Friday, June 22, 2012


Mark Twain once said, "Why waste your time and money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you."

That surely seems to be true on one line of my family tree these past few years. I was amazed, a little surprised, and really pleased to learn more about some of my own family history last week when the BBC dug up and ran it on TV. They also published a lengthy article on their internet site - an article that included some pictures and documents I didn't have.

What are the odds that something like this would fall into my lap while I am living in England??  I was so excited! I learned some things about my family that I hadn't known before - and I thought I knew a lot. Sure wish my mom was still here to share this with. She'd be so proud of her first cousin....

Miles Romney
Elizabeth Gaskell Romney

Monday, June 18, 2012

Saints Alive!

When we first arrived in England, we were told that one of our responsibilities would  be to attend a different ward within the London Temple district boundaries each week. While we won't be traveling to Limerick, Ireland or Lille, France or Amman, Jordan (all within our temple district), we will be heading out into many areas of the southern half of England. It is one way we can get the word out to people about coming the Visitors' Centre and remind them about bringing their friends and families with them when they come to the temple.

For the first month or so, we stayed pretty close to home because we weren't very sure of our driving and navigational skills, but as the months have progressed, we have ventured out of the area, and now we are beginning to receive invitations to speak in different ward Sacrament meetings spread out over the southern half of England. What fun! We are excited to meet the people in the different wards we will be attending and to see some of England's magnificent countryside as we travel. We've attended ward meetings in the Crawley, Wandsworth, Maidstone, St. Albans, Hyde Park, and Staines stakes. We have already set dates to travel to wards in the Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol, Norwich, and Cardiff (Wales) stakes. We'll be covering a lot of miles; we'll be concentrating on getting there and back safely.  And we'll be looking forward to making some new friends and letting them know what the Visitors' Centre has for them.

As we travel on Sundays, we are finding that different wards have different personalities. It's been interesting to observe. Some wards are gregarious and friendly and we find ourselves being greeted by nearly everyone we see. Other wards are not as outgoing and don't really notice that someone new has come through the door. While we always enjoy the meetings that we attend and the lessons that are taught, our experiences have compelled us to reflect on the way we have welcomed visitors in the wards we've lived in. Have we helped them to feel comfortable and welcome? Have we taken time to show them where the Primary or the Relief Society or the Priesthood meet? Have we gotten to know something about them? We so appreciate those who make us feel welcome as we walk into a new ward each week.

One thing we have found that we look forward to everywhere we go is the singing!  We love to sing the hymns with the saints in England! We love the sound of that proper British accent! And there is just something about joining your voice with everyone in a chapel, large or small, and feeling the unity of purpose and the power of shared testimony as you sing together. A few weeks ago, we attended the Stake Conference of the Crawley Stake, within whose borders the temple resides. We have come to know many good people in the stake through their visits to the temple grounds  and our work with them. As we all joined our voices together that Sunday morning, we felt very much at home and very much a part of the stake. It almost sounded like heavenly voices were joining in the joyous song of the saints that morning. The chapel and cultural hall were filled with the beautiful sounds of Onward, Christian Soldiers and I Know That My Redeemer Lives. We felt surrounded by faith and love. It felt like home.

We don't usually remember to take our camera with us as we attend church each Sunday (maybe we'll start), but here are a few photos of chapels and places we've visited:

Epsom Ward

Haywards Heath Ward

Eastbourne Ward - on the coast. We believe this may be the only
 LDS Church in the world with a cross on the front. It is a remodeled
Church of England school.  The inside of this building is delightful!

Another view of the Eastbourne Ward

The English Channel at Eastbourne.

The coastline at Eastbourne

Looking east from Eastbourne

The meetinghouse in Brighton - on a busy street corner

Just a random note:  now that summer has arrived, we've had a major increase in the number of planes coming in low over the temple grounds as they approach Gatwick airport. They can be heard at all times of the day or night. Often they are only a minute or two apart. So many people coming to London! We're only about a month from the opening of the Summer Olympics!

We've heard some planes use the temple as a beacon.

They must be getting a great close-up view
of the beautiful temple grounds!
It's going to be a really busy week around here this week. The entire England London South Mission will converge on the temple grounds over the next two days for our final Zone Conferences with President and Sister Shamo before they return home. (We are so sad to see them go. They have been such a blessing to us in our work.) We are excited, however, that we finally have a senior missionary couple coming from the Provo MTC to work with us at the Visitors' Centre during the next 18 months. They arrive tomorrow!!  We'll keep you posted.                ~Pat~

Monday, June 11, 2012

Makin' Progress

This past few weeks we've had some exciting successes in our efforts to let more people know about the Visitors' Centre.  A few blogs ago I reported that Pat and I took a trip to Guildford to submit an application to the Surrey District Council to approve highway directional signs leading motorists to the London Temple and Visitors' Centre.  Recently, two highway engineers came to the Centre to evaluate our proposal, and two weeks ago we received notification that the Surrey Highway Department will erect four new "brown signs" on some major roads around the temple.  The signs will have directional arrows and say London Temple and Visitors Centre.  This week we received approval from the Church Temple Department and the Missionary Department authorizing us to proceed.  We are thrilled, because motorists on A22 and West Park Road will now know that there is a Visitors' Centre on the temple grounds, and that they are welcome to come in and visit.  The signs will help guide both temple patrons and visitors.  We don't have a date yet when the signs will be erected, but when they are, we will post pictures.

Meanwhile, after several months of work, we now have a Visitors' Centre link to a popular tourist website in Surrey.  You can see it at  The web manager tells us that this site gets 70,000 hits per month, and we are now listed as one of the five major places to visit in Surrey.  We hope this will be of interest to local residents, tourists and visitors to the area during the Summer Olympics in London.

This is the "leaflet" (flyer), designed by the fabulous Elder Henderson,
that we are distributing throughout the mission boundaries.  

There is also one more thing we've put into motion:  two weeks ago we emailed and sent letters to several hundred teachers and school administrators in the area, inviting them to bring students to the Visitors' Centre to learn about the Church as part of their required religious education curriculum. Young students in England are required to learn about different religions in the schools, but they don't usually learn much about the LDS Church.  What they do learn is often biased and sensational.  We'd like teachers to bring their classes to the Visitors' Centre and get some facts.  Our sisters will not proselyte, but will provide accurate information about basic teachings of the Church -- the Joseph Smith story, the Book of Mormon, and that we are neither Catholic, nor Protestant, but early Christianity restored.  They will explain the difference between temples and chapels, and describe what the Church has meant to them in their own lives.  It is late in the year for most teachers to schedule field trips, but we hope they will put us on their planning calendars for next year (we will likely send out another notice in late August).  Anyway, last week our sisters were told that one of the head teachers at a nearby school has said that he plans to schedule five classes from his school to come to the Visitors' Centre.  It's a start, and we hope it catches on.

We've also had seven firesides and seven Monday night family activities in the nearly five months since we arrived.  We want the Visitors' Centre to be a place of learning, a place of peace, and a place of inspirational and fun activities.  Last week we had more than 900 people come to our small Visitors' Centre.  We're happy to have them come.             ~ Don ~  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


It's been an eventful week.  Along with our normal activities at the London Temple Visitors' Centre, Queen Elizabeth II just happened to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee a few days ago on our wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Don and I were married on the 15th anniversary of her coronation, and this last weekend the whole United Kingdom and most of the British Commonwealth celebrated a milestone anniversary with us and with her. Unexpectedly, we got to join in!

I must say it was an historic event for all of us. Forty-five years is a long time to be married, but sixty years is an amazingly long time to reign as the queen. The only monarch to rule England longer than Queen Elizabeth was Queen Victoria. Victoria reigned 63 years and 7 months, and no one would be surprised if Queen Elizabeth exceeds that. She is 86 years old but appears to be in remarkable health. The newspapers here are all reporting that she is more content with her life right now than she ever has been. It seems that the royal family has taken to behaving itself more admirably lately.

For our 45th anniversary, Don and I had reserved tickets a month ago for The Lion King in the London theatre district. Our mission, the England London South Mission, only extends as far north as the Thames River, but senior missionary couples are allowed to cross that boundary to go into downtown London. In fact, we were just in London a week ago to see Chariots of Fire with our Mission President and all of the senior couples in the mission (see our blog post from May 28th). In actuality, Don and I are authorized to travel in a much larger area. Because of our particular calling, we are to visit, where possible, the entire temple district area. We doubt we will be going to Limerick, Ireland or Lille, France, but our temple district also covers about half of England and most of Wales.  As we serve our mission, we will be traveling to visit wards and stakes in many of those areas. But, alas, I digress....

Because of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations last weekend, we decided to stay overnight in London after the play. The next day, we met up with Elder and Sister Brooks (Arthur and Pam). He is the director of the newly opened Hyde Park Chapel Visitors' Centre. We met when we were trained together in the Provo MTC in January. The Brooks have become great friends and they are British, which means they knew how to navigate the Jubilee crowds (better than we did anyway). We decided to attend the Flotilla celebration together on the banks of the Thames. It was amazing!!

I don't think I've ever been in a larger crowd in my life. There was standing room only in the tube (Underground) and on the train. In fact, I've never seen so many people packed into the stations and on the trains - even during rush hour here or in Washington, D.C.  Everywhere we walked people were packed together like sardines. Despite the 90% chance of rain forecast with a high of only 52 degrees, the nation turned out by the millions. No place for someone fainthearted or claustrophobic, that's for sure. Many were dressed in red, white and blue. People were in good spirits, waving British flags all along the way, and behaving respectfully and courteously towards one another. When the Royal Family appeared, the cheer that went up was deafening. It was impressive!

We only expected to get close enough to watch the 1000 ship/boat flotilla on one of the 47 huge viewing screens set up for miles along the banks of the Thames. In the end, we got close enough that we had a great view of two viewing screens and a limited view of the river. We also had a cardboard periscope which worked brilliantly! By looking at the mirror in the bottom of the contraption that reflected another angled mirror about 18 inches higher, we could see the boats and ships quite well. I even managed to get my very own (blurry) photo of the queen's yacht with all the royalty aboard. So much fun!!

Here are a few of our very amateur pictures of the event along with some press photos (duly noted).

Victoria Station

Crowds, crowds and more crowds

Here we are with Pam  Brooks

We were across the river from the Royal Festival Hall

Arthur Brooks with our periscope

We got our first views of the event from a large screen TV

Queen Elizabeth  arriving for the flotilla

A press photo of the Queen's arrival

The first ship in the flotilla

Aboard the royal yacht on the Thames

Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth viewing the crowd

The royal yacht 

Ready to check out the proceedings

This was our view of the Thames and the London Eye

My own photo of the Queen's yacht. (Hint:  it's between the flags.)

A press photo above the Thames

Don and the giant screen

Heading back to the Tube

A view of Big Ben

Big Ben and the top of Parliament 

On the Tube

This picture does not do justice to the
number of people crammed in our train car!

On Tuesday, the final day of the Diamond Jubilee celebration, we were invited to our first English Tea Party!  There have been massive family and community celebrations taking place all over the country for the past four days. Everyone has come together to praise Queen Elizabeth for her lifetime of service.

As it was described to me on Tuesday, being invited to tea means to that you will have tea and biscuits. A tea party, on the other hand, can include all kinds of treats and goodies. Men, women and children are invited.

At the Bridgestocks home

A wonderful, large extended family living ona large piece of land near the temple invited us to their family celebration. Lucky for us, it was scheduled after our shift at the Visitors' Centre had ended. One of their sons-in-law comes to our Visitors' Centre every week or two to substitute for us while we hold training meetings, etc. Tuesday, this good family invited about twenty people to join with their already large family to celebrate. It was so much fun! When we walked into the house there were three long tables decorated in red, white and blue bunting and laden with the most abundant, beautiful spread of sandwiches and treats. We had a wonderful meal together and loved being a small part of this exciting, historic celebration. We even got to sing "God Save The Queen!"                        ~Pat~

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Cornerstone

As I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning doing some office work for our Visitors' Centre, I glanced out the window at the temple across the way and was overwhelmed with gratitude for that magnificent building. It is a view that we have almost begun to take for granted now that we have been living on the temple grounds for several months. The London Temple is within our range of sight nearly every waking hour of the day, whether we are in the Visitors' Centre or in our flat or running errands to the mission office or to the Accommodation Centre. In the early mornings, I walk the 32 acres here (well, part of it) with a friend and we see the temple and it's beautiful grounds from every angle. Don's taken up some gardening around our building, too, so he's out working in the shadow of the temple early in the morning. It's the first thing we see first thing in the morning and last thing we see at night. We love it!

