Last weekend Dawn and I attended the annual Mormon History Association Conference, held this year in St. George, Utah. I gave a presentation at the conference titled “Edson Barney: ‘The Oldest Man in the Church.’”
Edson was one of my great-great-grandfathers. A carpenter and millwright by profession, he lived in St. George from the 1860s until the turn of the century and helped build the tabernacle and the temple there. Between sessions of the conference I had a chance to shoot some photos of those buildings while Dawn patiently waited. The photographs turned out quite nice, so I thought I would share a few of them, interspersed with a few words about Edson. I hope this format doesn’t seem too disjointed.
The theme of the MHA Conference was “From Cotton to Cosmopolitan,” meant as a nod to the vast changes in Utah’s Dixie from the time of the first settlers in 1860 (sent by Brigham Young to establish a cotton industry) to the current era, where St. George has become a vibrantly growing city, a destination for snowbirds and a retirement Mecca. I took this shot of the St. George Temple at dusk, with setting sun illuminating the stream of a 21st century jet behind the 19th century steeple. I thought it captured well the theme of the conference.
Our destination for Saturday (the final day for Dawn and me) was Petra, recently named one of the seven “new” (meaning currently existing) wonders of the world and, according to BBC, “one of the 40 places you have to see before you die.” An absolutely spectacular historical site, it did not disappoint.
On Friday we were up early for our trip into Jordan. We passed through the various border checkpoints without incident and drove through miles of desert until we reached the beautiful area of Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon. It was here that Lawrence of Arabia based his operations during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18 and I can certainly understand why.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, named in honor of the book written by T. E. Lawrence.
Today was our last day in Jerusalem and our first stop was the spectacular Dome of the Rock mosque on Temple Mount. It is the oldest existing example of early Islamic archictecture, and was completed in 691 CE. It stands on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The outer walls are made of porcelain and the designs mirror the octagonal shape of the mosque.
The reason we decided to tour Israel this year was because our longtime friends, Joe and Marilyn Bentley, were serving a term as directors of outreach at The BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. This was the day we would get to visit with them.
This day we drove to Bethlehem to see the place where Jesus was born. Actually, nobody really knows the precise birthplace, but that hasn’t stopped Christian churches from building monuments on or near the supposed site. Well, if it wasn’t there (as Dan Peterson often said), it was somewhere nearby.
This is the Church of St. Catherine, operated by the Roman Catholics, which is actually adjacent to the supposed birthplace. But it was the most picturesque thing I saw in Bethlehem, so it gets first-page prominence.
The next day we packed up our things, left our hotel on the Sea of Galilee, and headed south toward the Dead Sea. We were already below sea level, but we headed even lower—in fact to the lowest place on earth that isn’t under the sea. The temperatures as we descended, but fortunately we never experienced unbearably hot weather. It got into the 90s on this day, but that was the peak.
Our first stop was at Masada. Most people have heard the story of the people of Masada; it has been the subject of TV documentaries and even a miniseries starring Peter O’Toole.
Our first stop on Sunday was at Bet She’an, a city of great historic importance, sitting at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. It is one of the oldest cities in the ancient Near East and was first settled five to six thousand years ago. It became a crossroad of commerce during ancient times. Archeologists have been digging in the area for some time and in the process have revealed a fascinating insight into the life of the Greeks and Romans as they controlled the city in the centuries before and after Christ. At that time Bet She’an was the capital of the Decapolis cities.
This street must have been magnificent in its day.