Mission Experiences, Chapters 1 & 2

This entry is part 1 of 18 in the series Mission

Mission Experiences
A True Story
J. J. Dewey

Intro:  Even though I moved on from standard Mormonism many years ago I find that all belief systems we have moved through are growing experiences as long as the principle of following the highest you know is applied. As you read this I think you’ll agree that I made the best of what I had during an LDS mission that produced some very interesting experiences. The time frame here is Oct 1964- Oct 1966.

Chapter One
Off to England

I first read the Book of Mormon about the age of 16 and from that point on was very enthused about going on a mission. I very strongly desired to go to England and at age 19 in 1964 when I received a letter from the prophet – David O. McKay – calling me there I was elated. My destiny was The Northeast British Mission with headquarters in Harrogate.
Some say that a lot missionaries were not very enthused about their missions. I met and worked with a number of these type later on but in our group of 17 headed to England all seemed to be quite engaged and happy about going on a mission.

During the week in the training center in Salt Lake we met a number of general authorities including Joseph Fielding Smith who later became the prophet. He gave a lecture to us and then took questions.

We were all given blessings by general authorities. Elder Christiansen blessed me and I do recall, one thing he said that was unusual. He said the time would come that I would bear my witness fearlessly to over 10 million people. This was unusual because on a mission you rarely have a chance to teach or bear witness to more than half a dozen at a time.

Actually, I think the guy was inspired but little did he know that the witness I will bear to millions would not be on a mission for the LDS church but it would be a witness in a future time to a number of non standard truths.

We were allowed to take 44 pounds on the international flight and a problem I had was that I decided to take my Olympia typewriter with me. This weighed 20 pounds leaving me only 24 pounds of luggage. I really had to take only the essentials and after all my effort to conserve I was left with two pair of Long John type thermal underwear that sent me over the limit. I was told this underwear was essential to have as the North of England was very cold.

After some thought, I came up with the ingenious plan to wear the both pairs of underwear under my already warm suit. This was a big mistake as I felt like I was in a sauna all during the long flight. What made it even warmer was that I found myself seated next to a very sexy blond girl about my age to whom I found myself very attracted. I thought, “just my luck. Here I am going on a mission where I have to be celibate for two years and I’m making friends with the most desirable female I’ve met in my life.”

Finally we arrived over London and the Captain’s voice came over the intercom saying that we could not land because of dense fog. He decided to circle around London in hopes that the fog would lift. After some time I think he was low on fuel and just decided to land anyway.

Fortunately the landing was fine.

Next we caught a cab to take us to the train station. My first ride in a English cab really raised the hair on the back of my neck. Now back home I was known for being somewhat of a hellraiser of a driver but this driver whizzed around like nothing I had seen before. Maneuvering around those narrow roads with great precision was very impressive and if I didn’t have faith in his experience I would have been very nervous.

We caught the train and I didn’t get a chance to take my underwear off and had to continue wearing it on the long train ride to the North.

It was a great relief to get to the mission home and take off my extra underwear. Unfortunately, this lead to the opposite problem and I a caught a chill and it felt like I was freezing.

We were surprised to discover that there was only one missionary and a cook manning the large mission home. The mission president, his wife and all the local missionaries went to London to go through the temple there.

We all were exhausted and assumed we would be allowed to sleep in, but the guy woke us all up at 6 AM sharp. I never had such a hard time getting out of bed in my life for we lost 7 hours in the time change. After breakfast he tried to keep us as busy as possible, but there wasn’t much to do except to study our lessons. Then the missionary had a bright idea. He said that we were going to do something very character building. We were going to have a street meeting.

“What’s a street meeting?” we asked.

“You’ll soon find out,” he said.

Chapter Two

Street Meetings and More

That afternoon the Elder (generic name given to all missionaries) piled all the new missionaries in a van and took us to the neighboring city of Leeds. He stopped and unloaded us near a bus stop that had about 30 people waiting in line. We were all very curious as to what was going to happen next. Then to my surprise he went to the van and pulled out what looked like an actual soapbox and brought it near the captive audience.

Then he said to us, “I’ll show you how this is done.”

He then stood on the box and started preaching to the people waiting in line.
I was amazed, for I had never seen such a brazen attempt to deliver the gospel message before. I wondered what the people thought and glanced at their faces. Most of them ignored him, as if he did not exist. A couple seemed to be mildly paying attention.

The elder preached for about ten minutes and then stepped down. That was interesting I thought and hoped the meeting was over and we would be going soon.

But no such luck… The elder then looked at us greenies and said, “Now each of you must do what I just did.”

My heart sank, as I’m sure did the others. I considered myself a fairly confident person with public speaking and had no problem giving talks in church back home, but the thought of getting on that soapbox and preaching to strangers who I would just annoy caused a fear in me the likes of which I never expected to encounter.

“Who’s first?” he said.

No one volunteered.

“You then.” He picked one. Thank God it wasn’t me.

The poor elder looked like he was going to the slaughterhouse as he approached he soapbox and somehow delivered a message, even though somewhat nervously. Amazingly he seemed somewhat proud of himself when he was finished and the next elder seemed a little more confident.

My turn was somewhere in the middle but I was still nervous as the dickens and had to force myself on that box and started to speak. To my amazement about a minute into the speech I started getting into it and by the time I finished my turn I found myself thoroughly enjoying the situation and could have gone on much longer.

Finally we finished. We had gone though several lines of people awaiting the bus but no one stepped forward to learn more about the church. The elder congratulated us and told us that even though we probably never converted anyone that there was nothing that would build character like a good ole street meeting. “If you can do this nothing much else that you will have to do on your mission should frighten you.”

The guy was right. This was probably the most nerve wracking thing I was asked to do in my two years there.

We then went back to the mission home and hung out and studied our lessons until the group came back from their trip. We met the mission president, a guy about sixty with gray hair. He and his wife were nice people and the missionaries liked him, but it wasn’t long before I heard many words of enthusiastic praise about the last mission president who left just a few months previous. His name was Stephen R. Covey. You’ve probably heard that name before. He later became the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” At the time he served he was one of the youngest mission presidents in the church.

After a day or so we all received our assignments and we dispersed to various parts of Northern England. My first place of work was Wakefield a town a few miles south of Leeds.

My first companion was named Elder Dee. He was a year older than me, but he had a baby face and looked like he was 16. The members of the church loved him. He had a very dominate personality and used the word “I” so much it about drove me crazy. And that’s one thing I discovered in working closely with another human being 24/7 is that after a couple weeks most individuals, no matter how nice, will start to get on your nerves.

Outside of having a big ego this individual was a fairly decent fellow.

After a period of time I finally sat the guy down and told him that his incessant use of “I” instead of “we” bothered me and he took it pretty good and said he would work on correcting the problem.

I found England in 1964 to be much more foreign than I expected. I kind of thought it would be like working in the states, but with people who have a different accent.

The first thing that hit me was how many people didn’t like or even hated Americans. I thought this odd since we were allies and I never heard of an American who didn’t like the English.

There was a lot to get used to and the language was just one of them. In the North they do not speak the Queen’s English like James Bond but speak much faster and they are much harder to understand. There was even a dying breed called Geordies who had an obscure dialect of their own. A Geordie would rattle off his thoughts a hundred miles an hour and you were lucky if you could catch a couple words.

All the food there had a different taste to it. I called it a “rusty old English taste.” I didn’t like it at first but after a couple months the food started tasting normal.

There were a lot of things that were backward or different to America and driving on the other side of the road is only one. The light switches turned the opposite direction, their doors had handles instead of doorknobs and they named their houses like we name our boats. They usually used the back door rather than the front.

I was amazed at how dressed up everyone was. Almost everyone wore suits. Even people digging ditches wore them.

They were much more security conscious than were we. Back home we rarely locked our doors even though almost everyone had a gun but here when we knocked on a door people would unlock three or four locks before cracking open the door.

I was surprised how far behind us they were in technology and amenities. Few had cars or central heat. I can’t recall the times I was asked if I had central heating back home as they wanted this American item more than any other.

The first place I stayed had a paid meter for their electricity. If you wanted lights you had to put a shilling in the meter. The landlady would only use so many schillings a day so if we wanted lights we had to sometimes contribute a few coins.
Most ate four meals a day and I had only eaten two back home so I gained 15 pounds in my first month there. They had potatoes with almost every meal. There were times I counted potatoes cooked four different ways with one meal.

The food I missed most was a hamburger. Few English even knew what one was. The closest thing they had to one was a Whimpyburger. I don’t think the thing had any meat in it and what was supposed to taste like an American hamburger tasted like it was composed of onion, garlic and sawdust.

I would have bought some ground beef and made my own hamburger but the mission insisted we live in digs where our food was prepared for us so we would have more time for missionary work.

After I was there about a year with no hamburger we finally lived in a place where we cooked our own food. The first thing I decided to do was cook me an old fashion hamburger. The closet thing I could find to hamburger was lean ground round so I bought a pound of it. There was nothing in the shop like an American hamburger bun but I did find an odd loaf of bread shaped like a hamburger bun. It was about a foot wide.

I took them back to the digs and cooked up the whole pound of hamburger and placed it in the giant bun. It was the biggest hamburger I had ever seen. I ate most of it and unfortunately it made me sick. It was too much of a good thing. It did have the benefit of tapering off my desire for hamburger though.

In England Fish and Chips are like hamburgers and fries are to us. I didn’t like them much at first, but they grew on me and to this day still yearn for the taste of some of the higher quality ones.

One thing England was ahead of us in was the mini skirt. In 1964 it was just catching on in America but the British had embraced them and their skirts we a lot shorter than ours – as short as they could get and still be called skirts. The girls also wore colorful stockings in place of nylons and some of them looked quite sexy.

I thought it was great but many missionaries said they found them disgusting. Yeah, right.

Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

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Mission Experiences, Chapters 3 & 4

This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Three
A Spiritual Roadblock

After settling down and attending church the first time I had a pleasant surprise.  I found the English members there were much more knowledgeable and eager to learn than the complacent people back home.  The missionaries had a truism that the further away you got from church headquarters the more seriously the members took the teachings and the closer you get the more apathetic are the members.  Overall, I found this to be pretty accurate.

That first Sunday evening I was asked to give a member a blessing.  This was to be my first occasion to do this as an Elder in the church as well as a missionary.  I was happy to oblige.

When I blessed her I felt the Spirit and thought I told the young lady some inspired words.  After returning to our digs (residing place) I felt great, like I was lighter than air halfway dwelling in celestial spheres.  I felt like God was with me and that had to be a good sign.

After retiring to bed I laid there awake for some time just basking in the heavenly feeling that seemed to surround me. This was great and I started talking to God.  I believe I whispered something to Him.  I wish I could remember but do not recall exactly what I said but it seemed to trigger something very unexpected.  Just as you can turn a light switch and the room turns instantly from light to dark, even so in that instant the wonderful spiritual feeling instantly disappeared and was replaced by its exact opposite.  The difference was more contrasting than night and day.

In an instant I went from enjoying bliss, peace and spiritual fire to dread, fear and spiritual agony.

I had an encounter with negative spiritual force of major proportions once before at the age of 16 and I felt I was dealing with Satan and his angels.  This time was different because it seemed so seamlessly connected to the spiritual fire from God that I thought it was God.

As soon as the spiritual force turned negative the thought entered my head that it was God himself that had examined me as a person and concluded that I was a spiritual impostor not worthy of giving anyone a blessing or using his priesthood. At that moment I reflected back on my weaknesses and concluded that this may be true.  I was imperfect and probably was not worthy to share in that wonderful peace I was previously feeling.

Suddenly, I was struck with a sense of guilt that defied the imagination which was way out of proportion to what should have been.  Using any logic or reasoning did not help, however.  The dread and spiritual pain only increased through the night.

The next day I had to drag myself off to work as I received little or no sleep.  I thought about telling my companion, but figured he would think I was crazy.  I thought about asking for a blessing but concluded it would do no good since it was God himself that was angry with me.  I somehow had the idea that if I received a blessing that I may be struck dead or at the least condemned.

