Monday, September 30, 2013


These are our beautiful sister missionaries. Three of them arrived just a few weeks ago, but they have come so prepared and so ready to serve that it seems like they have been here a lot longer than that. The six week transfer cycles fly by so fast! 

Back row: Sisters Jacob (new), Walmsley and Maddocks (new)
Front row:  Sisters Stewart, Ylisaari and McLaws (new)

A couple of Mondays ago, we had a PDay activity together.  We only get to do that every once in awhile, but it is so much fun.  This time we took six sisters to meet "Seven Sisters"....   All six of our sister missionaries and Elder and Sister Horsley traveled with us to Seven Sisters, a beautiful location about an hour south of us on the coast near Brighton. We were sorry not to have the Terrys with us. Elder Terry is still recovering from a nasty bout with a kidney stone.

We met at the VC at noon, then drove south for about an hour to a place
on the English Channel between Brighton and Eastbourne.

Sister Phermsin (past VC sister missionary) and her companion
joined us at the trailhead.

The beautiful English countryside.

We met some friends along the way.

Which way did they go?
The Seven Sisters look a lot like the White Cliffs of Dover.

Some of the elders in our zone joined us for the hike, too.

The English Channel

Elder Carpenter and our sisters

The perfect end to a perfect day....

As if they didn't have enough to occupy their time already, Sister Walmsley and Sister McLaws have taken up writing parodies on their PDays.  We think they're pretty clever! 

You may have to copy and paste the links below. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but they're worth watching :)

Sister Walmsley and Sister McLaws:

Sisters Walmsley, Jacob and McLaws:

Well, our temple has now been closed for four weeks. That's halfway through the projected closure for renovations. The Visitors' Centre is remaining open for regular hours while the temple is closed. And though we love the peace and tranquility on the temple grounds right now, we'd love to see MORE VISITORS! Meanwhile, though, our sister missionaries are keeping busy teaching online, and you can see that when things get slow they come up with some pretty creative ways to get the message out. We love our sister missionaries!                     ~Pat~

Monday, September 23, 2013


I had an experience a week or so ago that has given me much to ponder.Since we've been on our mission, we've had the privilege of being in the presence of four of the twelve apostles of the Church. That's pretty amazing when you consider that normally we live in Salt Lake City (O.K., Draper), Utah and we only see them once in a great while from a distance if we attend General Conference.

While in the MTC, our little group of MTC Presidents and Visitors' Centre Directors had dinner with Elder Nelson before he presented a fireside one evening in Provo. Then Elder & Sister Holland spent several hours with our group in Salt Lake on our last day before we flew to London. Last fall, my friend, Eva, and I ran into Elder Nelson and his wife on the steps of the London Temple early one morning while we were out walking, and had a sweet conversation with them. Elder Ballard came and addressed our mission in a special meeting at Hyde Park a few months ago. Then, on September 10th, Elder Oaks spoke to the Wandsworth Stake in London. I was able to go with two our our Mission Office sisters to hear him. It was a wonderful opportunity.

I bring all this up because it hit me as I was listening to Elder Oaks two weeks ago that the world is searching for what I felt that night. I had been tired and discouraged when I arrived. We'd been working hard. I was feeling like I needed a vacation! I was looking forward to taking a break from our responsibilities for a few hours to be in the presence of an apostle, but I wasn't expecting the strength and renewal I felt so strongly as I sat there. Elder Oaks humbly spoke of things that really matter. The sweet comfort of the Holy Ghost was there and I was immediately lifted by the spirit of the meeting. There was a tangible feeling of peace, love, and happiness and hope that filled the room and filled my heart. I needed it. I wanted it to stay with me.

All of us look for experiences that renew and strengthen us to meet our challenges. We look for peace and love and happiness in a lot of places in the world, yet so much of what we find is temporary. We pursue success at work and in other activities. We look for peace, love and happiness in the perfect vacation or the perfect car or the perfect personal image or the perfect hobby, sport or interest. We look for those feelings in our relationships with people. We search for renewal in entertainment. All those things have the ability to make us feel good -- maybe for a few hours, maybe for a few months or years. But there is only one source of lasting peace, love, happiness and hope -- and that is in God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Everything else, eventually, fades; they are counterfeit sources of the eternal peace, love and happiness that God and Christ promise. Why do we so often forget where our real sources of peace and hope and strength come from and settle for less?

