness for myself that God truly did restore His church through Joseph Smith and regardless of his imperfections, I still believe in Christ’s restored church–imperfect people and all… after all, imperfect people are all God has to work with.

    1. If there are no perfect people, including prophets etc then the emphasis on obedience and following the guidelines seems really misplaced. .very problematic that the LDS Church teaches (and many say demands) such deference to “modern day prophets” when their decisions are so seriously flawed. Example include decades years of shameful, ungodly positions on race, gender, and monitoring sexuality in a creepy purity culture.

      All that Shawni writes above seems to lack critical analysis and sounds childlike to new. This is the kind of obedience and faith the lds church is looking for as they carry out their policies that encourage income inequality, proselytizing etc.

      One avenue to be an adult, critical thinker is to look at the BILLIONS of dollars the LDS church has amassed and exactly what they do with that

      1. I do agree that sometimes in our church we hold up prophets so high that when they make mistakes it has the power to shake us. Never is it ever claimed that prophets are perfect. I love J’s reminder of so many mistakes recorded in scriptural prophets. Perhaps we just don’t record that stuff as much as they did back in the day. But I do believe that in order to become a prophet there is a certain amount of living life in such a way that inspiration and revelation from God comes more readily. So much guidance to help and direct those who are willing to listen. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices and good choices prophets make to get to the point they can so humbly lead us.

        This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be ahead of the curve of the world in things like race and gender as some people assume. But I believe they are trying to get guidance on that always.

    2. Love this comment, J. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I join you with that belief in the restoration of the church through Joseph Smith despite imperfections. And so grateful that God will still work with us no matter how many times we mix things up.

  4. I’m sorry but there is “imperfect” and then there is flat out perverted. I think that a loving God would choose a person other than someone who had relations with 13 year olds as the foundation of his “one true church”.

    David, in the Bible, did sin. And the Bible not only describes the fact that he sinned, the nature of the sin is discussed as well as David’s punishment.

    I see no admission of Joseph Smith’s sin, either in your so-called holy book, or by any of your zealous members.

    If it is ok for God to have chosen this “imperfect” sinful man and you all are ok with it, then why do the majority of you deny that he did anything wrong, as in the comment above?

    So many atrocities are normalized in the name of religion. This is appalling. And you all know it.

  5. And, yet again – *crickets* from Shawni. Just let your commenters battle it out as usual, and you sit back and watch the chaos you (intentionally) created. Way to go. Again.

  6. Phew, things have been a bit crazy this summer with limited internet, and I have a goal to put in-person relationships ahead work here on the blog this summer. Thus I haven’t been quite as present here as usual. Lucy starts school on JULY 23rd this year (of all horrible times to start school!) so I’ll be here more after that! In the meantime I sure appreciate those who have responded in this thread when I have been unavailable.

    I think there are two problems with this thread of comments.

    The first is that when there is so much anger and bitterness, with no real listening, it’s really difficult to have a conversation where both parties can learn from each other. If you have been here long you will know I generally don’t answer pugnacious comments, I just don’t see the point of engaging where people are just trying to create mean-spirited controversy. I do think even the bitter comments are so interesting though, so honestly I’m totally fine with them and generally leave them here (unless they are really out of control, I do reserve the right to remove those ones). I think it’s so interesting to think about where people are coming from to write the things they do. I have learned so much and had some great discussions with my family about angry comments on this blog.

    I LOVE genuine questions though and welcome them with all my heart. I love genuine questions because it helps me open my heart to think new things. To dig deeper and to learn and grow together.

    The second problem with this thread of comments is that there are just so many unknowns in the early church. We just don’t really have all the answers. Even just in this comment thread there are so many different beliefs. I certainly don’t have all the answers, especially about church history. Some of it is really hard to hear to be honest. I know it was just such a different time. Things like teenage brides were such a completely different story than they are now. I think there is so much human error mixed in there as well. Human beings make all kinds of mistakes. Even some really big ones. Even prophets. I do love that the church is currently so forthcoming with even the darker parts of church history. I am determined to read all of “Saints” so I can get a better picture of it all and try to grapple with even the tough parts. As with any history though, there are going to be biased parties keeping the records. And people will find what they’re looking for. If you look for the bad in the early church you’ll find it. If you look for the parts where people learned and grew from the hard, you’ll find that too. I think it’s interesting to read the official church “gospel topics essay” on polygamy in the early church: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng

    But bottom line for me is the same as what J said above (thanks so much for that comment, J!). I like to look at the “fruits” of the church (or as J calls it, “show me the evidence”). Despite the tricky parts of church history, it has created the momentum to find so much beauty for ashes. Isn’t that how life is too? We have to wrestle through the mud sometimes, go through the darkness and misunderstandings sometimes before we can get to the light or the “fruits.” And there is so much good fruit! I’m incredibly grateful for the values, the encouragement to build relationships, especially with God. Encouragement to follow Jesus’s example. To give others the benefit of the doubt. To humble our hearts. Over and over and over again.

    Although I’ll come up short every time, I’m still trying to learn and grow any way I can. Thanks for all the input through the years that really makes me think!

  7. Shawni – you have a real talent for sidestepping and dancing around the real issue.

    Pugnacious comments? Why is asking about the questionable behavior of your church leader pugnacious?

    You gave several paragraphs above of rhetoric but said nothing.

    Continue with your hero worship with your blinders on. Peace out.

  8. “Mary Elizabeth Rollins (Lightner Smith Young) stated
    that she knew of three children born to Joseph’s plural wives. “I know he
    had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I
    know he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today
    but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.”
    Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph’s wife “in every
    Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) said she “roomed” with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had “carnal intercourse” with him.
    Other early witnesses also affirmed this. Benjamin Johnson wrote,
    “On the 15th of May … the Prophet again Came and at my house
    occupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister that the month previous
    he had occupied with the Daughter of the Later Bishop Partridge as his

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *