Monday, July 24, 2017

Women's Rights National Park, Whitmer Farm, and Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

We drove to Seneca Falls where the first women's rights convention was held. Seneca Falls is also the small town that Bedford Falls (in It's A Wonderful Life) was modeled after.  So they sell t-shirts and souvenirs about that.  In the early days, the women's rights movement was closely tied with abolition.  The national park service has created a museum right next to the Wesleyan Church where the first convention was held.

Many of those early men and women who worked for abolition and women's rights.

 They had this fun display where you could look through a hole and see yourself in a mirror in a variety of different jobs.

It was interesting to go to the Women's Rights National Park sandwiched between all of these church history experiences.  Because there was a totally different feeling there.  Don't misunderstand; I am grateful for the rights and freedoms I enjoy as a woman today.  I understand that it took a lot of work and a fight for those rights to be given to me.  But the national park had a feeling of anger, contention...almost as if women were pitted against men and as if it requires discord to advance women's rights.  It really had a different feeling.  The most heartbreaking part, though, was that there were photographs all over the first floor by a photographer who travels the world capturing the plight of children:  homeless, starving, in war-torn areas.  Each photograph includes a brief story of that child/children and their experiences.  So heartbreaking.  There is so much suffering that needs to be eased.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's home

 After the Women's Rights National Park, we headed to nearby Fayette, New York where the Whitmer family lived.  I think this may have ended up being Ella's favorite stop.  We watched two movies in the Visitor's Center:  one about the Whitmer family and one about the growth of the Church.  Then one of the missionaries, Elder Winans (from Utah...many of the sisters we met and a few of the couples were from Utah) told us stories about the Whitmer family.  The Whitmer farm is a recreation..and not an exact recreation...their home was probably larger than the one the church has built.

 Here's what we learned about the Whitmers.  David Whitmer went to do business in Palmyra.  David had heard about Joseph Smith but didn't believe it was true.  He met Oliver Cowdery and Oliver said he thought there might be something to it.  He was planning to travel to Harmony, Pennsylvania (where Joseph and Emma were living) and find out.  He promised to let David know.  Of course, Oliver traveled to Harmony and Joseph said he'd been waiting for Oliver...the Lord had told him he would send someone to help translate the plates.Oliver became Joseph's scribe.

In 1828, the Whitmers were farming.  (They had settled in Fayette back in 1809).  A letter arrived from Joseph and Oliver.  They were being threatened by people in Harmony (including some of Emma's relatives) and asked if they could come to the Whitmer's home to finish translating the Book of Mormon.  Peter Whitmer (David's father) said now was the time for plowing, not guests.  But, he said, if David could finish plowing, he would reconsider.  David threw himself into the farm work but it was progressing slowly.  David prayed that if the translation was God's work to prepare a way that his family could be part of it.  One day, he went out to begin plowing and saw that a good portion had been plowed.  He was able to complete in one day what should have taken at least 2. His father told him to go get Joseph and Oliver as soon as he added the plaster of paris to the soil.  Farmers in the area added plaster of paris to the soil to make it less acidic.   The next day, he went to get the plaster which was kept near his sister's home.  It wasn't there.  His sister said that the day before, she and her children had seen 3 men putting the plaster of paris into the soil.  She thought he had hired them, but he knew nothing about it. God had provided a way.  Peter told David to go get the wagon and get Oliver and Joseph, which he did.

 Joseph told them of Moroni and read some passages of the Book of Mormon to the Whitmer family.  In the film, Joseph thanks David for allowing them to come and complete the translation.  David replies, "This is the work of Almighty God.  It is I who should be thankful."  (I don't know if David actually said this...but it is the attitude that we all should have...gratitude for the privilege of doing our small part in the work of Almighty God!)
 Oliver was sent to get Joseph's family and Martin Harris to come to the Whitmer farm.  Joseph told Martin the Lord had forgiven them.  Joseph, Oliver, Martin and David went into the woods and prayed.  Nothing happened; Martin was certain it was because he was there.  He left and went alone to pray.  Joseph prayed again and then Moroni appeared and showed David and Oliver the plates.  Then Joseph found Martin, they prayed again, and Moroni appeared and showed Martin the plates.  All 3 testified of the Book of Mormon...a testimony that they maintained and never denied throughout the rest of their lives.  Joseph felt a huge burden lifted when these 3 men were called as witnesses and again when he was allowed to show the plates to 8 additional men.  30% of the Book of Mormon was translated in the Whitmer home.

One day, Mary Whitmer went to the barn.  A gentleman was there.  It startled her.  But he showed her the gold plates.  She was the only woman to ever see the plates.

Most of the Whitmers eventually left the church (although some returned), but none denied their testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Sarah Ellen Conrad worked for Mary Whitmer.  Sarah asked what was going on in the home.  At first, Mary wouldn't tell her.  But eventually she did.  Sarah was baptized and years later went to Utah with the Saints.

The Whitmer home is also where the church was organized on April 6, 1830.

In D&C 135: 3 it says, " Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!"  One of the talks we heard in sacrament meeting in Palmyra was based around this verse of scripture and all that Joseph had done for the salvation of mankind.  Ultimately, we can say that Joseph did more for the salvation of man than any other save Jesus Christ because he restored the saving ordinances and because he made the Atonement of Jesus Christ accessible to more people than at any other period of history on Earth.  He helped make it possible for us to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."
After spending time at the Whitmer Farm, we decided to head to a nearby wildlife refuge.  It's a wetland and so it has tons of birds, especially.  But we also saw a muskrat, a frog, and a deer.  And there are coyotes, foxes, racoons, skunks, and some other animals that live there as well.

Inside the Visitor Center


Can you see the cute little frog that Ella spotted?

Sure love this girl!

I think I already mentioned how much I love that there are historical signs all over upstate New York.  I can't remember which town this was in, but I loved seeing the history all around us.