Church History Sites—Separating Fiction and Fact
It’s the difference between myths and maps.
Tradition has located many Church historic sites—such as the supposed precise location of the log cabin where Joseph Smith was visited by the Angel Moroni. And where Brigham Young was born, where “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” was written, where the actual Sacred Grove is located. While tradition may be correct, some Brigham Young University researchers want to make sure.
Using infrared aerial and ground photographs taken last spring, researchers will begin working at the Adam-ondi-Ahman site in Missouri this July and August, phase two of a project that may pinpoint where some events in Church history actually happened.
With approval from the First Presidency, the researchers will use a non-destructive “ground truth verification” electrical process that determines if something is underneath the surface of the ground. From those findings, they will map the area.
“There has been a lot of interest in Book of Mormon geography, and now we’re trying to have the same kind of interest in Church history,” says Lamar C. Berrett, director of LDS Church history at BYU’s Religious Studies Center and a member of the Historical Arts and Sites Subcommittee of the Church Historical Department.
“We have not known where the log cabin was where Moroni appeared, or where Joseph Smith lived in Palmyra, or if there were two altars at Adam-ondi-Ahman,” Brother Berrett says. “We’re just trying to discover the truth of that.”
He emphasizes that the research is not undertaken to verify whether events in Church history happened—he does not doubt their authenticity. “But there have been too many questions unanswered over the years, too much tradition, too much legend, regarding the location of sites. So we want to get at the facts.” It bothers him, he says, when people claim to know locations that have not been determined.
With financial donations from BYU’s Research Division, the Church Historical Department, the Religious Studies Center, and private donors, many Church sites were photographed last spring on infrared, color, and black-and-white film. Brother Berrett, BYU archaeologist Dr. Ray T. Matheny, and Don James, chairman of Utah Technical College’s electronics department, photographed sites in Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa.
Brother Berrett hopes that the work will help pinpoint sites through variations in heat that show up in the pictures. The site where a log cabin stood will appear different from other terrain through infrared photography. However, making a map from the photographs isn’t a simple procedure.
Only after the ground-verification phase of work is completed can actual archaeological excavation take place at the sites. Then, with approval and with funding, restoration work would be possible, and accurate history could be written.
Brother Berrett says that researchers have considerable hope that the Adam-ondi-Ahman layout can be reconstructed on a map. The site of the temple, which was never built, has not been ascertained.
Although the corners of the proposed temple were marked only with sticks, the temple site could be determined if nearby homes are located.
Visitors to Adam-ondi-Ahman now see only the foundation of the Lyman Wight residence, but other sites have been located. In one day at Adam-ondi-Ahman in 1978, Brothers Matheny and Berrett—without special equipment found six cabin sites and six or seven wells.
The infrared photographs are being made available to those engaged in research on Church sites. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has expressed interest in using the photographs as they proceed with archaeological research on the Haun’s Mill Massacre site in Missouri.
Mapping and excavation work are not planned at any of the other photographed sites throughout the United States, but such work might be possible, with approval and funding, Brother Berrett says.
“We’ll just have to take it a bite at a time.”
BYU Archaeologists Excavating “Forgotten City”
A Brigham Young University archaeology team is excavating an ancient Guatemalan city, one of the last “forgotten cities” hidden in Latin American jungles.
The city of El Mirador, unoccupied since its inhabitants mysteriously abandoned it nearly 1,500 years ago, is being studied by a group led by Dr. Ray T. Matheny, associate professor of anthropology and archaeology. The four-month expedition is being conducted for BYU’s New World Archaeological Foundation, which marked its 25th anniversary as the team left for El Mirador in January.
El Mirador, about 475 miles northwest of Guatemala City, may be the largest Mayan city ever discovered. Its ruins were first found by Teogerg Maler, a German explorer, in 1800. The ruins were again noted in 1970 by a scientist documenting inscribed stonework for the National Geographic Society.
Guatemalan government officials have given the team permission to establish a small landing strip so that a supply plane can land near the archaeological site. BYU’s team is being joined in February by four other archaeologists from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Preliminary sightings of the main city indicate it could be four or five square kilometers. Some of the buildings are 180 feet tall. Mayans occupied the area from about 600 B.C. to A.D. 500.
1978—A Record-Breaking Year for Forming New Stakes
A record number of new stakes were formed during 1978, as the total number of stakes reached 990 in December. 105 stakes were formed during the year, an increase over the 86 formed during 1977.
The period of fastest stake growth came between April and June 1978, when 44 stakes were formed. During the last quarter of 1978, 26 new stakes were formed. Only one of the stakes formed in 1978—the Guayaquil Ecuador Stake—was the first in any country.
