Stake Serves Communities Near Future Historic Site

Contributed By Susan Denney, Church News contributor

  • 6 November 2013

Felled trees are cut into logs and stacked by members of the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake during a service project.  Photo by Michael Denney.

Article Highlights

  • In 2011 the Church announced plans to restore the site of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration.
  • To give back to the community, Church members carried out several service projects in the towns near the restoration site.
  • Projects included clearing heavy brush, painting, weeding, planting, and mulching.

“The community has been welcoming and open. The least we can do is give back to the community. The bottom line is that we are just trying to follow Jesus Christ and serve others.” —Kenneth Cooper of the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake presidency


Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County is well known to students of LDS history. In December 1827, Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma Hale Smith, moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania (now the borough of Oakland). It was there that Joseph began translating the plates that the angel Moroni delivered to him in upstate New York. On May 15, 1829, near the Susquehanna River, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood at the hands of John the Baptist.

In this part of Pennsylvania is the small cemetery where Joseph and Emma’s first son and Emma’s parents are buried.

The Church announced in April of 2011 that the Aaronic Priesthood restoration site will be restored. Included in the project will be the construction of a combination chapel and visitors’ center and the reconstruction of historic buildings.

The location of the restoration site is rural, and the small boroughs of Lanesboro and Oakland are the nearest to the site.

Under the direction of the local municipalities, more than 200 Latter-day Saints carried out multiple service projects in these two boroughs on Saturday, October 26. Yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests added color to the fading fall foliage as the volunteers weeded, mulched, painted facilities, removed heavy brush, felled trees, and planted bulbs.

Inside a community center, historical photos were removed from frames for digitizing.

Honesdale Ward Bishop Andrew Melton and his son, Preston, work during a service project in Susquehanna County. Photos by Michael Denney.


A new sign for the historic Starrucca Viaduct was hand lettered and painted by the Stroudsburg Ward's bishop, Robert Woolley. Photo by Michael Denney.

A stone railroad viaduct in Lanesboro got special attention. The area around the historic Starrucca Viaduct was cleared of heavy brush. Bishop Robert Woolley of the Stroudsburg Ward hand lettered and painted a sign for the viaduct.

Lanesboro Mayor Chris Maby said that before that Saturday he didn’t know what to expect but was “remarkably overwhelmed” by the results. He said that even while the work was happening he received calls from pleased borough residents.

Susquehanna County is one of many counties covered by the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake. Its leaders realize there are both blessings and responsibilities involved in having a historic site in their stake.

Megan Christensen of the Nazareth Ward, Scranton Pennsylvania Stake, cuts brush while helping with service efforts in Susquehanna County. Photo by Michael Denney.

Kenneth Cooper, first counselor in the Scranton stake presidency, said of the project, “The community has been welcoming and open. The least we can do is give back to the community. The bottom line is that we are just trying to follow Jesus Christ and serve others.”

The project was planned by LynnKay Brown, stake emergency preparedness coordinator, who asked local leaders to provide work that could be done by people of all ages. Primary children, youth, and adults worked together to make a big difference in the two communities.

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized in the Susquehanna River, which is now in the boundaries of the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake. Photo by Michael Denney.

Mayor Maby related that one of the borough council members said he wished he’d had a camera with him when he saw a young boy on his back painting the underside of a picnic table.

The project represented sacrifice on the part of the stake members. The boundaries of the Scranton stake are vast. Wards and branches are sprinkled through the Poconos and the Endless Mountains. Some families and individual Latter-day Saints drove more than a hundred miles one way to join in the project, coming from all units in the stake, including the towns of Easton, Nazareth, Stroudsburg, Wilkes-Barre, Tunkhannock, Scranton, Montrose, Honesdale, and Susquehanna.

Local leaders were grateful for the help received.

“From the borough council, it’s beyond words,” said Mayor Maby, referring to the amount of work accomplished, and he noted that “the size of the town about doubled.”