Holiness to the Lord, the story of John Rowe Moyle

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 45 comments

Last night in the General Priesthood session of the October 2008 General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was discussing the need for Latter-day Saints to “Stand close together, and lift where you stand” (here), encouraging us not to aspire to callings, nor to shun them.

He recounted the story of John Rowe Moyle, a master of stonework who came west with the earliest handcart companies in 1846.  He settled in Alpine Utah, which was nearly 22 miles away from downtown Salt Lake City.  He was called to be a stone mason on the Salt Lake Temple.  In order to fulfill his calling, and to be to work by 8:00 in the morning, every Monday Brother Moyle would wake up at 2:00 a.m., and begin his long walk over the hill, and through the valley to the temple of the Lord.

He would spend the week in Salt Lake, working on the temple, and then on Friday, at 5:00 p.m., he would start the long walk home, where he would tend to the duties of his farm over the weekend.

One weekend, while tending to his farm, he was kicked as one of his cows bolted while milking, resulting in a compound fracture to his leg.  In the lack of any sophisticated medical help at the time, the only available solution for his injury was amputation.  His family and friends removed a door from its hinges, and strapped him onto it, and then removed his leg with a hacksaw.

As soon as he was able, once he could sit up in bed, he took a piece of wood, and using his carving skills, carved an artificial limb for himself so that such a little thing like the loss of a leg would not prevent him from walking each week to work on the temple.

As soon as he was able to stand the pain from walking on his stub leg, he again journeyed to the temple, and resumed his work, which he did for many years to come.

Amongst other stone work, Brother Moyle was responsible for carving the “Holiness to the Lord” stone upon the east side of the temple (images below).

Here is a map of how far he walked.  According to Google Maps, it says that drive (in a car, with a freeway) would take 55 minutes (click the map to view in Google Maps, with the ability to zoom, for better appreciation of scale).

(click image above for a larger view)

(Click image above for a larger view)

On Temple Square, there’s a sculptor of John Rowe Hoyle pushing a handcart with his wife (click for a larger view).

(Click image above for larger view)

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Malone October 6, 2008 at 1:42 AM

Rusty, thanks for taking the time to share this story and illustrate it in a manner that brings it to life. Well done!

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2 Margaret D October 6, 2008 at 7:17 AM

Rusty, even though I heard about these talks from my husband, it’s great to read about them with pictures. Brother Moyle’s story is so inspiring. Much of what we do pales in comparison to his dedication. Whenever I see “Holiness to the Lord” on any Temple now, I’ll think of him and his willingness to serve. Thanks!

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3 Jared Tanner October 6, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Thanks for sharing that story and the pictures. I’ve always loved it since Elder Holland told the story in the April 2000 conference. I’m a huge fan of your blog – I just discovered it last week through StumbleUpon. Keep up the good work.

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4 Rusty Lindquist October 6, 2008 at 7:27 PM

Absolutely my pleasure. I’m trying to figure out a way to use either Google Earth or Microsoft Earth to plot the path he would have most likely taken, and use it’s “fly” technology to actually move up and down the mountain, and then accross the valey and record it as some sort of “time-accelerated” travel, just to show how far that walk would be. That kind of visualization would really put things into perspective.

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5 Dorothy M. Thompson January 26, 2009 at 2:33 AM

My great grandfather was a stonemason from England and a pioneer of 1850 – it makes me curious to know if they knew each other. Great grandpa worked on the Nauvoo and the Salt Lake Temple, as well as constructing many of the homes and buildings in Salt Lake. I haven’t purchased the DVD of his story yet , however, I think it would be a neat thing to share with my sisters. That was truly an amazing thing for him to walk so far to work on the temple ! Our pioneers surely were dedidcated people , weren’t they?? Thanks for listening…..

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6 Bill Nicholas February 10, 2009 at 6:52 PM

I just saw the movie at the St George visitors center his life story. The faith and belief of one man is something that just brought tears to my eyes,it certainly has made a real impact on my life. It shows that if you have faith in the Gospel no hard ship can defeat you.

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7 Bill Nicholas February 10, 2009 at 6:55 PM

Please give me a rely on my previous comment

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8 Mark Bales February 14, 2009 at 9:46 PM

It looks like the photos . . . but how do you know the hand cart man is John Moyle?

Any insight on his wooden leg and articulating ankle?

(I’m teaching a TFOT lesson next week.)

Thanks,
Mark Bales
Hauula, Hawaii

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9 Martin Hardle June 5, 2013 at 8:18 PM

Mark,
There are several mark Bales out there. Did you live in the SanFrancisco Bay area in the mid ot late 70’s? late

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10 Margaret February 15, 2009 at 3:59 PM

I have the DVD distributed by Excell Entertainment. In the “The Making of” part they tell us that when the statue of the hand cart man was cast, it was made to be his (John Rowe Moyle’s) image to honor him. It also tells how he designed and created his wooden leg. An ingenius design for the times. If you lived closer, I’d let you borrow my copy.

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11 Melissa April 15, 2009 at 11:35 AM

Where do you think I could order this DVD?

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12 Margaret April 15, 2009 at 11:52 AM

It is available through Deseret Book.

http://deseretbook.com/store/product/5018548

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13 Ryan Moyle April 17, 2009 at 10:17 PM

He is my fourth great grandpa.

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14 Rusty Lindquist May 4, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Ryan,

That is so awesome! I’m so glad that you posted.

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15 Lore Moyle Rencher May 30, 2009 at 1:03 PM

The map was especially interesting to me and my family. I am the oldest of 8 children and John Rowe Moyle is our third great grandfather. The story is very special to our family of course, and serves all of us to put our priorites in order. Thanks!

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16 Mary Blomfield October 4, 2009 at 9:19 AM

I heard this story between conferences this weekend and was so impressed by it I had to look it up on the internet. Thank you for writing it. It has certainly inspired me to serve more diligently without complaint.

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17 Liz Kelly October 6, 2009 at 7:25 PM

Do you know if it is possible to purchase a copy of that pioneer handcart sculpture? We don’t live anywhere near Utah and therefore don’t have access to LDS artwork.

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18 Ariana evans October 12, 2009 at 10:17 AM

I love this place it is so cool and inspiring. I am doing a report in school on him. I am only twelve but he is so insperational to me. Please email me information on him so I can do the best report on him ever!

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19 Allison Reeder October 12, 2009 at 10:32 PM

Great, then you should also know that John was also practicing polygamy. When Phillippa Beer his first wife was around 50 years old, John also married Mary Ann Williams and fathered two children with her. She was much younger and much prettier than Phillippa Bear. You can see a picture of the family at http://johnrowemoyle.org

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20 Allison Reeder October 12, 2009 at 10:52 PM

Below is a link to a sketch of the shack where the polygamist John Rowe Moyle had tucked his other wife. “Plural Wife”

http://johnrowemoyle.org/jrm/gallery/album02/Mary_Ann_Williams_Moyle_house_drawing

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21 Ariana Evans October 13, 2009 at 10:28 AM

Thanks a lot Allison! I know i’ll do a great job

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22 Rusty Lindquist October 13, 2009 at 12:36 PM

Liz – I’m unsure whether or not you can find that particular sculpture elsewhere, I think perhaps your best bet would be to search through http://www.deseretbook.com, or other LDS book shops. Although a quick search I just did didn’t yield any positive results. Good luck though, let me know if you find one somewhere and I’ll post a link!

Ariana – I’m so glad you’ve found the site. I’m afraid all I can offer is the information I’ve found here. As Allison provides above, you can also find more information at http://www.johnrowemoyle.org.

Allison – I’ve not done the research to confirm or deny that he was a polygamist, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Polygamy was common among the saints at the time, and it certainly does nothing to diminish the respect I have for him for his sacrifices.

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23 ariana December 4, 2009 at 5:22 PM

thank you so much all of you!i just really need to know how he found the mormons /how he became mormon. if you guys have any info on that i would really appreciate it! thanks again!:) -Ariana

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24 Allison Merrill May 7, 2010 at 6:37 PM

Hello Rusty,

I just watched the DVD “Only a stonecutter” about John Rowe Moyle, and I can’t tell you how emotional I felt. I was really touched and humbled to learn about his story and the faith, sacrifices and dedication he made to help build up the Kingdom of God on earth.

My family also had a chance to visit the Daughters of Pioneer Museum in Salt Lake City earlier this year, and saw John Rowe Moyle’s wooden leg on display in a glass case, I had to admit, I cried.

Thanks for sharing this story. God bless!

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25 Jane May 18, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Thanks for this! I’m also a third great grandchild of his. He raised my grandmother :] And I love hearing about him. The images were also helpful. I’ve got one at home of him that I don’t think is online – I should get to work and help out the family!!

