Sunday, October 24, 2021

An evening with four generations of mission presidents and spouses in the California Riverside Mission!

We recently enjoyed a delightful evening and dinner at John and Jana Mullen’s home in north Salt Lake. They had also invited Mel and Linda Reeves and Paul and Karen Smart. We all served as mission presidents and spouses in the California Riverside Mission and represent four generations of missionaries who served there. The following represents our times in the mission:
  • Darrel and Joanne Hammon, 2017-2020
  • John and Jana Mullen, 2014-2017
  • Paul and Karen Smart, 2011-2014
  • Melvyn and Linda Reeves, 2008-2011
Darrel and Joanne Hammon, John and Jana Mullen,
Paul and Karen Smart, and Mel and Linda Reeves

We had such a fun and enlightening time with them. They are all wonderful, spiritual, and powerful examples of disciples of Jesus Christ. President and Sister Reeves are currently serving as the President and Matron of the Bountiful Utah Temple. President and Sister Mullen are currently serving as a senior couple in the Missionary Department working with service missionaries in the north-central area.

Our conversations focused on the gospel, what we learned on our missions, funny and spiritual stories, miracles, and how the mission has changed over the years.

Sisters Smart, Reeves, Mullen, and Hammon

For example, President and Sister Reeves only had a few sister missionaries. Our mission was comprised of about 40% sister missionaries. President and Sister Reeves initiated conversations about having Mandarin-speaking missionaries, and we were the beneficiaries of those conversations and interventions because we had a Mandarin-speaking branch with several Mandarin-speaking missionaries.

In President and Sister Reeves' mission, the California Riverside Mission covered much of the current San Bernardino Mission (formerly the Redlands Mission). During President and Sister Smart's time, the age change for missionaries happened, and a few new missions were created, and some of their missionaries were assigned to the new missions, which was a challenging time to have these missionaries leave and go to another mission.

Presidents Hammon, Reeves, Smart, and Mullen

During our time, two of those missions collapsed, and we gained an additional 54 missionaries from those two missions. We also became a technology mission. Plus, COVID hit during that last four months of our mission. We all were part of major changes that strengthened us and helped us see the hand of the Lord in our lives and the lives of our missionaries.

We all expressed how we enjoyed watching the growth and development of these young men and women, from the moment they arrived to the mission to the final event/dinner/testimony meeting at the mission home when they prepared to go home. They had all become spiritual giants and incredible leaders, poised to do great things in their lives.

From the Mullen's street

One thing that we all agreed on was that changes were inevitable, and how you adapt to the changes will determine attitude and latitude. We all had wonderful missionaries in our missions and felt such love for all of them. We probably could have stayed all night, reminiscing, telling spiritual and miracle stories, and just enjoying the spiritual nature of the evening with wonderful people.

We truly enjoyed ourselves and the association with these incredible and loving leaders! We felt honored to be invited!

A view from the Mullen's deck overlooking part of the Salt Lake Valley

Sunday, October 17, 2021

I Love Gazing at Clouds!

 I haven't posted a video poem for some time, so I thought I would today. I have been impressed by the many clouds I have seen recently, especially the ones that looked like something. Thus emerged the poem "I Love Gazing at Clouds." It's about two minutes long. Enjoy! I would love to hear what you see in the clouds when you look at them.

I Love Gazing at Clouds

Clouds appear sometimes out of nowhere,
bunched up like cattle, then meander
through wind tunnels, change into shapes
like dolphins, frogs, swans, snakes, bears,
elephants, and a host of other things
that our eyes and minds can imagine
or maybe even conjure up.

Some of us can see them,
spot them in the sky as they whip around
and coalesce into something we know.

Our minds must see beyond the grays,
whites, purples, and all shades in between,
especially those that come
from glorious sunsets in the west
or during magnificent rain storms,
or when the sun appears
from behind angry clouds and calms them.

Puffy clouds, skinny clouds, elongated clouds,
all clouds, none exactly the same,
shift and change into vivid details
that we can see stretched across the sky. 