This intense feeling of condemnation along with tremendous spiritual pain increased every day for six weeks.  Every day I prayed intensely for forgiveness and asked God to take the pain away, but it just got worse.  I even got to the point of making promises to God if he would just give me relief, but again, it just got worse.

Finally during the sixth week of enduring intense pain and fear for my own soul Sunday arrived and we attended church.  I was asked to bless the sacrament. As I sat up front and approach the time I was to give the sacrament prayer I felt with tremendous intensity that I was condemned by God and it was against his will for me to give the blessing. I thought I may be struck dead if I were to do so. As the clock ticked on and the time approached the negative spiritual force increased beyond imagination and it was so powerful I was about to lose consciousness. Just before I was to give the prayer I rose up and walked out of the church.  I’m sure the congregation thought that was odd and wondered what was going on.

My companion followed me out of the building and wondered what was going on with me. At this point I knew I couldn’t keep my problem from him any longer and then told him what happened. I then told him the reasons I thought I was unworthy to give blessings or to even do the missionary work.

He laughed and told me my sins were no big deal that he was probably worse of a guy than I was.

For some reason his words became like the voice of God to me and immediately the dark force began to subside.  I felt like I was in an elevator with hundreds of people stuffed in there with me and suddenly they all start to leave and finally they are all gone and I can breath again.

Then something dawned on me.  What I felt leaving me was not anything from God, but were dark entities that I assumed came from Satan. At that instant I concluded that the Prince of Darkness did not want me to continue with the spiritual work and tried to deceive me by making me think God was tormenting me when the torment had nothing to do with God. Light does not turn the darkness on, but light can leave and darkness prevail for a time and that is what happened.

Anyway, feeling these dark entities of what seemed to be pure evil leave me and then be replaced by peace was the greatest sense of relief I had felt in my life.  It was a wonderful feeling indeed. I was now ready to proceed with my mission full speed ahead.

My readers who read this will perhaps understand why many of my teachings put so much emphasis on overcoming guilt and its root cause.  What happened to me is just one of the many problems that it can cause.



Chapter Four
Companion Problems

It was nice to be able to work again in peace with a clear conscience, but I still had two problems hindering me.  The first was that I was a junior companion.  That meant that all the decisions concerning work were made by my companion.  What he said went.  I was really looking forward to being made a senior because I believed that I could be much more successful when I was in charge.  To hasten that day I worked hard on learning my teaching lessons and increasing my ability.

At that time the missionaries taught seven lessons lasting about 45 minutes to an hour each and we had to learn six of them word for word.  Some missionaries never mastered them.  I was one of the first in my group to learn them so I thought I would be one of the first to become a senior.  In this I was mistaken.

The second hindrance to my success was a nagging cold and cough that I picked up after shedding my excessive thermal underwear upon arriving.  The cold started when I first arrived and just seemed to continually get worse.

It was ironic that after all the trouble of bringing the thermal underwear to Britain that I rarely used them.  The reason was that it was so humid that it seemed that nothing one did made you warm.  Putting on a sweater there was almost like putting one on when you are under cold water.  It just didn’t make a lot of difference.  The only thing that seemed to help was my heavy overcoat.

We were also required to wear hats and they helped keep the heat in the body somewhat.

I remember talking to some people who had recently arrived from Iceland and they said that they couldn’t wait to get back because it was much more difficult to get warm in northern England than their country.

The most oft repeated joke in the North was “Summer came on a Wednesday this year.”

There was a lot of truth to this statement as I could only recall not needing my overcoat only one day the first year I was there.  The second summer was much better however.

Anyway, with a nagging cold and bad weather I continued the best I could.

It was the mission’s policy for us to change companions every six weeks or so and soon the day came that Elder Dee was transferred and replaced by an Elder Branch who was still my senior and again I was under orders to strictly follow him.

Elder Branch was from the old school of black and white religion and was a letter-of-the-law type guy.  Most people didn’t like him much and he really got on my nerves.

Then he did something that still irritates me to this day.  One morning I read in the paper that the Beatles were coming to Leeds, a town about ten miles away.  Since I loved the Beatles I approached elder Branch in utmost humility and asked him if we could attend the performance. I even volunteered to pay his way.

Immediately he gave the cut and dry answer: “The Beatles?  Their music is inspired by the devil.  Of course we will not go.”

Over the next couple days I did everything in my power to change his mind, but all I did was irritate him.  It got to the point that if I persisted further I think we would have gotten in a physical fight.

Finally, I had to resign myself to missing them.  The only other choice was to sneak out and see them, but that may have caused the mission president to send me home in disgrace.

That was indeed a piece of history I missed and one thing I found odd about my fellow missionaries is that none of them seemed to like rock and roll. Even though they were the right age (19-21) I found it amazing as to how many actually preferred music recommended by the Church.  I do not recall one single missionary I worked with who liked the Beatles or rock and roll in general.  They all loved Rogers and Hammerstein type of music. I kind of felt like a stranger in a strange land as far as music was concerned.

One companion I worked with sang Rogers and Hammerstein songs all day long.  It didn’t bother me much for the first two weeks I worked with him but then about the third week he started to drive me crazy. Finally, after about another week I couldn’t take it any more and presented my problem to him as gently as possible.

“Elder,” I said, “you have a fine voice and you really have these songs down well, but your constant singing is just getting to me and driving me up the wall.  Can you do me a favor and not sing so much?”

I thought he may take offense, but he didn’t seem offended at all.  Instead he calmly looked at me and replied, “Singing these songs is just who I am and I’m not going to change who I am.”

Then he got up and started singing “Some Enchanted Evening.”

I couldn’t believe his audacity.  “What could I do,” I thought to myself, “short of putting a choke hold on him?”

Actually he was very easy to get along with outside of this one flaw but after about six weeks it was a great relief to get rid of him.  At that point his incessant singing seemed comparable to Chinese water torture.

Anyway, back to Elder Branch…  The rest of the time I worked with him was not much fun.  If you want to convert anyone to anything the first thing you must do is get them to like you and few liked him much.  We didn’t have much success together and my cold turned into bronchitis and near pneumonia.

I was growing somewhat frustrated.  I had to follow a guy who didn’t know how to lead or teach and my health was quickly deteriorating.

