I am ancient. The blood of my ancestors – men and women of faith, humility, strength, fortitude, and wisdom – courses through my veins. I have English and Welsh ancestors who helped build temples in Nauvoo and Salt Lake, lending their might and skill to carving stone. They crossed the plains in search of Zion, losing children and spouses to death along the way. These pioneers settled in desert places building homes and raising families. The women were resourceful and caring, the men hard working and generous. Both were stalwart and brave. But I have other ancestors who were also pioneers. They never pulled handcarts or rode in covered wagons, never walked the dusty trail west from Nauvoo and Independence. Their gospel journeys were different but they were just as stalwart and brave. They are part of the “hidden heroines and heroes among the Latter-day Saints—“those of the last wagon” whose fidelity to duty and devotion to righteousness go unnoticed by anyone except the One whose notice really matters” (Dallin H. Oaks, Modern Pioneers, General Conference, October 1989). Continue reading
How do we teach and defend church doctrine with compassion and with kindness within our own Church membership?
I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time. It’s a question that every member of the Church needs to address, and it’s one that we’re going to need to get better at doing. For the past several years we’ve been seeing a growing trend in the media (whether it be in blogs, Facebook, news articles or comment sections) where people are preaching a new “religion of tolerance” that I find fascinating. We’re seeing philosophies that subscribe to the idea that if people truly call themselves Christians or want to be kind and loving, they need to accept all types of behavior and actions. To do anything less is deemed un-Christlike or judgmental. As Elder Holland put it, “Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”[i]
Growing up in Canada, I often heard stories of the pioneers who settled my small village in Southern Alberta, those who came into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and in particular, my ancestors who were among the survivors of the Martin-Willie handcart companies. I grew up appreciating their sacrifices and loved hearing all the stories of their courage and faith. But when I was younger, it didn’t occur to me that people outside of the Western United States and Canada might not feel the same affinity towards the pioneers as many others did.
When my husband and I first moved to New Zealand, we were surprised to find so very little being taught about church history, including that of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the pioneers. These things were rarely spoken of unless in General Conference or unless they were part of the Doctrine and Covenants curriculum taught every four years. It was common to hear the church members say that while these stories were nice, they felt they didn’t have application or meaning to their lives. They felt too far removed from the dusty plains and the snow, the bonnets and the fiddle music. The idea of a handcart in the South Pacific was about as foreign and useful to them as a coconut would have been to a Utah pioneer on the prairies!
Pioneer Day is a unique celebration to honor the original settlers migrating to the wild western states of Mexico. Our United States Government did not own this part of the country at the time. As the pioneers settled the Great Basin area, they hoped to be left completely alone in peace, in a territory that wasn’t important to anyone. We are familiar with many pioneer stories that showed the faith and determination by these brave people. I would like to share some—not quite so well known stories—that show that amazing courage that will hopefully remind us of our own obligation to carry on the torch of faithfulness in hardship. Continue reading
I’ve spent some time observing what’s been happening on Mormon Women Stand since its inception. I admit that Kathryn Skaggs dragged me into this project kicking and screaming, as I didn’t think I had the skills necessary for what she was asking me to do. I’ve learned a lot since then—not the necessary skills—still working on that, but I’ve learned a few things about myself, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and sisterhood. I’ve learned a boatload about sisters in Zion. Continue reading
. . . Seagull Monument that is. The summer of 1970 is one that will be forever embedded in my mind. It was the summer that not only fortified my love for my family, but permanently cemented my love and testimony of Jesus Christ and His Church—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Just as the Mormon pioneers had quite a trek across a vast unknown territory, our family adventure traveling over 2,000 miles in the faithful Rambler station wagon that year from our home in Jacksonville, Florida, to our grandparents’ home in Salt Lake City, Utah for a visit and family vacation took us to unexplored and undiscovered territories of our own. My mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and I, along that journey were able to travel to church history sites, i.e., Independence, Missouri, Liberty Jail, Nauvoo, and Carthage. Each site visited was a testament of the truths of the restored gospel, of Joseph Smith, and Latter-day prophets.
I would later come to see and learn when we had arrived at our final destination in Salt Lake City what true faith really is—the kind of “unwavering” and “enduring” faith such as that shown and lived by the Mormon pioneers. It was the kind of faith I wanted to acquire for myself.
