How an Amish convert to the Church uses furniture to honor early Saints
A piece of furniture may be just a functional set of drawers and shelves for some, but it can mean so much more to the people who own and use that piece in their home. Furniture can hold a story, not only of those who use it every day but also of the original craftsman.
Paul Hochstetler is a premier furniture designer in the Amish community of eastern Ohio. Every piece of furniture designed by Hochstetler is built by hand in a modest shop next to his Ohio home. Artisan crafts such as furniture-making are common among the Amish community. Paul learned the art of woodworking from his father and has since passed his talent on to his own children.
“I learned furniture building from my dad,” Paul says in a video on his YouTube channel. “He always wanted to do top-of-the-line furniture. So, with working with him, in the shop, I learned that you have to be precise in building furniture.”
Paul is highly respected inside and outside the Amish community by other craftsmen and his many customers.
As is custom among the Amish community, Paul, his wife, Mary, and their children lived without modern amenities such as electricity or modern transportation. They rode a horse and buggy to get to desired destinations. They grew their own vegetables and raised their own livestock. They were accustomed to the traditions of a simpler time—a very similar way of living, in fact, to that of the early Saints.
In 2012, Paul and Mary Hochstetler and many of their children joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although this decision would dramatically affect Paul’s business, the family took a faith-filled step forward, as their belief in the Church was very strong.
“The Book of Mormon and the message of the restored gospel have changed our lives forever,” Paul and Mary say on their website.
Since becoming members of the Church, the Hochstetler family has had many opportunities to visit Church history sites in Kirtland, close to their Ohio home. Touring these locations and learning more about the experiences of the early Saints touched the family in a unique way. Their own experiences living in their Amish community meant they could relate to these early Church members in a way that few can.
“Shortly after we joined the Church in 2012, we went to Kirtland for the first time,” Paul says on his website. “In many ways, the Kirtland of the 1830s is very much like the Amish communities where we grew up and lived. The horse and buggies, living without electricity, and the furnishings in the homes of the early Saints were things that we could relate to from our Amish lives and are similar to the way the Amish still live today.”
Paul now uses his talents as a craftsman to recreate some of the early pieces of furniture found at those Church history sites in what he calls the Kirtland Series. He and his family hope that these pieces will touch other members’ lives and serve as reminders of those early times in our Church history. Each piece reflects the beautiful joining of his Amish upbringing with the celebration of early Church history.
“We try to build a piece of furniture that will be a heritage piece,” Paul says in a video about the series on his YouTube channel. “Something that children, grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren will be able to use.”
Each piece in the Hochstetler Kirtland Series is handcrafted and unique. The series includes pieces of furniture that would have been found in the homes of the early Saints, including a pie safe, a dry sink, and a blanket chest. Paul has also built a replica of the School of the Prophets Desk, based on the desk in the Newel K. Whitney Store.
Paul has also crafted smaller pieces available at Deseret Book for those who appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of his work but may not have a space in their home for larger pieces. A beautiful wood cutting board, caddy, and serving tray are also available for purchase.
Deseret Book is honored to carry Paul’s beautiful pieces and share what they represent.