A milestone during 1978 was the creation of five newly named stakes in England. New British stakes are London England Hyde Park, London England Wandsworth, Maidstone England, St. Albans England, and Staines England. Two stakes, London England and London England North, were absorbed into the new stakes. Four stakes were reorganized.
Another milestone was the creation of the 900th stake, the Spanish Fork Utah Palmyra Stake on March 19. The creation of the Church’s 1000th stake has been scheduled for February 17–18, 1979, in Nauvoo, Illinois.
The number of new stakes increased by nearly 10.4 percent in 1978, slightly down from the 10.9 percent increase in 1977. The 1976 increase was 8.3 percent, and the 1975 increase 9.2 percent.
During the last quarter of 1978, new stakes formed were Mobile Alabama, Mexico City Mexico Linda Vista, Clearfield Utah North, Vista California, Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek, Sandton South Africa, Araraquara Brazil, Pocatello Idaho South, Sandy Utah Granite, BYU 113th and 114th, Thayne Wyoming, Great Falls Montana East, Montrose Colorado, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Vancouver Washington West, Winnipeg Manitoba, Sandy Utah Crescent South, Salt Lake Hunter Central, Corona California, El Dorado California, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania East, Killeen Texas, Novo Hamburgo Brazil, Chandler Arizona, Sorocaba Brazil, and Kearns Utah East.
The Mobile, Araraquara, and Winnipeg stakes were formed from missions, and the other stakes were formed from existing stakes.
The first number after each state or country gives that area’s total number of stakes. The second number is the number of new stakes organized there in 1978. Ecuador (in bold type) acquired its first stake in 1978.
Assembly Hall to Receive New Organ
The Church will be given a musical 150th birthday present in 1980—a new $300,000 pipe organ in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
The new organ, the building’s third, replaces a pipe organ installed in 1913. Construction and installation of the new instrument are being funded entirely by private contributions. Completion is scheduled for mid-1980, the 100th birthday of the building and the 150th birthday of the Church.
Plans are also underway for an ongoing series of Assembly Hall concerts throughout the sesquicentennial year, featuring prominent artists of the Church.
Tabernacle organists say the new organ will make performances possible that could not have been done on previous Assembly Hall organs. The new instrument will significantly broaden the range of music that can be performed successfully. It will be the first Assembly Hall organ on which all organ literature can be played.
The 65-rank, 49-stop mechanical-action organ will be encased and free-standing with a detached console. Its finish and design will harmonize with the current interior of the Assembly Hall. The Assembly Hall rostrum will be modified slightly to accommodate the organ and create a more flexible performing area.
A feature of the organ will be the addition of a “Rueckpositiv,” a division of pipes placed to the organist’s back to project more intimately into the hall. The feature is unique among organs of the Church.
The three-manual organ will be built by Robert Sipe of Dallas, Texas, a former employee of the Aeolian-Skinner Company, which built the present Tabernacle Organ in 1948.
Orson Hyde Garden Grows Outside, Jerusalem
The walkways and amphitheater are built and the donations keep coming for the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden near Jerusalem.
More than three-fourths of the one million dollars needed to complete the park has already been donated to the Orson Hyde Foundation, which is sponsoring the garden on the west slope of the Mount of Olives. Many Church members and others have contributed to the fund, says Elder LeGrand Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and president of the Orson Hyde Foundation.
“We get donations every day—anywhere from $1 to $5,000,” says Elder Richards. “The penny of the widow is equal to the gold piece of the rich man.” Sunday School, seminary, and institute groups are among those donating. Names of contributors will be placed in a capsule sealed behind the wall surrounding the amphitheater.
The garden commemorates a prayer given by Elder Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1841 dedicating the land of Palestine for the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the latter days. Excerpts from his prayer—which was given at the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith—are inscribed in English and Hebrew on heroic-size plaques in a grottolike setting.
Part of the Jerusalem National Park, the five-and-one-quarter-acre garden joins more than six hundred acres of gardens surrounding and protecting the walls of the Old City.
Groundwork and planting remain to be done on the garden, which is scheduled for completion in 1979. Besides the walkways and amphitheater, a water system has been installed, and thirteen olive trees—one for each president of the Church and one for Elder Richards—were planted there in May 1978. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated the trees, which were planted by Irvin Nelson, former chief landscape architect for the Church.
The park is significant to Church members and nonmembers alike, since Jerusalem is a holy city for people of many faiths. David B. Galbraith, counselor in the Jerusalem District of the Church and resident director of Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Semester Abroad program, explains:
“I see in this garden a generous gift on the part of the members of the Church through the Orson Hyde Foundation, towards the beautification of this holy city, Jerusalem. I can’t imagine a better way to express our feelings toward Jerusalem than by contributing to the development of a spiritual garden on the Mount of Olives, to be enjoyed by Moslem, Christian, and Jew alike.”
