I was raised in a loving Methodist home in New York with my other 8 siblings (2 more adopted siblings were sealed to us years later). In 1964, (after a friend of ours signed a referral at the Mormon Pavilion at the World’s Fair in NYC), we had our first set of missionaries in our home. My mom was sensitive to the Spirit and truthfulness of the gospel right from the start, and wanted to be baptized; but she wouldn’t join without my dad who was having a hard time with the whole “Joe Smith” thing!

Many times the missionaries were counseled to “drop this family who didn’t seem to be progressing.” I am so grateful that they kept coming by.  Little did I know then at age 4, the impact that my membership in the church would have on my life now and hopefully throughout eternity. On October 16, 1969, five years later, my parents, Grandma, five siblings and I were baptized shortly after my 9th birthday. My three little brothers needed to wait a few more years due to age accountability.

After we were baptized, our next goal was to attend the temple. Now I know that there are over 120 temples now, but there weren’t in 1973. The closest temple to us living back on Long Island New York was the Salt Lake Temple, almost 2500 miles away.

Money wasn’t something that overflowed into our home, but that wasn’t going to stop us. My parents met with our best friend’s parents (the Kruger’s) and started the ball rolling.  We had always done everything together as families, our family even moved into their humble home for a month (which turned into five months) while we waited for our house to be built. Us kids even combined our last names of Kruger and Gandolph and still today call ourselves the Krudolph’s.  We knew a lot of planning, sacrifice and time along with faith, courage and endurance would need to take place to make this dream of becoming “forever families” true for all 19 of us, but we were so excited about it!

Everyday after school for the next three years, all of us kids sold candy door-to-door to earn money for our temple trip.  Nancy Kruger has scars on the back of her dog bitten leg to prove it.  Satan definitely was working overtime to attempt to stop our temple trip from ever happening. Remember, just because you are doing what is right does not mean that the road traveled will be easy!

I will be forever grateful to my mom for recording our cross country trip of love, faith, determination, fasting, prayer, adversity and especially spiritual power. There were SO many people involved that assisted in making our temple dream come true.  We purchased an old 1961 passenger school bus and painted on the side of it: “Temple Express – from here to Eternity.” You can imagine the looks we got driving across the country.

We had planned to leave New York on April 18th, 1973… but we couldn’t get the bus to pass inspection… they were so picky about the brakes working!

On the 19th of April, the bus miraculously passed inspection and by 1 a.m. on the 20th, we were on our way. Shortly after arriving in Pennsylvania, we needed a new fan belt, a tire blew, and some gadget went off the gas line, but $130 dollars later we were back on the road.  A very important time to document was at 10:38 am, when we passed our 1st moving vehicle.   At 11:30 however, we were educated to the fact that the gas gauge wasn’t working… but we were grateful that just adding some fuel to the tank will make the bus go again.

Shortly after lunch, as we are all looking at the sites (including the driver unfortunately) we hit the curb and knocked off a metal piece from one of the doors, so now only one door was working. We also noted that we seem to continually be losing power, and all being mechanically minded of course (NOT), we figured, “it’s probably just the spark plugs,” so we will just replace those.

The next day however, TRAGIC HOUR hit — the bus engine started smoking, then we heard a large noise. We were 30 miles from Chicago. We could see a gas station up ahead. It was pouring rain outside of course, but the men and boys got out and pushed the bus to the service station anyway.  Diagnosis?  Engine trouble! Water in the engine block. We needed help! We called the local church authorities and by 9 a.m., we had two missionaries as well as two men from a nearby ward. We pulled together and had a Family Prayer. We soon found out that we needed a new engine. Our parents talked to us and gave serious consideration to returning back home.  We didn’t have the dollars needed for the engine repairs.

Everyone was upset, but then Sharon and Jackie (seniors in high school) came forth and offered up their college savings. (They were the oldest girls from each family who had just been accepted to BYU).  Both sets of parents turned down their generous offer because “no, you girls have worked long and hard to save that money, your education is important.”  But then the girls reminded them of the power and goal of the adversary and that NOTHING was more important then being sealed to their families forever.  The adults were humbled and reminded of a scripture, “…and a little child shall lead them.”

Local church members come to our aid. Ward members fed and housed all of us, and probably for a lot longer then they had planned.   So many miracles and tender mercies took place there in Illinois. Sister Cooley (the Bishop’s wife) was Easter shopping and she decided to get ham. When she got to the checkout, she realized it was way too large, but the line was so long that she decided not to return it. Little did she know how many people were coming to her house for dinner.

My dad had a wisdom tooth pulled before our trip and it developed a painful infection.  is it any surprise that the Bishop in Illinois was a professor at the Northwestern school of dentistry? Many people at the ward in Chicago as well as from home in New York were all helping in anyway that they could. Truly our prayers were being answered. Easter Sunday, we were blown away at church, there were over 340 members in attendance compared to our 45 members back home, and our two families were half of them.

Still we continued to have our trials (my dad even ended up in the hospital from falling into the bus while working on the engine and wasn’t able to drive anymore) but the Lord sustained us and strengthened us.   It took days for many men working all day to literally rebuild the entire engine. Our parents we getting concerned about their jobs back home, money of course, and my oldest brother who was at his first year at BYU “waiting” for us to arrive in Utah.  But the Lord was with us, and after 5 days, we were miraculously back on the road again singing our hearts out to keep our spirits high.

We still continued to break down in every state (it had become a tradition by this point) but we just kept putting in another fan belt (up to our 6th by this point) and continued onward! In Wyoming we killed off the battery, fixed that problem and then started heading up the beautiful snow covered mountains (which we’d never seen before in real life) at a whopping 10 to 15 miles per hour, silently praying that we’d make it to the top. By noon, we had only 130 miles left to go. At 6 p.m., we FINALLY entered Utah! We all started singing “Come, Come, Ye Saints”. Our parents were having a hard time singing, but we made it.

The next day we visited Temple Square, and then we found out a girl that my brother at BYU was dating was the granddaughter of the Apostle, Elder LeGrand Richards. He wanted to meet us. It was amazing to all go into his office. My mom recorded the experience:

“When he bore his testimony to us, we were more than touched. If we had not been members of the church, we would have been after his testimony of a living prophet and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The next day was the long awaited (over three years planned for) day in the temple…May 1, 1973.  My mom recorded:

My words will only be feeble attempts at recording what happened from here on. How grateful we are to have been found worthy of the recommends we hold. All nineteen of us walked through the gate and into a temple of our Heavenly Father. The next four to five hours were as if time was suspended for us. It was like being in Heaven.  Everyone in the temple is dressed in white. It is so peaceful and so very beautiful. No picture could do it justice. You can’t imagine how Pat Kruger and I feel, being brides once again. Getting one’s own endowments is such a rich, spiritual experience. It’s so simple and yet so moving. We felt serene and spiritually alive all at the same time.

After the Endowment, we were lead into the Sealing Room where Tom and I and Bob and Pat were finally sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity! Then President Bowering opened the door to the sealing room, and in came our fifteen children, all in white. It’s hard to see through tears, but in all my life, I’ve never seen a more glorious sight.  Words haven’t been formed by man to tell of that moment. The tears ran from all our eyes unashamedly.

The extra blessing these moments afforded to our two families was the blessing of being there together. We had somehow sealed our earthly love and friendship towards each other for time and all eternity.  Our earthly lives have had many special moments, but none before now, will ever compare with this. Why anyone who is able or could easily make themselves able to go to the temple and does not is beyond my comprehension. There is no other way. I’ve had the pomp and circumstance of a church wedding, but I testify to you, this and this alone is the way our Heavenly Father meant for us to wed.”

On May 2, we were homeward bound, our mission accomplished, Satan had lost, and we had won. He basically didn’t even bother with us after that. The ride home went almost too smoothly. It took us 9 days to drive to Salt Lake City, and under 3 days to get back home. We then sold the bus and recouped all of our expense except for $200 per family.   Jacqui and Sharon, who had donated their savings for the bus repair, each received a letter from Elder David B. Haight of the Twelve.  Each of them received a tuition scholarship for their first year at BYU.

As our Stake President in New York had told us before we started our venture, “Satan will throw all he has at you. If you keep the faith and let nothing stop you, the Lord will bless you.”  I testify that the Lord never breaks His word. We have truly been blessed materially and spiritually.   Please prepare yourself to attend the temple, and go; you’ll never regret it.

My mom concluded this amazing temple odyssey in her journal thusly:

To close this journal, were Heavenly Father to show us today on one hand all the mishaps we would have, and on the other, the temple and all of us in the sealing room, we’d buy another bus tomorrow and strike out again!

Sincerely,

Jan Gandolph Vogelsberg

Gandolph