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26 Cameron Hess September 25, 2010 at 4:52 PM

The caption for the Temple Square handcart photo has Moyle’s name misspelled as “Hoyle”. Can it be corrected?

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27 Katherine Harvey January 30, 2011 at 10:56 AM

wow… it is truly amazing that this man could walk that far with a bad leg. he was truly a servant of the lord. i want to be like that someday.

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28 Rusty Lindquist February 17, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Katherine,

I totally agree. What inspirational dedication.

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29 Michelle March 21, 2011 at 3:34 PM

This story has become more and more embellished each time it’s been told. Moyle was only one of many who worked on the carving of this stone (and it’s only “believed” that he was one who did). It wasn’t completed until 1885 and Moyle would have been 77 years old by then. There’s no way he could have walked that distance (22 miles) in 6 hours as a young man on two good legs…let alone walking that far as an old man on only one good leg. He was also working off the debt he owed Brigham Young towards the Emigration Fund by doing the stone carving on the temple. One has to wonder IF this story is true….why Brigham Young wouldn’t have at least loaned Moyle one his many fine horses to ride to and from the job each week? It’s all pretty unbelievable and actually impossible when you study the details, facts, and dates.

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30 Rusty Lindquist March 24, 2011 at 9:52 PM

Interesting. I’m certainly one for accuracy, but I’m also not one just to take down a post, or modify a story because someone comes along and casts dispersions on it.

It’s clear you feel strongly about it, but I’m trying to understand precisely what is it that concerns you? Are you afraid that we might be inappropriately inspired?

Can you provide anything other than your own doubt?

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31 Michelle March 26, 2011 at 3:12 PM

On the Moyle family genealogical website, it was posted by a family member asking for more information on this story because no one in their family had ever heard of this until general authorities started speaking about it. Each time it was referred to, the story became more and more embellished. The family researcher asked for any references or if anyone knew of any journal entries or documentation because none of them could find anything on it. John Rowe definitely worked on the temple as a stone cutter off an on for years, but it was his son, James Henry who was called by Brigham Young to “superintend the construction of the S.L. Temple”, NOT John Rowe as related in the talks by general authorities. Many stories told in conference and other places are embellished to make them more faith promoting, but in reality they did not happen as told (if at all….an example is the story of the mother burying her children in the frozen ground with a teaspoon). Just think about this realistically. An older man walking over rough ground (sometimes through the snow) 22 miles and it only taking him 6 hours? Others have tried to re-enact this (in much better conditions) and it has taken them at least 11 hours to walk this distance to the temple. Add to that, doing it on only one good leg and it becomes nearly impossible!! Where were all the good Christlike saints while he was doing this? What does this say about the Mormon saints and leaders during that time? Do you honestly believe they’d just stand by and watch this 77 year old man WALK to the temple??? Try to think of this logically instead of emotionally.

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32 jodironi July 18, 2011 at 11:08 AM

JRM was a stone mason and consequently would have done a portion of his work at the stone quarry. It is believed that many of the times that his work was required at the temple that he would hike to the quarry and then hitch a wagon ride to the temple site. You are correct that he would have been too old to complete the carving on the side of the temple. John left the completion date empty and it is apparent in the different style of carving. He was dead before the completion date. He was a man of true grit. He was a man of faith. He loved the Lord and was faithful to the end in his call for service. Whether you believe this or not is not important. I have a copy of his patriarchal blessing and that is more cherished than his honored story of sacrifice. He loved God. He knew he was called to further this great work and he did. There is no proof of Joseph Smith and his first vision either. But it did in fact occur. Logic does not require faith. All truth can be taught by the Holy Ghost. For it will teach us the truth of all things. John loved his family. He did what he knew he must to protect and provide for them. Story set aside. He has an amazingly bright lasting legacy that lives on in his descendants. Your viewpoints have intrigued me. I will continue to read and ponder on this man and his example.

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33 Rusty Lindquist March 27, 2011 at 4:21 AM

Michelle,

Actually I’ve always found General Authorities to be exceptionally careful with accuracy.

Did you know that the average brisk pace of a human is approximately 4 miles an hour (verified by multiple sources… just Google it).  

At 4 miles an hour, to cover 22 miles would take 5.5 hours. The thought of his 6 doesn’t seem so far fetched to me (BTW, 11 hours is a lumbering 2 mile an hour pace). 

Coincidentally, my neighbor has one leg, and walks on a wooden prosthetic. He’s a professional water skier, and can out pace me in any walking competition because of his lengthy stride. So I think it’s entirely within the realm of logic to accept the story as told.

