We woke up this morning and packed, this was going to be the last day of our Church history leg and more spiritual leg of our USA holiday. The last two days have been quite stressful and distracting as I discovered that my current and former boss based here in the US have resigned from our company. I found myself on conference calls and scouring e-mails to ascertain how this would impact upon me, spending many hours on the phone whilst driving to try and keep the wheels of commerce turning back home. It was hard not to let these issues not distract me from the purpose of my trip with the family.

Jodie had put the coordinates into the GPS the night before to direct us to our first stop on our final leg, which is Tower Hill Missouri, otherwise known as Adam-ondi-ahman. The GPS is programmed to take us on the shortest possible route between the various points which lead to a somewhat enchanting ride through back-country highways and lush green farming communities. Unfortunately we came across a very recent car accident where a pick up truck had flipped on a broad bend, it was strewn across both lanes of this country highway, blocking traffic from both directions. We couldn’t drive around because there was a rather steep embankment on both sides. We were about 10 cars and 1 truck from the overturned vehicle. Some men had got out to render assistance but it soon became apparent that this accident was indeed a fatality as there was no sense of urgency amongst these few men to help or apply first aid.

We decided to U-turn and back pedaled a little bit to try and find a back road around the accident site. As we began to do this a police car and ambulance sped past us to the scene. We managed to locate a dirt road, which we followed, through the cornfield, making left turns until we had found a way around the accident. As we came back out on the highway, the crash site was not too far down the road to our left. We were all quiet and somber for the next little while.

As I have done a lot of driving on this trip I found myself getting a little bit annoyed at Jodie wanting to go off the main highway and visit Adam-ondi-ahman, as this was about 15 or 16miles off the main drag to Liberty, Independence & Kansas City. But this is very much Jodie’s holiday as well as mine and I wanted her to have a great experience also.

So after 30mins we came to Tower Hill, which was a spot of land allocated by the Prophet Joseph for the Saints to build a city. It was also named Adam-ondi-ahman because the prophet Joseph received a revelation that Adam would appear and speak to his posterity there. After driving down some dirt roads there is a lovely large plaque that the church has erected pointing out the two names of this area, Spring Hill or Tower Hill, as it is known to the locals, and Adam-ondi-ahman. Right now the majority of this land is lush farmland with crops growing, this is obviously part of the church’s worldwide welfare farming project.

You then drive for another 3 miles and get to a lovely, what they call, outlook, or overlook, here in the United States, which is our lookouts, in Australia. We parked our car under the shade of a nice tree and walked down a short path to a well laid out lookout that allowed you to peer through the trees, down the hill to the lovely lush green valley below. I can see why the prophet Joseph was inspired to source land here, as it truly was a lovely green fertile part of the earth.

Unfortunately the Saints never really got the chance to settle here, as persecution and opposition drove them from this beautiful place up to Far West and ultimately to Nauvoo.  I found a lovely serine, calm spirit in this specially dedicated parcel of land and without knowing a great deal, I sense the importance of why the church felt the need to acquire this land. Jodie made us a lovely lunch; we took some nice photographs before jumping in the car to drive to Far West.

When you arrive at Far West there is not a great deal to see, once again smack bang in the middle of prime farming land the church has erected a small Visitor’s Center next to the site that was chosen for the Temple at Far West. The four corner stones are visible at the site and encased in protective glass to shield them from the elements, each remain in their original position from where they were laid by the early Saints.

Each corner stone was laid to represent significant offices in the Priesthood, for example, the first presidency is represented by one stone, the quorum of twelve apostles, the Aaronic priesthood and the Higher Priesthood are represented by the other three stones. A short distance from this site is Hahn’s Mill, the site of the first Mormon massacre in this dispensation. We spent a little time visiting here and reflecting upon the major events that took place here, the first international mission calls to the twelve apostles was given in Far West, they were instructed to gather here and leave on their missions overseas.

To accomplish this amongst all the persecution it is written that the apostles met here after dark unbeknowsed to the mobs and set out on their missions to Europe. The little corner plot of ground that we were on has been declared and recorded as sacred and hallowed and you could certainly feel that as you stood in the small amphitheater that was built there. Other significant things happened in Far West, the name of the church was announced and the revelation on the Law of tithing was declared. And although fairly non-descript and not a major tourist attraction, I am so grateful to Jodie for suggesting we visit these two significant historic sites. Both having a nice impact upon this spiritual journey that I’m on.

We then drove to Liberty Jail, I confess I was expecting a building in plain view to the public, much like Carthage, and was surprised when I arrived at the site to find a slick modern granite building with car parks, lawns built right in the middle of suburban Liberty City. We went into the Visitor’s Center and were once again warmly greeted by the Sister Missionaries who ushered us into a large meeting room, very similar to a chapel. But with the walls adorned with museum like pictures, items and artifacts all depicting various stages in the Liberty Jails life span. The sister missionary then spends time talking about the prophet Joseph and the events that lead to him being incarcerated here from December to April bitterly freezing and cold months of the year in Missouri. Some wonderful revelation was given to the prophet Joseph as he lamented the length of time he was incarcerated there. That now famous prayer of his that begins… “Oh Lord, where art thou and why hast thou forsaken me? …Where is thine pavilion that hidest thou from me?” revelation received in this cramped dark, almost inhospitable edifice includes revelation on the oath and covenant of the priesthood D&C 88, and the wonderful response that the lord gives Joseph where he says… “My son, thy prayers have been heard, thine suffering shall be but a small moment…know thou this that the son of man has descended below them all.”

Inside this modern slick granite building the church has constructed a replica of Liberty Jail on top of or extremely close to the original foundations. You need to see what it was like to understand how uncomfortable it would have been to be a prisoner here, please see the photos below. After spending some time here we drove the remaining 30mis to Independence Missouri, the final stop on our church history tour. Independence, it has been revealed, is the site where the New Jerusalem will be built when the savior comes again. The early Saints/church originally purchase 80achres of land, of which 60 acres is owned by the Community of Christ in which they have built a large modern edifice that they call their Temple and their global headquarters. The church owns 20acres immediately across the road and on the corner opposite the two Community of Christ buildings. Then on the opposite corner is the Temple Lot, and it is owned by another church now know as the Community of Christ Temple Lot church. I suppose some time in the distant future, the church will ultimately acquire this land and build and dedicate a Temple there to fulfill revelation. We went into the church Visitor’s Center and were accompanied by a lovely Sister Missionary who shared the history of the church in Missouri and Independence and engaged with all of the children asking lovely thought provoking questions that and asked us all to feel the spirit. We then left, walked across to the adjacent corner and I took a picture of the family on the Temple Lot site.

It was now getting quite late in the evening, approx. 8pm, the sun was starting to set, and we decided to make the final drive to the Kansas City airport where we had booked a hotel room. You see our flight for Salt Lake City leaves at 6am which means we will need to be up and at the airport by no later than 4:45am. On the way to the motel sitting on a large hill above the interstate highway, rising up towards the Heavens was the beautiful Kansas City Temple, we took the exit and drove up and visited this lovely building, the kids then started counting the number of Temples they had seen and or visited on this trip. They got up to over 10. We then carried on to the motel, which was a lovely modern and comfortable room very close to the airport.

