Mission Experiences, Chapters 11 & 12

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Eleven
A Contest and Good Conversation

Elder Ware and I worked hard and before long we were breaking mission records in baptisms. Quite a few of these were investigators that we started teaching while Elder Huish was with me.

During this time period the mission headquarters had created a mission wide contest in hopes of motivating the missionaries to achieve greater success. How you scored in this contest was determined by the number of points you received and the various parts of missionary work received a certain number of points. If you knocked on so many doors you got a certain number of points. Then you were given points for working with members, teaching, baptizing and a number of other things.

The individual missionaries who scored the most points received a prize and the district of missionaries who scored highest did also.

I personally did not like the contest because if I worked to score the highest number of points I would be doing a lot of busy work and not be effective. Elder Ware and I decided to ignore the contest and just see how many people we could baptize. After all, that was why we came on missions to begin with.

As it turned out we did not score very high in the point category even though we were teaching and baptizing more than anyone in the mission.

Now every couple weeks we had a district meeting. A district was composed of about a dozen missionaries. Above this was a Zone composed of a half dozen or so districts and then the mission was composed of a similar number of zones. It seems like there were somewhere around 200-300 missionaries in our mission.

Anyway a district was presided over by a district leader and his companion. He had called a regular meeting that took place every couple weeks. In this meeting he was following orders and presenting to us the progress of the contest and how we were doing in relation to other districts. It turned out that as far as scoring points went our district wasn’t doing that great. Then the Elder put down his papers he was using and looked at me with strain in his eyes

Now District Leader was a great guy and we had become good friends, so he was very reluctant to chastise me, but said something like this:

“Elder Dewey, I don’t know how to say this and if it was up to me I would give you and Elder ware nothing but praise for your work, for you have been far outperforming all of us in teaching and baptisms. Even so, I have received a message from the mission home to give to you. They say you are bringing down the score of our district because you do not have enough points in the tracting area (knocking on doors). They want you to spend more time knocking on doors.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and replied in exasperation, “How are we supposed to spend more time tracting when so much of our time is taken up in teaching?

The Elder shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Believe me, I’m on your side and if was up to me I’d tell you to just keep doing what you are doing, but headquarters insisted that I tell you that you need to increase the number of points on your score and the best way to do this is to knock on more doors.”

“So what are we supposed to do then,” I asked, “quit teaching and baptizing new members and knock on doors instead? That’s insane!”

“I agree with you,” he said, “but I’m just the messenger here and I was tempted to not even tell you this, but I have to or I could get into trouble.”

“I understand your situation,” I said “and have no problem with you delivering the message, but I have one for you to deliver back to the mission home. Tell them this. The reason I came on a mission was to teach and baptize and we are too busy doing these things to knock on any more doors. Besides, Peterlee is a small town and there are not that many doors left so we try to make the most of each door we do knock on.”

“Are you sure you want me to tell them that? I’m not sure they’ll see things the same way you do.”

“Well, I’m not going to knock on doors just to win a contest and sacrifice people we are teaching. There’s no other reply I can give.”

My friend gave me a concerned look and then moved on to other business.

I figured that we were on fairly secure ground because of our success and that President Payne would not hold our low contest scores against me. (More on this later.) In this assumption I was wrong, but around the same time I crossed the line in another area that didn’t help my case.

Missionaries are supposed to be back in their digs by 10 PM and to bed by 10:30 but we rarely got to bed before midnight. Because this was supposed to mean we were working beyond the call of duty we didn’t get a reprimand for this but I’m sure we didn’t score any points either. Sometimes we were just teaching late into the night, but other times we would go visit our favorite member who didn’t mind us coming over later in the evening.

Her name was Sister Douglas. Missionaries call all the members by the prefix brother or sister. She was a very interesting lady, about 50. Her husband was a sea captain and was gone six months at a time. Her good-looking divorced daughter was staying with her. Her name was Jo.

I found both of these females to be very attractive for different reasons. I was attracted to Sister Douglas purely on mental and spiritual levels. She was one of those few people that I could just sit and talk with indefinitely. She loved to talk about church doctrine, philosophy, people, ideas and lots of other things. I never grew tired of talking to her and with each visit I wished we didn’t have to leave.

Now her daughter, Jo was not deep like her mom but was very attractive, fun-loving, sexy and fun to talk to. Elder Ware liked them both also and often had involved conversations with the one I was not engaged with.

Now missionaries are under strict rules to not get romantically involved with any females and dating was forbidden. Even being alone with a female without your companion present was against the rules.