My favorite photo of the London Temple

Today, though, looking out the window at the temple, my mind is wandering back in time. It's our 45th wedding anniversary tomorrow and, as we do most years, we are planning to attend a temple session as part of our celebration. So, today, as I contemplate going inside tomorrow, I'm also thinking back on our wedding day at the Los Angeles Temple, and all the years that we have attended the temple together since then. A lot of memories - and perspective. The temple has played a profound part in our marriage over the years. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the blessings of the temple in our life together. That's something I will never take for granted.

Temples have played an important part in the history of the world. Temples were spoken of in both the Old and New Testaments. Temples are a place of communication between God and man. Temples are a place where heaven meets earth. They are a place of learning. And they are a place for binding covenants that will last through the eternities. Temples are some of the most sacred real estate on the earth.

Me, age 8
My first memory of a temple was when I was 8 years old, the year before the Los Angeles Temple was dedicated. It was built just 20 minutes from where I grew up. I remember walking through that gigantic, stately building when it was under construction. My Grandpa Dana was a building construction supervisor for the Church, and although he didn't work on the L.A. Temple, he got to walk through during its construction, and he took our family along. I could feel the reverence my Grandpa had as we walked around the exposed wood frame and stepped over two-by-fours. I still remember the feelings of respect and awe I had that day.

As I grew up, I occasionally visited the temple with family or friends to walk around the grounds. There was a peaceful feeling there, even outside in the gardens, that I loved. I often walked up to the door of the temple and stood there and pondered what it would be like to go inside. When I was 12, I got to go with a group of girls from my ward to perform baptisms. I felt privileged.

Then, on June 2, 1967, Don and I walked into the L.A. Temple together, having made a commitment early in our relationship that that was where we would one day be married. With a few family and friends in attendance, we knelt across the altar from each other and were sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. Such a long time ago... but I can recall that moment as if it was yesterday. I remember trying to understand the significance of the covenants we were making with God and each other. We had no idea where our life together would lead. Looking back, that's probably a good thing! And like every young couple starting out, we walked out of the temple that day hand-in-hand with blind faith, big hopes and dreams, and a little naivete.

Now, here we are in London, living so close to the temple we can almost reach out and touch it from our flat. For the next two years we are living on holy ground. Who would have ever imagined that? Not me!

A lot of temples have played a part in our forty-five year history. We've visited 37 of the 137 temples currently in operation. We've served as ordinance workers in two of them (something we loved and hope to do again). We've had three of our children sealed to us in two different temples:  Provo and Salt Lake (two of the sweetest days of our lives). We've witnessed our daughters' and sons-in-laws' joyous sealings in the Jordan River, Draper and Mt. Timpanogos  temples. Sacred memories.

Jordan River Temple
Life has been good to us, and to a large degree we owe that to the part the temple has played in our lives. In all those years, there have not been very many months when we have not attended the temple at least once. It's been a steadying force in our lives. We've gone there in times of joy and in times of sadness. We've gone there in search of answers to life's trials. We've gone there in gratitude.  We've gone there for healing. We've gone there for peace and solace and respite from the daily grind. Occasionally, we've even gone there just to sit in the parking lot and talk through a problem. Always we have come away with new perspective, new energy, new courage, new faith, new resolve, and a little more peace. It's a practice that has blessed our lives immeasurably.

Earlier today our sister missionaries were teaching an older man in the Visitors' Centre. He has lived near the London Temple for many years but never knew anything about it. He joined the Church about a month ago and now he is preparing to enter the temple for the first time. This morning, he said, "For 30 years, it [the temple] always attracted my attention. There is a different feeling around the temple. Every time I drove past the gates I always had to look in at the temple, even though I knew nothing about the Church or what the building was for. I don't know quite what it was, but obviously, now, I think that was all leading up to this [his conversion]."

The temple is a place where we can receive instruction, inspiration, peace, comfort, help, healing, and where  families can be bound for eternity.

President Jeffrey Holland once said, "I don't know how to speak about heaven without my wife and children. It would not be heaven to me."  I want to be with Don and our family forever. Today, I'm grateful for that day 45 years ago when we made the choice to start our marriage in the temple.     ~Pat~