I dropped Jodie and the kids off and we unloaded the bags and tried to get a little bit settled before I left to wash two weeks of dust off the hire car and get it into some sort of state that would be accepted by the hire car company, Tamzyn came with me, we washed the car, returned to the room, took the family to dinner in the restaurant next-door and upon returning to the room, packed up all the bags except the clothes that we were going to wear on the plane tomorrow and got ready for bed. 

I find as I write this journal now, full knowing that this is the last day of the main reason why we came on this holiday, I find myself reflecting on the lovely experiences our little family has had this last 10 days or so and I think I have achieved what I set out to do which was to solidify in my children’s minds the truthfulness of these things, the reality that they did happen, as the kids have stood and walked and talked in the actual places where these events happened. I have found my own personal testimony strengthen as I too have made the connection between the reality of these places and the events that were recorded and happened here. 

I guess I feel a little like Father Lehi in the vision of the tree of life, in that I have partaken of the fruit which is delicious and fills the soul with joy, four of my children have done the same and my mind is stretched out deep in thought for my three other babies, Alissa, Madison and Naomi, although not babies anymore and I really desire for them to come forward and partake of the spiritual feast that we have enjoyed as a family. And I hope one day in the future to make this same trip with my three other daughters, and who knows, maybe their spouses. 

I would like to take this opportunity to share my testimony with you my family and close friends that this boofy bloke that you all know as Jimbo knows that God lives, that he has a son Jesus Christ who lived, taught, loved and atoned for us and our sins, that he does indeed speak to man through prophets, that these prophets are alive and on the earth today, and even though I have walked where these men have walked, I didn’t really need this trip to confirm he truth to me that he lives, that he is our savior and redeemer, that he knows me personally, that he loves me enough to have provided me with a lovely faithful, virtuous wife, six beautiful and precious daughters and a son who over the last month has become my best friend. 

Grateful for my current job and company which in some small way allowed my to make this trip. I am grateful for those of you who have loved and supported, watched out for us and our home while we have been in the US, especially Ashley, Alissa and Kevin. God lives I know it of surety and I hope that in some small measure, by sharing this blog with me the spirit will touch your soul, that you may know the truth of these things. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Far West
Liberty Jail
The Activity Centre in Independence Visitors Centre.
Kansas City Temple
Family on the Independence Temple Lot site with the Visitors Centre in background.
The town of Keokuk is quite a large town that sits on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. Our hotel was situated in the main shopping precinct with a Walmart and more excitingly for Thomas, a Gamespot located right outside our hotel door. It was a long day in the car yesterday so we slept in. Jodie and I woke first and decided to leave the kids sleeping while we went down for breakfast where we planned our day.

We went upstairs, the kids woke, showered and dressed and we headed off for the 30min drive to Nauvoo. On the way to Nauvoo we drove in the slightly opposite direction, to Carthage Jail, which is located about 20mins from where we were staying. Once again the church has done a lovely job in restoring the jail, and building a lovely Visitor’s Center. The site is designed so that you walk down a long laneway fitted out with large, life-size plaques that illuminate many key events in the life of Joseph and Hiram and the role Carthage played in Heavenly Father’s plan for the restoration.

At the end of the laneway is two life-sized sculptures of he Prophet Joseph and his brother Hiram. I love the way this sculpture is laid out, Hiram stands in the background and the Prophet Joseph stands infront of him with Hyrum hands resting on Joseph's arms. I have learnt on this trip of the special affection and relationship that Joseph had with his older brother Hiram and standing there looking up that affection comes through, or is easily displayed in the way the sculpture is presented.

To the right of the sculpture is the entrance way to the Visitor’s Center, where we were greeted by the sister missionaries. We were informed that a tour would be starting in 15mins and we took this time to stroll round the Visitor’s Center, to view the paintings and the sculptures and prepare for the tour. Accompanying us on this tour, or as part of our group, was a young Catholic Priest, who has been assigned to Nauvoo for the summer. He was inquisitive and respectful and seemed to enjoy his experience.

The tour begins with a movie depicting the life of Joseph in the third person by people who had known and been associated to him. The movie ends with the Prophet Joseph bidding farewell to Emma and the children. A poignant moment is captures when Emma says, with all the concern of a loving wife, “Joseph, you will come back to us.” The Prophet does not answer this question, as we now know that he knew of his impending fate. The movie ends there and we are escorted out to view the jail.

A neat square, red brick, two-story building with a dry kitchen built on the side that was were the jailer and his family would prepare and eat their meals. You went to the jail through the kitchen and into the downstairs room, which is a nicely appointed living quarters for the jailer and his family. You then go into the lower floor holding cell. It was in this room that the prophet spent the first of his three nights in the jail, in the company of about 8 friends and supporters. With increasing tensions and the concern for mob violence, the jailer and his wife moved the prophet, his brother, john Taylor and Willard Richards to their own room upstairs in an effort to protect them.

The tour then takes you up the stairs and into the Dungeon Cell, which is everything you would imagine an 1800 jail cell to look like, dark and foreboding and sparse of anything comfortable. You are then taken into the jailer’s bedroom, which of course is where the tragic events occurred. The room is bright and airy and in stark contrast to the cell we had just been in. it was in this room I gained a deep appreciation for the jailer and his family, even though not LDS, it was obvious that they were good Christian people. In fact the jailer was out doing an errand for Joseph when the mob attacked at 5pm that evening.

You sit around the room and some audio is played, recapping the events that took place. Some interesting things are observed here. The door leading into the room still has the two bullet holes that can be clearly seen. The first one is down by the lock, which penetrated the door and hit John Taylor in the hip, throwing him backwards. The second bullet hole is only a little above halfway-two thirds up the door, and you can see the way the hole penetrates the door, that the bullet was going in an upward direction. This of course is the bullet that pierced the door and as the prophet and Hiram and Willard were trying desperately to keep the door-closed o prevent the mobsters entering the room, it was this bullet that struck Hiram in the face and killed him almost instantly.

It was at this time that the prophet made his way to the window in an effort to escape and as you sit there looking across at this window, I became a little overcome that this was indeed the place where this great man took his last breath. He was struck by two bullets in the chest by the mob downstairs and struck in the back from the mob inside, which threw his lifeless body out of the window, to the ground below.

The tour allows you to linger a little bit longer in this room, as it is again another one of those sacred places where the spirit of the Lord in unrestrained. You then walk downstairs and out through the front door of the home to the lawn and yard area. I found this was the best place to take pictures of the jail and have included them below.

We left Carthage for the 30min drive to Nauvoo. Your first impression upon driving into Nauvoo was how well laid out orderly, and neat and tidy the small town is. You drive past old Nauvoo on the left and up a small sweeping bend to the top of the hill, which is the highest point in town, to the Nauvoo Temple. We decided to drive up and drive around the Temple. We could see car and cars of families dressed the their church clothes who had obviously been to the Temple that day.

There are not a lot of people in Nauvoo and no major industry to speak of, but it was obvious that the Temple was quite busy as I imagine many Saints travel from all over the US to attend this historic House of God.

We decided we were hungry and went into your typical, small-town diner to have some lunch. Jodie then decided to do the 3pm session and I drove the children back to the hotel so they could get ready to do baptisms in the Temple.

We drove back and Thomas and I were able to change in the welcome center and leave the two little girls with some lovely couple missionaries and went into the Temple. What is lovely with the kids with the Nauvoo Temple is that there is no separate entrance to the baptistry, they actually have to walk through the front doors with everybody else and then are escorted downstairs to the baptistery. The Nauvoo Temple has the largest baptismal font in the world but has been built to the exact specifications of the original font.