Perhaps, we shape them on our own,
focusing on one small gray cloud
in the middle of a big white one,
seeing eyes, maybe a lion’s tail
or even an elephant’s trunk and dragons’ feet.

Other clouds shift into being
animals in exotic zoos
or those in the wilds of Montana
or even those in our own backyards.

To others, clouds look like clouds,
just clouds, nothing more, nothing less.
They cannot see beyond
the whiteness of the fluff.

Perhaps, it’s only the creative minds,
the thinking minds, the conjuring minds
that can see images, real images,
that sweep down, open our eyes
to seeing and believing that they are real—
there on the stages of the sky,
above us and around us, like a circus.

Oh, the beauty of gazing at clouds
and becoming the spectators of it all.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

The Caribbean Experience in St. George!

The Caribbean Experience in St. George!

Recently, we had the incredible opportunity to gather with our friends who served in the Caribbean area/Dominican Republic when we served there. Each year, we gather in St. George to see how we are all doing, attend a play or two at Tuacahn, listen to the cowboy poet Lynn Snow, eat more food than we should, attend classes, chat about our lives and the past, visit sites around the area, and just enjoy each other’s company.

This year was no different.

We enjoyed a family history class at the new Family Search Center, near the St. George Temple. We were wowed by the professionalism of the missionaries serving there, and we all learned we still have lots of family history work to do. Probably the best part was that we found out we are all related in some way, even 14th cousins! 

Brother and Sister Rappleye wowed us with their historical discussion about founding of the Church in the Dominican Republic and what role they played. Plus, they served as temple president and matron of the Santo Domingo Temple. The whole presentation was fascinating! It seemed that miracle after miracle after miracle abounded in that country for Church to grow and develop as quickly as it did. One of the original families—the Amparo family—who helped organize the church there had been living in LA for many years before they decided they should return to the DR and help the Church. They arrived just two days before the Rappleye family. Together, they initiated the path for the Church to become what it is today. Amazing story!

We also listened to Marty Heaton talk about his excavation and study on what he believes is the Land Bountiful in Yemen. They have been doing research for several years, and he firmly believes he has found the place where Bountiful was. His presentation and research were interesting, and we loved the pictures of where he thinks Bountiful is.

During the same afternoon, we listened to Mary and Stacy from Intermountain Healthcare who came to talk to us about “Advanced Health Care Directives” and what we all need to do to prepare us for any medical challenges that might—or probably will—come upon us during our lifetimes.

Mark Tanner, one of the original DR missionaries and now attorney, also talked to us about trusts, probate, and other related questions. Again, we all discovered we have some work to do to make sure we are up to date on our financial documents, including completing the advanced health care directives.

Intermittently during the two days, Lynn Snow would say, “It’s time for a poem.” Then, he donned his cowboy hat for the authenticity and then launched in a cowboy poem, laced with humor and cowboy rhyme that makes the words chime. We are always delighted to watch Lynn recite cowboy poetry! He has several dozen memorized.

On Wednesday night, we all went to Tuacahn and attended the play “The Count of Monte Cristo.”  It was a bit chilly during the play. We enjoyed the singing and the characters. It had been some time since we had read the book and watched the movie.

After we arrived, we went to the Café to visit with Ellen who was my administrative assistant at UVU. It was a great conversation.

The next day, we had breakfast with the group before we headed out to the Pine Valley Chapel and the Mountain Meadow Massacre site. The drive out was absolutely beautiful. We hadn’t driven that way before. The Pine Valley Chapel was nestled among a group of trees and was just peaceful.

The Pine Valley Chapel is a historical meetinghouse of the Church that the settlers built in the valley in 1873. The branch continues to meet in the building each week. During the summer, they sometimes have up to 900 people who attend, inside and outside on the lawn. The uniqueness of the building was fascinating. A local settler and shipbuilder Ebenezer Bryce designed the building, using shipbuilding techniques because he been a shipbuilder in an earlier life.