My granddad upon retirement from the City of Jacksonville, Florida, fulfilled his life-long dream. He wanted to move west to live among a population whose vast majority were Latter-day Saints. After having moved to this new-found utopia, he took great delight in the fact that he and Grandma had found an apartment close to Temple Square, making it very convenient for him to be both a temple ordinance worker and a Temple Square tour guide. Literally every day of his retirement was filled with one or the other of those activities. This was before the time of proselytizing sister missionaries on Temple Square like we have today.
Grandpa didn’t have to travel the world when he retired; the world came to him. His tour always started at Seagull Monument, that highly visible, lofty pillar erected in remembrance of the miracle of the seagulls which came to devour hoards of cricket-like grasshoppers that threatened to annihilate the first major crop of food that had been planted since the first Mormon pioneers had arrived to settle and colonize the Great Salt Lake Valley.
After all the pioneers had endured since the very beginning of the organization of the church—being driven from place to place, having homes burned, a beautiful temple destroyed, harsh persecutions both physical and verbal, the martyrdom of their beloved prophet—was this then to be their final end? Most had just culminated an exodus of over one thousand miles by covered wagon.
Almost a decade later pioneers would come to the Salt Lake Valley pulling handcarts. Either way, all endured days that seemed endless—days of deprivation and starvation. Some had seen loss of life and material possession, crossed frozen rivers, walked in bare bloody feet, feet without shoes because they had been worn through. Those days of pulling handcarts were ones that would tax the physical endurance of even the most robust and brawny of men, yet women who had lost their husbands along the trail across the plains had stepped up, shouldered the responsibility themselves, and pulled those handcarts in their husbands’ stead and survived.
Now for the ones that had first reached their Zion on July 24, 1847, would mere grasshoppers destroy all their dreams, goals, and aspirations? Surely the appearance of the seagulls to rescue them from this latest trial and threat of starvation was a tender gift of mercy and a miracle sent directly to them from the Lord. As Grandpa recounted the story, it was as wondrous and faith promoting to a 12 year old as the Biblical story of Moses parting the Red Sea so that the Israelites could safely cross over to dry ground to escape the Egyptian army, following which the extension of Moses’ staff caused the sea to fold back into place, thus drowning all of the enemy.
On this summer day in 1970, I had my grandpa all to myself. We traipsed all up and down North and South Temple, and I was hanging on to his every word. Because of this treasured experience, throughout my life I have loved anything about church history, particularly the stories of Mormon pioneers.
The courageous story and immense bravery of the Mormon pioneer is as incredulous as can be found in the annals of any history book ever written. In the current world which severely lacks people of any substance worthy enough to be called a role model, or a true hero or heroine, it would be highly beneficial, especially to our youth, to have around people of such noble character as that of the Mormon pioneer.
Naturally this leads to the question, why did they do it, what motivated them, and made them willing to venture out into a world of the unknown, thus putting their lives in peril? One thing is an absolute, unquestionable fact. They stated in many instances they had an undeviating and devout faith in God, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, that it is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, that The Book of Mormon and other latter-day scripture is new revelation, and that all of this had been brought forth by the hand of a modern-day living prophet, Joseph Smith. Elder M. Russell Ballard in a General Conference address in October 1996 stated:
Perhaps one reason they sacrificed and endured was to leave a legacy of faith for all of us to help us feel our urgent responsibility to move forward in building up the Church throughout the world. We need the same dedication today in every one of our footsteps as the pioneers had in theirs (M. Russell Ballard, Faith In Every Footstep, Oct. 1996 General Conference).
Later in the address he states:
Perhaps the most memorable pioneer stalwarts were the Saints who made the journey in handcart companies. These companies brought nearly 3,000 pioneers west between 1856 and 1860. In 1856, two handcart companies, with 1,075 pioneers under the leadership of James G. Willie and Edward Martin, left later in the year than planned, and they encountered early winter storms in present-day Wyoming. . . . We find one of the most touching stories of sacrifice, faith, and loving charity in the life of Jens Neilson, who was a member of the Willie Martin Handcart Company. Jens, a relatively prosperous Danish farmer, heeded the call to bring his family to Zion. In Iowa he wrote that he had let all of his money go to the Church except enough to buy a handcart and stock it with 15 pounds of belongings per person. Jens wrote, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” The people for whom Jens was responsible were himself; Elsie; their six-year-old son, Neils; and a nine-year-old girl, Bodil Mortensen, whom Jens offered to take to Utah. In the early Wyoming blizzard temperatures plummeted below zero. The Neilsons had consumed their last pound of flour days before, but somehow they made it over the treacherous Rocky Ridge, urged on by their indomitable courage and unconquerable faith. Tragically, 13 of the company died at Rock Creek and were buried in shallow snow-covered graves—among them, Jens and Elsie’s son, Neils, and young Bodil Mortensen.” . . . Jens arrived at Rock Creek, 11 miles beyond Rocky Ridge, with both feet frozen. He was unable to walk another step and pleaded with Elsie, “Leave me by the trail in the snow to die, and you go ahead and try to keep up with the company and save your life.” Elsie, with her unfaltering courage replied, “Ride, I can’t leave you, I can pull the cart.” Such was the strength and the faith of many pioneer women on the trail (M. Russell Ballard, supra.)