As always, the ordinance workers were so kind and accommodating. We started by doing confirmations and were delighted when Jodie joined us after having just completed her session. She too was able to participate in the Confirmations, which enhanced our family Temple experience. I then was fortunate enough to attend the last session of the day at 6pm while Jodie took the kids on a tour of old Nauvoo. I’m grateful for all the Temples and especially our Temple in Brisbane and I know we’re not really supposed to have favourties, but I would have to confess that Nauvoo is now probably my favourite Temple.

It is wonderful how they have built the Temple, particularly the otter façade to the exact specifications as the one the early Saints built. For example, when the Saints were building the first Temple, they began with large stones at the bade of the walls, and as the walls got higher, they would put smaller stones towards the top, they were about two thirds of the way finished when the prophet and his brother were killed, the Saints then realized that they would need to finish the Temple quicker and so two thirds of the way up the Temple, they started laying larger blocks to speed up the work. That same pattern is repeated on this new, reconstructed Temple. As they built the Temple on the same foundations as the first Temple, the date of construction on the front of the Temple is listed as the date the Saints first built the Temple in Nauvoo, April 6, 1841 and not the date that they started constructing the new Temple, which I think is a lovely touch.

The murals in the various endowment rooms were hand painted at Brigham Young University and we were told that all of the General Authorities had the opportunity to paint a little something on these murals, weather it was a flower or a leaf or a bird, which again I think is a lovely touch and would be a marvelous thing for the General Authorities to do.

When we finished doing baptisms we were able to exit up the spiral staircase, which was the same that was built in the original Temple, which was a lovely experience for the kids. I had arranged for Jodie and the kids to meet me at 7:30pm to arrange for a nice family photo to be taken in front of the Temple. I got my tripod out and all set up and has proven the case on the whole vacation, as soon as I set my tripod up, even though previously no one was around, I would all of a sudden find myself surrounded by people, or people walking through the background, and I must confess I have found this frustrating these holidays. So my desire to have a nice family picture in front of the Temple did not come off to my liking.

Jodie and the kids then took me for a quick tour of historic old Nauvoo and we went to watch the Nauvoo pageant. This was not on the same scale as the Hill Cumorah Pageant but all the actors were individually mic’d and performed as if they would in a theater. The backdrop to the stage was the hill with the Nauvoo Temple a top. It tells the story of the foundation of Nauvoo and the building of the Temple and throughout the show the wooden framework of the Temple is erected at the back of the stage.

A canvas backdrop of the Temple is then pulled up over this framework. Then in the final scene Joseph and Hiram and the remaining cast members, dressed in earthy, pastel colours encourage us to remember their legacy and begin singing The Spirit of God. The backdrop to the stage collapses to reveal the wonderfully illuminated Nauvoo Temple in all its glory on top of the hill. You then hear an audio recording of President Hinckley’s 2002 October General Conference talk titled, “If I were an angel and granted the desires of my heart.” He talks about the Nauvoo Temple dedication and refers to it as Joseph’s Temple, facing towards the West. He then compares that to the Salt Lake Temple, which faces East towards Nauvoo, he states that these two temples act as bookends to the years of sacrifice, faithfulness and trials of those early Saints. I am not afraid to admit that my eyes welled with tears and my heart became just full of gratitude for those wonderful early pioneering Saints. I just hope that in some small way I have added to and built upon that legacy. We drove up to the Temple to take some night time photos and drove home to the hotel.

Family outside Carthedge Jail. The 2nd floor window above our heads is the one the Prophet was shot and fell through.
The holding cell downstairs
Bullet hole in the door. This shot was the one that killed Hyrum
Bullet hole above the lock. This bullet struck John Taylor
The exterior of the temple. Note the larger stones on the top third.
The Nauvoo House
The smith family graveyard
View of the Mississippi River from Joseph & Emma's home in Nauvoo
The Finale
The Jailers bedroom were Jospeh & Hyrum were killed
Thomas in the window were Joseph fell from.
The Window
The Smith Home
Red brick store. Where Relief Society was founded
Nauvoo Pagent
We got up nice and early and had our usual basic breakfast fare that’s included in our accommodation deal, I actually don’t care for these much, but Jodie loves it. I end up usually just having bagels and peanut butter although there is cereal and juice, which the kids seem to like. Because we were up so early this morning we got to Kirtland Historic Visitor’s Centre about half an hour before it opened. This is a lovely collection of buildings down in a little hollow and is beautifully maintained by the church. The majority of people who work here are actually serving missions for the church, including grounds men and maintenance workers as well as the tour guides. 

Just to the left of the car park are two very noticeable buildings, one is the red schoolhouse, which is a replica of the schoolhouse that was built on the Isaac Morley Farm and is one of the four areas in Kirtland were God The Father appeared in the early days of the church. We were welcomed into the visitor’s Centre right at 9am, and this is a beautiful collection of rooms. In the second room are beautiful couches where you can sit and view a large painting of the Kirtland Temple. Ordaining the walls in this room are various original photographs circa 1830’s, 40’s and 50’s that show Kirtland and the Temple rising from its foundation. On the left hand wall emblazoned in large letters is that famous revelation given to Joseph Smith, “Go to the Ohio and there you will build a house unto me, yea even a house of prayer, a house of faith, a house of fasting and a house of order.” 

We had a lovely missionary couple, the Farr’s, who were to be our guides today. They take you into a theatre and show you a terrific vignette on the Prophet Joseph Smith as seen through the eyes of others, namely his mother, the Whitney’s and Sydney Rigdon and explain how Kirtland grew and blossomed into a lovely city. I was deeply touched, and even though I had studied about Newell K. Whitney before, by his faith, his industry, his compassion and the respected position he had in Kirtland, even before the missionaries came to preach the gospel. Depicted in the movie, is that now famous meeting when the Prophet Joseph Smith walks into Newell K. Whitney’s store and says, “Newell K. Whitney, I am Joseph Smith the prophet. You prayed me here, now what would you have me do?” 

At the conclusion of the presentation you are taken up to the Newell K. Whitney store, the first room you enter is the general store itself. The second room is the Barter Room where people would come with little or no money and barter their goods and their stock for food and supplies. This room was also used as the Bishop’s Store House as Newell K. Whitney was the second Bishop ordained in the restored church. What happened next, I would put down as one of the more significant spiritual experiences I have had in my life. 

For the next room they take you to is up the stairs to the room in the right front corner of the building that we have come to know as, The School of the Prophet’s room, or as it has been referred to in other circles as the Revelation Room. This is small, non descript room with two or three rows of small wooden benches, it is much smaller than I imagined when I was studying in seminary and institute. There was a group of about 15 and the missionaries were explaining some of the significant events that happened here and the revelations that were received, for example, section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. 

