Pres. Hinckley dedicates historic sites

The replica of the Joseph Smith Sr. family log home near Palmyra, which was dedicated March 27 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, will help visitors understand some of the early events in the restoration of the gospel, he said.

President Hinckley and other speakers during the brief, morning service described those events including young Joseph's study of the Bible, his short walk from the home to the Sacred Grove where he received the First Vision, and the visit of the Angel Moroni, which was the beginning of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.The replica of the home was constructed earlier this year on the site identified as the home's original location. It is on Stafford Road, about two miles southwest of downtown Palmyra, and about a quarter mile north of the frame house the Smiths later built and occupied for a short time. (For further information on the construction of the log home, see Jan. 24, 1998, Church News.)

Despite a cool breeze, it was a pleasant morning at the site when President Hinckley, his wife, Marjorie, and others accompanying them arrived for the 9 a.m. dedicatory meeting. They were greeted by media from as far away as Rochester, and local members of the Church who showed up to see the Church leader.

Only about 50 people were able to squeeze into the small home, including Elder Marlin K. Jensen and his wife, Kathleen; stake presidents and their wives from eight surrounding stakes; New York Rochester Mission Pres. Gene A. Pratt and his wife, Kay; a missionary choir; and other Church officials and guests. Others were able to listen to the proceedings through closed-circuit audio feeds at the Palmyra Ward meetinghouse and at the Grandin Building in downtown Palmyra.

Furnishings that were removed from the home to make room for chairs were returned after the meeting in preparation for tours that began that afternoon. The main room on the ground floor was nearly filled with a kitchen table and chairs while a separate room included a bed. The smaller room in the divided loft had one bed and there were two beds in the larger room.

Rough hewn logs chinked with mortar make up the walls of the home and the floor is covered with hand-planed wood. The loft's floor joists and rafters are exposed.

In spite of its rustic look, President Hinckley noted in his address: "I think this was quite a commodious house in its day. I think this was a rather substantial structure at the time it was built." He said it has a snug feeling, a warm feeling, a friendly feeling and a family feeling.

Then he added, "This will do away with the legend that has somewhat grown up among us that the other house was the place where Moroni visited the Prophet. It was in this place and in the upstairs room that that event occurred."

Standing at a podium set up directly in front of the home's fireplace, President Hinckley described another important event that occurred in Joseph's life while he lived in the home. President Hinckley spoke of the First Vision and then said, "I can imagine in my mind the boy coming up here from the grove, walking very slowly, thinking of the things that had happened. . . .

"That began the unfolding of this, the most wonderful and remarkable manifestation and dispensation in the history of all mankind."

After speaking further of the gospel that was restored beginning in that place, President Hinckley said: "I hope the spirit of the Lord will dwell here. I hope that this place will always be a sacred place. I hope that it will bring alive many memories of the past, rich and wonderful, and there will come into the heart of each one who comes here a quickening of testimony concerning this great and latter-day work.

"To me it is an almost unbelievable miracle to witness the fulfillment of what Moroni said to Joseph Smith in the upstairs room, that his name should be known for good and evil among all nations and people. . . . To me, what has happened in this Church has been nothing short of a tremendous miracle. There's no story in all the world quite like the story of this people."

He then briefly reviewed that story, beginning with the early years of the Smith family in Vermont where Joseph was born. He continued by speaking of the restoration and organization of the Church, its move, motivated by persecution, to Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, and finally the trek west to the Salt Lake Valley.

Then he concluded, "May we remember always the things that have occurred here and carry them in our hearts and bolster our faith in this great latter-day work."

In his address and the dedicatory prayer, he expressed gratitude for all those who helped with the building of the replica of the log home, including the service missionaries who did much of the physical labor.

Sister Hinckley, speaking just prior to her husband, said, "I have seen too much and experienced too much in my life to ever deny that this is anything but the work of the Lord. It's wonderful to be engaged in it."

And in his remarks, Elder Jensen said, "I can't express adequately my own feelings about the beauty of this cabin and the care and craftsmanship and love that have gone into its restoration."

He spoke of the Smith family that lived in the home and said, "I wonder, as much as the world has changed, if what produces a family like the Smiths were and a man like Joseph was has really changed all that much. I wonder if eating together, praying together, reading our scriptures together, working together and recreating together aren't those things that even today, despite the vast change in how the world works, would produce the intact, stable, believing people that are needed to carry the gospel to all the world."

Elder Charles Canfield, director of the Palmyra Church Historical Sites, conducted the meeting. He explained some of the work that had to be done in cooperation with community leaders to make the project a reality. "The hand of the Lord has tempered so many people," he said. "It's easy to do a project when it belongs to the Lord. He has a way of lining up everybody and making them smile. It has been something to witness."

Elder Kenneth Graham sat next to an empty chair during the meeting out of respect for his wife, Betty, who died two weeks earlier after they had worked together as service missionaries during the construction of the log home. Elder Graham, who was the general contractor for the project, surveyed the home after it was dedicated and said, "The Lord blessed us with good weather and things turned out real well. I'm pleased with the building and all the work that we've done here."

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