Another pioneer woman of courage who touched me deeply when I read about her was Drucilla Dorris Hendricks. She was born in the American south as was I, so I can relate to her story on many levels. The south has long been known as the “Bible Belt.” While time, culture, and tradition have changed that particular area of the country’s views on Mormonism for the better, old ideas and thoughts about the faith that are negative, still linger.
Drucilla was born in 1810 in Sumner County, Tennessee, near the southern border of Kentucky. This made her a contemporary of the prophet Joseph Smith (born in 1805). Both lived in the era of great religious excitement and fervor known as “The Second Great Awakening.” Revivals with tent preachers and traveling ministers were common, and people were looking for a “restored” church. They felt the organization of the primitive church as existed on the earth during Christ’s ministry, and the authority to perform certain ordinances such as baptism, had been lost after Christ’s death.
Through a brother-in-law, Drucilla was told about a couple of Mormon elders who were preaching about a “restored gospel.” Drucilla was known to be very savvy with the scriptures and her brother-in-law felt she could slip the elders up and catch them in their errors. Instead, after listening to the elders, Drucilla immediately believed and was instantly converted.
Shortly thereafter, both she and her husband were baptized. They then faced the heartbreaking rejection and persecution from both sides of their families. They were forbidden to come to any of their relatives’ homes, and their relatives did not visit them. They were mocked and scorned publicly by family members who felt that their souls were “going to the devil” and their property and home were vandalized.
When Drucilla and her husband, James, were leaving their home in Tennessee to join up with the Saints who were gathering at that time in Clay County, Missouri, she lamented the fact that she “had four sisters to leave but only one to regret our leaving. She was a Latter-day Saint.” She recalled being very close to all those sisters growing up and until the time of her baptism into the church, “we never met or parted without crying.”
Later in Missouri, her husband James would be paralyzed for the rest of his life from the neck down by a bullet from an anti-Mormon mob. They traveled with the Saints to Winter Quarters, but Drucilla would be the one to transport and lift her husband many times a day as her children were too young to be of much help. This devastating incident of her husband’s also left her as the lone support of her family, taking in boarders, mending, sewing, and raising livestock to keep the family afloat.
When her oldest son William became of age to help, he was called to join the ranks of the Mormon Battalion, though allowing him to do so was alluded to in her journal as being one of the greatest trials of her life. She and her husband and family, including William, all survived crossing the Great Plains, and settled in Cache Valley, Utah.
In the final years of her life she wrote, “The gospel is true. I have rejoiced in it through all my trials, for the Spirit of the Lord has buoyed me up or I should have failed” (Leonard Arrington and Susan Arrington Madsen, Sunbonnet Sisters, True Stories of Mormon Women and Frontier Life, Bookcraft (1984) ch. 3, pgs. 26-32).
Along those pioneer trails some things had to be sacrificed. Personal possessions had to be left behind as they added too much weight to the wagon or the handcart. This reminds me of a scripture in the Book of Mormon. In Alma chapter 22, Aaron has been teaching King Lamoni’s father about The Plan of Salvation, The Atonement, Repentance, and The Resurrection. In verse 15 we read:
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy. (Alma 22:15)
What is astonishing to most when they hear any pioneer story is that despite overwhelming trials both physical and emotional, they still managed to find immense joy in the gospel, and the thought of reaching “Zion” sustained them through every path they trod. They were willing to sacrifice to the point of giving up everything they owned, if needed, to get there.
The question for us then is, Can we do the same thing, though the nature of the trial may have changed? Will we shrink or shun in the fight for our faith and our beliefs? When the way gets a little bit rocky or difficult, will we stand courageously in defense of truth? When our neighbors, friends, or even family members shun us, refuse all association, or tell us as they did Drucilla that we can’t enter their homes because we are on the opposite side of a social issue than they are, who and what will we choose?
