Shortly after our experience with the Sherlocks Elder Eldridge and I shared our experiences with the missionaries in our district meeting, which was composed of about a dozen elders. I thought that would be as far as it went but a short time later we had a missionary conference that gathered from the whole mission. This was presided over by the famous LDS apostle, Mark E. Peterson, who was also the authority assigned to oversee all British missions.
After we had gathered, a missionary who had heard our story came to me and thought I ought to approach Elder Peterson and relate the events to him. He was very adamant and enthusiastic about this.
I told him that I didn’t think that was necessary, that the Sherlocks had rejected the church and there was nothing he could do.
He insisted that it was important that church headquarters know the story – that maybe an apostle could give some further guidance or perhaps the prophet himself would want to know about it.
I told him I was not impressed to relate the story any further up the chain of command.
The guy ignored my protest completely and after the meeting he came to me and said, “Mark E. Peterson wants to see you.”
“Yes, I talked to him and gave him a few details and he wants to hear the story.”
At this point he disappeared a minute and returned with Elder Peterson in hand. We pulled up a couple chairs and faced each other. After exchanging some small talk I related the story to him. After finishing there was a short silence and I thought he was pondering some profound thought, but all he said was, “Keep working with the Sherlocks and maybe they’ll come in the church.” He then shook my hand and departed.
I got the impression that he had dismissed in his mind all the supernatural aspects of the story. Now on hindsight I can see it was quite possible he just tabulated me as one more person to keep on his watch list of potential troublemakers.
My readers know that this was not my last encounter with the man for I had a second face to face meeting of greater significance related at:
I worked with Elder Eldridge about six weeks until it was time for him to return home to the states. About that time I was notified that I was supposed to call the mission home. They could not call us because we did not have a phone. If we needed to use the phone we had to use one of their famous phone booths, which was a large iron contraption painted bright red. One thing I can say for the English is they certainly made a much sturdier phone booth than did the Americans. It was virtually indestructible.
I put in some coins and called the mission home and President Payne got on the line.
“Elder Dewey, as you know Elder Eldridge is going home so we are making you the new district leader. Do you have an English driver’s license so you can drive the district van?”
“No, I said, “but I have a test scheduled tomorrow.”
“Then pass that test,” he said. “We are depending on you.”
This was quite unnerving as the English driver’s test at that time (not sure what it is like today) was at least ten times as difficult to pass as anything back home. The average person had to take it around three times before he could pass it and we met people who had taken it as many as seven times without passing.
To make matters worse for my state of mind, I had already flunked it once before. It was only about three minutes into the test when I went around a corner and was so nervous my mind went blank and suddenly I couldn’t remember which side of the road was the correct one to drive on. As you know the English drive on the opposite side of the road to us, and this takes some getting used to.
As my luck would have it I chose the wrong side and after a few seconds the instructor commanded me to “Halt!” (They always use “halt” rather than the word “stop” there.)
He had seen enough and he ordered me to return to base and failed me.
Since succeeding at standardized tests was not one of my talents in life I was nervous enough about taking another driver’s test the way it was. Now it appeared that if I failed my whole district would be without a van. Also there was a significant waiting period before one could take the test again. What would happen if I didn’t pass? Would President Payne send in another Elder with a license to be the district leader and then make me a junior again? That thought sent chills up my spine. I didn’t go on a mission to have my hands tied and be ordered about for the whole time period. I was willing to pay my dues but all the time I was forced to spend as a junior was getting ridiculous.
Anyway at the time of the test my nerves were on edge approaching code red. Before the talk with President Payne I figured I had a good chance of passing as I had prepared well, but now I figured the extra tension had lowered my chances significantly. One thing was sure and that was that I was going to drive on the correct side of the road this time.
To my great relief, I passed the test in flying colors. Finally I was to be placed in a senior position again, but this position was not what I really wanted. My greatest desire was to just be a regular missionary and teach the people. Responsibilities over other missionaries just took time away from that in my mind. In addition to this the older population of Scarborough made the work quite difficult.
Even so, it was great to be in charge of the work again. Little did I realize the rich experiences awaiting me that had little to do with converting anyone.
I can’t remember exactly when the thought entered my head but somewhere along the way, during my missionary days, a question arose in my mind. As I read the revelations given to Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants I was struck by the fact that he was often criticized quite strongly by God, not one time, but a number of times. Then it occurred to me that the current authorities only receive praise within the church.
I then wondered what God would think of them if a revelation were given revealing how they were performing in the work. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been any revelation at all given that was soundly identified as such in my lifetime so that answer didn’t seem to be available.
But, the scriptures say that if we lack wisdom all we have to do is ask God and he will give it to us. I therefore, decided to bypass all red tape and ask God directly what He thought of the current authorities of the church.
I thus knelt in prayer and asked God what He thought of them. Now usually when I have asked for an answer I had gotten at least some type of impression but this time it was different. It felt like there was a brick wall between God and me.
I persisted asking and finally an impression came which was:
“You aren’t ready for the answer. Some day you will be.”
Now I have never been mesmerized by strong authority, neither did I see the leaders as anything more than ordinary men doing their best to guide the church. This answer, however, left me a little curious.
It was probably a good call that I did not receive an answer at that time as I probably would have been sent home and excommunicated and I may have not learned my needed lessons.
As it was, it was about ten years later that I did receive my answer and shortly after receiving it I was indeed excommunicated.
I never was an orthodox believer. This began with my taste in music and ran into numerous other areas. I was the only missionary that I knew of that was a fan of rock and roll as well as the Beatles. I’m sure others had to exist, but I didn’t meet one other missionary that was a fan and many were outright antagonistic to the new music of the time.
Now things are different. Most people in and out of the church like the music of the Sixties.
My reading material was suspect and some of the other missionaries thought I was on shaky ground, reading things not sanctioned by the church. I read a number of religious materials outside of the church. I loved William Barclays commentary, had a strongly highlighted Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses versions of the Bible and checked unusual books out of the library, several written by spiritual mediums.
Another thing I liked to do was to go to different churches to see what their services were like. Sometimes I had to drag my companion alone and other times they refused to go.
We were told not to challenge other religions to debate, but I loved to debate and challenged anyone we came across who was willing. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were the most willing to debate and I had to admit they put up a good fight.
When I first debated them they would pull out their own translation, a green Bible, and read from that. Their translation always supported their argument more than the King James.
One time during a district meeting one of the missionaries was telling of his experience with an encounter with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said something to this effect:
“There I was holding my own with them, arguing out of the scriptures and then they pulled out a green Bible. And how do you argue with a green Bible?”
We all laughed.
However, I came up with an answer to his question. You fight a green Bible with a green Bible. I studied their Bible and found that even by using their own translation that their arguments were weak and I surprised a number of them by pulling out their green Bible and proving Mormon doctrine from it. It kind of threw them off balance.
My readers who have read my accounts of spiritual experiences and encounters with authority as a teenager, before my mission will realize that it has never been in my nature to be a clone of any belief system and I have always thought for myself.
Even so, when I was in the church I always cooperated as much as possible as long as it did not violate my principles.
I have digressed enough. Time to get back to the story.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey