Mission Experiences, Chapters 35 & 36

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Thirty-Five
A Visit with Elder Hobbs

After Elder Hobbs arrived we sat down and visited. I had met him several times previously so he wasn’t a total stranger. My impression was that he was a nice guy, but after Elder Paxton’s warning I was curious to find out more about him.

“I understand you worked with Elder Paxton,” I said.

Elder Hobbs rolled his eyes and cursed under his breath, “You could say that.”

“Are you aware that he is our District Leader?”

“That’s what I heard,” he replied. “Fortunately, we should be able to avoid him most of the time.”

“You know, he didn’t have very good things to say about you.”

“I’m not surprised. I don’t have very good things to say about him either.”

“So far I am not impressed either,” I said. “He arrived here a few days before us and confiscated all the leads left by the previous missionaries so we have to start with nothing. He even took the leads belonging to our side of town.”

“That sounds exactly like something he would so,” he said. “So what did he say about me?”

“A number of things,” I replied. “He said that you were not that great about following mission rules. For instance, he said you would not arise at 6 AM and he had to drag you out of bed each morning. Is that true?”

“Basically,” he said. “I just seem to require more sleep than most people and it is very difficult for me to rise at six. But that didn’t justify the way that Elder Paxton manhandled me. He didn’t just tap me on the shoulder or give me a gentle tug but grabbed me and pulled me out of bed on to the floor.”

“Doesn’t sound very tactful, all right,” I acknowledged. “He also said you never learned your lessons.”

“I’ve had two problems in learning the lessons,” he said. “The first is that I’m not that good at memorizing and the second is that this missionary work is not what I expected and my heart isn’t in it. But again, that didn’t justify what Elder Paxton did to me.”

“What did he do?”

“He kept assigning me a lesson to study and if I did not learn it to his specifications he would punish me.

“Punish you… How?”

He’d come up with all kinds of things from denying me meals, making me study extra hours, do extra tracting and so on. When none of these things worked he gave me an ultimatum, telling me he was really going to let me have it if I didn’t learn a certain lesson.”

“So did you learn it?”

“Afraid not,” he said. “Then Elder Paxton got really angry and put me in the van and drove me out to the Moors (English version of a desert). It was an extremely cold night and he ordered me to study and learn the lesson or freeze. Well, I was freezing all right and there was no way I was going to learn the lesson. We stayed there most of the night and I never felt so near to death in my life.”

“How about Paxton?” I asked. “Wasn’t he cold too?”

“Probably,” said Elder Hobbs, “but I don’t think the guy is human. I think he could stay out in the Moors three days and nights in his underwear and not feel a thing.

“So what happened?”

“I wound up getting pneumonia and had to go into the mission home to recover. It was worth it though to get away from Elder Paxton.”

“Well, you’re not completely away from him. He’s our District Leader now, so technically he’s our boss,” I said.

“I can handle that since I won’t be his companion, but on the days he wants to work with us, you’d be doing me a great favor if you work with him and I’ll take his companion.”

“No problem,” I said as wheels were turning in my brain. “Say, how’d you like to get revenge on Elder Paxton?”

“Revenge? Sounds interesting but not likely to happen.”

“But we can make it happen,” I insisted.

“Okay,” he said, “you got my attention. What do you have in mind?”

“Have you heard the statement that success is the greatest revenge?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Well picture the look on Paxton’s face and how he would feel if you succeeded here with three or four times the results that he can achieve. He thinks you’re the worst elder in the mission and he is the best. Imagine him being not only beaten but overwhelmed by the likes of you in the same town he is working. That would be pretty devastating for him would it not?”

Elder Hobb’s eyes lit up. “It would indeed,” he said. “But Elder Paxton is a tireless worker and would be hard to beat. Even if we gave it our best shot I don’t know if we could even keep up.”

“Believe me,” I said. “We can leave him in the dust.” I then explained the success I had in Peterlee and that we could have even greater success here because this seemed to be a better town for prospecting.

“If you really think we can beat the dickens out of him then I suppose I could give it a try, but as you know I’m not very good at giving the lessons.”

“That’s all right,” I said. “I’ll give the majority of the lessons and you can participate as you feel comfortable.”

“I’m also not good a rising at six in the morning.”

“So, how late would you like to sleep?” I asked.

“To be honest, I really need to sleep until about 8 AM to function well.”

“8 AM it is then,” I said. “Can you give me your word you will be up by eight and ready to go at nine?

His face came alive with surprise, “I haven’t been able to sleep in undisturbed since I arrived on this mission. That would be great. Yes, if you let me sleep in, you have my word on the rest.”

“It’s a deal then,” I said, shaking his hand. “We’re going to teach Paxton a lesson he will not forget.”

“But have you forgotten that he has taken for himself all the people that were being taught by the last missionaries? That gives him a tremendous starting advantage.”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Besides, it will just make it all the more humiliating for him when the worst elder in the mission out performs him and wipes that smile off his face.”

My words put a smile on the face of Elder Hobbs and as I saw a feeling of hope surface in him I hoped within myself that I would not let him down. Most of all, I didn’t want to let myself down as I contemplated my last six weeks of missionary work.

Chapter Thirty-Six
A Fiery Finish

Elder Hobbs kept his word and was always ready to go by 9 AM and turned out to be one of the best elders I had worked with. Even though he didn’t know the lessons well he was always willing to add some helpful comments and could give a good presentation in tracting. The best part was that we liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company. True he was a natural born slacker but most of my good friends back home were slackers too and I had done my share of slacking in my life myself.

Elder Hobbs and I got to work the next day, which was Friday and by Sunday we had already taught a few lessons and had an investigator attend church with us. Elder Paxton and his companion had no investigator. As we sat in church with an investigator and Paxton had none I could feel a sense of satisfaction coming from Hobbs.

The next week we taught around ten lessons, the next 15 and the next 20, which was a mission record. From that time on we taught around 20 lessons a week. These were not baseball type meetings that some have counted for lessons but full fledged lessons taking an average of about two hours each, sometimes lasting three hours. By the time we reached the record twenty lesson mark we had far surpassed the number of investigators Elder Paxton had even with the advantage of taking all the leads. Not only that but Paxton and his companion were only teaching around four lessons a week compared to our twenty. That had to be humiliating for him.

Elder Hobbs was thrilled that he was having the first real success of his mission and knowing he had contributed. After we had reached the twenty lesson milestone we had a regularly scheduled district meeting with Elder Paxton presiding.

As we walked intro the room Elder Paxton approached Elder Hobbs and exclaimed for all to hear: “What’s going on with you? I can’t believe you and Elder Dewey taught twenty lessons in one week! No one working with the Elder Hobbs I know could teach twenty lessons let alone ten. Are you sure this report is correct?”

“It’s correct all right,” said Elder Hobbs. “We’re just working hard and getting the job done.”

“But you never worked hard with me. I had to drag you to work kicking and screaming. Tell me. What’s the difference between then and now? Why are you working so hard now with Elder Dewey when you dragged your feet with me?”

Elder Hobbs smiled and said, “It’s fun working with Elder Dewey.”

This statement was followed by a short silence as Paxton registered internally the impact and meaning of it. It was at this moment that I knew that Elder Hobbs had achieved his revenge. Elder Paxton had to be asking himself why Elder Hobbs was making record-breaking achievements with me whereas they had virtually no results when Hobbs was with him. A large part of the difference was the way Hobbs was treated.

Whether any real truth dawned upon Paxton, we knew not, but we did know that he was forced to do a lot of reflecting and his pride was strongly wounded as he watched his old slacker companion out perform him with over four times the results working in the same city.

Elder Hobbs was thrilled that he was able to teach his old taskmaster a lesson and continued to work hard with me until the sixth week. Near that time we reviewed the mission newsletter, which had some mission statistics, and we were tickled that they had a section on fiery finishers. There were about six of us and we noted that none of the others had taught more than two lessons a week compared to our twenty. It was funny irony and obvious that the real slackers were these fiery finishers just doing minimal work while waiting to go home. On the other hand, my slacker companion, Elder Hobbs, who Paxton saw of the laziest guy in the whole mission, was working hard breaking records. This was a satisfying moment for both of us.

As I said earlier it takes around two months to properly get a prospect ready for baptism. I was hoping to baptize a few by the end of the six weeks but the best prospects were a couple weeks away from joining the church. At the end of my stay in Scunthorpe we had about forty serious investigators and it looked like we could have baptized a lot more than we did in Peterlee if I could have stayed longer.

I hated to leave so many people so near to joining the church, but I had done my best and it was time to go.

Meanwhile Elder Hobbs received a new assignment. He was to stay in Scunthorpe and be a senior companion to a new elder arriving from the States. Breaking in a new elder is a privilege all involved missionaries desire and one that I never had the opportunity to do. For some reason, the mission home thought it wisdom to send me problem elders to work with.

I had mixed feelings about Elder Hobbs’ promotion. Obviously the mission home thought he had turned over a new leaf and deserved to be made a senior, but the trouble was he still didn’t know his lessons and on his own he was likely to revert back to some of his old habits. I was concerned about what would happen to the forty souls that we had slated for baptism.

Well, it was out of my hands now so I wished Elder Hobbs well and headed for home. As I boarded the plane to fly to the states I received a nice little bonus, almost as if God was giving me a pat on the back. The airlines had made a mistake with my ticket and had me assigned to first class. First class on an overseas flight in the Sixties was pretty cushy and we even had a lounge where we could take in a nice view. Then too, the food was fabulous. I ordered “pheasant under glass” as it was called on the menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t drink in those days so I couldn’t take advantage of that perk.

