News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pittsburgh area, counsel from its leaders, and reflections from its members.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Progress on Pennsylvania's First Temple - The Philadelphia Temple

Logan Square: Philadelphia’s Mormon Temple Expected to be Completed by Summer 2016

By Philadelphia Neighborhoods - A Publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab

It has been nearly three years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began constructing its Philadelphia temple (above). Standing tall on Vine Street, between 17th and 18th streets, there are only a few more additions needed before it is open to the public next summer.
However, the temple is only one of three projects that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been building in this area. They are also building a meetinghouse (chapel) and a residential tower.
The entire project stretches from 16th to 18th Street, on the north side of Vine Street. Much of the land was previously a parking lot. The Church’s temple and meetinghouse are set for completion in late summer to early fall of 2016.
The 33-story apartment building’s opening, however, is set for 2017. It will feature 13 townhouses and 233 one and two bedroom apartments, according to community relations director Jon Stephenson (below, left).
Jordan Peterson (below, right), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Philadelphia stake’s president, estimates there are about 4,000 members of The Church in Philadelphia alone, and approximately 40,000 members in the entire region who will come to this temple. Being the between point for Washington D.C. and Manhattan temples, and the only temple in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia temple is predicted to see a lot of action.

“It’ll be a tremendous blessing to have a temple right here for us, to be able to go there more frequently and have it closer,” said Peterson. “Temples are very special to us.”
Though there are nearly 30,000 Mormon meetinghouses worldwide, according to The Church’s statistics page. There are only about 150 temples in operation currently. Peterson elaborated that is because the meetinghouses are where Sunday worship takes place, and where members visit on a regular basis. Temples, according to Peterson, are the places where Mormons have their highest forms of worship.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eventually chose the location of Philadelphia because, as said by public affairs specialist Flora McConkie (above, middle), “I think it’s reflective of the church’s growth in our area.”
McConkie also mentioned that the decision to build was ultimately made by the senior leaders in Salt Lake City.
Though Logan Square may seem like a prime location for this project, it was not the first choice, according to McConkie. In 2008, when the project was announced, The Church has originally planned to build across from the School District of Philadelphia on Broad Street. Due to contamination issues, they had to reevaluate the location.

Project officials agree that other than this setback, the development has been relatively smooth since the process began at Logan Square in January 2013. Anxious to open the temple, the only challenge they can recall at this point is time.
Unsure if it will cause an increase in the number of members of The Church, Stephenson knows one thing this temple will do for sure – strengthen the Mormon community.
“People are more frequently able to come, and more conveniently able to come and worship and strengthen themselves spiritually,” explains Stephenson. “That’s what a visit to the temple does for us.”
The benefits this project will bring to the Mormon community may seem obvious to most, but what is not so obvious are the benefits these projects will bring to the city. Stephenson believes that the temple will have a positive economic impact on Philadelphia, in addition to the spiritual impact.
“The residential tower will provide tax revenue to the city,” says Stephenson. “The temple will bring our members from throughout the greater Philadelphia area into the city to worship and participate in activities. We expect they will spend time in the neighborhood, visiting the museums and the other cultural institutions, restaurants and other sorts of things. We feel that there’s going to be economic benefit.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints received the funding for this project though, tithes and donations from our members that are freely offered, said McConkie.
“There will be no loan or mortgage,” she added. “It’s done through the offerings of members of the church, who consider it a house of the Lord and are grateful for a place nearby that can be the house of the Lord for their area.”
The overall cost of the project has not been revealed to the public.
– Texts, images, and video by Moira Wilson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pittsburgh West Stake Conference, October 10-11, 2015

Stake conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a bi-annual meeting for members of a stake, which is an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations. The Pittsburgh West Stake includes church members from the following greater Pittsburgh areas: Pleasant Hills, Greentree, Mount Lebanon, Upper Saint Clair, and surrounding communities, as well as areas from the West End of Pittsburgh to Moon Township. Additional areas are in and near Washington, PA, Wheeling, WV, and Wintersville, OH. At this stake conference, there was a visiting Area Seventy, Elder William R. Titera. Special thanks to Dwight D. Ferguson, Director of Public Affairs Pittsburgh West Stake, for assistance with this post.