What’s more logic is a poor determinant of truth. Going exclusively off logic, Christianity would fall to it’s knees.  Moses? Lazerous? Any of the Bible stories. Come to think of it, were logic to rule exclusively, I wouldn’t have  done any of the things in my life that I currently find most meaningful.

So I am happy to go on being both proud of, and inspired by, dear old Mr Moyle.

But thanks for the discussion. 

Rusty

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34 Rusty Lindquist March 28, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Michelle

Your last comment was removed. There are few things I like more than really good discussions, even when people disagree with me. But once it becomes silly and disrespectful I simply remove them. That’s just trolling, and I simply delete posts like that.

Of course accuracy is valuable to me, so if you can point me to specific locations to verify your claims about the Moyle family, I’d be happy to research it further. But I’m not simply going to change my mind because of a random post on my blog. Now that would be silly. Especially because several of the Moyle family have posted on my blog and we’ve discussed Brother Moyle, and the farm of his that is now open for visitors to go and see and hear this story themselves. Your random claim that they think it didn’t happen seems to be a bit contradictory to so much else.

Add to that your clear anti-mormon intent (especially evident in your last comment), and you’re silly to think I’d just believe you without research. There’s now a DVD out about it (not from the church), which I assume you’ll claim is fantasized too.

Now, where is it exactly that I can go verify your claims?

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35 Michelle March 28, 2011 at 12:59 PM

This was posted on the family genealogical website in 2008 (a copy & paste):
“Authored by: Derk Phelps on Sunday, November 09 2008 @ 04:42 PM MST
Does anyone have any documented sources for the JRM temple inscription story?
The earliest story we have is dated about 1978 from a Theodore M. Burton talk, nothing else. All references we have found relate to this talk.”

(By the way, Rusty….the “M.” in Burton’s name is for Moyle….so he must be a descendant….but no one can find where he got this story from. Maybe HE had a family journal containing it?)

Many family researchers have tried to find the sources for this story (and have done follow up posts to the original one above), but none have been found as of this date.

And…just because some family members today believe the story, proves nothing. Nor does the fact that there’s been a movie made. But, I’m sure you already know this. I’m sure Moyle was a wonderful, faithful man and I’m sure going to the museum, etc. would be extremely interesting.

I completely respect your right to believe what you choose. But, I think it’s wrong to start having young teenagers walk this distance based on a story that isn’t even factual. Yes, Moyle was a stone cutter who worked on the temple. But the rest of this story cannot be verified and logic tells anyone that much of it has been embellished to make it more faith promoting. There were even long periods of time (years) when no one was even working on the temple (this is documented in Brigham Young’s writings and other documents).

As far as the wives of Joseph Smith, the church has had to recognize this to be true now even though they do not publicly discuss it (but his 33 wives are all posted on lds.org now) and at least 9 of them were teenagers when Joseph married them (some as young as 14) and 11 of them were wives of other men when Joseph married them (this is all well documented in William Clayton’s sealing records and journals and also in other contemporary records…thus the church has had to recognize them as truth). Most of these marriages were done behind the back of Emma (these young teenage girls were nearly all living with the Smith’s helping Emma with housework and her children), and also behind the backs of the husbands of the married women (many of the men were sent out on missions by Joseph and this occurred while they were gone). It’s all very well documented. I’m not an anti-Mormon for sure….but I am pro-Truth. I’m an active member of the church, BIC, and married in the temple. But I just wish the true church history would be discussed instead of white washed and I wish that our leaders would trust the members enough to be honest with us. My testimony is strong enough to know the real truth, accept it, and still bear strong witness of the truthfulness of the gospel.

Here’s a good website listing the wives of Joseph Smith (with good references….most available through Deseret Books):
http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/

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36 Ronda Love May 28, 2011 at 9:41 PM

