Obtained a bachelor's degree in political science, a master's in ancient scripture, and a doctorate in educational psychology from BYU. Served with the LDS Church Educational System in Hayward and Palo Alto, California; Athens, Georgia; and Miami, Florida. Served as bishop in Newark, California, and Athens, Georgia, and as stake president of the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake. Served as president of the Mexico City North Mission 1996-99. After retiring from CES in 2004 have served four other missions with my wife: As CES area director in Central America 2004-2006; in Panama 2007-2009; again in Guatemala 2009-2011, this time as executive secretary to the Central America Area Presidency; and finally as a counselor in the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple presidency, 2013-2014. We are currently serving in the presidency of the Fort Lauderale Temple, enjoying serving being able to continue to serve while living at home. We thought we had reached our photo upload allowance at this site, so began a new blog at donandvirginiacazier.blogspot.com, but can no longer find how to add new posts there, though we can again at this site. Feel free to email us at email@example.com.
March 25 we left with about 34 other senior missionaries and others with President and Sister Mask of the Guatemala City Temple for a quick two day trip to Izapa and points of interest on the way, especially those which could have possible relationship to the Book of Mormon. President Mask served his first mission in Guatemala (as did his wife), and during his career with CES he continued his interest in the country and in Book of Mormon geography. His proposals sometimes differ from those of John Sorenson, author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon," but they often coincide with proposals made by other Book of Mormon students. Pictoral highlights of the trip follow:
Virginia at Los Aposentos, a somewhat unpretentious recreational area south of Chimaltenango, where springs come out of the ground. President Mask suggests this as a possible site for the Waters of Mormon. We had previously been partial to the Lake Atitlan idea, but President Mask makes a plausible case for its not being that far away. It was obviously close enough that those who wanted to find Alma to listen to him were able to do so. Los Aposentos is a couple of days journey from Guatemala City, the probable City of Nephi, whereas Lake Atitlan would be about a week away.
Another shot at Los Aposentos. The water is not quite so pure and beautiful today as it is in Mormon's description. Beautiful scene outside the Hotel Atitlan (on the shores of Lake Atitlan), where we stopped for lunch. The flowers are pretty, too.
Shot of the valley of Totonicapan, from the highway leading to Quetzaltenango. This valley is a candidate to have been the Valley of Amulon spoken of in the Book of Mormon.
Closeup of the farmer on the hillside near Totonicapan
Looking to the other side of the highway we see the valley of Quetzaltenango--possibly the site of the Valley of Alma, which was one day north of Helam.
Mostly completed temple of Quetzaltenango
Our tour group in front of the temple. Next to Virginia (on the right) is Duane Cheney, the construction supervisor. He also built the Panama Temple as well as a couple of others. He is from Virginia's ward in Heyburn, Idaho.
View of Quetzaltenango from the temple site. The temple is wonderfully and prominently located on a hillside on the west side of town.
Ladies doing wash at public "laundromat" near temple in Quetzaltenango.
Valley of Almolonga, south of Quetzaltenango, proposed as a possible site of the city of Helam, where Alma's people lived until discovered by the Lamanites and Amulonites.
Fruit stands on the road from Quetzaltenango to Retalhuleu
Our guide sharing bananas purchased from one of the fruit stands. The whole stalk (part of which has been taken off already) cost only a couple of dollars.
Entrance to Izapa. President Mask and some others feel this could be the location of Lehi's first landing as well as the later Bountiful to which the Savior came as recorded in 3 Nephi 11. We had previously visited the site in 1985, 1986, and 1988 with family members and friends only to see Stela 5, sometimes called the "Lehi Stone," and which some feel may represent the vision of the tree of life as recorded in 1 Nephi 8. It is incredible to us to think that we hadn't been back for 23 years, yet it seemed like it was yesterday.
Ceremonial site (post-Classic) on the east side of the road. We didn't spend too much time here.
Of greatest interest in this part of Izapa is this stone showing a man in a boat. On an earlier visit I had joked that it must be Lehi. It turns out there is a higher possibility of that being true than we had ever supposed. There is evidence that the stone is out of place, probably having been brought from the "Group A" collection where the "Lehi Stone" is located.