Real lasting peace, real love, real happiness, and real, lasting hope all originate with God and his Son, Jesus Christ. We feel it through the power of the Holy Ghost which can come into our hearts and continue to witness it to us. The times when that witness of peace or love or hope comes to us through the Spirit never have to dim. As I sit here writing, the peaceful, hope-filled feelings I felt that night are just as real as they were then. They continue to strengthen me now.

Elder Oaks' message touched many different topics that night, but the spirit he brought with him into the meeting spoke peace to my soul. It filled my heart with feelings of love and turned my discouragement to a sense of hope. The Spirit of the Holy Ghost can do that for us if we will just listen. It will testify of Christ, help us recognize truth, provide spiritual strength, show us the right path to take, comfort us during times of trial, warn us of physical or spiritual danger, and speak peace and hope to our hearts.

Elder Oaks said that too many members of the church today have spiritual apathy. We attend church, have family prayer, read our scriptures daily and go to the temple, but we are converted to the church rather than to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as a missionary focusing full-time on the work of the Lord, I often find that it is true for me. I get caught up in "the thick of thin things" and forget to focus on what's most important - what's real. It's easy to go through the motions but miss out on the real power of Jesus Christ to bless our lives. So many counterfeit distractions that scream for our attention these days keep us from the real peace, love, happiness and hope we need.

Elder Oaks asked the Wandsworth Stake congregation to ponder what we really think about Christ:
(1) The work (atonement and mission) of Jesus Christ
(2) The authority of Christ - the Priesthood
(3) The essence of Christ - his essential character and nature
When we think of all that Christ has done for us, wouldn't it be a good idea to worship him more deeply, keep his commandments, and serve him? When we partake of the Sacrament every Sunday, we witness that we are willing to take his name upon ourselves, always remember him, and keep his commandments, so that we will always have his Spirit to be with us.  That is where the real power comes from in this world - the REAL peace, the REAL love, the REAL happiness and the REAL hope. That's what really matters.

Our Savior taught us, as recorded Luke 12:34, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I want to treasure up in my heart the things that will bring lasting peace, love, happiness and hope. I know where to find them. They are always there waiting for me if I will pay attention. I just have to choose the real over the counterfeit.                   ~Pat~

Monday, September 16, 2013

Senior Missions, Senior Blessings

From the early years of our marriage, Pat and I talked about serving a mission together -- even establishing a mission savings account (which we had to use for other purposes more than once). We looked forward to being able to serve together and share experiences as missionary companions after I retired and the children were married. We had a lot of hopes and dreams..

We've learned a lot during the past couple of years and we'd like to share our experience in the hope that other couples thinking about serving a mission might benefit.We have learned that senior couples who accept the call to serve full-time missions for the LDS Church usually encounter many things they did not expect, including new opportunities to define and refine their marriages.

In reality, our mission experiences have exceeded what we anticipated, both in joy received and in the hard work required. We could not have imagined the satisfaction and closeness that would come to us as we have served. But we also did not anticipate how the many stresses of serving a mission would test our patience and our relationship. Establishing a new home and a new life with new responsibilities in a foreign country was challenging! And even though we've been married 46 years, being together 24/7 with no breaks was also a stretch!

Like many men, I discovered that I had allowed myself to be defined too much by my career and service in the community, church, and other personal pursuits.  More accurately, I was pretty comfortable with my achievements -- too much pride, not enough humility - and used to doing things on my own. Pat's identity came largely from her devotion to family as a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, as well as many service opportunities. She was pretty used to being her own boss, too. We both had held many and varied callings in the Church, mostly independent of each other. Most of our gospel study had also been individual, not shared.

To serve effectively as missionaries, we had to learn a whole new set of skills -- to study, plan, teach and serve together -- and we had to establish a new sense of identity as a senior missionary couple. During our first mission, teaching Institute classes to young single adults in the Washington DC South Mission, Pat and I had to learn how to share responsibilities for lesson preparation and presentation: what to include in lessons, how to develop and integrate power point materials with lesson objectives, what questions to pose, and how to divide class time and decide who would teach which principles and for how long.  It taxed us to prepare lessons for five classes taught in four scattered locations each week.  We learned quickly, but not without some pain, that to feel the spirit and be effective in our teaching, we had to take the time to work things out and to work together.  As we persisted in efforts to improve, and focused on the students, we learned humility and gained patience, unity, deeper spirituality, and felt mutual respect and new closeness.