Stake President Brennan C. Murray, First Counselor Dale C. Hoggard, and Second Counselor David B. Bayles 
Saturday Night Adult Session

Speakers included Bishop Seth Orban from Wintersville, who gave personal examples of using family councils to provide gospel instruction. President Dale Hoggard spoke on the importance of family councils. Soon to be missionaries Adam Oliver (Berlin, Germany), and Hannah Murray (Phillipines), were invited to bear testimonies. Gwen Haglund who recently returned from serving a mission in Armenia, spoke about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Elder William R. Titera, our Area Seventy, revised instruction about the importance of teaching the atonement to our families in family councils, and by observing the Sabbath Day toward establishing multi-generational families who are faithful in the gospel. Elder Titera used video clips featuring President Russell M. Nelson and Elder David A. Bednar.  

Sunday General Session

President Brennen C. Murray -- Increasing our faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ 

Sometimes we're like a horse being beckoned by its master with a hand full of oats. We take a nibble of oats and run away. The Lord beckons us through his servants at conference. Like the horse, ultimately the master rides him. As we come to the Savior, we find his servants there. The Savior comes to where we are and beckons us. The Savior is our advocate with the Father. 

The atonement leaves no tracks. What is healed is healed. Pres. Murray pleaded with us to know that the Savior knows you, He atoned for you.  "Please come to the Savior". 

Savior, Redeemer of my soul, Whose mighty hand hath made me whole, Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up And filled with sweet my bitter cup! What tongue my gratitude can tell, O gracious God of Israel. 
Never can I repay thee, Lord, But I can love thee. Thy pure word, Hath it not been my one delight, My joy by day, my dream by night? Then let my lips proclaim it still, And all my life reflect thy will. 
O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends. Change frowning foes to smiling friends. Chasten my soul till I shall be In perfect harmony with thee. Make me more worthy of thy love.

(Hymn 112, Savior, Redeemer of my Soul)

Sister Bethany Harlan, Wintersville Ward -- Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ prepares a person for the trials of life -

"And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men."  (Moroni 7 :31,32)

Brother Johann Eissler, 6th Ward -- How the Book of Mormon has helped me to prepare for my mission

It seemed like I had a long time to prepare for my mission, which lead to missed opportunities.
I starting preparing in Freshman year of high school. I had a great seminary teacher. We began studying the Book of Mormon. My Bishop also challenged me to read the Book of Mormon. I read every day. My testimony of Jesus Christ grew and my weaknesses were turned into strengths. 

Alma the younger was a good example of faith. Nephi, Abinidai, Moroni and other prophets were good influences on me. My mother was the most important influence on my life. The Book of Mormon changes us in ways that others will notice. I will do, say, be and go wherever the Lord wants me.

Sister Melissa Boyer, Washington Ward-- The Gospel has blessed my life and given me answers

I was Lutheran but I was seeking answers. We moved to Washington County, and I was invited to attend church with a friend. It was like someone turned on a light switch. I had questions and the missionaries had answers. We learned about the plan of salvation. This gave us hope and comfort. My life has been enriched by the gospel. When I was baptized, someone gave me a great piece of advice: You are baptized today, but what matters is what you do afterwards. The gospel provides instructions that lead to a happy life.

Sister Rosemarie M. Johnson, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission

We have recently had 3 baptisms in the mission from people who asked members or missionaries to learn more about the church. The power of example is real and no effort is wasted.
You are walking epistles of the gospel.

President and Sister Johnson
President Bradley K. Johnson, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission President

Missionaries deal with rejection every day. The members love to the missionaries is helpful.
As a mission president, we have a front row seat to the conversion of souls and witness the marvelous changes the gospel brings to the lives of people.

Sister Ruth Ann Chrisman, Columbus Temple Matron

When we know who we are and have faith in the Savior, we have confidence in ourselves and can trust others. We build our faith by standing steadfast and immovable.

President and Sister Christman
President James J. Chrisman, Columbus Temple President

President Christman bore witness of the calling of President Murray as Stake President. He has responsibility for all who live within the stake. He spoke on the meaning of "soul": Spirit within the body; person in mortality; and a resurrected person. "He restoreth my soul", 23rd Psalm. We witness people coming to the temple and having their souls restored. There is an empowerment and revelation which occurs in the temple. We cannot get back to Father in Heaven without the ordinances of the temple. The kingdom of God is organized into families. We unite families in the temple.

Elder William R. Titera, Area Seventy

The temple is literally the Lord's house. Mountains served as temples in ancient times. A lot of preparation, training, and practice is required to climb a mountain. The higher you climb, the fewer people have reached there and the path is narrower or not defined. Like climbing a mountain, going to the Mountain of the Lord requires help from others, preparation, and training. Like the perspective from a mountaintop, the temple changes the way we see things. 

Keys are gospel symbols. They represent authority. You can go places you could not otherwise go with keys. Keys can be assigned for use by others along with the delegation of responsibility. 

Historic business is conducted in general conference. The law of common consent is exercised. We express our willingness and desire to uphold the leaders of the church. The Lord pours out His Spirit upon us. The Lord makes known to us what we shall do. Ponder on the teachings of the last conference. They will show you what you need. to do. What were the take-aways for you from the messages of conference? The teachings of conference keep us unspotted from the world. 

Prophets. The Lord promised to send us prophets, Amos 3:7. To the end of Malachi was added "End of the Prophets", but John the Baptist came. The Savior came. The gospel was restored and apostles and prophets called. The prophets and apostles hold the keys.  

Elder William R. Titera

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pittsburgh Stake Conference, August 29-30, 2015

Stake conference is a meeting that happens twice per year. It includes all the members of the stake, or a certain geographic area. The Pittsburgh Stake includes the City of Pittsburgh, Monroeville area, McKeesport, Monongahela, Uniontown, Greensburg, everywhere in between these cities, and Young Single Adults and Spanish speakers from an even greater area.

At this stake conference, we had a visiting General Authority, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, part of the general leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was accompanied by Elder Daniel F. Dunnigan, member of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy.
From left to right: Elder Dunnigan, Elder Hallstrom, President Peterson, President Paul, President Cavalier

As a resource for the members of the Pittsburgh Stake and anyone else interested, we are providing an overview of the talks that were delivered during the meeting, as we have in past stake conferences.

Note: Many of these summaries were provided by the speakers themselves, but the summaries of talks by Elders Hallstrom and Dunnigan were written by a person listening to the conference. If you were there, hopefully you gained some different points and insights. Feel free to share them in the comments!

Saturday Night Adult Session

President Ron Paul reminded us about what it means to hasten the Work of Salvation. He referenced Elder Teh's message delivered at stake conference a year ago when the stake was split. We have been instructed that “the time has come to refocus on the fundamental principle that membership in the Lord’s Church means being called to be fully engaged in His work of salvation.” (source) The work of Salvation is defined by five important categories:
  1. Member missionary work: Our words and actions provide experiences for others to see how we practice our discipleship of Jesus Christ.  The injunction of Paul is to “Be thou an example of the believers.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
  2. Convert retention: Those who join this church, enter the waters of baptism, and receive the Holy Ghost, are no longer foreigners, but become fellow citizens within the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).  Let us ever be mindful and sensitive to the needs of our new converts. 
  3. Activation of less-active members: 3 Nephi 18:31-32 reveals what the Savior feels towards those who have strayed from the church. We are eternally grateful for our members who leave the comfort of the ninety and nine to rescue the individual lost sheep.
  4. Temple and family history work: The eternal blessings of temple attendance are numerous.  There is more work to be done with family history work. If you have not started indexing, go to and get going.  Additionally, at the end of last quarter, 1% of our stake submitted names to the temple.  There is clearly an opportunity for us here to provide the blessings of temple ordinances for our ancestors.
  5. Teaching the gospel: Starting in 2016, there will be an adjustment in the church teaching curriculum that will help teachers to teach more like the Savior taught with more class participation. There will be more to come on this new curriculum.
The Lord is hastening His work in its time (D&C 88:73), and we should continually ask ourselves, “What can I do to keep up with the hastening of the work?”

