On the Road: Church History Sites

Trip Start Jul 18, 2009
Trip End Jul 19, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Iowa
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Personal Introduction: I play the clarinet in the Orchestra at Temple Square. I’m a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife, Scarlett, and I were first hosted by Church members David and Christa Aamodt of Iowa City in 1974. A few months later, we travelled to Bogota, Colombia, arriving in November, 1974. We began taking studying with the missionaries there in December and were baptized in February, 1975. From the perspective of a former non-member, these are some insights from these three locations that I had not visited before.

The Western Historic Trails Center: The temperature outside was 107 degrees when we visited. Naturally, the Choir and Orchestra were either inside the theater, exhibit, gift shop or stayed on the bus. To carry on with the “gift shop frenzy” (the phenomenon where tour participants descend like locusts on unsuspecting gift shops and clean out store shelves)- here are a few items I saw for purchase: lucky pigs (50 cents), a really cool poster of barns from different areas of the state of Iowa, and a book entitled, “Is Iowa in Idaho?” – especially appropriate for me since I lived in Rexburg and was raised in Iowa. The only reason I did not buy it was the price: $12.95 for about 70 pages! I missed my chance and, of course, now I want it. I once saw a t-shirt that said: “See Iowa at its best, Drive at night.” Those purchasing items had quite a wait – nothing new for us. And finally, at this stop, it was re-emphasized to me that the Mormons were not the only people to travel west. There were a bunch of other trails and we shared the road with many fellow travelers.

Winter Quarters, Nebraska: By the end of September, 1846, 820 lots had been surveyed for the settlement of Winter Quarters that housed 3,483 members of the Church.. They were organized by blocks and each block was a ward. Brigham Young divided the settlement into 22 wards to facilitate the care of the members, who had significant temporal needs. This division into wards still exists today in the Church organization today. Although the conditions were challenging, diversions such as feasts and celebrations were encouraged. Although these early pioneers lived with the daily specter of disease and death, nonetheless life could be very pleasant, rewarding and meaningful. Church and family meetings were held to raise morale. “Women came together to gather food, quilt, braid straw, comb each other’s hair, knit, wash clothes and read letters. Though the Church and its members had suffered almost beyond measure during the previous year, the Saints still harbored fond hopes for the future.” (Church History in the Fullness of Times, p.320-321)

Our lives to this day have been affected by this pioneer attitude and spirit – we pray with our families for their future welfare, many suffer serious trials but we endure with hope for what the future offers. Optimism is a trait shared by the Saints today. We have faith. We know that the future will be welcoming. We will endure.

Kanesville Tabernacle: This is the location where Brigham Young was sustained as the second president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The building was built in two and a half weeks in preparation for that Church meeting. The fact that 200 volunteers built this building is a trait that has followed the Saints since the organization of the Church. Many hands made the task of erecting a building that holds about 1,000 people light. The Saints settled here to prepare for the trek west. The building now serves as a visitors’ center where you can learn more about the history of the migration westward. Between 1846 and 1890, over 100,000 Saints outfitted for the West in Kanesville and Florence, Nebraska (Winter Quarters). Both cities were a vital part of this nation’s westward development.

Notes on the Omaha Concert from the Orchestra Back Row: From the woodwind area of the stage, nestled between the front row of the sopranos and altos and the rest of the Orchestra, I was aware of the audience appreciation and reaction at the concert in Omaha, and their sense of what they were receiving from hearing the Choir and Orchestra in person. They “feel” our sound wash over them as it leaves the stage. The vibrations stimulate their senses. There is nothing that can duplicate this experience. One must be present to win!

Some arriving at the concert venue have no idea what they are going to experience that evening. Others have traveled many miles to hear the Choir they have heard on the radio or CD’s all their life. Their expectations are high and they are not disappointed. They return to their homes having received what they expected and much more. Their lives have been enriched. The sounds that encompassed them is a lasting impression.

From the Orchestra’s point of view, we love playing in an acoustic surrounding. Sounds are true, balance is achieved, we can hear each other, collaboration with the Choir and Orchestra is achieved. Choir members commented on the bus that this was a special concert at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Thank you to President Mac and all those who had a hand in arranging this unique concert on this tour. This concert was reminiscent of Chautauqua (New York), Ravinia (Illinois), and Blossom (Ohio). The audience was a part of the concert by being reactive and responsive.

Although I had listened to Music and the Spoken Word in high school, my first live experience was in the Tabernacle in the early 60’s. While hearing the Choir on the radio, I remember the sweet, blended voices and the soothing messages of Richard L. Evans. I encourage those reading this to locate a station and time that Music and the Spoken Word is broadcast in your area. You will become a frequent listener. The messages are non-denominational and the music is uplifting and gratifying. Our tour messages are to bring peace to souls, appreciation for our freedom, pride in our country and hope for the future. This desire is reflected in the second half of the concert when we perform for America (“God Bless America,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”)

The Last Word (from a wind player who wants to be fit): Here was my day:

  1. Sleep in and eat no breakfast. (Editor’s Note: See below from a Choir member who didn’t get to sleep in!!)

  2. Hit the fitness center – this morning was 60 minutes of elliptical and 20 minutes of weights

  3. Ride a bus for 5 hours

  4. Eat at KC Masterpiece Barbeque

  5. Hit the fitness center for a final 45 minutes while watching the College World Series.

  6. Drink my fluids

  7. Hand exercises with the TV remote until I fall asleep. See you in the morning at breakfast!

By Bill Holman, clarinet


Unlike our beloved Orchestra members, the Choir had a photo shoot on the banks of the Missouri River this morning. Here is a special report from Bonita Cross:

Six o’clock this morning saw 300 bleary-eyed singers and three or four intrepid guests and spouses board buses for a twenty-minute ride to Progressive Parks Private Recreational Facility. Located on the banks of the Missouri River, the Choir settled in for as comfortable a filming sessions as could be had. The sun stayed behind a mild cloud cover and from time to time a light breeze was felt. Assistant producer John Bigler kept the mood light and smiles on the performers’ faces by “river dancing” along as held very welcome cue cards as the Choir sang. We filmed two songs, “Down to the River to Pray” (how appropriate!) and “Amazing Grace.” We are sure the footage our camera crews got will be well worth the effort and compensate for our lack of sleep! This and the other photo shoot in St. Louis will pay off in the end as the images become part of the legacy of our Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts and other Choir productions.
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