Finally I got so ill that the headquarters pulled me out of the field and brought me in the mission home to recover.  They also sent me to a private doctor (separate from the socialist system they have there).  I had previously been to a couple doctors that were a part of their universal health care and was amazed at how many people were in each doctors office.  I was also amazed at how short each visit was.  The first doctor I remember seeing began writing me a prescription long before I was finished telling him what was wrong with me.

Anyway, the Mission Home’s private doctor was much different.  He was unhurried and relaxed and we even shared some small talk.

I tried to follow his advice, but just seemed to get worse.

Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 5 & 6

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Five

Over the next couple days in the mission home I got worse instead of better. On the second evening I felt like I was going to die. This was discouraging for several reasons. First, in a blessing I received when I was set apart for my mission I was told I would have good health and I had the worst health in my life in the three months I was there.

Secondly, I had received two healing blessings from other elders and they had no effect whatsoever.

I decided that when the morning arrived I would ask for a healing blessing from the mission president. He seemed to be a man with considerable faith.

Before that happened I decided to have an intense talk with God. I spent all night in prayer and do not recall getting any sleep at all. Since I was feeling too ill to sleep then prayer was as good of use of time as any. My talk with God went something like this:

“Look God, you’ve sent me on a mission and promised me good health and look at me. I’m in terrible shape and have never felt worse as far as health goes. I’m willing to do whatever you want but I need a little help here. I’ll tell you what. If you heal me when President Payne gives me a blessing I’ll work like crazy in the mission work and make you proud.”

I said a lot more things I do not recall but it must have been a lot of words because I prayed throughout the night.

When morning came I sent a request to President Payne to give me a blessing. A short time later he came in my room with his assistant. He showed some concern, asked a few questions and we had a nice conversation. Then he laid his hands on my head and proceeded to give me a blessing.

Within an instant of him beginning to speak something happened that I have not experienced before or since. The feeling is difficult to describe, but I will do my best.

My body felt like it was on the verge of exploding or maybe imploding, as if my very life force were erupting and reorganizing. From my head to my toe I experienced great discomfort and sweat started pouring out of every pour in my body. I wasn’t sure if I was being healed or was going to die.

This process continued for about two or three minutes while the president had his hands on my head. It took all the self-control and composure I could muster to sit still and not get up and run off screaming.

Finally, the president ceased speaking and lifted his hands. Immediately all pain and discomfort left and was replaced by a sense of well-being. I stood up and looked at my pajamas. They were soaking wet as if they had just been retrieved from being thrown in a swimming pool.

President Payne left without ceremony and then I heard someone say it was time for breakfast. Breakfast, I thought. I had scarcely eaten in two days and had no appetite, but suddenly I realized I was starving. Not only was I starving, but it dawned on me as I walked around the room that I seemed to be completely well. This seemed too good to be true and I indeed hoped this was not just a moment or two of euphoria.

I cleaned up, changed into regular clothes and joined the missionaries for breakfast. As I was wolfing down bacon, eggs, three or four pancakes and lots of juice a missionary across he table said, “Hey, I thought you were supposed to be sick.”

“Not any more,” I said. “President Payne gave me a blessing and I’m all better.”

The missionary replied, “I’ve heard stories about his blessings. I’m not surprised.”

I enjoyed visiting the mission home for I always seemed to meet some very high caliber fellow missionaries there. It was amazing that almost all of them were between 19-21 years of age yet many seemed more mature and had greater leadership skills than I had seen anywhere before.

It is not often that another fellow human being inspires me to do better but it happened a couple times in the mission home. One evening a prominent elder who was about to go home announced that he was going to speak to whoever wanted to listen. I attended and found myself thoroughly enjoying his presentation. I cannot recall what he subject mater was but I do recall his impressive delivery. Every few minutes he injected into his speech a quotation from some famous sage. He rattled these off word for word flawlessly with no notes. It was obvious that he spent a good deal of time memorizing these quotes and it really paid off. He was one of the few speakers in the church that I could have listen to all night.

I determined right there that I was also going to memorize a wide assortment of quotes so I could have them at my disposal. This I did and they have often come in handy. I continued this process for a number of years but eventually let it slip because of so much attention needed to handle daily life in the real world. Even today though some of the quotes come back to me to inspire me.

I often wonder what happened to this elder as he seemed to be a natural leader.

Another piece of assistance I picked up was some advice I received from another leading elder. He gave me a key to memorizing. He told me that for effective memorization to go over the words you want to memorize on the following days: The first, the second, the seventh, the seventeenth and the thirty-second day. If one memorizes one new scripture or quote a day, then by using this method of repetition he will review five passages per day.

I took this to heart and found it really worked and by the end of my mission I had many quotes at my disposal.

Well, my rest in the mission home was complete and it was time to go back in the field with a new companion in a new town. I was hoping that president Payne would realize that I was ready to be a senior elder so I could take charge and convert a ton of those reluctant English.

Chapter Six
The Missionary Life

My next assignment was a sleepy little town named Consett in northern County Durham, a few miles away from Newcastle. About half of my arriving group had been made seniors and since I had proven myself a capable teacher I thought this would also happen to me. Instead, I was made a junior again. I was supposed to be happy though because I had a better sounding title, which was, “Companion to Branch President.” Consett was one of those towns that didn’t have enough members or leadership to govern itself so the missionaries provided it. My new companion, Elder Richardson, was not only my new boss but ran the entire church there and I had to help him. We ran the meetings, kept the records, taught Sunday School, handled problems – the whole ball of wax for about 20 active members.

This new assignment was the worst possible as far as my game plan was concerned. My goal was to just be a regular missionary, be the senior in charge and then convert a record number of those stubborn English. Now there were two things frustrating my plan. The first was that I was still a junior and the second was we didn’t have a lot of time for missionary work because we had to run the branch of the church.

One thing that was similar to my last assignment was my landlady. The one in Wakefield sang the song “Downtown” all day long and my new one sang “Were have all the Flowers Gone.” Neither of them knew all the words but just sang a couple lines over and over. Fortunately we didn’t spend a lot of time with our landladies, except at lunch and dinner, so the repetition was not enough to dive one crazy.

