Thursday, January 6, 2022

Tribute to a great friend & wonderful man, VERNAL GARTH NORMAN, with photo albums of 2017 TRIPS TO IZAPA, & TO VALPARAISO

I must say as my TRIBUTE TO GARTH, that one of my major efforts in a life-time of serving the Lamanites in Guatemala and elsewhere, was getting for Garth the photographs he has used over more than half a century to fulfill what he believed deeply was, after his family,  his main mission on earth in promoting understanding and belief in the Book of Mormon, as the sacred record of the believers in ancient America.  If there ever was a Latter Day Saint who took seriously the Lords admonition in Doctrine & Covenants 84, it was Garth.  I refer specifically to the following key portions of that revelation:

54. And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief and because you have treated lightly  the things you have received.

55. Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

56. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

57. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but TO DO according to what I have written.

58.  That they might bring forth fruit …….  

GARTH, along with his loving wife, Cheryl, produced fruits sweet to the taste!

In 1963 I met Garth on my first return trip to Guatemala after my mission had ended in 1958. Four of us made the trip by bus to Mexico City, and from there we traveled by railroad to Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border.  I believe this was Garth first trip in his life-long study of the Izapa archaeological site, located between Tapachula and the Guatemalan border,  as well as others related to it. 

Garth remained with a friend in Mexico following his interest in Izapa.  I continued with an ex-missionary companion to Guatemala in what I called my First Exploratory Trip—of  4 as part of my 9 years of preparation to move to Guatemala and continue my life-long cause of helping the Mayan people.  

Three years later, when I was working some as a freelance photographer with professional 4"x 5" cameras and capability of night photography, Garth contacted me and we planned an expedition in my pickup with camper I converted into a dark room to develop on site the photographs to make sure I was getting what Garth needed. This was the 3rd Exploratory Trip.  There would be one more—with  my entire family for 2 ½  months, prior to our leaving for good and arriving in Guatemala on August 19, 1967. It was said that "You'll come running home in 6 months with your tail between your legs!"  I finally returned 35 years later in 2002, but continued as a volunteer managing the Foundation for 15 more years, celebrating our GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY on August 19, 2017, when I retired the Foundation. 

Below you see Garth in the door of the camper examining the first good photographs of the Tree of Life Monument.  If you have seen photos of it, more than likely they are photos we got on that expedition.  

The much used photograph I got at night using my Honda generator and photo flood lights coming in from the sides so the relief would pop out--which relief was not visible otherwise.

After the photo shoot in the jungles of Izapa, Garth continued with me to the isolated Coban region of Guatemala where I would eventually live with my family for 35 years.  We followed a backcountry road crossing the country along what Garth and I believed was the chain of mountains that was the BOOK OF MORMON's "narrow strip of wilderness" that stretched from the "west sea" to the "east sea."  
After a couple of days with me in the Coban area, Garth took a bus to Guatemala City, and flew home.  I remained for several weeks doing my investigations, and then headed home, but treating myself as I traveled for malaria acquired in the jungles of Izapa when I turned on my photo flood lights and all the mosquitos converged on me.  I made the entire trip to the U.S. without being able to eat, including one more visit to the Mexico City Anthropological Museum to get another picutre or two for Garth, and survived during that long trip on soda pop--spending more on it, than on gasoline.  
Garth got the photos he needed for his subsequent publications which have made him famous as the world-wide expert on the Izapa site and the Tree of Life Stelae, photos you will see him using in the Izapa Visitor Center 51 years after we got them on that 1966 expedition.
We lost track of each other for many years until around 2013-2015 when we met by chance in the Fresh Market Parking lot in American Fork, Utah.  Out of our friendship renewal he invited me again to be his photographer on a Trip to Izapa in 2017--which photos follow with no explanation, and then we traveled back to Guatemala City, and on to the Valparaiso Community I had established in 1981 where we met with the people and explained  our purpose, and the importance of what was the Valparaiso Plantation I owned for 26 years.  I will insert some caption information in that photo report that we'll see last. 
In these two photo reports I'm showing some of the last wonderful efforts of Garth to investigate, do research, explore, and make some of the most astounding discoveries of our era--both for scientists, and for those of us who believe very profoundly in the BOOK OF MORMON as the ancient record of the Mayan people that was lost, but now is being taken back to them as their Sacred Book.  

This is the photo I took in 1966 using night photography

Garth checking to make sure I was getting quality photos.


Leaving Guatemala City on the Atlantic Highway.

As we drop down into a hot desert area we see to the north the mountains we have to climb to get to Alta Verapaz..."The High Land of Eternal Peace." 

After a a banana split we will begin our climb into the coolness of the pine covered "Mountains of the Maya"

From high up in the mountains we view at the half-way point the Valley of Salama.

Now we are winding our way through rain forests where is found the National Park to the Quetzal Bird, Guatemala's National Bird.

Viewing with amazement the steep mountain sides with the Mayan's corn fields, where it is said that the Indians wear out first the brim of their hats in contact with the mountain side above them as they work with their giant hoes.
I've inserted a picture of the sign we had there for many years.  Sorry for a sort of sloppy job with Photoshop, but you'll get the point anyway.  

The elementary school  we built in 1981, on the edge of the community, now has 400+ students in the morning, and a Junior High School in the afternoons, almost non-existent in rural schools in Guatemala.

The Valparaiso Community seen from the west dominated by the LDS Chapel of the Valparaiso Ward.

