April 10, 2009. It’s just a few weeks into Spring, about the same time that a young teen-aged boy entered this same grove of trees just 190 years before. I knew right away that this was unlike any outdoor hiking trip that I had ever been on and I’ve been on many of them. I’d always felt a wonderful sense of beauty in God’s creation. Being out on a lake fishing or camping in the woods and being ‘one’ with nature, soaking it all in is one thing, but in that grove, maybe this is one time that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Some of the oldest trees I walked past might have been mere saplings when Joseph Smith walked the same ground. Only six trees have been identified as being old enough that they were still growing in 1820. These have come to be known as the “Witness Trees.” Still, the feeling was one of utter tranquility, calmness and love.
When I toured the farm, My family and I were the only ones there in our group. The skies were dingy and cloudy and the wind brought intermittent flurries of snow, but that wasn’t going to stop me from walking the grove until I had had my fill. My sister and her family had visited several times before so after a quick walk they went back to the car out of the cold weather. My wife followed soon after. I literally had the grove all to myself and it was such a wonderful experience. I walked through it for what may have been a half hour or so, as I communed with the Lord. I felt that the He was pleased with me and my efforts in life and I also knew that He was mindful of me and my determination to serve Him.
For a little while the clouds cleared up, casting rays of sunlight through, as if the heavens opened up just a little for me. The snow stopped and I took pictures of various scenes, including the sun through the tree tops, still partially covered by clouds. I felt the Holy Spirit stronger in one area of the grove than anywhere else, and I pictured Joseph Smith kneeling there. Perhaps that was the spot that he had once predetermined to visit.
As the trail led me to one of the exits, the clouds began to gather again and the wind began to blow the snow in as if the Lord was personally ushering me out. It was so tranquil and I did not want to leave but my family waited for me in their cars on the other side of the farm. I could feel the world again as I set foot outside the grove, noting for the very first time the sounds of my footsteps on the trail as I exited.
As I walked back to the car on the trail by the farm and the log house, I noted the Palmyra temple across the highway up on a hill. I wonder if Joseph ever saw it in one of his many visions. Talk about the course of the Lord being an eternal round! His work of the restoration continues where it all began! We drove across the highway up to the temple and I stood there looking past the clearing, down at the farm and the grove on the far side. I wonder how many angels attend these hallowed grounds, watching over all those who visit. This will definitely have been the highlight of my vacation.