I do not remember anything negative about Elder Richardson except he didn’t like rock and roll. Then my next companion was Elder Moench and was the singer of the Rogers and Hammerstein songs I mentioned earlier. He made the annoyance of my landladies repetitious singing seem minor indeed. He was also appointed my senior so I had to tow the line again.

I don’t recall anything out of the ordinary as far as the work was concerned. It was pretty standard missionary work with the running of the local church thrown in. My memory of the three plus months there is somewhat of a blur.

One thing that may seem odd, that was required of the missionaries, was to fill out a daily report covering almost every minute of our lives. Every mission required reports, but each mission president individualized his own. President Payne must have been part control freak because our report at the beginning of my mission had 85 categories and at the end there were over 100. We had to fill out all the categories on a daily basis and it took quite a bit of time – time that could have been much better spend I thought.

I wish I had saved a copy of the form but here are a few of the things I recall we had to answer daily:

Rising time: (Supposed to be 6 AM. If many infractions of this occurred you got in trouble with the mission home. Many missionaries fudged on this section.)

Individual study time: (was supposed to begin at 6:30 AM and go to 7:30 AM after taking a half hour to dress and get ready. Most digs did not have a bath or shower and we had to go to the public baths maybe twice a week.)

Joint study: (this was from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. Here the missionaries took turns reading aloud from study materials and then discussing them. I much preferred individual study as I learned much more on my own.)

We then were allowed a half-hour to eat breakfast and get ready to go to work.

The next item to fill out was the actual time we left the residence to do the work. The time of rising and the time we left for work were the two most crucial parts of the form. It was of extreme importance to the mission home that we not be over five minutes off on either of these. Since I have always been a big believer in honesty the only choice I had of staying I the good graces of the mission home was to arise on time and be prepared to leave for work at 9 AM.

Then we made an hourly account of our activities. Between 9 AM to Noon was usually spent in “tracting.” This was the name giving to knocking on doors in an attempt to find people to teach. For most missionaries this was the least favorite part of their day. The bitter cold weather didn’t help either. I didn’t mind doing it at all because this provided us with the best source of people to teach.

Next we accounted for the time spent at lunch. We were allowed an hour each for lunch and dinner, but if we could get lunch down to a half hour this was a bonus.

We usually returned to our digs for lunch and dinner unless some member invited us to eat with them.

Between 1 PM to 5 PM we were expected to either be tracting or visiting with members attempting to get referrals out of them. Members referring their friends for the missionaries to teach was considered to be the most important resource to find prospects.

Since most missionaries didn’t like tracting they opted to visit members whenever possible and tabulating this up to referral work on the report. Since we only were able to dig up a referral maybe once every couple weeks, this constant visiting of members was not a good use of time. Most missionaries would much rather visit with members and flirt with their teenage daughters than knock on unfriendly doors in the cold.

Another thing that made visiting members desirable was the natural friendliness of the members, for the people of Northern England had a reputation of being much more friendly and hospitable than the South where they were seen as being more stuffy and reserved.

One tradition they had wherever I worked was once you entered their home you couldn’t leave without something to eat or drink. Since Mormons were not allowed to drink coffee a substitute barely drink was used called Pero. This was very popular with the members and is sold as Caro in this country. Members always insisted they feed us cookies, sweets or more. Quite often by dinner I wasn’t that hungry.

Because I was the junior during my first seven months I had to follow the game plan of my companion which was basically the same for all my seniors which was: (1) Do the mandatory tracting for the three morning hours. (2) Spend all the rest of the free hours visiting the members, sipping Pero, eating cookies, flirting with daughters, talking sports, movies, life back home, etc. Sometimes we would even talk about church doctrine. Then at the end of the visit the question was always asked, “Oh, by the way, do you have any friends interested in being taught?”

The members understood that we always had to ask this question so we could count the visit as official business. Their answer was always no.

Why do I say always?

Because if they did have a friend interested in being taught they would tell us at the beginning of the visit, not the end.

Then between 5 PM to 6 PM we took off for dinner. Sometimes we even caught a little news on the television, or “telly” as they called it.

Then between 6PM to 10PM we were back to work. The mission theory was that our morning and afternoon work was to be productive enough to fill our evening hours with teaching. Since the average number of hours teaching in that mission was only about five hours a week we were left with over three hours to fill. Since most missionaries wanted to avoid tracting at night like the plague they again resorted to visiting more members, drinking more Pero and eating more cookies.

Since I came to the mission field to get some results I grew increasingly frustrated by what I considered a very ineffective use of time of just visiting members and exchanging small talk.

Fortunately, the members did not mind. Many would be happy to spend all day with the missionaries. They almost fell in love with them and many a teen age daughter or a single woman (and some married) had a crush on a missionary.

This was of great concern to the mission home for if a missionary had sex with anyone on his mission he was sent home in disgrace and excommunicated. They were very strict on this.

Unfortunately, this did happen from time to time. When it did it usually involved some sexy young girl, but on one occasion a missionary I knew, who seemed quite dedicated to his mission, had sex with his 54 year-old landlady and was sent home. That about blew me away and I really felt bad for the guy for he was a friend and I liked him.

We were then supposed to be back in the digs at 10 PM and to bed at 10:30 PM. Since the mission was not so strict on retiring hours as they were on rising we sometimes missed the goal by a half hour or more. Later, when I became a senior I missed this by a lot, often not getting home till around midnight. All this and more went on the report.

So, every day we had to fill out a humungous report but then at the end of the week we had to fill out an additional weekly report giving the weekly totals of all work related activities.

I do not have many memories of my work in Consett as nothing much significant happened work wise. The main thing I learned from my companions was more in the what-not-to-do category rather than the to do. I decided that when I was put in charge I was going to do things differently. I eagerly awaited the opportunity.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 7 & 8

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Seven
A Strange New Start

Finally, after seven months as a junior my day of opportunity came. I was promoted to the senior position. I was somewhat baffled over why this took so long as I was the last one in our group to be so promoted, but among the first to learn the lessons as well as being the recipient of high marks on teaching ability.