I again quote Elder M. Russell Ballard talking about the most important principle to apply in reference to the pioneers and their legacy: “Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, supra).
It is approaching the time when I will have occasion to be back on Temple Square once again. I will return to the exact same spot where priceless memories where made so many years ago with my Grandpa Forsyth. I will meet him at the Seagull Monument, though only in spirit. They sell bracelets at the Deseret Bookstore across the street that are meant for the youth of the church who are now going on pioneer trek reenactments at various locations all over the world. Those bracelets have little blocked letters on them: REMEMBER! Grandpa, I promise to always do that. When I’m there with you, those pioneer stories come alive for me. They strengthen my faith. They give me courage, strength, and fortitude. They nourish my testimony, and yes, they help me remember why I am proud to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Susan Porter is a native southerner from Jacksonville, Florida, and proud descendant of William Durrance, one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a small farming town in Northern Florida. He was baptized on December 27,1897. Because of her great-grandfather, she is a 4th generation Latter-day Saint. She is a wife of 36 years and counting, mother of two grown and married children, grandmother to two lively and wonderful grandsons, and a retired Registered Nurse. Her hobbies include: studying the gospel, gardening, cooking, and gathering recipes from Pinterest. She loves to hike in the beautiful Montana and Canadian Rockies, and her favorite vacation spot is Waterton, Canada. She lives in the great city and state of Great Falls, Montana with her husband Barclay Porter.
I used to think the purposes of the priesthood didn’t have much to do with me. It was like falling asleep at the wheel because I wasn’t on that particular road, didn’t care about the road signs, or was off in La La Land. One day, I realized I had some serious questions. My list was very long and the question at the top of the list was, “Why is there such a disconnect between the priesthood and the Relief Society?”
I quickly learned I was not the only one asking this question, but I suddenly had a burning desire to find out the answer. I have since learned that the Relief Society exists because of the priesthood. In fact, everything exists because of the priesthood, including my membership in this Church, my testimony, and my salvation. The journey has been one of pure joy as I have “awakened” at the wheel, have continued on my parallel road in line with the priesthood, partaking of the signs, honoring, and glorying in the priesthood as I benefit from it along with others on this earth. Continue reading
The Relief Society Declaration says that we are women who dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes. I hope we are. I pray we are.
Strengthening families is our sacred duty as parents, children, extended family members, leaders, teachers, and individual members of the Church.
The words of living prophets are clear regarding our sacred duty to strengthen our families spiritually. In 1995 the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation to the world, declaring that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . . Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. . . . Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, [and] to observe the commandments of God.” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; Liahona, June 1996, 10–11), (Robert D. Hales, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty, Apr. 1999 General Conference).
The Family: A Proclamation to the World is a truly prophetic document. It has been almost 19 years since the Proclamation came out, and since that time we have seen huge amounts of destruction to the family unit. All around me I see families falling apart. A few years ago, as a legal secretary in a family law office, I had the unfortunate responsibility of sorting through four banker’s boxes of child pornography to pick out the “worst of the worst” to show to a judge in a child custody case. I was supposed to teach a Relief Society Enrichment lesson that night, but I obviously did not have the Spirit with me. I finally just stood and told the sisters what I had been doing all day and begged their forgiveness.
WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102; Liahona, June 1996, 10–11).
We are seeing the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. These things are happening right before our very eyes. Yet, many of us continue to bury our heads in the sand in the interest of political correctness. If one dares to stand up and say, “This is wrong,” persecution abounds. There is a huge “anti-bullying” campaign going on right now—yet, just say something in support of the prophets and the family unit and see what kind of bullying comes your direction. I’m tired of the bullying. I’m sick and tired of the bullying. I will not be bullied! I will stand and say, “This is enough!”
THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World, supra.)
Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. Can that be made any clearer? We can sit around and murmur all we want like petty little Laman and Lemuel, or the people of Noah, but the prophets have spoken the word of the Lord. We need to be Christlike in our love of those who struggle, but there is a difference between showing love and condoning a sin.
We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all.
Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. (President Thomas S. Monson, Love—the Essence of the Gospel, Apr. 2014 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/05/sunday-morning-session/love-the-essence-of-the-gospel?lang=eng.)