Message from Bishop Yeth Phetsomphou (Greensburg Ward): Bishop Yeth spoke briefly regarding the role of the ward council in the work of salvation. He shared a personal experience in how the ward council discussed the need to purchase a bunkbed for him and his brothers, when they first arrived in the United States as refugees. The ward council should help govern ward activities/programs and in responding to member's needs. The same concept is also taught in the Book of Mormon, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls." (Moroni 6:5)

Message from Sarah Bringhurst (Pittsburgh 7th Ward): Family councils are essential in the work of salvation for God's children. To unite the desires and intents of the hearts of all family members should be the ultimate goal. Family councils should be customized to meet the needs of each family member. References:

Testimony from Sister Rosie Johnson (Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission): Sister Johnson bore powerful testimony of reading the Book of Mormon. She concluded with this quote from a talk by Elder Kevin W. Pearson:
Begin again to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings every day, every day, every day! I testify of the profound power in the Book of Mormon that will change your life and strengthen your resolve to follow Christ. The Holy Ghost will change your heart and help you see “things as they really are.” He will show you what you need to do next.
Instruction from Elder Hallstrom: Elder Hallstrom talked about the five elements of the work of salvation, which he emphasized are not in competition with each other but are equally important:
  1. Member missionary work
  2. Convert retention
  3. Reactivation of those who do not participate regularly
  4. Family history and temple work
  5. Teaching the gospel
He reminded us that the Lord will hasten His work in His time. Especially at the highest levels of leadership in the church, the Brethren recognize and remember that this is the Lord's work, not theirs.

Elder Hallstrom provided examples of ways the work is being hastened in the Lord's time. First he talked about missionary work. In the last two years, the number of missionaries serving went from 58,000 to 88,000. As it's settling from the change in missionary ages, it appears that it will not drop below 80,000, revealing a significant increase in the number of youth willing to serve. This will fortify the rising generation in this magnificent time.

He also talked about temple building, indicating that last weekend the 148th temple was dedicated last weekend in Indianapolis. Regarding family history, he talked about his Aunt Lue, who made painstaking efforts and spent countless hours assembling family history records in years past. Now, however, we are blessed with technology that allows anyone to participate in family history, especially youth. Even if you or others have worked extensively on your own line, there are always more people to find. Family history work is exploding with growth.

These were just a few examples of the ways the Lord is hastening His work. All in all, it is up to us individually to decide if and how we will participate in the work of salvation.

Instruction from Elder Daniel F. Dunnigan: Regarding the hastening of the work of salvation, Elder Dunnigan pointed out that there are more missionaries and more people looking for the gospel. We don't have to "sell" the Gospel of Jesus Christ--it sells itself because it is such a blessing in the lives of individuals and families.

Elder Dunnigan focused his remarks around the Sabbath day, particularly asking us to imagine that we're spending a day with the Savior every week. He quoted from D&C 59:9-13, pointing out that the Lord calls the Sabbath "My holy day." The whole day is the Lord's day. He asked us each to imagine if we were to spend a day in person with the Savior, how would we prepare for that day? We were to consider both spiritual and temporal ways to prepare. Sabbath day observance will help connect us to Heavenly Father and the Savior; if we do not maintain this connection, the world will very easily consume us.
Image depicting the Last Supper. Imagine spending a day with the Savior. How would you prepare?

Elder Dunnigan concluded by stating that Jesus Christ has paid the ultimate price for us, and we honor it with the Lord's Day. What can we consistently offer up as a gift, sign, or expression of our love for Him?

Closing remarks from Elder Hallstrom: Sabbath day observance is not a new program of the Church; rather it is a doctrine that has been underutilized by members of the Church. In asking us to recommit to the Sabbath day, he and other Church leaders are not dictating a list of dos and don'ts. Rather, they ask that we be practical, evaluate our individual situation, and consider how the Sabbath is a sign between us and the Lord. We should continue to make the Sabbath a delight. (See President Russell M. Nelson's most recent general conference talk, Exodus 31:16, Isaiah 58:13.)

Elder Hallstrom concluded with a powerful testimony and counsel that we just continue doing what is right, moving in the right direction, furthering our connection with and faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Sunday General Session

Message from President Peterson (stake president): When it comes to member missionary work we find that the Lord provides so many steps along the way. Who prepares individuals to hear the gospel? Our Father in Heaven. Who teaches the gospel to those who are investigating the church? The full-time missionaries. Who converts the heart of an investigator to accept and know that the Lord's gospel is true? The Holy Ghost. So what steps as members are we specifically responsible for in regard to missionary work? We are asked to simply identfy who is ready and then invite.

