Non-LDS caretaker watches over Sacred Grove

Scattered throughout what Mormons call the Sacred Grove are a few living witnesses of the First Vision of Joseph Smith. These are the trees that were there in 1820 when young Joseph saw God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

Today about 150,000 people come each year, walk through the grove and pass by these silent witnesses: beeches and ironwoods that were among those trees that Joseph thought would burst into flames when touched by the glory of God.

There are no monuments. No signs. No indication which trees are which.

One man knows these trees like a shepherd knows his flock. For 45 years, he has walked the paths of the Sacred Grove. For almost a dozen years, Bob Parrott has been its caretaker.

Parrott, owner of Custom Forestry Services in Palmyra, remembers how the grove used to be.

"It was just open and park-like. It was so open that from one side you could see right out the other side. Every tree and branch and twig that came down was cleaned up and hauled away," Parrott said in a telephone interview. "It was pretty -- and some people like that parklike appearance -- it bore little or no resemblance to the forest that the Smiths would have encountered or that Joseph would have gone to."

It was almost an artificial environment with little wildlife and almost no indigenous wildflowers.

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