Anyone who has been inside the Peter and Mary Whitmer home in Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York knows that it doesn't look like this. Or does it?I don't use flash or auxiliary lighting for my photos. I want everything to be as natural as possible. I saw there was some nice light spilling in from the east and west windows so I set up the camera on the tripod, set the aperture at F22 then shot this two-minute exposure. It's as if there was a fine brush of light that painted every detail in the room, revealing colors and textures that could not be perceived by the natural eye.There is a powerful feeling in this main floor but it usually comes when you know the significance of where you are standing. In this very room The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized on Tuesday, April 6, 1830. Here the sacrament was first administered in this dispensation. At least 15 revelations were received in this home. The voice of God was heard in the adjoining room. About one third of The Book of Mormon was translated in this home. The Three Witnesses received their vision here on the Whitmer Farm. The commission was given here to find the Twelve Apostles. Surely "out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
I love this scene and I'll tell you why.Joseph and Emma and Oliver moved into this small 20x30 foot cabin the early part of June 1829. The Whitmer's home was already full, but they made room for the great work of finishing the translation of The Book of Mormon.Joseph was a new curiosity in this area of Seneca County, New York and therefore attracted numerous visitors. You can well imagine upon whom the most stress would fall in this very busy household: Mary Musselman Whitmer, the mother. She worked tirelessly trying to keep up with the added responsibilities but she was getting tired.On one occasion she came out the back door of the home, heading for the barn to milk the cows. On her way there the Angel Moroni met her and talked with her, saying: "Blessed art thou Mary for the work which is going in your home has increased your toil. Therefore, the Lord sees fit to give you your own witness." Thereupon Moroni showed Mary the gold plates and let her touch them one by one. He then said, "If you hold out faithful to the end your reward is sure."As far as we know, Mary was the first one to see the plates after Joseph Smith and became a powerful witness and supporter of the work.
Daily scripture study has always been critically important to me and I love antique copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I have numbers of photos of the scriptures in various significant sites.Here in the window of the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York I saw this beautiful scene. This framed photo hung in our home for many years and was in the constant view of our children.From this small New York cabin missionary work began through the journey of Joseph's brother, Samuel. His job was to sell copies of the recently-published Book of Mormon (just like the one on the left). He was rejected at a number of places and was thrown out of a public tavern for preaching.He finally found one man, a Methodist circuit preacher, John Greene, who had enough interest in retaining a copy to see if anyone he found might buy it.
Not much success for Samuel!John's wife, Rhoda, read the book and became convinced of its truthfulness.
She shared it with her brother, Phineas, who in turn shared it with his brother, Brigham Young who shared it with his sister, Fanny Murray, who shared it with her daughter Vilate, who in turn shared it with her husband, Heber C. Kimball. From that first mission of Samuel, we know of numerous people who joined the Church including one who would later lead it for 33 years.
This is a photograph I’ve been trying to take for many years.I have the blessing of going to the Sacred Grove almost every year. My first visit was in 1969. I have walked the 10 acres that has been preserved as “The Sacred Grove” in about every direction, in every season, in every kind of weather.I am always looking for the perfect shot. One day, many years ago, the light, humidity and moisture all collided in such a way as to give me a series of pictures that I was able to put into a children’s book we published called, “A Day Like No Other.” Those photos were all a gift.But with all that in mind, and having published numerous other photos from the Sacred Grove over the years, I never quite captured the moment between when Joseph was nearly destroyed by the adversary and when the pillar of light descended gradually until it fell upon him.During a recent visit with my camera, I saw this very large tree that had toppled since my last visit. I was mourning the loss of such a monolith and I knelt down by the former base of the tree. I looked to the east along the path of the tree and the sun began to burst. filling the scene with light from the darkness of the death of this tree to the sunbeams gleaming above my head. It was that moment I had always been looking for: Suddenly a light descended!I knew that this, too, was a gift.