Monday, May 12, 2008

Utah Vacation - Part IV - Tuesday

Tuesday, May 6 - We woke up Tuesday morning and packed our stuff and checked out of the hotel right away. Mike explained to the woman at the desk why we were leaving and she ended up only charging us for one of the two nights we stayed there. What a blessing! We went over to the new hotel and I couldn't believe how differently I felt about it. When we arrived, I had such a peaceful feeling about the place!! It was warm and inviting. Our room was bigger and much nicer. The breakfast being served there was so much better. Instead of just a continental style, they also served hot food... sausage, bacon, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, and biscuit gravy. Our kids were in heaven each morning with the choices. As soon as we ate breakfast, we headed over to Lynne and Rudy's. Today was the day I was waiting for... we were going to go down to Temple Square!

Before we did that, however, the four of us went up to check out the This Is the Place monument on the hill. That was SO neat! For years, I've heard the story of the pioneers and handcart companies. As part of that story, there is always the part where Brigham Young reaches a certain point on the trek, looks down over the Salt Lake valley and says, "This is the place". Well, there is a whole monument that has been erected to commemorate where that took place. There is also an entire village set up as a replica of an early pioneer town but we didn't have time to go through that. We decided to return on Friday to do that. We took lots of pictures up at the monument. It was a surreal experience.

As I stood at that monument, I was filled with emotion. In my mind, I pictured
those pioneers and began to realize what tremendous sacrifices they had made. I began to think about the blessings that I have been afforded because of sacrifices that they made. My heart was so full of gratitude. It brought tears to my eyes. There is a little bench made of tree trunks behind the obelisk, and Mike sat there and explained to Ethan the meaning of the place. I took more pictures and tried to sear the scenery on my brain.

After walking back to the car, we headed down into the city to meet up with Rudy, Lynne, Rachel, Maggie, and my mom. We parked in the parking lot across from the new conference center. As Mike started to put the cash into the appropriate slot, he realized the entire door was open where all the money slots are located and all the cash was visible to anyone. We found a phone number on the unattended parking booth and called it. It was for Zion Security. She transferred me to the parking division and they sent someone out to lock it up. Others had gathered around and seemed just as concerned. It felt good to be in a place where everyone was concerned about the open box instead of wanting to see what they could get out of it. I know that in many other areas, someone would have found a way to clean it out before anyone else had realized it was open.

We crossed the street and met up with the others. The day was so beautiful... warm and sunny. All the spring flowers were in full bloom on temple square and everywhere I looked there was a sea of colors! Lynne served as our tour guide that day. We started out at the museum of church history. What an AMAZING place that was!! The museum was filled with all kinds of artifacts about the early history of the church. We got to see actual pioneer handcarts and a covered wagon. We saw the pistols of early church leaders, death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the time piece that saved John Taylor's life... it was so neat to look and see the bullet hole in the watch. We saw printing press materials, building and surveying equipment, actual parts from temples, an entire exhibit on the prophets, as well as a myriad of other things. It was a neat experience to step back in time and imagine what life was like "back in the day".

Upstairs, was a children's room and my heart just melted when we entered it. As soon we walked in I saw brightly colored walls with the message "I am a child of God" on the wall. There was a neat little area to "build a temple" with blocks, a coloring area, and a place to dress up with nativity costumes. In another section, there were a whole bunch of baby dolls in what is set up as a hospital nursery, complete with viewing windows. I missed it, but everyone else saw Evan pick up a baby and cradle it and feed it... ahhh... deep down there IS a softy in there!

Downstairs is a museum store. In there I found a book about a midwife who practice in the late 1700's and early 1800s! I've delved into it a bit and it has really captured my interest!

Once we were done in the musuem, we went outside and got to see an old cabin, all set up with original beds, clothing, fixtures, and other things. It was awe inspiring to see just how much they could fit into a small space and how organized they kept things. What made it even more amazing was to think about how many children they raised in such small spaces. I assume they spent a LOT of their time outdoors because it was just too tiny and crowded inside. They likely had several children sharing a bed.

After we were done, we enjoyed some snacks with the kids. Then Lynne took us into the family history center and we looked around for a bit. Next, we crossed the street
and got to see an organ recital going on in the old tabernacle. Growing up, I had always seen general conference in the old tabernacle. When I walked inside, I was shocked by how small it appeared! On television, it always seemed so much larger. But up close and in person, it was tiny. Still the same, I found myself with tears in my eyes as I sat in a pew and looked around, knowing that several prophets of God had stood at that very pulpit and had addressed members of the church worldwide. It was such a humbling experience. In the museum, we had seen an exhibit of the tabernacle and we learned that not a single nail was used in its construction. Wooden pegs were specially made. The wood was bent to form arcs for the domed structure. What an architectural miracle it was!!

