Sunday, October 30, 2011

Favorite Cody Mural Missionary Experiences

As mural missionaries, our prayers often expressed the hope that those whose hearts would be touched by seeing the mural will be guided to it. Former neighbors of ours came to Cody this summer for a family reunion and stopped to see the mural.  Their son told us that on his mission he had baptized someone who had visited the mural.  He felt that this man had first been willing to listen to the gospel message because of the spirit he had felt there.

We had the opportunity to show the Mural to a senior couple from Green Valley, AZ.  The husband didn’t seem very interested. He casually walked around as he patiently waited for his wife, who was interested in my telling of the stories the panels portrayed. Mark was busy with other visitors, but when they left, Mark began to visit with him.  He told Mark that nearly all the men in his wife’s family were ministers – her father, brothers, brothers-in-law, etc. He lightheartedly told Mark that his wife was bound to be preaching to me, and that she had probably converted me to Lutheranism. However, when we came around the corner returning to the mural area from the Big Horn Basin room, Mark observed, “Well, it looks to me like your wife is now carrying a Book of Mormon.”  This man just laughed out loud because the joke was on him and he was surprised.

We greeted a very receptive couple who came in about 5:30 and told us that they had family members who were members of the church. They wanted to visit these family members and get to know them better, so they wanted to learn about our church.  They mentioned that divisions in the family had occurred when a nephew had joined the Church and married a young woman from Ogden. This young man’s parents, non-members, were not able to attend the temple wedding.  We asked our visitors what their time restraints were. They replied, “You close at seven, we understand.”  What a choice opportunity to talk about the gospel. We exchanged hugs and handshakes at seven as they left taking a Book of Mormon with them.  They are currently traveling and living in a motor home.  Before purchasing it, they spent four years living in a forty-foot yacht of the coast of Florida.

We had a delightful family from Idaho Falls come into the mural. They were not members of the church, but had Latter-day Saint friends who had suggested they visit the Mural while in Cody. They had a polite nine-year-old son, Geoffrey, and a cute little three-year-old.  The mother just had her breath taken away when she walked into the mural area.  She thought it that amazing.  As I told a little of the early history of the church, she would nod.  You could sense her empathy as I talked about the persecution.  Later she said, “I wonder what comes first, faith or perseverance?”  I thought that an excellent observation.  Geoffrey was asked to be the one to leave a comment on the visitor cards.  He took that opportunity very seriously and wrote, “I thought the mural was really amazing and the history of this church is so rich.”  The mother stated that she had learned much she hadn’t known. 

We had two men from England visit. They had flown into Salt Lake City and rented a car for a three-week trip.  They would fly back to England from the Midwest somewhere.  They had become somewhat familiar with Church history while in Salt Lake, but they still lingered for over a half hour. While they were there, two men from Cedar City joined us.  The people from England were interested in hearing from these men about a friend who had come to the Big Horn Basin with a group of LDS setters in 1900.  He had been seven at the time.
Several years before his death in 1998, someone had brought him back to visit the Basin.  They had found the house he grew up in.  This man commented about the little tree they had planted and wondered where the huge tree they saw in the yard had come from.  He said that the little tree had been planted close to the wire fence that had run around their yard. Looking carefully at the tree, they found wire protruding from its trunk.  Their friend could hardly believe such a huge tree had grown from the little one they had planted.  

In addition to the mural, we showed a room of wonderful paintings and other displays, including a topography map of the Big Horn Basin.  This room tells some pretty interesting stories of the settlement here.  The two men had come specifically to see that room.

Mark’s family from the Johnson side came to the Big Horn Basin in 1903.  They were trying to escape the grief of having two daughters, a two year old and seven year old, die from a type of diphtheria, during the same night. They had been living in southern Utah. This was Grandma Ilene Dover’s mother’s family. Her mother, Naomi Johnson Brown, was 10 at time they came.

Above the door, high on the domed ceiling, one sees, as he leaves the Mural area,  strong, solemn faces representing the Mormon pioneers who blazed a trail across a trackless desert to a desolate valley.  They display the same spirit which characterized the founders of this nation.  They gave the world an example of initiative, of cooperation, of endurance and of faith. Faith in God and steadfast loyalty to their country were the ideals and cornerstones with which they built our heritage. These are the characteristics upon which Mormonism was founded; these are the principles of freedom everywhere.  True principles are eternal and unchanging.  These same characteristics must be enshrined in our hearts if freedom is to be preserved.  Tomorrow and the future are ours.

                                       Lest We Forget from The Cody Mural

                                                                        A pictorial history of Mormonism

We especially loved showing this Mural to those whose first glimpse of it brought an audible catch in their breath -- for these were the visitors  most likely to sense the testimony of Christ and restoration of truth that Edward Grigware painted into these panals.

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has said, “Too numerous to mention are the examples of individuals who have faced difficult circumstances and yet who have persevered and prevailed because their faith in the gospel and in the Savior has given them the strength they needed.”

While sitting alone one day in the mural area, the thought came to me that art is a representation of experience, and that great art magnificently conveys the noblest of strivings within that experience.

When first shown this area, Mr. Grigware at one point ceased listening to the discussion of how this space might be used. It is reported that he said, “It has no beginning and no end. It goes to Heaven.  If you would let me, I could paint the masterpiece of my life here.”  He did consider it his masterpiece.

Mark and I, with so very many others, consider this mural truly to be great art. It has been an inspiration to us. It has been a joy to see it become an inspiration to many, many visitors who see it during their stay in Cody. A visitor from Fort Myers, Florida signed a comment card saying, “ My heart was lifted by my visit here. Thank you for sharing the beauty and inspiration of your church and artwork.

2009 Mural Appreciation Dinner
Back to Front
Vaughn and Cheryl Cook
Mark and Merrillyn Dover
Bill and Yvonne Nielson
Mel and Doreen Weeks
Ken and Pam Taylor
2011 Mural Appreciation Dinner
Back to Front
Marilyn and Peter Hansen
Barbara and Dee Stephenson
Merrillyn and Mark Dover
Yvonne and Bill Nielson
(Patsy and Veldon Seymore were unable to join us that night but are featured in the next photo)

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