When I arrived in England I had a goal to baptize 100 people during my two years stay. Some thought that was very unrealistic since the average missionary only was credited with 3 to 4 baptisms during his term. Some missions were a lot more difficult than others. Some missions in Europe had less than one baptism per missionary whereas some in the states had over twenty. So the northern English were resistant, but not as bad as people in some other countries.

I had been out seven months and had only baptized two so I figured I had 98 to go and had to make up for lost time.

I found out my next assignment was one of the smallest towns that had a branch of the church. It was called Peterlee and had about 18,000 people. It was located a couple miles from the eastern sea and the nearest town of significance was Hartlepool, a few miles to the South.

Little did I know the impact this area would have on my life including finding and converting the woman I was to marry who would become the mother of my children.

I arrived in Peterlee the first part of May in 1965. When I entered my new digs I met the last of the two Elders who had worked there before me. He was just leaving. So I asked him about the area. His response went something like this:

“This is the worst town of my mission and has a reputation of being the most difficult town in the mission. One problem is that it is so small that you can knock on all the doors in a month and then you have to start over. I’ve been meeting people here lately who say, ‘Weren’t you just here a few weeks ago?’

“The members are also few in number and discouraged and the mission home was going to shut the church down here and send the members to the branch in Hartlepool. I felt bad for the few members that want the branch to stay open and asked President Payne to give it one more chance. Well, Elder Dewey, you are their last hope. If you can’t make something happen here then there will be no more church in Peterlee.

“Thanks for the heads up,” I said. “I’ll give it my best shot.”

The elder gathered up his luggage and took off to his next assignment. A few hours later my new companion arrived. This time I was to be the senior and he the junior.

When an Elder is made a senior he always hopes he will receive a fresh companion from the states as his junior. The reason for this is a “green elder,” as they were called, is not yet set in his ways or discouraged and is usually much more cooperative than one who has been out a while. Well, I never did get a green elder during my two years there and my new companion was no exception. He had been out for over three months.

Finally, he showed up. His name was Elder Huish. He was a nice looking blond kid about six foot and seemed to have a good personality. By all appearances, it seemed that he would be a good companion for the work.

But then after we finished the small talk I learned that not only was I assigned a problem town, but a problem elder.

Elder Huish explained to me that he was raised in the church but was never sure if it was true or if there was a God. He said he was particularly desirous to find out if God existed and thought that maybe if he went on a mission he would find proof about God’s reality.

“So, what have you concluded so far?” I asked.

“I’ve concluded that there is no God,” he said.

“Are you telling me that I have an atheist as a companion?”

“I suppose so, unless you can convince me that there is a God.”

“Good grief,” I thought to myself. “Is this some type of cosmic joke? After all this preparation and waiting for opportunity I am sent to what is supposed to be the worst town in the mission and given an atheist as a companion to convert people to God!’

I paced the floor back and forth and concluded, “Just my luck; here’s my big opportunity to be in charge and I have the worst town and the worst possible companion.” I had never heard of an atheist missionary.

We talked further and Elder Huish was somewhat apologetic. He said, “I never wanted to be an atheist and have always wished there was a God. Going on a mission was the final step I could think of to prove His existence and that hasn’t worked. There is only one thing I haven’t tried yet.”

“What’s that?’

“Praying to Satan.”

“Praying to Satan! I gasped. “Are you out of your mind? Why would you consider such a thing?”

“Here’s my reasoning,” he said. “If I were to pray to Satan and he were to show up that would prove that he exists and if Satan exists then there also has to be a God.”

“But if Satan were to show up he would try to convince you that there is no God or that he is the only God,” I said.

Elder Huish didn’t accept my reasoning and insisted that just a glimpse of Satan would give him evidence that there was a God. He had prayed for God to show his face or give him evidence and nothing happened so maybe the devil would be more cooperative.

“You’re not still considering praying to Satan, are you?” I asked.

“Matter of fact, I am. After all, it is the only thing I haven’t tried.”

I then tried everything in my power to get a commitment from him to not pray to Satan but he wouldn’t give one.

Finally, I said, “I encourage you in the strongest terms not to do this. We’ve all heard horror stories told by missionaries of Elders having dealings with Satan and the end is always catastrophic. I will tell you this. If you work with me and cooperate you will see evidence of God and won’t have to pray to Satan to get it. Are you at least willing to put in the required hours doing the missionary work?”

He said he was, but he didn’t want to teach or pray that I would have to do all of that. He said he liked people and would be friendly and supportive as long as we were together.

“Have you thought of just going home?” I asked.

“Actually, that is my plan,” he said, “but it is easier said than done. As you know, the mission home keeps all of the missionaries’ passports in a safe and will only release them and pay your way home if you complete a successful mission. Now if I were to get excommunicated they would give me my passport and send me home in disgrace, but that would break my parents’ hearts.”

“So what is your plan?”

“My plan is to save up enough money to get home and then somehow get in the mission home, get my passport and head back to the states. At least I’ll still be a member of the church and my parents can live with that.

“Okay,” I said. I then thought of the old truism that we have to plough with the horses we have and so I would give this most difficult town my best attempt as well as do my best to work with my non-believing companion.

That night and every other evening for the next two months I worked with him I slept with one eye open being somewhat nervous that he would hop out of bed in the middle of the night and pray to Satan. One of the missionaries’ favorite pastimes when they get together is to tell horror stories of wayward Elders’ encounters with Satan. Who knew if they were true or not but they were strange enough to give anyone the creeps.



Chapter Eight
Group Contact

Elder Huish didn’t always rise on time and didn’t spend much time in the required studies but he did agree to be ready for work at 9 AM. As a senior the main thing I decided to do that was different was to only spend essential time with members and all the time possible knocking on doors. Much of the time we did spend with members was late at night when knocking on doors was impossible as we often visited until midnight. This was frowned upon by the mission home but it was not a big enough infraction to warrant discipline. I guess they thought we might be working overtime.

As I plunged into my new assignment I experienced a rather delightful change in consciousness. Before this time I seemed to be going through what is commonly called the dark night of the soul – at least as far as I was concerned. At the age of sixteen I began having some unusual spiritual experiences and one of the problems they generated was that I felt that there was no one I could share them with else they might think I was going crazy. This and some other problems made me feel very isolated and alone. I felt such a deep aloneness that it made me wonder if my feelings were unique to me. After experiencing this for about five years (I was 20 at this time of my mission) I then experienced something else that seemed unique in that I never heard anyone talk about such a happening in the church.