Yet the Lord is ready to help us with these two steps as well. President Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, stated that—We need to exercise our faith that the Lord has prepared people around us to be taught. He knows who they are and when they are ready, and He can guide us to them by the power of the Holy Ghost and give us words to invite them to be taught . . . I testify that the Holy Ghost will direct you to those who seek truth as you pray and work for that guidance. (“How Great Shall Be Your Joy,” Ensign, Feb. 2011, 4)

We ask that as you pray in the morning and at night, in your normal routine of the day, will you please add this question to your prayers, as an individual, then as a family, "Father, we know thou hast been preparing those in our lives to hear the gospel, and we know that thou knowest who they are. Wilt thou help us know, and reveal to us, who thou has prepared to hear the gospel?"

When we know who is ready from the Lord to hear His gospel, we can also ask Him how we should proceed to extend an invitation. I know He will help us know what to say and what to do. He personally helped me already in identifying and inviting people I know.

For “there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who . . . are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” (D&C 123:12) And, "Angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the prucpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory." (Alma 13:24)

The Lord will "prepare", the missionaries will "teach", the Holy Ghost will "convert", and we are invited to identify and invite, with the Lord's help through a simple prayer that we are willing to act on in faith. We love and appreciate all you do. We feel there are great blessings and growth that await our Pittsburgh Stake.

Message from Sister Kim Tolliver (youth speaker, Monongahela Ward): Summary coming soon

Message from Sister Marietta Closson (stake Relief Society president): Sister Marietta Closson spoke on the subject “That they may always have His Spirit to be with them,” noting from a CES talk by Elder Henry B. Eyring that the Savior offers us the sacrament covenant to “always remember Him” and the warning to “pray always” so that we will place our reliance on Him rather than on ourselves. The emphasis was on what a great gift the Holy Ghost is to us and how it can direct us in all aspects of our lives. She pointed out that we are living in troubled times, but by living a Christ-centered life and remembering to pray continually, read the scriptures daily, holding Family Home Evening, and attending the temple as often as possible, we can feel peace no matter what is going on around us. Challenges and trials are an important part of our mortality and allow us to prove ourselves. The Holy Ghost is a guiding light given to us to make the most important choice--who we will serve.

Message from President Cavalier (stake presidency): President George Cavalier taught about the blessings of following and achieving each of the stake goals set forth for 2015. His talk centered on the three Family History goals set forth for this year:
  1. Each stake member is asked to index at least 500 names from the Family Search program. 
  2. Enter one family story into our Family Search program. 
  3. Prepare and submit one of our own family members’ names for temple work. 
Additionally, President Cavalier speaks of some of the personal experiences he has had with his own family dealing with their own Family History.

The scriptures he used are:

Testimony from Sister Rosie Johnson: Sister Johnson again bore a beautiful testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the Lord's church upon the earth today.

Testimony from President Bradley K. Johnson: President Johnson reminded us that the missionaries love serving in our stake. He is inspired by the missionaries and new members of the church, and shared some examples.

Talk by Elder Daniel F. Dunnigan: Elder Dunnigan spoke of his father, who joined the Church in his 70s, just a few years before he passed away. He referenced and quoted from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, "The Laborers in the Vineyard":
My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you—members and not yet members—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.
The ultimate blessing of the Gospel is that we can live forever with our families. He bore a powerful witness of God's love and care for us individually.

Talk by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom: Elder Hallstrom addressed the doctrine of reverence. Reverence does not equate with being quiet at church; rather, it is a very comprehensive idea--it is profound love and respect for deity. A reverent life is shown through
  • our daily efforts that reflect our love for the Father and the Son,
  • our desire to live consistently with what we know (even though there is a gap between what we know and how we act--lessening that gap is part of the purpose of our lives), and
  • how we treat other people.
Reverence is shown in multiple types of worship:
  • Public worship: we strengthen one another (at church, for example)
  • Family worship: the family is the best place for the Gospel to be taught
  • Personal worship: ultimately, coming unto the Savior is an individual and personal responsibility
Scriptures that establish a pattern for reverence: 
We live in a world that can confuse us, that can cause us to forget who we are and what is important. We should not fear; we have everything we need to be successful. He shared more about his grandparents, who suffered some great heartache but, rather than becoming bitter, their reverence turned them closer to God. Whatever happens to us, we must still love God, love our Savior, and desire to follow Them.