In our current responsibility to direct the Visitors' Centre at the London Temple, we've faced a whole new learning curve. We've learned to navigate British roads, embrace a new culture, contact church and community leaders, train missionaries, coordinate schedules, and plan and develop programs and activities that strengthen members, promote missionary work, and build the image of the Church.  It has taken two minds and two hearts, knit together in a common purpose, to fill the responsibilities of this mission.  Neither of us could have served alone. Often Pat's thoughts, ideas, and skills are better than mine. Sometimes my thoughts and skills work best. We have learned to trust and rely on each other, respect our different abilities and tasks, pray and plan together, and support and cheer each other on during times of trial and discouragement. A pleasant byproduct of missionary service has been the deeper trust, respect, and love we have felt for each other as well as greater appreciation for our marriage.

The Lord has asked that we learn to live together in love (D&C 42:45) and He gave a specific commandment to husbands: Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave  unto her and none else. (D&C 42:22)   He also said neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:11)   In order to serve and teach the gospel effectively, we know we must have the spirit, and we've found that we cannot have the spirit unless we work together in love and unity. For us it has required increased effort, humility, patience, and understanding.  Since we believe our marriage is eternal, I can't think of a better way to prepare for living life together, forever, in peace, harmony and love, than time spent serving full-time senior missions.

As we look back on the past 20 months in England, we can see clearly that we have been richly blessed and seen many successes and miracles we never could have anticipated.  We've also seen that in our absence, all of our family members have been greatly blessed.  It's true that no matter how much you try to serve the Lord and show gratitude, you will always be in His debt.  So... to all senior couples able to serve who are wondering if the time is right to jump in and become missionaries, we say, "Just do it! Wonderful experiences await you!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Printed on the edge of every two-pound coin in England is the phrase "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants."  I admire the British for putting it there.  It gives us something to think about.  Each one of us stands on the shoulders of those who went before us -- our parents and grandparents, of course, but also those who brought us through the dark ages, established democratic principles, and fought and sacrificed for our freedoms, our way of life, and also our heritage in the Church.

I am no historian, but this time in England has taught me how much we Americans owe the British for documents such as the Magna Carta and the early principles and processes of civil discourse and freedom that found their way into our Constitution and councils of government.

With respect to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the re-establishment of His church on the earth, it was thousands of British converts, joined by many Scandinavians, who sailed out of Liverpool to strengthen the struggling American saints and build Zion in the mountain west.  In 1850 there were 34,000 Mormons in Great Britain and only 12,000 in America.  For a time, nine of the twelve apostles were serving in the British Isles, where the Book of Mormon and the Millennial Star were published.  The United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the world have been greatly blessed by those who went before us, including many people from the British Isles.  I am also particularly grateful for the efforts of William Tyndale and John Wycliffe, British scholars and martyrs who courageously exposed false doctrines and translated the bible into English, making the scriptures available to common people.

Brilliant and enlightened people come from all races, nations, and parts of the world, of course, but the more I learn about history, the more I appreciate that I was born when and where I was.  Many generations before me paved the way for me to live the life that I have. I don't know that I would have endured well had I lived in another time and place.  I certainly would not be the same person, and I wouldn't have survived the brain aneurysm I suffered 17 years ago.

I have so many blessings that I did nothing to earn, develop, or create -- electricity, air conditioning, cars and transportation, computers, advancements in health care, and all the wonders of science and technology.  I also received a rich heritage of freedom and opportunity -- access to knowledge, books, literature, music and the arts, and chances to go to school to learn about things in the world.  Through the restoration of the gospel, and the words of ancient and modern prophets, I have learned the true nature of God and my relationship to Jesus Christ, the power of His atonement, and many eternal truths I would not have gained on my own. It just makes me thankful to stand on the shoulders of so many, many giants -- both religious and secular.

It is a humbling thought that each of my children stands on my weak and faltering shoulders, and my grandchildren will stand on the shoulders of my children. I find great comfort in Moroni's words that the Savior can make "weak things" strong to those who will be humble and come unto Him, and that His grace will be sufficient for them. I am thankful to know that Jesus Christ really is the answer, and that faith in Him is the sure foundation on which we can all stand and find peace.

It is good to recognize that we are all "standing on the shoulders of giants." These are inspiring words to be placed on a coin.  The last time I checked, the phrase "In God We Trust" is still printed on American coins. This an uplifting motto for our nation.  May we always honor this motto, preserve it, and try to live by it.                                                                                                                                        ~ Don~

Monday, September 2, 2013

Today Is A Gift...

...that's why it's called the "present."

With the arrival of September, the temple has now closed for ten weeks and we expect that it will be a little quieter on the temple grounds than it has been during the past month.  The London Temple presidency and their wives, all of whom we have loved so much, will soon be finishing their three year callings and leaving to return home. We will really miss them!

President Raymond and Sister Irene Lowry
Our new temple president will be Elder Kenneth Johnson, a wonderful man and an emeritus Seventy. He and his good wife and the new temple presidency will begin their service in November when the temple reopens.

Many of the temple missionaries (senior couples and sisters) who arrived about the same time we did completed their 18 - 24 months missions last week and left over the weekend to return to their homes. Gratefully, most of the temple missionaries who are American will be staying on through the break, taking on clerical and other responsibilities until the temple reopens. Though we don't get to see the temple missionaries as often as we'd like because of our different schedules and assignments, we have grown to love and appreciate every one of them, and we miss them when they go home! It has been a joy to serve on the temple grounds with such dedicated, loving, faithful men and women. We feel privileged to rub shoulders with them and we have learned much from their example. We are better for having known them!

Barbeque for departing temple missionaries.
The Strongs, Andersons, Kiddles, Morrises, and President Cook.

The Masseys, Sister Pilgrim, and the Rouses

Talented Sister Callis
The Kiddles, Strongs, Sister Murdock, the Grays, Sister Cook and the Andersons.

The Christensens, Brother Wade, Sister Fujita (visiting), and Sister Lock.

Sister Morgan, Sister King, and me.
Today, we are left to look back on all the comings and goings that have taken place during the past month at the Visitors' Centre, too. It has been a hard time for our hearts!

  • Three more of our fabulous sister missionaries (Sisters Cardona, Paulsen and Boman) finished their missions and returned home in August. Sister Cardona served her entire 18 month mission in our Visitors' Centre - the only sister to do so since we've been here. She was invaluable to us! 
  • Two of our current sister missionaries (Sister Berati and Sister Watt) have just been transferred out into other areas of the mission. 
  • Three new Visitors' Centre sister missionaries (Sisters Jacob, McLaws and Maddocks) arrived last Wednesday to begin their missions in our Centre. 
  • Two more new sisters are scheduled to arrive in the next month or two. 

So many changes!

Sisters Paulsen, Boman and Cardona were released in August. We miss them
so much but we know they have many new and exciting times ahead.

Our dear friend and mentor, Grant Neale, with all our sisters in front of the
Christus. (Left to right) Sisters Walmsley, Paulsen, Watt, Boman, Cardona,
Ylisaari, Berati, and Stewart.

Our three new sisters meeting their companions for the first time.

Sister Maddocks, Sister McLaws and Sister Jacob's first day in England!

Sisters Watt, Stewart, Maddocks, McLaws, Jacob, Ylisaari and Walmsley.
We also had a great visit with Sister Barber and Sister Maughan last week when they came to the temple grounds with a Young Single Adult Conference. What a joy! Sister Barber was only at our Visitors' Centre for two months early last year while she waited for her visa to travel to the USA. She's been gone for nearly a year and a half, but it just seemed so comfortable to have her with us again. Sister Maughan was just released here two months ago, but it was wonderful  to see her too and get caught up on what she's been doing since she was released. It was great to see them again!  Wish we could see every single one of the sisters who have served at the London Temple Visitors' Centre since we've been here! Each of them has a special place in our hearts!

Sister Barber (left) and Sister Maughan came to visit!!

During August, two of our daughters and their husbands dropped in for a few days, too. We were lucky to be able to spend a little time with them between responsibilities. Oh, how grateful we were to see them! And oh, how hard it was to see them go!

On the morning we picked Josh and Emily up at Heathrow airport, we headed
straight to Highclere Castle, where we had managed to obtain hard-to-get tickets
for a tour. We were all so excited to see where Downton Abbey is filmed!

Emily and Josh on the beach in Brighton.

Brighton Pier is one of my favorite places to go when it's warm.
Reminds me so much of the Santa Monica Pier where I grew up.

Jenn, Emily and Josh on the huge ferris wheel on Brighton Beach.

Jenn and Iain at the Wiremill Inn restaurant, a hidden treasure
just across the street from the London Temple on the A22.

With so many comings and goings at this time of our mission, it has given us pause to reflect on how fleeting time is and how quickly things can change. It is so easy (for me, at least) to get caught up in the responsibility and challenges that we have in our lives and forget to enjoy the sweet and simple moments that we share with those we love. I hope I'm getting better at treasuring the moments as the years go by. We just can't afford to take today - or any day - for granted. Each day is a gift, and so are the people who share those days with us.                                        ~Pat~