From the tabernacle we headed outside and enjoyed some time outdoors near the south visitors center. We basked in the warm sun, the sunny skies, and reveled at the myriads of colorful flowers. Then we walked up a couple of blocks and across the street to get some lunch.

After we ate lunch, we walked across the street to the church office building, the tallest building on the square. I took pleasure in sharing with Lynne that we could go to the top to the observation deck and see valley from up high. She had never heard that before and we were all excited to go. We walked into the building and an escort took us up to the observation deck, more than 20 stories in the air. She made mention that the elevator travels at the speed of one floor per minute. We started out on the north side and she (her name was Sister Parrot) talked to us about all of the historical landmarks on that side of the building. It was amazing! It feels a little surreal being that high up in the sky. Admittedly, I felt a bit woozy a couple of times as I looked down. The walls extend upwards with clear plexiglass that you can see through. At various points, there are holes cut out of the plexiglass so that one can put a camera lens through it and get photographs more clearly. Obviously, this was a highlight for me! After seeing the north side, we walked over to the south side and were in awe of the view of temple square from so high up! The experience was surreal, to say the least!

Once we were down in the lobby, we all parted ways. Actually, Rachel had left the group already as she had earlier plans with some friends. At that time, Lynne, Rudy, Maggie, and my mom left so that Maggie could go and take a nap. The rest of them had already seen temple square. Mike, the boys, and I kept on going. We stopped over in the archive department and we both ordered a copy of our patriarchal blessings. Neither of us can find our blessings and I was so excited to order a new one! Then we walked out and across the square, taking in more of the beauty:

Our next stop was the Joseph Smith building. All I can say is WOW! As soon as I walked through the doors, I felt as though I had been transported back to an earlier time. I imagined what people must have worn a hundred years ago as they entered those doors. It is a gorgeous building. The stained glass and the open ceiling windows were pristine, as was the chandelier above. I was in awe of the very large statue of Joseph Smith in the lobby. I was also inspired by the beautiful staircase and banister as well as the marble everywhere and the gorgeous tiled floors!

We headed downstairs to the church distribution center. I was like a kid in a candy store. Honestly, the notion that we had very limited room in our luggage saved me from buying out the place! I did get the one thing I REALLY wanted... a new triple combo (Book of Mormon, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price). I got one in a print that's a little larger than the standard version. Not only is it easier to read, but it leaves more room for making marginal notes and highlighting and cross referencing. I got one in a burgundy cover and I am in love with it. It has tabs and gold leafing and as crazy as it sounds, I love the smell of it because it reminds me of the birthday or Christmas that my mom bought me a quad several years ago. I never thought I could love a book so much. The Book of Mormon has had a profound influence in my life and although we have several copies in our home in various shapes and sizes, I love them all. This will be a special treasure for me. I know it. We also took the plunge (and put down a whole load of money) and we each bought 2 week's worth of new garments. It was SO nice to put on WHITE garments again. I don't think I realized just HOW gray my garments really were until I saw them next to the new white ones. We took a few pairs with us and had the rest sent home via mail order. Speaking of which, the Federal Express person just delivered them to my doorstep not thirty minutes ago!

Once we were done at the Distribution Center, we left the Joseph Smith building and walked over to the tabernacle for a closer look at things. Earlier, there was an organ recital going on and we couldn't see things as closely as we would have liked to. At this point, we were able to get close and see things in more detail. It was so beautiful. Again, I just sat and imagined what it would have been like to sit and hear the prophet of God speak.

Next we walked over to the north visitor center. Actually, on our way over, we stopped at one point to see one side of the temple up close. Ethan spied (right away) an impression of the big dipper in the side of one of the walls. Imagine our surprise when a voice from behind us said, "Yes, but did you notice that the north star is missing?" We turned around to find one of the temple square missionaries behind us. His wife walked up and joined him. The timing was perfect and not at all a coincidence. Mike had had some questions about some of the star symbols on some of the chapels and building but had yet to find anyone who could give him a straight answer. When we asked this Elder his wife said, "Oh, you're in luck. His hobby is studying temple symbols." And with that, he pulled out a photo album and showed us the many photographs he had taken of symbols on the outer walls of the temple. He then went on to explain many of them to us. And incidentally, he explained that the north star was missing from the big dipper because 1) it would not fit within the width of the wall and 2) it was symbolic of the fact that it symbolizes perfection and we cannot attain perfection in this life. Very interesting. As far as the stars go, I'm still mystified. He explained at one point something about the gathering of Israel. But at the same time, he said that it was a common architectural element of the time and many architects simply liked using stars in their drafting. So much fun.