We're now on the trail to "Group A." Notice how green and lush everything is. The Mayans have a tradition that they came across the sea from a place they called something like "Bountiful" and called their new settlement in the New World by the same name.
Houses along the trail seemed to be competing with each other to see who could have the brightest colors. Here is the purple entry. A blue one was across the trail.
Here's a green one.
Here's one with both orange and green.
Here's the famous Stela 5, or "Lehi Stone." Is has eroded further since our last visit. Those wanting to study its detail will want to consult either earlier photos or drawings made of the carving.
Our group, with Virginia in the middle, in front of Stela 5. The protective roof is a bit bigger than it was when we were last there. It is too bad it was not installed many years earlier.
Looking north from Stela 5 to the rest of the "Group A" area, with mounds and stelae on all sides.
Pretty flowers on the trail on the way back.
Group B, which we didn't know anything about on previous visits and to which we never took our family. It turns out to be a fascinating temple complex, with three levels corresponding to the three sections of the Temple of Solomon and to the three levels of glory represented in LDS temples. It turns out to have been laid out with the same cubit measurement as was used in Solomon's temple, if I understand correctly. Some propose that this could be the temple site to which Jesus appeared following his resurrection.
Mango tree in area of temple complex
Human form protruding from the mouth of a creature which has characteristics both of a serpent and a jaguar. The flying serpent in scripture was a symbol for Christ. Some ask if this could be a representation of new birth (resurrection) through the Savior.
Finally, we stopped at the museum in Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa on the way back to Guatemala City and saw the fiberglass replica of Stela 21 that we've featured on this blog before, but we didn't have time to go see the stone itself in the cane field this time. President Mask feels this is a very significant artifact, depicting the birth of the seven tribes referred to in Mayan legends and which may correspond to the same seven groups mentioned in Jacob 1:13 and several other places in LDS scripture. The red arrow points to a symbol for a flint knife. "Flint" in Hebrew is said to be something like "Zoram." There is a possibility that the jawbone on the chest of the main character from which the seven tribes are springing is intended to be a name glyph for "Lehi," which is what "jawbone" sounds like in Hebrew. Underneath the flint glyph is one of a bat, and it is interesting that men in the Lake Atitlan area continue to wear jackets with the emblem of a bat on the back.
Those wanting any in-depth discussion of Izapa or other aspects of Book of Mormon geography or archaeology will, of course, want to consult the scholarly writings which can be found by doing a Google search for the same. We make no pretense to having any expertise in the field, but we do have an ongoing amateur interest in the subject, and we were grateful for the two day trip we enjoyed courtesy of the Masks.
This week we were favored with a visit from Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, General Primary President, and Sister Barbara Thompson, Second Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency of the Church. Both had training meetings Saturday with Primary and Relief Society workers, respectively, and Virginia and I attended Sister Wixom's session, given that Virginia is a counselor in the Primary and I'm the branch presidency counselor who advises Primary. We stayed for the fireside the two had for all sisters (and a few stray brethren), transmitted to the chapel we were in from another chapel in town via satellite. It was also carried to stake centers throughout the area in the same way. Monday evening we were able to have both sisters at the senior couples' family home evening dinner and program at the Clarkes' and Martino's patio.
Sister Wixom speaking to the family home evening group, with Sister Thompson seated.
The evening also served as a farewell for Elder and Sister Hatch, who were completing their mission. They lived across the hall from us and were an inspiration to all of us young 'uns, in that they were willing to come on a regular proselyting and member support mission when both were about 15 years older than most senior missionaries. (He's 82 and she's 80.) He worked hard at learning Spanish and gathered more referrals for the young missionaries to teach than all the rest of us put together. He is a former mission president and temple president and regional representative. This was the fourth mission for both as a couple. The above photo isn't the most flattering one we've ever seen of Sister Hatch, but both she and her husband have such a great sense of humor that they'll probably just laugh when they see it. Elder Clarke is paying tribute to them here, with Elder Martino looking on.
Virginia prepares to sing "As Sisters in Zion" with the other senior sisters from our apartments.