This event could have been just one more thing I couldn’t share leading to more isolation of my feelings except this event became the cure and not something that exacerbated the problem.

What happened was this. My companion and I were walking down the street and we were both pretty much lost in our own thoughts. Then very gently a pleasant feeling distilled upon my soul. It was a spiritual feeling but not “the spirit” as seen by the church. As I contemplated the feeling something interesting dawned on me: I was not alone. I was a part of a group mind, an intelligent network, or a spiritual internet as I now call them. This was the beginning of my understanding of the “Oneness Principle” that I have taught about so often.

As I tuned into this group mind I began to perceive several things about it. The first was that its vibration was very high and uncomfortable until one adjusts to it – something like a bright light takes some adjustment.

The second was that it has always been linked to me – at least in this life, but I was unable to perceive it. They had been helping me prepare for contact for some time sending me energy to increase my vibration. When this came I didn’t understand it and thought maybe I was going crazy. These weird feelings didn’t make any sense to me at the time, but when the link was finally established I then understood.

The third was that my group was not infinite in number but was maybe a couple dozen souls, but they were linked to other groups and the whole composed an “innumerable company.” See Heb 12:22

I sensed that I was to pay attention to this contact and continue to adjust to it. Its purpose was not to give me any particular revelation but open a door for me to share intelligence and raise my consciousness. This I sought to do and by the end of my mission experience the group consciousness seemed quite normal. The group eventually seemed like one mind rather than numerous minds linking.

The positive effect of this experience was that I never felt alone again. The downside was I was more sensitive to the vibration of all those with whom I was working or dealing with and I would sometimes literally share their pain. It took me a couple years to adjust to this so it wouldn’t be such a distraction.

The extra sensitivity was also very helpful in the missionary work. When we knocked on a door and started giving the presentation I could sense right away if there was a chance of teaching them. If there was not I would cut the presentation short and move on. If there was, then I would spend whatever time necessary to get their interest, even if it took an hour. Thus my atheist companion and I moved onward in the little town of Peterlee, the supposedly worst town in the mission.

Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 9 & 10

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Nine
The Shawshank Elder

Because of the warning I had I was expecting Peterlee to be a tough town, but as we proceeded with the work we found the people to be reasonably receptive.

Since Elder Huish wanted me to do most of the talking and teaching I had lots of opportunity to practice my newfound sensitivity. We did lots of tracting (knocking on doors) at first but it wasn’t long before we were teaching so much that this began to occupy most of our time. We were soon headed toward mission records in teaching hours and the number of prospects being taught. Because we were spending much more time teaching than tracting it looked like it would take several months to knock on all the doors in town instead of the several weeks the previous missionary indicated.

Our success made Elder Huish a little more optimistic and he seemed to enjoy the work more than he did in the past. The local members were happy that we were bringing more people to church and he enjoyed the appreciation and friendliness the members showed us.

All this did not convert him though. One family we were teaching did catch his interest. They were the Littles. They were just the type of family that the missionaries dream of converting. They were a young couple with three small children. They were both intelligent, good looking and would surely be leaders in the church if they joined.

There did seem to be a major hurdle though. Brother Little was an atheist. (Note: all prospects and members are addressed as brother or sister by missionaries.) He wasn’t even sure why he allowed us to start teaching him. It just seemed that we aroused his curiosity.

Now Elder Huish found a kindred spirit in Brother Little and was curious as to how far we could take him before he would give up on us because we could not prove that God existed. Fortunately, Elder Huish was supportive during the teaching process and never revealed to Brother Little his own non belief.

I encouraged Brother Little to read the Book of Mormon and told him that if he read it and prayed about it he could get a witness that God existed. I told him that if he applied himself this could happen within six weeks.

He was a little like Elder Huish in that he didn’t believe in God but if there was a way to discover he was wrong he would be happy to find it.

He and his wife were cooperative and applied themselves to the lessons we taught, but after about five weeks Brother Little was quite discouraged and felt like he would never be able to prove to himself that there was a God. I encouraged him to continue reading the Book of Mormon and praying and we ended the class with an earnest prayer for him to receive a witness. We then scheduled our next lesson with him a few days hence.

I felt a strong link with Brother Little and from the beginning I thought this was a sign that he would be converted. He seemed rather negative on our last meeting and for a few days it seemed as if we would lose him. Then on the day of our next appointment the link I had with him turned from despair to extreme joyousness. I realized that he had received a witness and was going to get baptized.

As Elder Huish and I departed to his residence I thought that I had an opportunity to provide Elder Huish with some hard evidence that there is a God.

I said to him: “Brother Little has received a witness and has decided to be baptized.”

“Yeah, right,” he said in disbelief.

We peddled our bikes to his house and knocked on the door. The door opened within seconds and I suspected that Brother Little had been waiting for us. He has the happiest look on his face I had seen on my mission and spoke:

“Guess what?”

“What?” I asked.

“I’ve got a witness and decided to be baptized.”

After spending some time with him and then leaving, Elder Huish looked at me and said, “I have to admit it. You were right on the mark on that one. How did you know he was going to get baptized?”

“God,” I said, hoping to instill some faith in him.

Unfortunately this and other extra sensory calls did not faze him and he didn’t seem to make any change in his belief system during our two months together.

My time with Elder Huish was much more productive than one would have guessed. We broke mission records in teaching, revitalized the local branch of the church and had a slew of people lined up to be baptized.

Then he was transferred to another town but I did my best to keep track of him. I heard through the grapevine that his next companion also did not take the church seriously. The mission home thought that since Huish did so well with me he must have turned into a good missionary – so they placed him with a slacker in hopes of motivating him. Instead, the two spent most of their time flying kites together.

Next they transferred him to a serious elder in hopes of whipping him back in shape as I seemed to have done. This didn’t work and their relationship became so strained they got in a fistfight. After this, President Payne didn’t seem to know what to do with him so brought him into the Mission Home and had him perform miscellaneous duties.