It is not easy being a family. There are days when we all want to tear our hair out. Isn’t life supposed to be a test? I believe the biggest test of them all is the family unit. We need to be working on putting the family unit back together again—all of us as a world community. If we don’t, we are all in grave trouble.
We need to strengthen our marriages so that our children grow up with good role models. There are marriages that fall apart, but when that happens, we must make sure our children are surrounded with good role models in our extended family, or in our community. It is time to put the family first and foremost in our thoughts, words, and deeds. It is time to publicly stand up for the family unit. Don’t be afraid. Stand tall!
Almost every Sunday we raise our hands to sustain someone who has just received a new calling. Most of the time it’s an automatic reaction. Some Sundays we may not even notice the names of the people we are sustaining. It’s simply part of our Sacrament Meeting routine. Despite this failing on our part, it is actually a very sacred action and one we need to do with a thoughtful and prayerful heart. It is a critical motion with eternal consequences and it comes with responsibilities.
When we sustain someone, whether it is the nursery leader or the prophet, what are we really doing? We are not voting. We don’t get to choose who will serve in the calling. That was already done in a prayerful manner by the person who had the authority to do so. We are, instead, agreeing to accept callings from them if they are in a position to offer them. We are agreeing to help them in any way we can. We are promising to support them in their work and to speak well of them. We are committing ourselves to accepting that their call came from God.
This was brought home to me one day when I called and asked someone to substitute for me in Primary. She admitted that teaching Primary was not her favorite thing, but that she had raised her hand to sustain me when I was called, and so, accepting my request for help was part of the promise she had made to God that day. She substituted and worked hard to give my class a wonderful experience. I wondered then if I had ever worked so hard to carry out my covenant to sustain someone in a calling. I believe that is what sustaining someone is—a covenant with God.
“It is a serious wrong in the presence of the Almighty for one to vote to sustain the authorities of the Church and then to go away and oppose them and trample under foot the counsels that they give; and we will be judged of the Lord for it (President Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, 218–19).
Mormons, like everyone else, are opinionated people. We often have more experience than the person called to lead. We sometimes have personal beliefs that cause us to want things to be done differently than they are. However, once God has approved a calling, we are expected to become humble followers of this person. While this may seem hard or short-sighted, we will someday be the one who is sustained into a calling we are less qualified for. Then we will hope others will be patient and supportive during our time.
Jesus taught us to treat others the way we ourselves want to be treated. The Church is not like the world. We don’t always fill our positions with the most qualified person. Often the person in the calling is there because there is something he can learn from it. Other times he is there because there is a specific situation or person he can best help, even if he’s less qualified for other parts of the work.
God moves us around to various callings in order to help us grow. We are called to sustain them, whether or not we think they are qualified. God calls; God qualifies. Sustaining people is a covenant we make at the local level. It is also a covenant when we sustain the prophet and the apostles. We covenanted in the waters of baptism and in the temple to follow Jesus Christ and God, and we covenanted to follow the prophet as the Lord’s mouthpiece in our time. To do anything less is to violate our sacred covenants. To do anything less is to decide God made a mistake—and God never makes mistakes.
“When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that comes through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant” (David B. Haight, Solemn Assemblies, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 14–15).
To do otherwise is dangerous. Joseph F. Smith said:
“Men may become dissatisfied one with another, they may become dissatisfied towards the Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, or others, and may say in their hearts, “I do not like such an one; I do not believe he is as good as he should be, he has too many faults and weaknesses and, therefore, I cannot and will not acknowledge his authority, as I have not faith in the man.” Doubtless there are those, too many perhaps, who feel that way, but the trouble is, … just because they have become dissatisfied with the individual and harbored feelings of bitterness in their hearts against their brethren, they lose sight of the designs of the Almighty; they turn against the authority of the Holy Priesthood; and through their blindness allow themselves to be led astray, and at last turn away from the Church.”
Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 warns: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” There is so much safety in knowing God has provided us with a prophet to get through the last days of the world. It is one of His gifts of love to our children and our willingness to follow the prophet he has chosen is our message of how much we love and trust God. It is our testimony in action—and a testimony that is words without action does not have the power to bring us back home to God.
We just returned from visiting a small town called Montezuma Creek, in Southern Utah. Our daughter taught school there for one year, and we were moving her back home. As you gaze at the vast mountainous countryside, where the view literally takes your breath away, your breath stops short as you see house after house broken down but lived in, hollow and abandoned, or so small you wonder how a family could possibly live there together. Continue reading