Nearby is the deep Chixoy Canyon,  the river believed to be the Book of Mormon's Sidon River that cuts through the "narrow strip of wilderness," and from here flows north through Guatemala's Peten--the Book of Mormon's "land of Zarahemla," and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico or the "north sea." 
We made a quick trip down into the Canyon to satisfy Garth's curiosity--all of which you can see in the YouTube video of both trips, links found at the end of this report. 

Then lunch at the home of Elvira who grew up in our Central House calling me "papa." The young lady is Aura, my adopted daughter. The fellow in the blue shirt is my Foundation representative with whom I worked as brothers and partners for 42 years, and in my book is called, "THE VOLUNTEER OF ALL VOLUNTEERS."  Elvira we called "the miracle baby" as after dying, she was miraculously brought back to life in a "Biblical-like miracle," story told with her pictures in my book about the 50 years of helping the Mayas.

Now we are in the Valparaiso Communal Hall, preparing our lectures.

The people are beginning to gather for the sort impromptu gathering, in their Communal Hall.  If you go through my 557 page book on my life among the Mayas, you will perhaps be a bit more impressed even with the Valparaiso Community, compared to what they had before we went to work.  I'll insert a picture below on the right of life there in 1968 when we became owners. None of the 39 families had an outhouse and their homes and home sites were literally "incubators for disease and death!"

Garth listens attentively to me speaking reminding the people about their Legend of the Holy Man, and its Book of Mormon equivalent which mural I had  as part of our Museum of the Holy Man, in the entrance to our last home in Guatemala we see below.  The artefacts we see a few pictures of below are all from Valparaiso. 

When we were selling our farm to return to the U.S. after 35 years in the country, the Mayan Priest from Santa Cruz Verapaz, asked if I wouldn't give him the mural as he said, "It is a perfect representation of our Legend of the Holy Man."  He put it in his ritual room as we see below.

In my remarks to the people that day, I reviewed all of the above, and then focused on the history I had with the people there at Valparaiso.   
A couple of years after becoming the owners, creating a lake, and with the help of a tractor the Guatemalan Foundation helped us with, we cleared a portion of the land and mowed it--I was maybe thinking of creating a golf course, but mounds of an ancient city became very visible, especially when a friend showed up and took me up in his airplane,  as seen below.  
A few years later Archaeologist Rick Hauck from Bountiful, Utah began coming every year and revealed to us what the trench on the periphery of Valparaiso was--making Valparaiso an Ancient Fortified City, and he along with Garth, believed it was likely the Book of Mormon's City of Helam.  
I reviewed for the people that it was discovered that Valparaiso had been an Ancient Fortified City, fortified with trenches on the perimeter--as described in Alma 53 of the Book of Mormon, with communication trenches going down inside the community, and then the last line of defense in the center, with a remnant of a trench 2,000 years old and silted in seen  crossing the picture below. 
I reminded them of the mistranslation in the Book of Mormon, of the word "trench," or "ditch" which in Spanish is translated as "foso," which means "hole,"  and doesn't make sense.  It should be "zanja" which all of a sudden has the book becoming clearly understandable, and related to what surrounds them.  
Here, on the edge of the Community, is what French archaeologists determined many years ago was the Religious Center of the ancient community.  Below we see it from Google Earth with mounds being clearly evident if you look carefully. 

I'll insert a picture or two from ground level showing the mounds.

We discovered a hole in the middle of the complex and could see in it a round Maya altar, that originally was likely covered with plaster.  It wasn't easy, but we got it out of the hole and put it at the entrance to my home at the Farm of the Holy Man, seen below.

I asked my son Nephi to take a picture of me praying at the altar, and suddenly my guard dog, GOKU, joined me, and Nephi clicked off this incredible shot.  One day I hope to learn if he really knew what he was doing with me.

I began as translator for Garth in his remarks, teaching them about Izapa, and telling the story of our expedition together in 1966

He related how I had got pictures of the Tree of Life Monument, and how it is a perfect representation of the dream of Lehi in the Book of Mormon, and is on the Pacific coast as that was likely the landing site of the migration from Palestine.  
He mentioned what the POPUL VUH, the Sacred Book of the Mayans,  says in the Preface, that the original sacred book of the Mayans described how they had come across the many waters in a migration to the coasts of Guatemala.  

All during the two lectures, one of my first Vocational Students in 1968-69, Pablo Xona, who later for all my years there was a faithful employee and leader, can be seen below doing as I taught my students to do--TAKE NOTES.  

Then, for better understanding we were told of one of the young men who is studying on the university level, knew English, and could effectively translate into Pokomchi Garth's remarks.  The entire group all of a sudden came alive!

Abinadi, who was our traveling companion from Utah, saying goodbye to his new friends, including a couple of LDS missionaries.  It was his father from Guatemala City who provided the transportation for us to Izapa and then to Valparaiso, 

We bid farewell to the Valparaiso Community, and to some of my people I lived and worked with for 35 years.
Mariita Max de Laj, 
we see above is the little girl on the left sitting on the dirt floor around their cooking fire we see below in a July 1971 issue of the ENSIGN.
Soon after the above picture was taken, she became deathly sick, and I remember vividly lovingly carrying her in my arms all across the valley to the Central House where she was treated and saved.  It was the first among many times, including in recent years when I received cell phone calls about her having a stroke and subsequent efforts were made to save her--again, and again!

We bid farewell to Valparaiso for what most likely is the final ADIOS for me and for Garth!
Below are links to YouTube videos from the last trips with Garth to Izapa and Valparaiso.




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