Much more was heard and felt at stake conference. Please feel free to share your insights below.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Open to the Public on August 29, 2015 - An Exciting New Church History Site to Visit!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced the reopening and dedication dates of the Priesthood Restoration Site near Susquehanna Depot, Pennsylvania. The historic site will be open to the public beginning on Saturday, August 29, 2015.
Susquehanna River, where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptized each other on May 15, 1829, under the direction of the resurrected John the Baptist.
Dedicatory services will be held on Saturday, September 19, at 11:00 a.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) at the site. President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will give the dedicatory prayer. Because of limited space, dedicatory events will be for ticket holders only. Other interested individuals and families are invited to view the services live on the Church satellite system or on The broadcast will be archived on for later viewing.
Located in what was historically known as Harmony, Pennsylvania, the site includes a visitors’ center and meetinghouse, the reconstructed homes of Joseph and Emma Smith and Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, the woods where John the Baptist restored the priesthood, the baptismal site at the Susquehanna River, a trails system, and a new statuary.
Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Harmony in December 1827 to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. They lived with Emma’s parents, Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, until they purchased a nearby home with 13½ acres from Emma’s brother Jesse.
 The reconstructed home of Emma's parents, Isaac and Elizabeth Hale.
In early April 1829, schoolteacher Oliver Cowdery came to meet Joseph and soon became his scribe. During the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph and Oliver went into the woods and prayed for guidance on the subject of baptism. In reply, the resurrected John the Baptist visited them on May 15, 1829, and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. He then commanded Joseph and Oliver to baptize each other in the nearby Susquehanna River. A little later in a nearby area, the two men received the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John, three of Jesus Christ’s original Apostles.
Also in Harmony, Joseph received 15 divine revelations that were later included in the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph and Emma Smith moved from Harmony in August 1830. The home they lived in burned down in 1919 and is now reconstructed as part of the site.
             The reconstructed home of Joseph and Emma Smith.
The Church invites all interested parties to visit the Priesthood Restoration Site located near Susquehanna Depot, Pennsylvania, in the United States, just off Pennsylvania Route 171. Daily operating hours will be 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Why I Believe, Part 1

Chris Hoke, former Steelers player and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, poses with some missionaries after sharing his believe in Jesus Christ at a Sunday-night fireside.

This is the first post in a series on the topic "Why I Believe." This topic was inspired by a recent "fireside" based on the same topic. At that event, retired Steelers player Chris Hoke talked about the topic of why he believes in Jesus Christ. We've asked others in the Pittsburgh area who attended the same fireside to reflect on why they believe in Jesus Christ as a contribution to this blog.

By Kendra Williamson

Rarely do I feel completely enveloped in the Spirit of the Lord, but when I do, I just feel a pure goodness that is difficult to put into words. I feel happy, and the complications of life all simmer down into manageable bites. Most of all, I remember things--I remember how blessed I am, I remember what the Spirit feels like, and I remember my testimony. This is how I felt on Sunday night at the Pittsburgh Stake's fireside, themed "Why I Believe."

This fireside, organized by President Johnson, the man who oversees the missionaries in the Pittsburgh PA Mission, was a compilation of video clips (see below for links), musical numbers, and testimonies. Several things stood out to me during the evening:

First, I was blown away by the musical talent among the 40 young missionaries serving in our area. They performed two choir pieces, and there were a few solos and a duet. In addition to their admirable talent, I marveled at their spirit and feeling as they sang. They just seemed happy, and I felt like they love their Savior and love serving Him.

Second, I enjoyed hearing the testimonies of a few different individuals and relating those testimonies to my own. President and Sister Johnson both shared their testimonies, as did Bishop Chris Hoke. He was a big draw at the fireside, as he had played for the Steelers for eight years and in two Superbowls. He related a few of his experiences from his football career that brought him to his knees, whether he was seeking divine help or forgiveness. Their testimonies posed the simple question that I have been reflecting on for two weeks since then:

Why do I believe in Jesus Christ? 

Until I really started thinking about it, I didn't know that it was such a difficult question to answer. Here is my answer for now, in two parts:

I believe in Jesus Christ because my parents taught me to. Sometimes I think this is a weak or shameful answer--like I believe just because it's the only thing I know. But actually, I believe because they truly do believe and taught me what and how to believe. I've come to realize that growing up in a home that encourages belief in the Savior is a great privilege. I was instilled with Christian values and spiritual sensitivities that made it easier for me to later become more independent in my beliefs.

I believe in Jesus Christ because living and acting in accordance with this belief has brought me joy, blessings, and direction that I find in no other way. This is pretty simple. I am encouraged in my belief because it results in true goodness and happiness in my life. This happiness is not found in money and possessions, but in knowing about God's plan for me now and after this life, in spending time with my family, and in finding ways to follow Jesus Christ's example of service. Believing in Jesus Christ has brought me a new sense of perspective that helps me see that there's hope beyond the day-to-day struggles of life.

So, that's my answer for now. If I had been asked this question five years ago, it would have been different. In five more years, it will be different still. As I continue to believe in Jesus Christ and as I have more experiences in life, my reasons for believing will change and grow. And that's the way, in my opinion, it should be.

A few more photos from the fireside with Chris Hoke: 

A few of the video clips that were shown at the fireside:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 Youth Conference

This weekend 74 youth from The Pittsburgh Stake and The Pittsburgh West Stake participated in a youth conference in Palmyra, NY.  The theme for this year was “Embark” based on the scripture Doctrine and Covenants 4:2: “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”  Following the theme, the event started with a day of service projects, including making hygiene kits, a book and food drive, weeding around the church, and indexing names for family history.


The next day the youth traveled to Palmyra, NY, where the church was first organized.  They visited the home of Joseph Smith Jr. and walked through the Sacred Grove.  They were able to talk with the missionaries and hear the stories of the events that had taken place.  The youth saw that the Frame House still had the original hearth, which was once taken apart to hide the golden plates.  One youth said, “You could really feel the Spirit in the Frame house, knowing how much work they put in to protecting the scriptures.  I am very grateful for it.”

Later that evening, they got to see the Pageant, which is a play about different stories from the Book of Mormon.  Before the event started, the youth were able to walk around Hill Cumorah and meet the cast.  They also explored the visitor’s center.

On Saturday the youth held a testimony meeting.  They shared their strong testimonies of the gospel.  It was so special to listen to them share the things that they had learned.  Their last trip was to the EB Grandin Printing Press, where the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon were printed.  It was a very special testimony-building youth conference.  Thanks to everyone who made this trip a success.


Monday, June 15, 2015

RootsTech Pittsburgh Family Discovery Day 2015

The registration desk
We had an excellent time at RootsTech Pittsburgh on Saturday. As expected, the speakers were marvelous, and there was a great turnout. We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to this marvelous event. Here are a few photos that give you a feel for the day.

We were privileged to have Marlene Bransom, president of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society (AAHGS) attend and present.

Presenter Ted Dillenburg of with Dwight Ferguson, one of the organizers of the event.

At one point, there was only one empty parking spot!


Ed Snodgrass - Using Family History Centers

Victoria Ridley (AAHGS) - African American Genealogy 101

Jonathan Harbuck (Google) - Google Your Ancestors

Laura MacBeth - Using

Kay Mosser and Bonnie Kerry - Using Puzzilla to Find Ancestors

Internet Cafe

In the Internet Cafe, guests could go and get individual help from the family history assistants and volunteers.

Youth came to participate in a youth indexing challenge.


Thank you to all who helped organize this event and who attended. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we view family history as a collective effort that strengthens individuals and unites families. The church has many family history resources, which we are happy to share with the public, but we also recognize that we have much to learn as we collaborate with other people and resources in the community. This event is one way we bring family history resources together and make them more accessible to all, so we are grateful that so many members of our community participated in RootsTech Pittsburgh Family Discovery Day.