We enjoyed being there. We listened to Brother and Sister Bergstrom who have lived in Pine Valley for years and are now “guides” groups because the Branch president told the Brethren their little branch would host visits to the building. They were a cute couple who answered all of our questions and gave insights in the various “secrets” within the building like the signature of one of the workers who did the feathering of paint from the old times. When we finished our tour of the Chapel, we took pictures of the group to remember our trip there.

Then, we drove over to the Mountain Meadow Massacre site. The sun was shining, but the wind made it a bit chilly for us. We donned our jackets and sweatshirts and braved the wind. The site had some beautiful plaques. Around the area were plaques and information about each individual who was killed there, including the young people. There were so many youth who were murdered during those tumultuous days. These people were from Arkansas and were passing through. The local militia attacked them and killed them and then blamed the native Americans for doing it. Ultimately, the leader of the militia, a guy named “Lee” was punished by death on the same site he had initiated all of killing. This was one of the darkest days for the Church.

While everyone went back to the cars, I stayed and walked the loop where there were other plaques. One plaque was especially memorable: “Ever Remembered: In honor to those who rest in this field. They were innocent and died in unjust attacks that began on September 7, 1857. They were defending their friends and families who buried them before leaving the protection of their camps. To the other victim of the Mountain Meadows Massacre who lie in unknown graves, rest in peace, and be assured you are remembered.”

I was saddened by this note and stood there, looking out across the large green field, the wind whipping about me. For that brief moment, I felt them and the enormous loss they must have felt when they attempted to fight against these men who had come to harm them. All they wanted was to move on to California for a better life for their families. Instead, they all lay resting in a place that was foreign, killed by men who knew better than to hurt their enemies or friends, and waiting for the day of the resurrection when they can be united again with their families.

After this experience, we met everyone at Marv’s Restaurant in Enterprise. We had called in our orders at the site, but they were not waiting for us. We all sat down on three lengths of tables and chatted until our meals came. The food was very good, and the shakes were divine. I had a chocolate raspberry. My wish was that there had been more raspberry flavoring in the shake.

Soon it was time to go, some back to St. George; some toward home. We all hugged, said our teary goodbyes, and wished everyone well. Our trip home seemed longer than going, but we arrived home, tired, knowing we had just spent two days with some of the greatest people on the face of the planet. Being with such an incredible group of people gave us motivation and support. We sensed their support and kindness throughout the entire time. They are genuine in their praise and wanting to help in every way. That’s just how they roll. We love them and count them as some of our dearest friends.

While we were in St. George, we also were able to see Tyler and Laura Heilbut and little cute Killian. Tyler and Laura served as missionaries in the California Riverside Mission. They are happily married now. Also, we visited with Kerry and Marlene Shirley at their home in St. George who served with us in California. We had such a nice visit with them and ate Sister Shirley’s famous brownies with ice cream.

What a fun, enlightening, and entertaining two days in St. George, Utah!

 More photos on my Facebook pages!

Golden Days

Golden Days
Darrel L. Hammon

The golden days arrive on time,
lingering longer each year,
allowing the ivory-colored,
daintily steepled church to bask
in the gilded aura of fall.
The church on its earthly bench
has always overseen fall,

like some watchman in the wilderness,

surrounded by rocks, carried stoically
by parishioners, too poor to pay
but not too poor to serve their God,
from the creek bed just down the hill
amid hanging branches, brambles,
and bugs, placing them just so

to provide a sanctuary for the faithful
and privacy and refuge to those
who come to confess.
Its red encased windows,
some round, some small,
allow the sun to enter and spread
its warmth and miracles among the pews

and finger-worn hymnbooks.
The leaves fell last night
or maybe the day before.
No one has passed by with haste
to disturb the golden brown leaves.
They just lie there, covering
the silent footsteps that for years

have slowed before the church,
hoping, just hoping that someone
would come out, greet them, invite them in,
encase them in joy and reconciliation.
Now, the Church just sits, overseeing the majesty
that surrounds it, soaking in the glory
that comes through the fall.