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Latter-day Saint missionaries reseed Hill Cumorah forest


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Here’s a did-you-know fact: Nearly 100 years ago, missionaries planted 70,000 tree saplings on the Hill Cumorah.

All that work was done under the direction of my great-grandfather’s brother, Willard Bean, the Fighting Preacher, who helped the church acquire the Hill Cumorah site. He and his wife Rebecca served as missionaries in Palmyra and Manchester for 24 years.

Over the succeeding century, thousands of those trees were cleared to make way for an ever-expanding Hill Cumorah Pageant. Now that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have closed the curtains on the pageant, they want the full forest to return to a site heralded as the place where the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and permitted him to retrieve buried golden plates he would translate as the Book of Mormon.

Saturday, 50 volunteer missionaries returned to reseed the hill.

“We’re now using missionaries again to come and scatter thousands of tree seeds on the hill, and those will grow up into the next generation of hardwood, old growth forest on the Hill Cumorah,” Church Historic Sites Manager Ben Pykles said in a news release.

But there’s a new twist on a recent batch of stories about two years’ worth of renovation and restoration work going on at the hill.

TheTravel.com just listed Palmyra, New York — including the Hill Cumorah site in neighboring Manchester — one of the 10 upstate New York towns that are even more beautiful in the winter.

“Located in New York’s Wayne County, Palmyra Town is a small, lovely town that’s charmingly green and gorgeous,” the travel story said. “The town’s environs display a landscape with many hills and mountains beautifully interspersed with lush valleys, gifting it a look that’s dramatic and alluring, and easy to fall in love with. One little fun fact is that Palmyra is the birthplace of the (Latter-day) Saint movement.”

Those who do arrive this winter will find that the church has removed about two dozen buildings that had been used for the pageant.

“All those buildings have been removed, hundreds of thousands of feet of asphalt parking lot and pavement and trails have been removed and a new network of trails has been established that allows visitors to experience the hill in a reverential contemplative manner, much like Joseph Smith would have experienced it in the 1820s,” Pykles said.

I wrote about the church’s overall plans for the Hill Cumorah last year.

Bean’s missionaries planted saplings. This time, missionaries planted native tree nuts and seeds. The hope is that the trees will grow stronger and healthier and more like the hill’s old-growth areas.

The pageant’s 10-level stage eventually will be replaced by a numerous different kinds of trees — red and white oak, black walnut, shagbark hickory, sugar and red maples, tulip and black cherry.

“It will take 25 to 35 years for this to become what it was meant to be,” Pykles said.

My recent stories

About the church

President Russell M. Nelson gave his ABCs for temple preparation during a devotional broadcast Sunday from church headquarters to Nevada and parts of California and Arizona. The “C” was for children, and he asked parents and members to help prepare children for the temple. “In summary, we will build temples. You will build people prepared to enter them” he said.

The church issued a statement on about the Respect for Marriage Act, saying an approach that preserves both the rights of LGBTQ people and religious freedom is the way forward.

I remember when the church began the “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church” series and a church leader said the volumes about each of the church presidents would be for the members’ home libraries. I have the 15 volumes released so far on my bookshelf, but I thought the series had been discontinued now that the church’s priesthood and relief society classes no longer use them for instruction. But the church released “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Thomas S. Monson” on Nov. 9 in the Gospel Library mobile app and on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Print copies will be available in February in 10 languages at store.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

The Church News has a new video with President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, talking about the copy of “The Forgotten Man” painting in his office. I wrote about it last month, but I didn’t know the story behind the specific version he has.

Police are investigating vandalism committed during a break-in Saturday at a church meetinghouse in Perry, Utah.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles completed his ministry visit to Germany, Sweden and Finland by speaking to members throughout Finland. “The chief characteristic of a disciple of Christ is to love as he loves us,” he said.

Elder Holland will dedicated the Richmond Virginia Temple on May 7, and President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will rededicate the Columbus Ohio Temple on June 4, the church announced Monday.

What I’m reading

I knew nothing of George Sutherland, the only Utahn to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. It turns out that as a U.S. senator from Utah, he introduced the legislation that led to the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote. He once said: “Any argument which I may use to justify my own right to vote justifies, it seems to me, the right of my wife, sister, mother and daughter to exercise the same right.” He also wrote the majority opinion in a 1932 case that foreshadowed Brown v. Board of Education. The story tells a very interesting history.

Here’s a good feature story on Brandon Sanderson, one of the world’s leading fantasy authors, that touches on his faith as a Latter-day Saint, his family and his writing process. 

Behind the Scenes

Missionaries from the New York Syracuse Mission plant tree nuts and seeds as part of the reforestation of the Hill Cumorah.

Missionaries from the New York Syracuse Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use sticks to make holes and then fill them with tree nuts or seeds as part of the reforestation of the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

Hill Cumorah Pageant Public Affairs

Missionaries from the New York Syracuse Mission plant tree nuts and seeds as part of the reforestation of the Hill Cumorah.

Missionaries from the New York Syracuse Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use sticks to make holes and then fill them with tree nuts or seeds as part of the reforestation of the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

Hill Cumorah Pageant Public Affairs

Workers install the new sign in front of the Hill Cumorah Vistors’ Center in Manchester, New York, on Oct. 10, 2022.

Workers install the new sign in front of the Hill Cumorah Vistors’ Center in Manchester, New York, on Oct. 10, 2022.





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