Elder Farr then got Courtney to read a quote from John Murdoch, he was one of the first people baptized when the missionaries arrived in Kirtland. The Prophet Joseph promised him that he would see the face of God and his son Jesus Christ. As Courtney began reading the wonderful experience in which brother Murdoch explains that while sitting listening to the Prophet the eyes of his understanding was opened and as he looked towards the door he saw God the Father and his son Jesus Christ, and described in wonderful, simple detail their physical appearance and spiritual magnitude. As Courtney was getting to the end of reading this quotation my eyes filled with tears as it was confirmed to me they way the Lord confirms things spiritually for me that this event did indeed happen. Around the time that I was feeling this sensation of peace and warmth and reassurance, Courtney’s voice quivered and cracked as she struggled to finish reading the quote, I could tell she too could sense the significance and feel the spirit. 

Elder Far then bore his testimony of the reality of this event, and as I looked down the bench across my family, I could see even the little ones looking up quietly and reverently at Elder Farr, and I am certain that the spirit was bearing witness to their little spiritually naïve souls that there is a God and his son Jesus Christ. It has been a very long time, through the stresses and strain of modern life and some family struggles, since I have felt the spirit so strongly. It was almost as if that this was the reason why I was supposed to come of this holiday and as I lingered in the room as everybody left I felt the Lord whisper to my mind that he was aware of me and the struggles that I have had lately. 

I found myself not wanting to leave, but knew it was inevitable as the tour group was waiting in an adjoining room. I tried to pretend that the reason why I was late was because I was taking photos, but that was not the real reason at all. 

The rest of the morning was spent touring the Whitney’s home, The Johnson Inn, which has been converted internally into a Welcome Center and the fully functioning Saw Mill that was dedicated by President Hinckley in 2006. We then left this part of Kirtland to drive up to the Kirtland Temple. When you are standing between the Newell K. Whitney store and their home, you are actually standing on the old main street of Kirtland, which runs up the hill and joins with the modern highway, which has now been fenced off and the church bought the adjoining land to divert the modern day traffic around historic Kirtland village and up past the Temple. 

We drove up to the Kirtland Temple, which sits atop of a large hill. The Community of Christ now owns this building and have done a lovely job preserving a very important part of church history. The people there are lovely and accommodating and obviously have the same pride in this historic building as we do. They charge a nominal fee for you to take a tour, of course Genna and Tamzyn were excited because this is a Temple that they could actually go inside. They have a nice Visitor’s Center and a little museum that maps the history of the construction of the Temple and the history of their church since it split from the Restored Church of Latter-Day Saints back in the mid 1800’s. They begin by showing a different type of video about the church and its association with the Kirtland Temple. 

It seemed a little unusual hearing another church talk about our early Prophets and leaders, almost as if something was missing, I realized latter and I don’t want to sound judgmental, but the obvious thing that was missing was the spirit that comes with dedicated church buildings. 

After watching the video they have incorporated a lovely visual effect. The screen rolls up and then curtains are opened, almost like a stage curtain, revealing through large panoramic windows, the Kirtland Temple. They then take you outside and you follow a path through the garden to the front of the Temple. You then walk through the front door and up 33 stairs to the top floor of the Temple, still very much as it was when the Saints first built it. You walk through the corridors of the upstairs meeting room and then down the stairs on the left hand side of the building to sit in the first floor chapel/meeting area where more information is given on the history and events that took place. 

They mentioned some of the wonderful events that we have recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants such as Moses, Elijah and Elias appearing and restoring important keys, but they don’t go into detail about what those keys are and where are they now in their church. It was a lovely visit and you come away with a wonderful appreciation for the sacrifice and workmanship of the early Saints and appreciation for the Community of Christ for maintaining this wonderful legacy. 

We left Kirtland and drove to the Isaac Morley Farm. There we were met by a lovely missionary couple from Great Britain who explained to us the wonderful contribution and faithfulness of Isaac Morley and why the church felt the important need to purchase a section of the original farm to keep for our posterity. Isaac Morley has become one of my new heroes of the restoration and was one of the first settlers in the Kirtland area. His own personal values lead him to establish a community where everybody was treated equally and had the same, in other words, he was living the law of consecration years before it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph. 

This man would eventually give up five of his homes for the sake of the Gospel as he travelled west with the Saints. In fact when he got to Salt Lake and established a lovely and affluent home the Prophet Brigham Young asked him to give it up and go with a group of Saints to settle San Pete County, which is of course where the Manti Temple is built, Which is one of, if not Jodie’s favorite Temples. So it sort of felt like we had made a connection, Jodie and I, because of this to Isaac Morley, I know that sounds a little strange. 

We then left Kirtland at 2-3pm for the 9hr drive to Nauvoo, or to the town of Keokuk, which is approximately 20mins South of Nauvoo. The drive was long but had for the most part, lovely large expressways or toll ways. It cost me approx. $26 in tolls to use these roads. Stationed every 30miles or so are these large travel centers that enable you to stop, get fuel and something to eat. They’re pretty impressive structures and are lovely and clean, which makes the trip pleasant. We arrived at Keokuk at 11pm, staying in the lovely Fairfield Sweets Marriott, we would be here for two nights, there was plenty of room to set up the blow up mattress and everybody could spread out and relax. The great thing about the car we are hiring is that it had a built in DVD player which enabled us to play movies, to keep the kids occupied and make the trip go a little bit quicker for them. But I must say they have been excellent travel companions. 

Stream by the Whitney store where many early saints were baptised
Outside the Visitors Centre
Upstairs palour were many of the 1st Presidency meetings were held
Replica of Morley School House
The Barter Room
Door leading to the "School of the Prophets room"
School of the Prophets room
Authentic original chair that the prophet & emma used
Johnson Inn
Jospeh & Emma's room in the Whitney home
Stone steps leading to Whitney home made from same stone as temple
Whitney home
The mill and ashery
Family @ the Isaac Morley Farm
Our hotel here in Niagara Falls has been somewhat difficult, it’s part of a nice hotel complex, but unfortunately it is in a separate building and we were on the third floor without any lifts or elevators, so carrying the bags up and down to the car proved to be difficult and a little bit tiring. Needless to say the room was comfortable and we woke up to a fairly overcast day, which was a bit disappointing when you want to go take photographs of the waterfall, but I think the kids still enjoyed the experience. 

We woke up and I took the opportunity to go down to the hotel lobby to post on the blog and upload the pictures of Southern Utah. Jo and the Kids came down and gladly reported that they had lugged the entire luggage down the three flights of stairs and the car was packed. We hen headed off down the Falls. Jodie and I were here in October last year so we were excited to show the kids and see their reaction. We went down and all got tickets to go on the Maid of the Mist. These are a series of boats, open deck, each holding around 400 passengers and they sail up the river to give you an up close view of the Falls. Niagara Falls is actually made up of two sets of falls, The American Falls, which is a set of two waterfalls that are fairly flat and what you would expect a waterfall to look like. Then there is a large, rocky outcrop that comes to a point in the river, which is the actual border or boundary between America and Canada. Then you have the magnificent Horseshoe Falls. 

These are the falls on the Canadian side of the boarder, and it is a magnificent, natural phenom. They are shaped in a crescent moon shape with an amazing amount of water flowing over them every day, in fact the equivalent of 5x Sydney Harbor flows over the falls every day. The boats go up river up the left hand side, giving you an up close view of the American Falls, then they come back into the center of the river and head straight up into the middle of the Horseshoe Falls. They drive right up to within 100-150 feet of the falls and the roar of the water makes it nearly impossible to speak or be heard, but what id amazing is the amount of spray that is generated from this massive volume of water. They actually give you your own poncho to wear to try and stay dry. The kids loved it, they thought it was amazing and we took some great photos and videos, which we posted below on the 14th July day. 