Most missionaries, including myself, followed these rules, but most also meet a couple females on their missions where a strong attraction occurs and a great deal of self control has to be used to follow the rules. Here I found myself strongly attracted to both mother and daughter; the mother for her mind and the daughter on the emotional/physical level. I fantasized about how fun it would be if I came back to England after my mission and married Jo and garnered such a cool mother in law in the deal. I even wrote a song for Jo called “Love Eyes.” You can listen to it here:

I never told Jo I wrote that song for her as I thought that would be crossing the line of the mission rules. It’s too bad she never heard it or read the words.

What’s ironic is that as I fantasized about coming back to England and marrying Jo fate had something quite different planned for me. A short time later I was to meet my future first wife and five years later I was to return to England and marry her.

Each night when we did visit with Sister Douglas and her daughter we tied to leave before midnight to keep in the good graces of the mission home. But one night, time just slipped away and before we knew it, it was 1 AM. Then I figured, what the heck, if we were to get in trouble we might as well give headquarters a good reason to complain so we stayed on and on until 3AM. Finally we left for home.

The next morning Elder Ware and I were faced with filling out our daily report form. Elder Ware said, “What shall we do about filling in a time for returning to digs? We can’t put 3 AM. They’ll go ballistic and figure we were up to no good.”

Actually, I had known a number of elders who had stayed out late as well as broken a number of mission rules and most of them came up with a simple solution to satisfy the mission home. They lied.

I was pretty much born believing in being honest and have always tried to tell the truth, even if it hurt. I was indeed tempted to write in an earlier hour but told elder Ware we needed to fill out the report accurately. I told him I would take most of the heat since I was the senior companion. We thus filled out the report with the correct hour inserted.

I didn’t hear any feedback until our next district meeting. The District Leader spoke to me, “I’ve got another strange request from headquarters that I am supposed to ask you. They want to know what you were doing out until 3 AM. They say they have never had a missionary report returning back to the digs so late and are very curious about it.”

“Well, we were just visiting with a couple members and were involved in interesting conversation. That was it. Nothing sinister happened.”

The district Leader got up and paced the floor. “Look, a lot of us have stayed out late and have broken the rules but you don’t put something like this in black and white on the report. What were you thinking, man?”

On hindsight, it seems that not cooperating in the silly contest, staying out till 3 AM and being honest about it created a problem for me later on as we shall see.

Chapter Twelve
Meeting my Future Wife

Elder Ware and I didn’t hear anything else out of the ordinary from the mission home during our stay in Peterlee. We just kept our noses to the grindstone.

One family we baptized, called he Corrigans, left us with fond memories. They were very enthused about the church and later moved to Winnepeg, Canada. Over a year later I arranged my flight home so I could stop and see them. It turned out that they were such great members and referred so many people to the missionaries that over 30 people were baptized because of them.

Unfortunately because they were such a great source of leads the missionaries just about camped out on their doorstep. It came to the point that they were pestered so much they were thinking of leaving the church.

Even so, I had a good visit with them and renewed the good feelings we used to share.

Then I saw Brother Corrigan one other time. I believe it was around 1972 he made a trip down to visit me. He had created a new invention that he wanted me to market for him in the United States.

Have you seen those devices that you drive by and they tell you how fast you are going? If you are speeding and see you are going over the limit it is hoped that you will then slow down.

Brother Corrigan, I believe, was the first to invent such a thing. We had a good visit, but I told him I didn’t have the time or means to give him much help.

That’s the last I saw of him and always wondered if the current machines use his patent or some big company worked their way around it.

Anyway, after I had been in Peterlee about three months we found that we had knocked on about every door in town. The Elder before me said it would only take a month, but we made the most of what we had and worked it very thoroughly, but after three months we had squeezed out about all the good leads in the town.

We did some brainstorming and looked at a map. A few miles away there were a couple small towns that didn’t have missionaries assigned that might supply new leads. We thought it was quite possible that missionaries had never worked these areas.

The only problem was that we would have quite a bit more travel time than usual as our mode of transportation was our bikes and the towns were a few miles away.

Also my bike was on its last leg as one day we were sailing down a hill at a good clip and I hit a rock. This sent me sailing up in the air quite a few feet. Fortunately, I lit on the back of my neck and shoulders just right so I rolled, avoiding a dangerous impact. Then within seconds I faced another danger as I was rolling toward a busy intersection of traffic. Thank God I was able to stop just before I rolled in front of the cars.

Elder Ware saw the whole thing and was worried I may be seriously injured, but I dusted myself off and seemed to be unscathed. My bike wasn’t so lucky. My front wheel was bent at a right angle as it endured quite a shock. I couldn’t afford a new one so we took it to a shop to see what he could do for the least amount of money. The guy bent the wheel back as good as possible and patched it up but it was never the same again. From that point on it always had a wobble to it. I received a lot of comments on that wobble.