I as a Young Women President have decided to take my girls on a 22 mile walk from the Oquirrah Temple to the Jordan River Temple then on to the Salt Lake Temple where their parents will meet them to take them home. I was inspired to do this because of hearing of others who had done similar things and I feel like it is important to challenge our youth to do hard things. This story is nice to tell them, but there are a whole list of other good reasons to have them do the walk rather than to reenact the events of this story. To me, it is sad that there is so much controversy being discussed over this story. We are not able to talk to brother John Moyle to verify any of it, and if he kept as good a record as some people we may never really know the whole truth about it, but it does not benefit anyone to drag good names through the mud just to prove that someone else might be wrong, and that we may be right.
We can not possibly understand why some things happened the way they did back in the day of President Joseph Smith or Brigham Young because their ways are not our ways, and they were still learning, as are we. And every Prophet is still just a man; even though he is a servant of the Lord with all the Priesthood keys, he is still able to make mistakes and learn and improve his understanding. That is the way communication through the spirit works we don’t receive things spell out in black and white step by step instructions.
Many a good principle can be taught through a good story regardless of the embellishment that may or may not be included; after all, it is up to each of us to seek guidance through the spirit to teach us the truthfulness of the principles we are taught.
And enduring a 22 mile walk will leave a great impression on my Young Women, and just being willing to participate because they have been asked to is a great example of obedience and cooperation that is a good character builder.
Thank you Brother Lindquist for making this story available to me.

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37 Ronda Love June 11, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Well, I did it. I walked the twenty two mile route from the Oquirrah Mountain Temple to the Salt Lake Temple and it was very inspiring. You can say what ever you want about the story, but I would just like to say that I hope I live the kind of life that will inspire others to want to do great things, especially my own children.

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38 Ronda Love June 11, 2011 at 4:47 PM

I should say that I took twelve teenage girls and 12 adults to walk this great twenty two mile walk. They were strong and courageous and energetic and inspirational and did not complain. Twenty two miles is not really too far; it is definitely hard, but it is just the right kind of hard to push someone outside their comfort zone and find out what they are really made of. 😀 Happy Day, all is well.

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39 Alan June 18, 2011 at 7:33 AM

Rhonda,
That’s nice you had a great 22 mile walk with your girls. It doesn’t really matter whether this story is fable or fact (I tend to believe it is more of an embellished fable), it can still be inspiring even if it’s fictional (think of the parables of Jesus). I just don’t feel it should be presented as factual when it hasn’t been proven to be the truth even by the actual family members of Moyle (who have done extensive research to try to find any basis for this story).

These websites have been mentioned on here already, but I do highly recommend them for anyone interested in learning a few documented and accepted (by the church itself) facts regarding the Mormon Church, its founder, and its history:

http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/
http://www.mormonthink.com/
http://forum.newordermormon.org/index.php

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40 Robert July 9, 2011 at 11:32 PM

I am a direct descendant of JRM. I am 41 years old. When I was growing up, my father told me often about the story of JRM. I remember going to the old homestead in Alpine when I was 8 years old or younger and seeing the old fort that JRM built to defend his home against the indians. It was a pile of rubble then, but has since been restored.

I was told JRM’s story then, and the memory of it lives on in the lives of my own children. I can’t say that I have ever seen actual documentation of this story, but I knew of his story well before 1978, the earliest documented time that this story was made public. The story has remained consistent, has not been embellished, and has not been distorted over the years. It has become richer to me with the telling of it, but has never gotten bigger than what is being told of him today.

It is true, JRM was also a polygamist. Quite frankly, I am glad he was. If he hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be here confirming his story, since I am descended from his second wife.

Thanks for this thread. Keep up the great work.

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41 Paul Scherbel August 7, 2011 at 5:48 AM

Where was John Moyle’s body laid to rest?

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42 Travis b October 10, 2011 at 8:09 PM

John Moyle is laid to rest in Alpine city cemetery. His sight is marked with a head stone he carved himself. my aunt is a direct descendant of John R Moyle and we have heard this story many times long before brother Uchtdorf told of it. I beleive it is in a journal passage that my aunt may have a copy of. There is also lots of info on John R Moyle at a fort in alpine called Moyle park

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43 Bonnie Duree July 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Rusty,

Do you know when the next moyle reunion is? I read on facebook it was Aug. 10 2013. Is this right?

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44 Lyle September 7, 2013 at 6:52 AM

I am a 61 year old man, last year I was hit by a car and among other injuries I sustained a fracture to my left ankle that required surgery with plates and stainless steel screws.
It has taken some time, but yesterday I walked 5 miles in 1 hour and 12 minutes. I am not up to 22 miles yet but at that pace I could do 22 miles in about 5.5 hours.
BTW at age 50 I completed the NY Marathon and was passed by a 76 year old woman at the 20 mile mark.
I am no athlete, but I have walked and jogged for years. If JRM walked for years to the Temple, he certainly could do it after an injury if he was motivated. I have no doubt he was, and I am inspired by his story.

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