New York, Schmuyork: Palmyra


One random day at approximately 2:30 PM, my mom (possibly the least spontaneous person I know) and I decided that we wanted to drive to Palmyra, a short 2 hours north of us and home to many church history sites, including the Hill Cumorah (where the gold plates were buried), Joseph Smith's boyhood cabin, the Sacred Grove and the publication place of the Book of Mormon. We dropped all other previous engagements (which included equal amounts of sleeping and Arrested Development and ice cream in no particular order), and started on the drive with a sleeping Viv in tow.

First of all, let's talk about how intensely green upstate New York is. I'm talking almost suffocatingly green (read: humid) with trees and living things. Beautiful and muggy and bug-ridden. As we made the trek to our destination, we drove down a one-lane high way through farms and wide-open spaces. We passed barns of the charming kind, old houses as colonial as you can even imagine, and backyards the size of football fields. Rolling hills fringed with trees and little ma and pop diners were scattered along the way, along with antique stores and laundry lines and country wives with dogs at their heels. The drive was so beautiful that I almost drove off the road multiple times because of the crankiness of my neck as I turned to stare at the beautiful houses.

Then we got to a toll booth...which neither of us had ever been to before. The booth lady gave us a ticket stub, to which we looked at each other in confusion and waited....and then we said to the booth lady, " what do we do?". That New Yorker lady just stared at us and told us to keep driving. so...ya. That happened. I'm just glad I still have my California plates on so I have a reason for acting so dumb.

In Palmyra, we were taken on a tour of Joseph Smith's family home. Upstairs was the room where Joseph Smith stayed as a boy; the same room where he was prompted to pray in the woods about a question he had; the same room where an angel appeared to him, telling him about a special book buried in the woods nearby. The experience was incredible. I wondered at how much heartache, sacrifice and faith these rooms must have seen.

As the tour ended and we were left alone to enter the Sacred Grove (read more about its significance here), we both grew quite and solemn. Even Vivian, who was being a little pill the entire tour was hushed as we stepped into the forest of green and into sacred territory. It was deafeningly quite, and I looked around in wonder at the reverence that seemed to permeate the grove.

The Sacred Grove is the starting place of the LDS faith. To our church, the Sacred Grove is just that: sacred. Humbling. Awe-inspiring. It is a place for reflection and for testimonies. It is a place permeated by the spirit, so strongly that you can't help the tears that come to your eyes.

It was a humbling and highly spiritual experience for me. As I kneeled down in the forest next to Viv and explained to her in a whisper that this was a special place, and that Jesus was here, I was overcome by a powerful feeling of peace; that what I was saying was truth in its purest form. Vivian looked at me with her wide blue eyes and I felt like she knew; her spirit knew, that what I was saying was true.

It was such a wonderful, spontaneous trip and I'm so glad my mom was in town to go with me.

Do I need to give you any other reason to come visit besides this? Good. I'll pick you up at the airport tomorrow.


  1. What a fun trip! The first picture of the sacred grove made my heart skip a beat and your words brought tears to my eyes like I was there with you. One day ill see it in person!

  2. Fun! The sacred grove is amazing and beautiful. Next year you should go to the Hill Cumorah Pageant-really fun! I'm a bit jealous and am longing to move back east from reading your posts. Do you guys want some roommates?

  3. So I know I haven't talked to you since living in the same ward years ago! But I love reading your blog and this post totally made me want to come visit you and see all the sites! Do you have room for 4 of us!?! ;) looks like fun, so glad you are having great adventures! And your viv is so sweet and darling!
    Jessica Johnson

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