Elder Richards says that the garden not only acquaints people with Elder Hyde’s prayer, but it helps people in Jerusalem realize that they’re in the land partly as a fulfillment of the prayer.
Information about the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden can be obtained from Orson Hyde Foundation, LeGrand Richards, President, 47 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. Contributions, which are tax deductible, also can be sent to that address.
It takes more than three feet of snow to stop the Saints in Chicago, Illinois. Buried in January under three feet of snow on level ground and many more feet in drifts, members carried on Church activities, although not as usual. The Hyde Park Branch of the Chicago Heights Illinois Stake cancelled meetings for Sundays, but members received permission to hold sacrament meetings in their homes.
In the Illinois Chicago Mission, work went on in full force, although many missionaries spent hours shoveling roofs, driveways, and walks for neighbors. A landlady, not a member of the Church, who had housed missionaries for five years, called Mission President Keith Barber to express her delight at coming home to find her walks and driveway shoveled by missionaries.
“We’ll have a good month this month regardless of the weather,” President Barber said. In one week during the height of the storms, one pair of elders put in twenty-five hours of tracting, twenty-three hours of teaching, and thirty hours of “miscellaneous” helping.
The Church now has fifty-seven missions, with the creation in January of the Alabama Birmingham Mission. It was formed from parts of the existing Georgia Atlanta Mission and Florida Tallahassee Mission. Mission president is William J. Attwool, transferred from the Iran Tehran Mission. Church membership in the new mission is 7,870, with a nonmember population of 2.7 million.
The Logan Temple is being rededicated March 13 through 15 in nine separate dedicatory services. The building has been closed for remodeling for two years, and is open to the public through March 6.
Two Utah men have been called as associate directors for the Temple Square Visitors’ Center in Salt Lake City. They are Dr. Burtis R. Evans, a Salt Lake physician who has been a volunteer guide on Temple Square for more than twenty-three years; and Don L. Christensen, a Bountiful businessman and regional representative, former president of the Denmark Copenhagen Mission. They will serve with Dale R. Curtis, who was appointed director of the visitors’ center in December.
It’s a long drive from Duckwater to Ely, Nevada, but that didn’t stop four determined Lamanite teenagers. The four girls—two of them members of the Church—were given an opportunity to sing at stake conference in Ely in December. The drawbacks? No piano, no pianist, long school days (traveling sixty miles one way to school), and seventy-two miles between them and the stake center. Using a cassette tape recording as accompaniment, they practiced for weeks in the home of a missionary couple in Duckwater, Elder Norval and Sister Fay Kitchen. As the Kitchens drove the girls sixty miles to attend sacrament meetings in Lund, Nevada, the girls practiced singing, both coming and going. They practiced after sacrament meeting with a director and accompanist. The eventual performance by Debbie and Harriet Walker, who are members of the Church, and their friends Lisa Groves and Sheila George “touched the hearts of everyone within the sound of their voices,” say Elder and Sister Kitchen.
News of BYU
An Escondido, California, woman has been awarded the 1979 Brigham Young University presidential medal. Florence Chambers Newkirk, who has donated a $5-million ranch to the university, was given the award by BYU President Dallin H. Oaks. The BYU Alumni Association and the LDS Church Development Office give the award annually.
Dr. Merrill Bradshaw, BYU’s composer in residence, has been honored for outstanding musical creations. The award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers salutes five symphonies, piano and chamber music, musical play, and an oratorio by Brother Bradshaw.
Three brothers from American Fork, Utah, recently staged a three-brother art show at BYU. Lynn H. Bennett, Lowell Bruce Bennett, and Robert Bennett, who have all served German-speaking missions, had ceramic sculpture, pottery, oil paintings, and crystalline porcelain artwork on display at BYU. It is their second three-brother show.
Since Church College of Hawaii became part of the Brigham Young University system, its enrollment has increased nearly one hundred percent. Enrollment reached 1,770 for fall semester, a record enrollment for the third consecutive year. Fall 1978 enrollment shows a twelve percent increase over enrollment a year ago. This total is nearly one hundred percent larger than in 1974, when CCH became Brigham Young University—Hawaii.
Model Library Open During Conference
The model meetinghouse library on the main floor, east wing, of the Church Office Building will be open on conference Saturday from 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Priesthood leaders and those serving in library positions are invited to tour the facility while attending general conference. Staff members will answer questions and explain the library program and the method of housing materials. Handout literature will be available.