Thursday, August 22, 2013

Great Evening

Tonight Julianne and I were able to attend an annual dinner held for General Authorities Emeritus. What a delight and pleasure. We were able to visit with so many amazing men and women. What power and how many years of serving God and mankind. It was a delightful and impressive group.

The dinner was held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City on the 10th floor.

We sat next to Elder Neuenschwander and had the most fascinating conversations about his work as a Patriarch in Russia and eastern Europe. The work he puts in and the blessings people receive from that service is amazing. Because my oldest son and daughter just received their patriarchal blessings it was all the more interesting to us.

The evening ended with my giving about a 25 minute lecture on the excavation and about 20 minutes of questions and answers.

Overall it was an amazing dinner. We loved it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting the book on the shelves

So yesterday had some interesting elements. My book, The Essential Companion to the Old Testament (see, was supposed to be on the shelves of the BYU Bookstore on Monday for the thousands of extra visitors that come there as part of BYU's Education week. Since Monday was the last day before school starts for my kids, and because it was my son Kaleb's birthday, we decided to go to Seven Peak's water slides for one last summer fling. I made everyone stop on the way as I went in to the Bookstore to put some fliers for my other book Return Unto Me ( in these books. But the books weren't out yet. I politely asked both the BYU bookstore and the publisher to look into this, and went on to the waterslides (lots of fun).

On Tuesday, before my lecture on God's love in the Old Testament, I went to see if the books were out. They were not out yet. Happily my cd's with my lectures on the Book of Abraham were there! (see

I spoke with some more people. They told me that they didn't think it had arrived, others that it had arrived but was not scheduled to be put on the shelves for a few more weeks, and others told me that they needed to know when it had come in to find it. I emailed the publisher (Covenant Communications) and went and did my lecture.!userfiles/contentphotos/byu/byu%20bookstore.jpg

I felt great about my lecture. Then I went to the bookstore and found the buyer who was in charge of getting these books. Together we went to work. We talked to the person from the publisher who had dropped the books off on Friday, after having them air freighted in the night before. We talked to the person who had received them. We checked all around in the receiving area. I looked and looked. We had a person in receiving who had left for the day come back in. We sleuthed and worked and searched and looked for an hour and a half. Finally we found them tucked away in the receiving area without their invoice in a different box than we were looking for. I helped unpack them and helped create the price stickers for them and put them on and took them up on a hand truck and put them on the selves myself. I am not sure they would have made it there this week if it had not been for Maureen (the BYU buyer) and myself sticking on it for so long. But they are definitely there now. I am so happy to finally see them out. I can hardly wait until the other one comes out!

Fun Lecture

Yesterday I did a lecture as part of Education week. The topic was an introduction to the ideas I have in my book Return Unto Me.

The concept, the God loves us and will never stop trying to work with us and help us, and that this is clear in the Old Testament, is one that I feel passionately about. I think it is a life changing topic. I saw several people tearing up during the lecture, and I like to assume that is because they were hearing something they needed to hear, not because the lecture was so terrible. I really, really enjoyed it, and look forward to doing a follow up lecture tomorrow.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Homeward Bound

I woke up at 4 am, and thought it would be nice to get a lot of the driving out of the way. So by 4:30 we were on our way, and everyone else just kept sleeping. But we came to Martin’s Cove sooner than I thought, by 7 am. So I woke everyone up, we had breakfast, and then we started on our way.
It was a great time, talking about the pioneers, walking, etc. I think the kids came to appreciate the pioneers just a bit more. The only downside was that the mosquitos were crazy, and most of us got dozens and dozens of bites. It was the worst I have ever seen mosquito infestation.

Off we go on our hike. No mosquitoes to begin with

BJ doing the dance we all did to keep mosquitoes away. It didn't work.

Some dogs came along with us, and the kids enjoyed that. We saw several gazelle very close up, and a deer and some rabbits too. 

The polar bear dog that came with us, Oscar
The blue healer, Max (we gave them these names)
To begin with the little ones were afraid of these dogs

Later they loved the dogs, especially Sabrina. They cried when we left them

We talked about the sacrifices the pioneers made, a  little bit about the history of the place, and pulled a handcart for a while. It was a good break.

Statue at Martin's Cove where we talked about the sacrifices of the pioneers
Alexia and Sabrina pulling the handcart

Jacob and BJ moving the handcart

But by the time we were done we had spent 3 hours there and I was anxious to get back home. I was mildly worried about the motor home. I should have been very worried, but by now I just have developed the feeling that God will get that thing home for us. We climbed several thousand feet on some long, steep, steep, steep hills. The engine ran cool, the radiator never leaked. For about an hour the bad wind came back. Not quite as bad, but still I had to wrestle with the steering wheel. We drove and drove. We stopped for McDonald’s to make it a little more fun. 

We drove and drove, and just before 6 pm we got home.

Driving and driving

and driving, looking out the window

I was, and am still, overwhelmed with gratitude. The Lord has helped us so much. I am amazed that we pulled this trip off. We have been planning it for 10 years or so, and working hard for it for a little over two. It was complicated, expensive, and difficult, but it worked. And it was a great trip. As soon as we got in we knelt in prayer and thanked our Father in Heaven that it worked so well. I really, truly, fully believe that we experienced miracles with that motor home. God saw us through. I am so utterly grateful and cannot find the words to express how much I relied on the Lord and how grateful I am for how he helped me and how calming it was to come to trust in him so much. My testimony has deepened in so many ways, but the motorhome may have brought me closer to the Lord than even the Sacred Grove.
I can’t believe we did it. With his help, but we did it.

Our faithful motorhom
 We unloaded a bit, said goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, and had dinner. The kids went to various places in the house, and it seemed so strange that they weren’t right with us. When BJ was down in his room I missed him. I didn’t like having my kids so far away from me. I came to realize that if we had to all live in a small cabin we could. I feel closer to them than I ever have. It was so strange to have so much space. I am sad to see our squished time together gone. I am grateful to be home, so grateful. It was a great trip, but I am very ready for it to be over. But I miss having us so together and working so much together. I love this family, and am so happy to have had this experience. We will always remember it. Thank the Lord, Julianne, and all my family!


This morning we got up early, got all packed up and out of the hotel, and as soon as they had food we started eating their breakfast. Then we drove and drove. We got to the Church in Casper, Wyoming about 15 minutes before it started. We changed clothes and went in. It was a nice service. The radiator has fully stopped leaking, and even though we pulled up some steep hills, gaining thousands and thousands of feet in elevation, the engine ran cooler than normal. This motorhome is a miracle machine, meaning that it has been the recipient of miracle after miracle. The Lord has truly been mindful of us, and has blessed us and seen us through. The blessing we gave that motorhome beforehand, which I had felt so strongly it needed, has been realized in every particular. The Lord’s mercy to us in the smallest and largest of things has been incredible. The more I drive (and I have driven about 7000 miles in that now), the more I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how the Lord has miraculously helped us on this drive. I am grateful.

Typical driving scenario

BJ and Sabrina passing time with Paper/Rock/Scissors

Seems like Mom was always making food as we drove. Thanks Mom!!!

Kaleb often kept me company and navigated while I drove (and drove and drove)

The kids loved riding in the cab-over. It didn't always work out well, especially if they weren't calm enough

The kids found all sorts of ways to entertain themselves

Jacob sometimes struggled with calm entertainment

Sometimes Julianne got to be with me up front. It was nice when that happened

From there we went with the Norcross family to their house, where they fed our whole group and we had a nice visit with a lot of very nice people there. They were all so fun, pleasant, and hospitable. It was a wonderful afternoon.
Then they took BJ, Tashara, Julianne’s parents and me to the Church. There was a world wide broadcast going on, and we saw the end of that. Julianne stayed with the younger ones to watch them. Then I set up to do a fireside. They gave me a pretty funny introduction, and then I spoke about the Book of Abraham, ending on the reasons why we should trust in what we learn from revelation and why we can believe what we feel from the Holy Ghost. I think it went very well. Everyone was so gracious. And then we went back to the Norcross home. They were so very kind to us. We all slept in the motorhome that night. I was planning on going back in to visit with the Norcross family, but I was so tired I just fell asleep.

Moving on

We woke up early and started driving. We found a place in Omaha that would change our oil for us, and we had that done. It was even kind of fun for all of us to stay in the lounge, where the kids saw an infomercial they really got into and started chanting for Mom to buy it. Then we went to Winter Quarters. We spent a lot of time there, and it was a great experience. We helped the kids see how the transition from Nauvoo to the pioneers crossing the plains was working. I think they got a real feel for what happened at Winter Quarters.  Everyone learned and was touched, and I think the story started to really come together for them.

Kaleb and Jacob pulled the handcart
Then Sabrina and Alexia pulled it

They plotted out the route
Alexia tried her hand at living in a Sod Hut

Sabrina tried her hand at Sod Hut living too
Sabrina the pioneer

BJ and Jacob tried their hand at a wagon wheel odometer

Then we drove and drove. We stayed at a nice little hotel in Nebraska where we swam and dumped the RV and got it all ready and had a nice, relaxing time. It was a good day. During all our driving the radiator was leaking a bit, but less and less all along, until it was hardly leaking at all. 

Of course, dinosaurs are of interest too

There were amazingly powerful wind gusts. Some nearby places had small tornados. I had to fight the wind the whole time. The steering wheel was usually at about a 45 degree angle just to keep going straight, and often I was hit by such gusts of wind that we almost moved over a lane. I felt like I was really fighting the wind, and my arms grew tired as I wrestled with the wheel so much. But we made it through. I was glad to be done with that drive.

Last day at Nauvoo

This was another great day, with a few little stresses. We went to Carthage first thing. We got there half an hour before it opened, so we spent some time in the parking lot getting ready. Then they let us in, and we had the place to ourselves. The guy who gave us the tour did a great job, and since no one was waiting behind us he let us have a little time in the room where Joseph Smith was killed. We had a very moving time there. I think everyone will always remember it. The peace and the Spirit were strong. It was a really wonderful, momentous time. Jacob talked about it several times over the next few days.

Memorial to Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage

Mom looking out the window where Joseph Smith was shot and fell at Carthage

The whole family near where the Prophet Joseph Smith died after he fell out the window at Carthage

Then we went back to Nauvoo. We saw Brigham Young’s home, Heber C. Kimball’s home, and Wilford Woodruff’s home. These were great men. They gave so much to the kingdom of God. They built, worked and sacrificed. The things that happened in these homes are amazing. To be in the home where Brigham Young lived as he took leadership of the church. I walked through the Heber C. Kimball home and thought of the things that must have transpired in those walls as Heber and Vilate considered having Vilate marry Joseph Smith, and then the thoughts and prayers as 14 year old Helen did marry the Prophet. What dedication was shown in these homes.

A horse that Wilford Woodruff's boy missed so much that Woodruff traveled back by night after they left Nauvoo to get it for his son

We also did the brick making shop, which was interesting. The missionary there was in my Grandpa Muhlestein’s ward. It was nice to have that connection. We also watched a little play for the young kids.
We went to the RLDS sites and got tickets and a time to go in. As we pulled up we saw that the motorhome was leaking again, quite a bit. It looked like maybe we would need to get it fixed before we could go anywhere. This stressed me.
We couldn’t get in to the RLDS sites for an hour, so we went to the blacksmith shop. It was a great experience to learn so much about how they got ready for the trek. I learned a lot about a number of important things. The kids really liked it too. 

When we went to go back to the RLDS sites, the motorhome radiator was leaking quite badly. I took everyone there, and let them go to the shop, etc. It was leaking worse. So I left them there and went to the one autoshop in town. The guy there was so very nice. He said he knew Jed and was in his ward growing up. He looked it over and couldn’t see what was causing the problem. As we spoke a feeling of peace, that all would be well, came over me. He told me that it seems to just be leaking when we first turn it off, probably because of the pressure that builds when you turn the engine off. He said he could fix it on Wednesday (it was Friday), but I could just try stop leak if I wanted. That was kind of what I was thinking. He gave me some stop leak for free, and wouldn’t take any money for it. He helped me get some air in my tires, which has been a hard thing for me to get done. I felt pretty good about things as I left.

I drove for a while to work the stop leak through. It only leaked a little when I finally stopped. I met my family when they were part way through seeing some of the Joseph Smith sites. I was so grateful to be with them. I was able to be with them in a number of places where I know Joseph Smith lived and important things happened, and where I know the mummies and papyri were. I did a little bit of filming for my class for that. I was able to teach some people who had questions. I got some good pictures in as well. The guide was very good, and after asking some questions I figured out that he is a descendant of Joseph Smith through Joseph Smith III. I was impressed with him. 

The grave site of Hyrum, Joseph and Emma Smith
The mansion house, where Joseph Smith lived the last few years in Nauvoo
My kids were very, very touched with this place. After spending some time at the Joseph Smith grave site, Kaleb and Alexi were so excited to have been that close to the Prophet. They felt like it was one of the most sacred places they had ever been. They told me that they never wanted to wash their shoes because they had walked where Joseph Smith had died and where he was buried. I think they have developed a strong testimony of and love for Joseph Smith. I am so happy with this.

Kaleb at the prophet's gravesite
View of the Mississippi from the Prophet's home

I have to say that again and again I have been reminded of what an amazing prophet Joseph Smith was. Sometimes it is easy to forget, but he is such a remarkable man. He is someone who lived so close to the Spirit and had so much inspiration and revelation flowing through him. He is a remarkable prophet, and my testimony of him and love for him has been renewed and grown. I am grateful for that.

The Red Brick Store where Joseph Smith did work on the Book of Abraham while in Nauvoo
Joseph Smith's office in the Red Brick Store where Joseph Smith kept the papyri and worked on the Book of Abraham
The foundation of the Times and Seasons Building where the Book of Abraham was first published

We watched a little musical put on by the missionaries. A bit long and boring for me, but Julianne enjoyed it. I am glad we went, both so she could be happy about going there and because as Jacob got bored he started asking me questions about Joseph Smith and how and why he was killed. We had a meaningful time there.
Then we went to the temple and talked about it. We talked about how important it was. We talked about how Grandma and Grandpa Muhlestein served a mission there. 

All of us at the Nauvoo Temple
We talked about all the history of the Saints we have traced so far. Independence was out of order. But we have gone to Palmyra, over to Kirtland, then to Nauvoo, where we spent one day learning about the people that were there and how it grew. Then we spent a day learning about Joseph Smith and the way he lived and died there and the men who led the Church after him. The last thing they did was build the temple, which is where we ended, and then we headed out for Winter Quarters, just as they did.

We drove a few hours to Ottumwa Iowa (only after we were half way there did I realize that this was where Radar O’Reilly from MASH was from). When we got there we learned that they had reservations for us for the next day, and had no openings that night. So we drove another two hours and just spent the night at a truck stop. It rained and there were motorcycles and diesels going around us all night. It was not the most restful night. But it worked out fine.