I visited with the Corrigan family in Winnipeg, Canada on the way home, as I related earlier, and then made my first stop in the States in two years at the Chicago airport. As I was waiting to change planes I eagerly ordered my first American hamburger after a two-year wait. It wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered them tasting but part of the problem was the low quality airport food. The funny thing was after I got home I had a yearning for English fish and chips, similar to my yearning for an American hamburger when I was in England. Even as I write this my mouth waters as I think back to some of the best fish and chips I ate over there. The best ones were usually from small stands located near the sea.

I finally arrived in Boise and was to be greeted by my mother and my younger sister, Sandy. As I prepared to exit the plane I knew there was one important thing I needed to do before they laid eyes on me for the first time in two years. I reached into my onboard luggage and retrieved a certain object and placed it on my head. I then walked out of the plane headed toward them wearing… you guessed it – a Beatle wig!

My younger sister about passed out, but after a couple hugs they soon discovered the real me under the wig.

In those days when a missionary returned home the local ward gave him most of the evening service to relate his mission experiences. When my turn came I knew I had to speak to two audiences.

First, I had to share spiritual uplifting experiences to the standard believing adults and, secondly, I had to let the younger crowd know that “they didn’t get me.”

What’s that about, you ask? Let me explain.

When attending church as a teenager in the big city of Letha, Idaho where I made up about two percent of the urban population we used to watch the missionaries leave and then listen to them when they returned. When a good portion of them gave their return address we noted they seemed to turn into what we thought of as spiritual idiots. They didn’t seem to talk normal anymore but had a glassy-eyed look, a freakish ubiquitous smile on their face and babbled nonsense in a spiritual twang – at least to us anyway. Then there were others returning who still sounded like they normal human beings, similar to the way they were when they left.

If a returned missionary turned out to be in the first category we declared that, “They got him.” When we went to listen to a returned missionary give his homecoming speech the question on our minds was always, “Did they get him?”

So when I got up to give my homecoming speech I knew the teenagers who had known me before I left were very curious. They were all wondering, “Did they get him?”

As I got up to give my homecoming I reflected back two years ago when I was at the same podium giving my farewell speech before I left to England. I remembered that as I started to speak that members of the congregation started getting up and leaving. By the time I was done about a third of the congregation had disappeared. Was it something I said, I wondered?

What happened was a good friend of mine was on the way to the meeting when he met with a horrific accident that almost killed him. Word spread through the congregation and many left to go to the hospital and check on him. I was glad to discover they weren’t leaving because of me but sad about the accident.

However, upon arriving home I found my friend completely healed and that his dad sued the state over improper signage and won enough money to buy a new farm.

I was glad to see that this time around that no one was getting up and leaving. They all seemed pretty riveted with all the mission stories I told. Through it all I thought I came across fairly normal in presentation but just to make sure I didn’t lose the young guys I ended with a couple of spiritually incorrect jokes.

That seemed to do the trick as several of them came to me afterwards and told me how much they enjoyed the jokes and that they couldn’t believe I told them.

For about six months after the mission is over the mission home sends the ex-missionaries a copy of the newsletter. One thing I noted that I found curious was that Elder Paxton was promoted to be the assistant to the mission president. This was the highest leadership position that a missionary can achieve. I wasn’t surprised as Paxton did come across a little like Tony Robbins, but I thought it was too bad that so many only see the surface of people and not all of what is underneath.

And that my friends is the story of two years out of my life. I have just one thing to add. One of my favorite all time songs was the one we adopted as our mission song. Every time the North British missionaries got together for a meeting we sang it and the spirit was so sweet that some were brought to tears.

I wish had a recording of a group of missionaries singing this song as it seemed to be made to be sung by a group of young men. For the next best thing you can listen to a couple versions of it on the internet.

First, here are the words to the song, Jerusalem written by William Blake


And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land


Here are two renderings of the song well worth the listen:



Beneath this poem Blake inscribed an excerpt from the Bible: ‘“Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets” From Numbers 11:29

Here are some comments from William Barclay’s commentary on the book of Matthew where he mentions this song:

But there is a lesser-known legend, commemorated in one of the most famous hymns and poems in the English language. It is a legend which is still current in Somerset. Joseph, so the legend runs, was a tin merchant, and came, long before he was sent by Philip, on quite frequent visits to the tin mines of Cornwall. The town of Marazion in Cornwall has another name. It is sometimes called Market Jew, and is said to have been the centre of a colony of Jews who traded in tin. The legend goes still further. Joseph of Arimathaea, it says, was the uncle of Mary, the mother of Jesus. (Can it possibly be that he did actually exercise a relative’s right to claim the body of Jesus under Roman law?) And, it is said, he brought the young boy Jesus with him on one of his voyages to Cornwall. That is what William Blake was thinking of when he wrote his famous poem:

“ And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the Holy Lamb of God

In England’s pleasant pastures seen? And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among those dark Satanic mills? “

The dark Satanic mills were the tin mines of Cornwall. It is a lovely legend which we would like to be true, for there would be a thrill in the thought that the feet of the boy Jesus once touched English earth.

Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Series NavigationMission Experiences, Chapters 33 & 34

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