Anyway we braved it over to the nearby hamlets and started seeking people to teach. Most of the people in these areas were coal miners and were a more earthy bunch not much interested in spiritual things though we did get a lot of invitations to the local pub. Unfortunately, missionaries had to refuse such invites.

These were tougher areas to work than Peterlee but we did have some success. Finally after working these areas for a few weeks one day we were knocking on doors in a coal mining area called Black Hall. At one residence a sweet lady with gray hair came to the door and we gave her our presentation. She said she was not interested, but she did have a daughter who had read the Bible. She wasn’t home at the moment but if we wanted to come back another day she might be willing to listen.

That really wasn’t much of a lead and it was out of our way to come back a few days later but I had the impression that we should call on her. A few days later we knocked on her door and the daughter answered. Her name was Margaret.

We introduced ourselves and she gave us a strange response. She stood before us with a defiant look with her arms crossed and said:

“I don’t like Mormons and I don’t like Americans. What could you possibly have to interest me?”

I said, “What do you like then?”

She paused a moment as she didn’t seem to be in a mood to like anything at that moment.

Then I said, “Your mother tells us you like the Bible and have read it.”

She admitted she liked the Bible and that lead us into some discussion, which opened the door for me to tell her about the story of Joseph Smith. As I recounted it, the resistance seemed to melt as it appeared to have a huge effect on her. I then asked her if we could come back and teach her.

It was amazing that someone so defiant had changed in just a couple moments to one who seemed almost anxious to see us again.

As we walked away I said something very unusual to Elder Ware. “That woman,” I said, “is of the blood of Israel and if I wind up marrying anyone from England it will be her.”

“Yeah, right,” said Elder Ware with great skepticism. Besides, he knew I had a crush on Jo Douglas and thought I would be much more likely to marry her.

Most missionaries think about such possibilities but it rarely happens. When missionaries get home to the states they find lots of prospects in their own back yards that make them forget about the pretty lasses back in the old country. Also Mormon parents place lots of pressure on their daughters to marry a return missionary so he finds getting dates with LDS girls to be a lot easier than before his mission.

We returned a few days later and taught not only Margaret, but also her younger sister. For some reason I was very nervous. I even put the picture of the Angel Moroni on upside down on our teaching board and had never done that before.

Then a few days later we took her a Book of Mormon to read. When she answered the door I dropped it on her feet. I had never done that before either. Why was I so nervous I kept asking myself.

We then invited her to come to church with us the next Sunday. I kept my finders crossed that it would be a good service.

She kept her word and showed up and we sat next to her as the service began. The members in the branch were all sincere and intelligent and we had never had a bad meeting while I had been there so I was expecting smooth sailing.

To my astonishment and horror the main speaker decided to be creative with his visual aids. He was talking about the subject of tithing and as he was placing emphasis on the importance of paying it he pulled out an ax and it seems like a chain as well and said something to the effect that if people don’t pay their tithing the church has its ways of dealing with them.

I slunk into my chair and didn’t dare look at Margaret. Where in the world did this normally intelligent member get such an idea as this?

Fortunately, the rest of the meeting went fairly well and after it was over I nervously approached Margaret and asked her what she thought. I was expecting her to say that she wasn’t coming back, but her answer surprised me.

“This is what I always dreamed a church should be like,” she said. Fortunately, she took the member’s visual aid with a grain of salt and liked how the church was run with so much member participation.

I had worked in Peterlee over four months and I knew a transfer was overdue. One usually spends between 3-4 months in an area so I was expecting a letter of transfer any day. I was hoping I could stay long enough to baptize Margaret and her sister, but such was not the case. When we were only about half way through the lessons the letter came.

After the success we had in Peterlee, a town they were ready to close down, I thought that I had no worries about not being in a leadership position again. When I arrived in Peterlee only about 15 members attended church and when I left we had as many as 65. We had baptized 18 people and 20 if we counted Margaret and her sister. In addition, the families we brought in had 15 or so kids under eight that were not yet eligible for baptism. In addition we had a couple dozen people we were teaching of which a good portion we were expecting to baptize.

As far as I knew this was a mission record for the average baptisms in that mission for an entire two year period was only 3-4 people.

Surely President Payne had enough sense to keep me in a leadership position so I can do things my way, I thought.

I thought wrong.

My transfer was to the city of Lancaster. I would no longer be a senior but would be with an Elder who had been out longer than me. We would be what was called “co seniors,” where we would share responsibility.

This threw a monkey wrench in my goal of 100 baptisms for the two years. It was unlikely a seasoned Elder would accept my unorthodox way of doing things and would want to work business as usual.

I got my affairs in order so I could leave, but there was one more thing I needed to do. I wanted to say goodbye to Margaret.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

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