This fit right into his plan for I recalled that he told me he needed to get into the Mission Home and somehow retrieve his passport so he could go home. During our time together he saved every penny he could and had most of the money needed to pay his way home. Now that a few more months had passed I was sure he had saved enough for the trip.

After staying in the mission home a few weeks President Payne and his wife took all the local missionaries to visit the temple again in London similar to what they did when I first arrived. All went except one that is. They left Elder Huish as the only elder there to look after the Mission Home. I found this to be ironic – that Elder Huish had the same assignment as that dedicated Elder we first met who took us to a street meeting.

When the missionaries came back from the temple excursion they were in for a surprise indeed. Elder Huish was gone and the safe containing the passports had been opened. Only one thing was missing – Elder Huish’s passport.
No one ever figured out how Huish got the combination to the safe, but he did somehow and made his escape. He was the only missionary in memory to do such a thing. In a strange sort of way he kind of reminded me of Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption. He made a surprising escape and then followed his own path.

Even though I never converted him to God I had to smile every time I thought of his daring plan and execution and figured he was out there somewhere in the States living without guilt making an interesting life for himself.



Chapter Ten
A Modern Korihor

By the time Elder Huish was transferred we were teaching a record number of people. Our success surprised even me. I figured that it must be a rarity in the church that an atheist missionary participates in bringing so many people to God.

Since we had a large number of people ready for baptism I was hoping my next companion would be a little more believing to help nudge them onward into the church.

For one of the few times during my mission I did receive what I wanted. My next companion was Elder Ware. He believed in God and the Church and was supportive. He was an ex-Marine and since I was in charge he was good at following orders, which was fine with me. The only oddity about him, was he talked about the Marines as much or more than the church. To him the Marines were the one true branch of the military similar to the way missionaries seemed to feel about the church.

This idiosyncrasy didn’t interfere with anything as the people liked him and he did his best to support the work.

Shortly after we were working together we met an atheist that I’m sure Elder Huish would have liked to meet. He was friendly and invited us in and we gave him our presentation. He said that he did not believe in God but would be happy to be convinced otherwise. We spent some time discussing evidences for God and had a fairly intense discussion. I realized that this character was one of the most intelligent people I had met on my mission. We gave him a Book of Mormon and advised him to read it. He said he would and we made an appointment to come back the next day.

We returned as promised and he cordially invited us in. Now usually when we leave a Book of Mormon or any reading materials we were lucky if the prospect read more than three pages, but this guy surprised us. The conversation went something like this:

Atheist Guy “I had a couple hours free since I saw you last so I read your book.”

This shocked me beyond belief. I had never had a prospect read more than ten pages or so in such a short time and the entire Book of Mormon is 520 pages with some heavy reading that is difficult to speed through.

“What do you mean you read the book? Are you saying you read the whole book?”

“Yes,” he said. “I do a lot of reading and I read the whole thing. It was no big deal.”

“Well, that’s not an accomplishment we see every day,” I added. ”Did you understand what you read?”

“I think so. It’s a pretty simple book,” he said with an air of superiority.

I had difficulty in believing he read the whole thing so I decided to test him. ”Can you tell me something you read that you found interesting?” I asked.

To my surprise he did recount something that was in the book, and not the beginning either, but a story about half way through. It was about an atheist teacher named Korihor. He taught that God was a major fantasy of a “crazed mind” and alarmed the leaders of the church because many began to believe him. He was brought before the high priest and this was part of their conversation:

Alma 30:35 Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain? And now, believest thou that we deceive this people, that causes such joy in their hearts?
36 And Korihor answered him, Yea.
37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
38 And he answered, Nay.
39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.
40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?
42 Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.
43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.
44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and
also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
45 And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign.
46 And now it came to pass that Alma said unto him: Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed.
47 But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; therefore if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee, that thou shalt become dumb, that thou shalt never open thy mouth any more, that thou shalt not deceive this people any more.
48 Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.
49 Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.
50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
51 And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?
52 And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.
53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

Our prospect said he found this story interesting and said that he would be willing to be struck dumb to find proof there was a God. He felt that was a price he was willing to pay.

I told him that I doubted that he would want to go that far.

He then turned very serious and stated that he would be happy to pay the price of being struck dumb to make such a discovery.

Then he said to me, “Go ahead. Strike me dumb.”

“No thanks,” I said. ”I have no desire to strike you dumb.”

“Aren’t you a priest or an elder in the church with powers similar to Alma?”

“Yes, I suppose I am.”

Then suddenly his mild manner changed to being very antagonistic. He stood up and came within inches of my face and screamed at the top of his lungs, “If there is a God and you have authority then strike me dumb!!!”

We stared at each other in extreme tension for about a minute as Elder Ware looking on wondering what was going to happen next. At the time I fully believed I had the faith to strike him dumb. The question in my mind at the time was not whether such a thing could be done, but whether it should be done.

He shouted again, “What are you afraid of? You know that you have no power and there is no God to curse me. Go ahead! Prove there is a God! Strike me dumb!!!”

Then I thought to myself that this guy was indeed obnoxious and maybe he did deserve to be struck dumb if he had such nerve to insult God as well as asking for such a sign.

We stared at each other again in cold silence and this time I was truly considering giving him his desired sign. I came a hair’s breath from pronouncing on him the same curse as Alma did on Korihor. I rose to my feet knowing I was going to make some pronouncement when suddenly I was stopped by the inner voice which spoke to my mind and said, “Relax and do not tempt God.”

I then spoke, but different words came out than I had anticipated: ”It is written, thou shalt not tempt God and thus I will not give you the sign you want, but another sign I will give. When the time of your death draws near and you are ready to leave the body then you will have your sign and just before you pass you will know then that God lives.”

This statement seemed to have an impact on him and his facial muscles relaxed. He backed off and sat down. Again we had a moment or two of silence as he seemed to be digesting my response. Finally, he looked up and said, “I think we are done here.”

We told him we would be happy to return and give him the lessons. He politely refused and showed us out the door.

As we walked away Elder Ware said in a very excited voice, “Wow! I have never seen anything like that before. For a moment I could have sworn that you were going to strike him dumb.”

“For a moment I thought I was too,” I said, but the Spirit had other plans.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey