"Pioneers and Winter Quarters"
Darrel L. Hammon
Joanne and I had the wonderful opportunity this week to motor to Omaha and visit several places: Winter Quarters Temple and cemetery, Winter Quarters Visitors’ Center, Kanesville Tabernacle Visitors’ Center (Council Bluffs, Iowa), Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, and Old Market also in downtown Omaha. While it was a quick trip over and back, we had a delightful time, filled with an incredible spirit of adventure.
Winter Quarters Temple—What a glorious place this is! While it is one of the smaller temples, it is a gorgeous temple. Very few patrons were there at the 7:30 p.m. session. President and Sister Maury W. Schooff, Temple President and Matron, greeted us when we went into the session and then again after the session. It was nice to meet and greet the Temple President and his lovely bride. Once outside, I took a picture of the temple. There is something awe-inspiring about the glow of lights, flooding from the inside and outside of the temple. Perhaps, it is the light on the hill, shining for all to see and beckoning all to come unto it.
Winter Quarters Visitors’ Center—The Center was delightful. Sister Jenkins, a young sister missionary from Virginia, was our guide. She had a strong spirit about the Center and about Winter Quarters. We had begun the tour on Tuesday evening just before we went to the Temple, but we didn’t get to finish; so, we returned early Wednesday morning, and Sister Jenkins led us through the rest of the Center. One of the highlights was the pair of life-sized oxen, pulling a wagon. According to Sister Jenkins, each of the oxen can pull 1,000 pounds each, but together they can pull 3,000 pounds. I guess that is what is meant by when “equally-yoked” a marriage can pull through anything.
Winter Quarters Cemetery—What a spiritual place this was! The moment I walked into the cemetery, which is on the same site as the Temple, the spirit hit me. Sister Jenkins from the Visitors’ Center said that Elder Christofferson had visited the cemetery and said that angels watched over it. Even as I write this, I can feel the spirit of those angels. The report is over 400 people, mostly young children, perished during that fateful winter. Many of the headstones are small and are now unreadable. But Heavenly Father knows who they are—thus, the watchful angels.
Kanesville Tabernacle Visitors’ Center (Council Bluffs, Iowa)—The missionaries from the Winter Quarters Visitors’ Center encouraged us to drive across the Missouri River to visit the Kanesville Tabernacle Visitors’ Center, which is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Elder and Sister Davis, converts, from Twin Falls, Idaho, were our guides. We watched a video about the tabernacle and its construction. Reports say that 1,000 people attended the conference when Brigham Young was sustained as the President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. It must have been stuffed, and no fire marshals were around to levy charges. I think this is a must see.
Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha—Several sculptures adorn this beautiful park. I was impressed by the size and beauty of the sculptures. They told a story that needs telling: The Pioneers were driven by God to do what needed to be done, and their faith in their eternal Maker was, indeed, deepened by their sacrifices and challenges. Thank you, Pioneers, for being courageous against odds that, to me, seem almost insurmountable. Your place in heaven should be secured.
Old Market also in downtown Omaha—Old buildings, old windows, old doors, old décor dotted this several-block section of Omaha. So many unique buildings had been turned into quaint and chic new bistros, dining facilities, and shops. Very few were open because we were there long before their 11:00 a.m. open times. I am sure, though, that during this time, many people dine out on the little patios, made special for watchers of people.
Overall, we had a wonderful time. Even the seven-hour drive over didn’t seem that long. We enjoyed the changing terrain from the plains of Wyoming to the plentiful green trees, some rolling hills, rivers, and ponds scattered along the way. On Tuesday when we arrived in the p.m., our car’s temperature gauge hovered around 100 degrees. Plus, there was a bit of humidity. But it still was enjoyable trip although very short.