We then walked back up they hill to out hotel, had some brunch and set off for our three hour drive to Kirtland. Jodie has done a fabulous job in booking and planning all of our accommodation on this leg. She booked us into the Travelodge, which was fantastic value at only $53 a night. But when we arrived, I was devastated to find that we had misplaced one of my camera batteries and one of my charges. This was one of the few times I lost my cool on this trip. Fortunately I checked the web and Best Buy was open until 7:00pm. I got there in time to purchase a new charger and a new battery and a 1.5 terabyte external hard drive to store all the pictures and videos we’ve taken on this trip. We got home, ordered pizza for dinner and settled into bed for the night. 

Today was a more easily relaxed day, after leaving the Motel, we went back to the Hill Cumorah to climb to the top and take in the view. They have a lovely Visitor’s Center, but for the next two weeks is doubling as a Cumorah Pageant Visitor’s Centre as well, because this year is the 75th year the pageant has been staged. They had a number of different displays with different costumes throughout the years. This is a busy time for the Temple, The Smith Farm, the Sacred Grove and Grandin Press (where the Book of Mormon was published). 

They have a lovely statue of the Christus in a circular room with large floor to ceiling panoramic windows. We went into the Visitor’s Center first then climbed to the top of the Hill. You get a lovely view of the surrounding area here. They have erected a large monument to the angel Moroni. 

We then left and drove into Palmyra to visit Grandin Press. This is where the first 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon were printed. Unfortunately we got there when two large South American tour buses had arrived and so in contrast to last year when Jodie and I were here, it was crowded. 

This I feel diminished the experience for the kids. Jodie and I found ourselves taking the kids on our own tour to try and avoid the crowds. I think the kids developed an appreciation and an understanding of the cost and sacrifice it took to produce this incredible book. We then drove the 1hour 20mins to Niagara Falls. 

We took some time to rest in the hotel and do some much-needed laundry before I took the family up to the Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant for a sunset dinner. Jodie and the kids loved this a thought it was fantastic. Tomorrow we plan to see the Falls up close before driving to Kirtland Ohio. I’m in the hotel room tonight, amazed at just how well everybody has got along even though we have been living in one another’s pockets for the last three weeks. 

We had a great time tonight just sitting and talking and enjoying each other’s company. I love my little family and I think that’s just gone to the next level as a result of our holiday of a lifetime. But I really regret that I couldn’t have brought my older girls on this trip as well.

@ the Christus Statue in the Hill Cumorah Visitors Centre
Climbing the Hill
Moroni Monument @ top of Hill
Genna pretends she's Moroni
Hire wire tightrope walker Niagara Falls Canada
Thomas having a drink
View from top
The Trail back down
Grandin Press Building inside the Building
The girls with their favourite waiter. Jodie & I had him last year as well and he remembered us.
This was again a lovely day. We all woke fairly late, between 8:30am and 9:30am and I called ahead to the Temple to enquire about doing baptisms with Thomas and Courtney. They encouraged us to come for the 1:00 session. I was excited to take my children to this special place. Jodie and I had been to the Palmyra Temple in October last year and were aware of its location and the significance of why President Hinckley was inspired to build a Temple here. Jodie, Tamzyn and Genna took the opportunity to tour the gardens and walk around the local area while Thomas, Courtney and I went into do baptisms. 

The Palmyra Temple is the exact same plan as our Temple in Brisbane, same size and almost the same layout. The only difference is in the main foyer area, past the recommend desk is a series of large, outward facing windows. This is known as the Hinckley window. On touring the Temple during construction, President Hinckley instructed that a window be put there so that the people attending one Sacred place, namely the Temple, could look out to another Sacred place. It is the only Temple in the world to have such a window. After completing baptisms.  

I needed to walk to the office to collect my family file cards; I took Thomas and Courtney with me and the three of us looked out the window, across the gully, and to the Sacred Grove. As I was explaining to Thomas and Courtney this lovely unique feature, I noticed tears welling up in Courtney’s eyes. I sensed she was deeply touched by where she was, what she was doing and what she was seeing and was feeling the spirit. I did not question her, or say anything to her to interrupt what she was enjoying but I could tell she was touched. 

We then went outside, changed and did a tour of the Joseph Smith Farm. It’s incredible to see how small and confined the living and sleeping spaces were, but I could see the family enjoying activities like reading, school work, scripture study and fun family games around the small dining room table, which is part of the kitchen. You walk up a small staircase, so mall in fact that I almost touched the sides with both my shoulders, into the sleeping area for the children. It was in this small area that the Angel Moroni appeared to the boy Joseph. Although this house is a replica, it was built on the very foundation of the original Smith Home and when they were excavating to build they found over 2000 artifacts. 

We then walked down to the Frame HHHHhhome which was much more expansive. This home was built by Joseph’s brother, and at one stage homed all the family. Under the fireplace in this home was where the Golden Plates were hidden from mobsters. We then did a tour of the barn and the Coopers Shop, the latter being another area where the plates were concealed from people wanting to steal them. We then continued along the path and up into the Sacred Grove. Earlier in the day I had asked the children to bring a pen and some paper, and it was my hope and desire to have them sit by themselves, spread out in various areas of the Grove, to reflect upon the Sacredness of the place to get a feel for the fact that this was where God the Father and his son Jesus Christ visited the earth. To my understanding there has only been three areas on this planet where God the Father himself has pierced the Heavens and spoken to man, they being, Mount Sinai, Jerusalem and Palmyra New York. So you can understand now why the Sacred Grove is one of my favorite places on earth. We walked up into the Grove and took time taking pictures and talking quietly amongst ourselves. 

Tamzyn spotted a deer in the thicket. We then followed the trail to one of my favorite areas in the Grove. I don’t know if this is entirely true, but last year when I was here with Jodie, I felt in my heart of hearts that it was somewhere close to this area the First Vision occurred. It was here that I asked the family to spread out and to write their feeling and reflect upon the possibility, if not the reality, that God did appear to man in this place. I was thrilled that they all willingly agreed to do this, that none of them felt uncomfortable. They all went off for a good 20-25mins. 

Having had my own reflective time, I then walked around, seeking out the family and with my extended lens, took some great shots of them in their reflective moments. I have not asked any of them, except for Jodie, to share what they have written as I would like them to keep this experience personal and sacred to be shared later when moved by the spirit. We came out of the Grove around 7pm and went into the local Palmyra Township to get some dinner. This was going to take way too long so we decided to drive back to the Hill Cumorah to watch the Hill Cumorah Pageant. 

I must confess that I expected this to be cheese personified, like a giant roadshow. You see, families volunteer from all over the country to come and perform n the pageant for the two weeks that it is on. I must confess I was really impressed with its professionalism, the magnitude, the staging and special effects. It told tem stories from the Book of Mormon to its restoration. It was a great night and the end to one of my favorite days. We then went back to the hotel and again retired to bed, after midnight. 

Thomas on the 2nd floor of the Smith Log Home, in the same room Moroni would have appeared to Joseph Smith
The family outside the Palymra Temple in front of the 'famous' Hinckley Window
The Family @ the Palmyra Temple over looking the Sacred Grove in the background
A fence on the Smith Farm similar I suppose to the one Joseph collapsed over when trying to climb after the First Vision
Joey & Tammy in the Grove
Courtney in the Grove
The Family in the Grove
We just bumped into the Cooke family an American family who used to live in Brisbane at the Hill Cumorah Pagent.
The Smith Log Home
The Sacred Grove
Thomas in the Sacred Grove
Genna records her feelings while sitting in the Grove
Tamzyn in the Grove
Slept in a bit today, all 6 of us snugged up in our double beds, Courtney the sweetheart actually slept on the floor, giving us a little more room. We all got us, showered, dressed and packed and I walked around the block to pick up our hire car. Fortunately, I found a parking spot right out the front of the hotel, by the time I got back, Jodie had already got all the kids and all the bags down into the lobby, which is a major feat in itself as the hotel only had one tiny elevator and with everybody checking out, the delays were long and frustrating. We all jumped in the car and were heading off through New Jersey to Harmony, Pennsylvania. 

Only in America and only in New York would the following experience happen. On one of the major on ramps to the Lincoln Tunnel, stood a lone hotdog vender, right on the road. Of course I couldn’t miss this opportunity as none of us had had breakfast. I puled up along side, rolled down the window and bought 6 authentic New York hotdogs from an Indian hotdog vender. We then drove though the Lincoln Tunnel; out through New Jersey and the famous New Jersey turn pike to Harmony Pennsylvania. It was a pleasant drive and one of the great things about this hire car is that it has an in-built DVD player, so the kids watched movies. Jodie slept until we arrived at Oakland Township in Pennsylvania, which was formerly known as Harmony, Pennsylvania. 

The church has purchased a parcel of land that includes the foundations of the Hale home, Emma Smith’s parents, and a local cemetery were Emma’s parent’s graves are and where the grave site is of their first born baby. I’m endeavoring to put together a movie of these and other sacred places for my children and for the Young Men in my Aaronic priesthood group back in my home ward, Kenmore. AS I was filming in the cemetery and filming the grave of Joseph and Emma’s first baby, I found myself overcome with deep appreciation and understanding for the hardships this young couple must of endured. I’ve always had a soft spot for Emma Smith and all that she did to support her husband and the hardships she endured. It’s incredible to think the persecution this young man, and indeed young couple suffered simply as a result of a humble prayer. 

The church has erected a monument and a number of epitaphs instructing people and tourists of the significance of this sacred place. But what was even more enjoyable was that the local community/government/council has erected a signpost at the front of the property, which is part of their history marker program. It would appear that the local community is quite proud that this is a place where the early church had a lot of significant moments. Unfortunately the monument is separated from the banks of the river by a train line.so you have to drive around and over the train line to get to the parcel of land that the church owns on the very banks of the Susquehanna River. There is a lovely trail that leads down from the small parking area with apple large broad leave trees that Jodie might think are sycamores, providing shade sand greenery. 

On the way to the rivers edge, you pass through a small depression with lush green flooring and large trees up ahead. In my minds eye I envisioned this to be the place where John the Baptist ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey and gave them the keys necessary to do the work. Coming up out of this depression with the large willow tree providing shade over a still water pool that was kind of set of from the flowing river. I could easily see that it was a pool like this, if not this one, where Joseph and Oliver baptized each other for the very first time. We lingered in this lovely place for nearly half an hour and I gathered some leaves to bring home to Australia to make some nice memorabilia for my son, who’s an Aaronic priesthood holder, and my Young Men back in my ward. 

We left Harmony, stopping briefly for lunch, and driving another 3hours to Fayette County in New York State, to visit the Whitmer Farm. We knew we were going to be cutting it fine on time, so we pushed it a little in a hope that we could do the tour today, rather then tomorrow. We came off the main highway and drove through some of the nicest country that I have seen in America. This is the Finger Lakes district with lush, rolling hillside farmland and a series of small, deep beautiful lakes. We managed to get to the Whitmer Farm at around about 7:30pm. The volunteers that work and serve missions there were lovely and most accommodating. We got there after closing time, which was 7pm, but on the tail end of a large tour bus. They graciously stayed behind to give us a tour. 

The site is a large farm with a number of buildings on the site. One is a chapel and fully functioning Stake Centre. The main chapel area is built as a replica of the Kirtland Temple and serves as the chapel for the ward and stakes that meet here. Adjacent to the Chapel is a Visitor’s Center that explains and tells the story of the organization o the Church and the need for modern day Prophets. We lingered long after everybody had left and this turned into being quite a lovely spiritual experience for the family and a great teaching moment as all of my children stood around Jodie and I asking some of the best questions and providing us a great opportunity to teach what we knew about the Gospel, Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. 

We then jumped in the car to drive the remaining 30ins to a quant, quite spacious little motel in the Town of Manchester, just 4miles from the Palmyra Temple, Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove. We too the opportunity to drive down to the local store and do a bit of grocery shopping, again another fun family experience as we had fun getting some of the necessities that would see us through the next couple of days. We returned to the hotel for another late dinner and for some much needed sleep. Today really was the official start of our Church history tour and my desire to make the scriptures come alive for my children. 

I had no problems sleeping on the 4 and a half hour flight to NYC. Our thinking was simple enough, we figured taking the red-eye and flying through the night would mean the kids would sleep on the plane, therefore saving us one nights accommodation. But in the main, this proved to be the case. However Tammy had been sick most of the day with a mild case of food poisoning, which aggravated her travel sickness. So the flight out was particularly rough for her as she threw up 3 times and for poor old Jodie who was attending to her. 

Apparently she went through several sick bags and I was completely oblivious to it, as I didn’t wake up till 20mins to landing. JFK Airport in New York is huge and appears confusing. We had to catch a tram, or monorail, for about 25mins until we found the hire cars. WE arrived, loaded up the hire car, which unfortunately wasn’t a Honda Odyssey, but was a Dodge Grand Caravelle. I guess for the first time in my trip, I felt a little anxious as the intention was to leave the car at the airport, take overnight bags and catch the subway into Manhattan, but we made the decision that it would be better to drive in and I wasn’t really sure how I was going to go driving in all that New York traffic. 

It proved to be not too bad in the end, and was incredible to think that I was driving down Broadway amongst a sea of yellow cabs and an ocean of people. It would appear the people of New York don’t really obey traffic signal, and as it was morning peak hour they had police at every major intersection even with traffic lights directing traffic. We drove to the hotel but check in wasn’t until 3pm, they allowed us to store our bags and directed us to a nearby parking station and then we set off for breakfast at the famous New Yorker Hotel. Wasn’t really sure how everybody was going to go today, as we were all very, very tired from the overnight flight. We all ate breakfast of various New York delicacies, Eggs Benedict, Pancakes and Club Sandwiches before we headed off for an open top bus tour of the city. 

New York is a very hot city during summer. Because of all the high-rise buildings, you don’t get a lot of air movement. All the avenues on Manhattan run North to South and all the streets run east to West, our hotel was located in mid-town Manhattan in a suburb affectionately named Hell’s Kitchen. Every time we turned a corner and neared one of the rivers, we were entreated with a nice cool sea breeze. We took the open top bus tour to the Statten Island Ferry terminal. We got off and rode the ferry across to Statten Island. As Jodie and I had done this last year, we knew which side of the ferry to get onto, giving the kids prime viewing space to see the Statue of Liberty and take some great photos. 

The ferry is free and one of the best ways to see the Statue of Liberty. When we returned to Manhattan, we walked up to Wall St. had our picture taken with the famous Bull. And then walked up to the, now world famous St Pauls Chapel, which is across the street from the World Trade Centre. They have a memorial built here now; we spent some time reading all about when happened in 9/11. It was really interesting to notice a lot of American tourists who were visiting Ground Zero for the first time and had tears streaming down their face as they read and looked at the pictures of the victims. It made me feel really appreciative that back in Australia we have not been the victims of a major terrorist attack like 9/11. We decided to jump on the Open Top Bus and complete the tour of downtown Manhattan. We got off and went for a walk through central park, and feeling quite tired we laid down on the grass in the shade and most of us slept for 20-30mins. We then got up, bought hotdogs from a hotdog vender in New York and went to the World’s Largest Toy Store. I then took the kids on their first Subway ride, Thomas was quite nervous and we rode the train for 4 stations, getting off near Madison Square Garden and walking down to our hotel. It was now about 4:30pm and we had the opportunity to rest before heading our t Mary Poppins. 

The Hotel room was not what you would call massive; in fact the 2 double beds almost touched each other in the middle of the room. So needless to say, with 6 people and 13 pieces of luggage, we did not have a lot of room to spare. Everybody took n opportunity to sleep for an hour, except for me as we didn’t want to fall asleep during Mary Poppins. It was about 6 blocks to get to Broadway and 42nd St where the show is playing, so we allowed 30mins to walk to the theatre, pick up our tickets and went into the show. I must confess that Mary Poppins was Jodie’s idea and wish, and not something I wanted to do, but I was absolutely, presently surprised. 

The theatre was still in its Victorian façade and made you feel apart of the stage and indeed apart of the show. It’s amazing the different staging and visual effect they use in live theatre now. Stages move up and down, scenery back and forth, rotate. But the most amazing effect of al was right at the end when Mary Poppins flies up off the stage and out into the audience, flying above the people in the stalls then above the people in our level in the mezzanine then above the people up top. The kids were humming and singing the songs from the musical for days afterwards. 

We left the theatre and decided to take the kids for a walk though Times Square, this was an eye opening experience for a lot of the family as they had all sorts of buskers, performers and ordinary, every-day New Yorkers there. They had people dressed up in dodgy Disney characters, right down to the naked Cowboy in his jocks, playing his guitar on the street with his cowboy boots on. We went into the Disney store and then decided we would head back to the hotel. It’s approaching midnight now, which makes the 5th or 6th night in a row that we were getting to bed a midnight. But we were hungry; we decided to stop for some authentic New York pizza for diner at midnight. We then got back to the hotel and crashed out. 

Our last day in Utah was memorable for a number of reasons. We woke up, washed, showered, shaved and did our hair and got dressed in our Sunday best for the 2-hour drive from Green River to Manti. This next 10 days is the beginning of why we really wanted to come to the states. It’s always been a wish of Jodie’s to attend the Manti Temple. The Manti Temple is the fifth Temple built in this dispensation. It is actually the third Temple built in Utah, St George being the first, Logan Being the second and Manti being the third. It dominates the skyline in Sanpete County in rural Utah. 

For those who are not of my faith, Temples are very important for a number of reasons. One, it gives me the opportunity, or challenge, to try and live the gospel the best I can and be the best person I can because of the high standard of living one needs to maintain to enter. Secondly, it gives us the opportunity to think less of ourselves, and more of others as we go and perform ordinances vicariously for those who have passed away. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it would seem any time I plan to attend the Temple, there is always some type of opposition, either time, or contention, or just plain hassles. Well today was no different. 

The intention was for Jodie to do a session and for me to do baptisms with Courtney and Thomas. When we left Green River I had half way between a quarter of a tank and a half a tank of fuel. As I was returning the hire car today, I had already per-paid for a full tank of fuel, so I remember thinking to myself, should I put some fuel in to get me to Salt Lake. I quickly dismissed the thought and said, “NAHH, I’ve got plenty.: About 25miles out of Green River it said on a sign on the side of the road that Green River was the last fuel or services for a 110miles. It occurred to me that I would need to get some petrol, but still thought I had plenty to get to Manti. How wrong that proved to be. The highway 70 in Utah is a magnificent road. It’s a dual carriage way for over 150miles, it cuts its way through canyons and deserts and vast open Utah moonscape. It’s quite acceptable to drive at 150km/h. 

I was enjoying this driving experience until I looked down and saw the fuel in my car rapidly diminish. The trip computer told me I only had 22miles of fuel left in my tank and 60miles left to get to the next service station. You see, last time I went to the Manti Temple with a work colleague, I ran out of fuel, and it seems as though history was going to repeat itself. I now became quite panicked because we were literally out in the middle of nowhere and cars were passing at phenomenal speeds. I was scared on a number of fronts, the most concerning of which would be, if we ran out of fuel, Jodie and the kids would be left on the side of the rad in searing temperatures while I hitch-hiked for fuel which could have literally taken hours. 

I encouraged the family to pray really hard that we would make the 60miles and the 22miles of fuel I had left in the car. The car fell silent; I turned off the air-conditioning and opened the windows slightly as I tried to eek every morsel f fuel out of the car as I could. Pretty soon the equation said I only had 9miles of fuel in the tank and still an excess of 48miles into the next town. It was then that the thought suddenly came to me, check your GPS. Using the GPS, I searched for the nearest petrol station from our current location. It found one in the town of Emery in Utah. It was 22miles away, and would mean I would have o leave highway 70. As we got to the exit of highway 70, the town was still 13miles away and I was down to 3miles of fuel left in my car. The car was still quiet and I could feel the anxiousness of Jodie and the kids and could tell they were praying really hard that we would make the petrol station. 

I slowed down to 40m/h and wound down all the windows, putting the car into neutral, coasting downhill and the rolling uphill and far as I could until I had to put it in drive. Then the unthinkable happened, the cars trip computer, told me I had 0miles of fuel left in my tank and I was still 4.5miles to the petrol station. This may seem cheesy or corny, but I have never been more thankful to see a small, non-descript town in the middle of nowhere then when I was when I pulled into Emery, Utah. We pulled into the only service station in town and I openly acknowledged to the kids as corny and cheesy as this sounds that they had just witnessed a miracle. I put in ¾ of a tank of fuel; the family took this as an opportunity, especially Tamzyn who had been feeling quite sick from a mild case of food poisoning combined with travel sickness. 

Although thus had taken us 20-30mins out of our way, the alternative, had we run out of fuel, would have been devastating and completely ruined our day and would not have made it possible for Jodie and the kids to attend one of the more unique temples in the world today. You see, Manti is one of only two Temples in the world that offers a live endowment session. I had been there in July the previous year, but Jodie had not had the privilege. I was really fearful she would miss the opportunity. But as an answer to pray, we fueled up and continued on our journey to Manti. We arrived in plenty of time to prepare for 1:00pm baptisms with the kids, and Jodie was lucky enough to attend the 12:30 session. 