Although the kids were so tired, we did coerce them into going into the north visitor center. I SO badly wanted to see the famous Christus statue and it did NOT disappoint. Once again, I found myself sitting there with tears in my eyes as I looked up at the Savior standing before me. My testimony has grown so much on this vacation and seeing this statue was an absolute highlight for me.

As we walked out the other side, there were a few other exhibits. I really wanted to go through the one with video and several rooms. It was titled "God's plan for families". But the kids were done and I knew I shouldn't push it with them. They had really done very well, all things considered. On the way down the stairs, my eye caught site of a most beautiful painting... of Christ teaching in the temple when he was 12 years old. It really sang to my heart.

As we left, we were going to call it a day. We REALLY wanted to see the conference center, but the kids were fried. We thought about coming back but eventually we were able to bribe them to see "one last thing". In fact, now that I think about it... we owe the boys a couple of super soaker water guns!!

As we entered the conference center, I felt an amazing sense of reverence. It is a gorgeous building filled with some unbelievable artwork, and architecture. The glass has frosted areas where the sago lily sits in each corner. I had no idea how important the sago lily was to the early pioneers. We were told that in some instances, they would eat them. They are so beautiful. We found some actual sago lilies outside the center on the walk back to the car and I got a beautiful picture of them.

When we walked into the actual area where conference is held, I began to cry. I was in awe of that magnificent place… made completely aware that our holy prophet stood at that pulpit to address the members of the church worldwide. To stand in a place where the prophet stood… it is an awe-inspiring experience. One small disappointment was that we did not get to see the actual pulpit. I know that the pulpit is made of walnut wood from a tree that belonged to President Hinckley. I was excited to see it but we were told that after conference is over, it is lowered underground where it is kept safe from damage. I can understand that.

We walked around the center and entered into different galleries and quiet areas. We saw the original paintings by Arnold Friberg, depicting many scenes from the Book of Mormon. I remember these paintings as a child. They were all in my own copy of the Book of Mormon… the one with the light blue cover and the picture of the angel of Moroni on the front. It was so humbling to see the ACTUAL paintings themselves. It’s different when you get to see the actual brush strokes and the raised areas of paint. It makes it so much more real.

The indoor fountain is beautiful. There is glass art in the shape of stars that hangs from the ceiling with windows behind it. There is another window where you can see the water from the outside fountain pouring down it. There are busts of the prophets in one room. So much beauty.

At one point we went up to the roof where we were treated to a beautiful outdoor scene. There are many trees planted up there that are typical of the flora which was found in the area when the early settlers arrived. There is a stream and more fountains on the roof. Unbelievably, there is also a meadow there, right on the roof. The meadow contains little flowers and grasses that were typical of what Brigham Young might have seen on his arrival into the Salt Lake valley. There is such a sense of peace and calm. All around temple square, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is there. It’s a beautiful getaway in the midst of a gorgeous downtown city, much the way the temple is.

By the time we were done in the conference center, we left with sore feet and tired backs from carrying our bags, camera, and treasures around. But it was worth every step. My life is better for having been there. We walked slowly down the street towards our car. When we got there, try as we might, we could not find our keys. At one point, I felt impressed to call the Distribution Center and sure enough, they had them there for us. I sat on the grass with the boys while Mike (bless his heart) sprinted back up the street and across the temple square to retrieve the keys. We enjoyed a rest and a snack while sipping on water and telling stories, all the while seeing the Salt Lake temple behind us. It was so nice.

We drove up to the Chuck-A-Rama and enjoyed a nice dinner there. Later, we picked up my mom and went over to West Valley to visit with Pate and his family. At first, only he was home with his baby. Later, Sulia came home with the three boys. They are SO cute and Ethan bonded with them instantly! We both took notice of this because Ethan doesn’t bond with other kids quite this easily. But both sets of boys seemed to understand that they were cousins and that it was a special relationship. It’s hard to put into words, but we could see it. It was late and we couldn’t stay long. We had promised to take the boys swimming and hadn’t done it yet. On the way home, we stopped at Remi and Lani’s house. It was nice to see Remi. I hadn’t seen him since Tutu’s funeral back in 1996! Lani is so cute. I found out she had recently been up to our area to visit her sister. I found out that her sister actually lives right up the road from me… likely in our ward boundaries! The difference is that they attend the Samoan ward so I haven’t met them! How strange and what a small world! I told her to be sure and tell me next time she is in the area!

Mike took the kids to the pool while I started journaling and then we all crashed hard!! What an amazing, spiritually fulfilling day we’d had!

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