This was a fabulous experience for both Jodie and I. Thomas, Courtney and I found the temple workers most accommodating, considerate and loving and the kids were baptized in the original font that was built in the 1840’s. The baptistery had beautiful hand-painted murals on all the walls, with reference to New and Old Testament scriptures relating to baptism. So what could have been a stressful, disastrous day turned out to be a magnificent spiritual high for all our family. Even for Tamzyn and Genna, who were just delightful whilst waiting in the annex. When Jodie came out we took the opportunity to take some family pictures to remember out time at Manti before driving back to Salt Lake, stopping on the way at my Global headquarters to show Jodie and the kids and dropping some stuff off to be shipped back to Australia. We then drove to a car wash to wash two weeks of southern Utah dust off the car before returning to the airport. We then went to the airport, had a great experience checking our luggage and went upstairs to the Delta Lounge to wait to catch the 11:55pm red-eye flight to New York City. And that’s it, a full and exciting day.

Ever had childhood wishes or dreams and wonder if they would ever come true???  Well today for me a couple did come true.

We left Page and our 70's motel and drove 5 miles to a natural phenom on the Colorado River called Grand Bend to the locals or more commonly known as 'Horsehoe Bend' located about 7klms from the  Glen Canyon Dame Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River. The bend is locally known as "King Bend." It is located five miles (8.7 km) downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, about four miles or 6 km southwest of Page. Accessible via a ½-mile (0.8 km) hike from U.S. Route 89, it can be viewed from the steep cliff above. According to Google terrain maps, the overlook is 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet above sea level making it a breathtaking 1,000 foot drop.

The hike there was not too bad.  The day was hot, hot, hot, about 38 degrees celcius.  Some of the track was like walking on beach sand, such is the desert here. You then walk down a long path to the edge of the canyon.  Now there is no fences at the edge of the canyon and to get the best possible view or photo you have to walk to the very, very edge.  I don't know if I mentioned this but I am terrified of heights.  So I worded the kids up before we got there that they cannot run jump or go any where too close to the edge.  Thankfully they agreed, but nobody told the other tourists like the Japanese, Koreans, Germans etc.  I was on tender hooks.

The best way I found to shoot it was to lie on my stomach and crawl to the edge.  Hang my hands over the edge and shoot.  Bring my hands back in adjust settings and reach out and shoot again.  Courtney took some funny shots of me doing this, eventually I worked up the guts to set a tripod out on the edge and take a few shots.

This is a visually spectacular place and I trust you'll enjoy the photo's below.  We stayed there about 30mins taking photo's and walking back up the track was a lot steeper then the way down and we struggled a bit in the heat but I was real proud of how the kids handled it and have generally been great in wanting to be with me on my photo expeditions.

Parched with thirst we drove back to town to refill our water and rehidrate.  When then headed of to Monument Vally.

The drive to Monument Valley took 2.5 hours but boy was it worth it.  This is a much revered place by photographers who if they are like me can see the almost spiritual side of this place like the Navajo people who own it.

Monument Valley (NavajoTsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation, and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163

As I was driving there we could see all this rain and rain clouds in the distance.  I turned and said to Jodie..."Just my luck, fly 15,000 klms and drive 3 days to get there and the sky will be all blown out with clouds and rain!"  Well thankfully if it was raining it had stopped and what would normally be just a blue sky and red sandstone scene, was entreated with some amazing large spectacular bright white almost cotton wool like clouds.  Very rare for this time of year.   I was truly blessed as you will see in the shots below. 

You drive up from the highway till you reach an escarpment, they have built a magnificent hotel, gift shop and eating area. on the edge looking out over all the valley. It is from here that you will see most photo's taken.  But for $15 you can actually drive down into the valley on a rough sandy rocky road.  The max you can drive is 10miles an hour.  It takes 2-3 hours to circle the valley.  We drove as far as the 'mittons' buttes took photos and left.  We were going to ride on horseback but time beat us.

We then started the 3 hours drive to Arches National Park.  This is the park that has the Delicate Arch.  The quintessential symbol of Utah.  Like the Opera House for Sydney or the Eiffel Tower for Paris etc.  Except this is all natural.  Most of the license plates on the vehicles in Utah carry the picture of "Delicate Arch"

Because of the long drive we got to the park late.  6:30pm.  We asked two important questions.  1. Do you have a souvenir penny machine.  (thomas got another at Monument Vally) 2.  What time is the best time to photography 'Delicate Arch'?  He said no to the first question and sunset for the 2nd.  As it was late we decided to drive straight to the arch.

Delicate Arch is located at the end of a moderately strenuous, 1.5 mi (2.4 km) hiking trail from the parking area at Wolfe Ranch. Taking thirty to forty-five minutes each way, the round trip is slightly more than 3 mi (4.8 km) long and the Arch is completely hidden from view on most of this trail.

The first third of the hike is through rugged, brushy terrain and gains slightly in elevation. The middle third of the hike is along the face of an exposed slickrock outcrop and is strenuous due to the gain in elevation, but offers better views of the geology in the salt valley. Cairns (piles of rocks) have been placed by visitors and park staff to roughly suggest the otherwise unmarked trail to the top, yet visitors tend to wander all over the huge expanse of completely exposed sandstone.

The latter third of the trail is the most rugged, nearing the top of the plateau. The Arch is not yet visible, and the trail runs around outcrops, through washes and between stands of twisted brush and trees. The trail may be easier to follow, but meanders as parts become muddy and difficult to walk through. During the 2004 fall season, the trail clearly followed the left (northern) side of the plateau, and brought visitors along a narrow shelf nearly 150 ft (46 m) above a dry wash.

The arch comes into view suddenly around a corner in the trail and frames the La Sal Mountains to the southeast. The immediate area around the Arch offers views of the southern expanse of the park, and has unguarded cliffs plunging one hundred feet or more.

Concerned I'd miss the light, I took off ahead of Jodie & the kids.  Walking, near a slight jog as ,y gammy hammy would let me.  I covered the first half mile easy.  But then the steep uphill part began, and with no water began to o it really tough.  Passing people who where walking back down I would ask breathlessly, " hi buddy, how much longer??"  Funny enough they all kept saying, "Oh about 25mins...."  It did not matter how much further I climbed the response was always the same.  I found myself envious of those I passed, returning to the cool valley below and the air conditioned comfort of their cars.  They had scaled, they had seen, they had photographed and I still had 25 mins to go!!!!!!!

Finally with the lactic acid burning in my thighs, my lungs struggle for air and my heart rate noticeably throbbing in the veins in my neck, I slowed to a mere stroll to allow Joey and the kids catch up to give me much needed water.

All of them were red faced and sweating with dry parched lips, but all still determined to join Dad on his quest.  Eventually only ten minutes later we summited walking along a thin ledge hundreds of feet above the canyon floor below rounding a samll corner to see the arch revealed before us.  Still basking in late afternoon sun and looking rich in colour and texture.   I was elated!!!!!   We all were. 

There were well over 100 people up there as this is the most popular time to see and shoot the arch.  We walked right out underneath this natural wonder and had a family photo.  The arch is well over 20 metres tall so we look like specks underneath it.  So I took other photos of the family in front just to prove we did it.

This was a unique definite binding moment for my little family as we descended feeling tired yet satisfied with what we accomplished.  A real feeling of unity and accomplishment.  We slowly made our way down and it was just on dark when we got back to the car.  We drove for an hour to Green River getting in closed to 11:30pm.  I then drove to the only restaurant in town to buy dinner before the six of us crashed in the 2 double beds in the room.

What a great rewarding and memorable day.  It will stay with me forever.

Family @ the foot of the Delicate Arch