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

Mission Experiences, Chapters 11 & 12

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Eleven
A Contest and Good Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Twelve
Meeting my Future Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “What do you like then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought wrong.

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

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

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

Mission Experiences, Chapters 13 & 14

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Thirteen
When Soon Means Soon

We rode our bikes to Margaret’s house to say goodbye. She was the daughter of a coal miner and lived in a miner’s housing area. The housing like many in Britain at the time was called stone rows. In other words, they were rows of connected stone dwellings, all of them basically the same design.

Margaret came to the door. She was about five two with long dark hair, fairly nice looking and had an interesting face. From the time I first met her she seemed familiar, but of course, there was no way we could have crossed paths in this life.

I asked her if she was planning to get baptized and she said that both her and her sister planned on doing so.

Outside of being happy that she was going to get baptized the visit was quite uneventful – on the surface that is, but much more transpired than was apparent to me at the time.

I saw her one other time before I left. I caught her a few months later just as she was boarding a bus after a church conference. Unfortunately, we had only a moment to talk.

Then over a year later, after I returned home, around Christmas of 1966 I sent her a Christmas card. This, of course, had my return address on it and she followed up with a letter to me. This started a communication between us and we wrote each other for four years.

After I got home, as with most return missionaries, I got the idea of marrying an English lass out of my head and started a search for my mate in the good ole USA. Most return missionaries go to Rexburg or BYU where there is a plethora of females wanting to date return missionaries but I went to the party school at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. Unfortunately, there were about three guys to one female there at the time so you had to work really hard for a date.

Even so I dated quite a bit and during those four years I dated several females I really fell for and considered marriage, but each time the inner voice gave me a strong no.

Finally, on a visit to Portland, I met one named Rhea that I really wanted to marry but again the inner voice did not approve. Still I liked her so much that I continued seeing her.

All during this time I was writing Margaret, treating her as a friend, and keeping her apprized of different females I was dating. I wrote to her about the dilemma I was in over Rhea – that I could not make up my mind about her.

Then she wrote me back and near the end of her fairly standard letter she said these words:

“I wish you would make up your mind about this person because it would really help solve one of my problems.”

I read this sentence over and over and tried to read between the lines. “Is it possible,” I thought to myself, “that she is somehow thinking that I am the one for her and she is waiting for me to get all the girls I am dating out of my system?”

I was curious about this so I wrote her back and asked her point blank if this as the case. A couple weeks later I received a reply that went something like this:

“There is an important piece of information I have never told you. Remember that day when you were transferred and came to say goodbye? You asked me if I was going to get baptized and I said yes.

“After you left I asked myself if I was getting baptized for the right reason. Did I really believe what you taught me or was there a subtle attraction to you that was influencing me? I decided shortly after you left that I needed to know for sure so I knelt in prayer and asked God for a witness.

“The Spirit came to me very powerfully witnessing about Joseph Smith and the church but then told me something else that I was not expecting. It said that you were to be my husband and that I was to wait for you and after a period of time you would return to England and marry me.

Then she ended with, “I have been waiting ever since. What has taken you so long?”

I put the letter down and said, “Wow!” I suspected that she may have had an attraction to me but never expected a reply like this. Even so, I thought I needed to take it seriously for time and time again as soon I became attracted to someone the inner voice told me no. Was Margaret the one who was finally going to get the go-ahead?

I thought back to meeting her. I had only seen her in the flesh maybe four or five times in a teaching setting where you do not learn much about the personality. I knew her more from her letters than anything else, but there was not enough knowledge to have romantic feelings for her.

Despite my doubts I decided to pray about her with as open of a mind as possible. I knelt in prayer and prayed with all the earnestness at my disposal. I received no reply so I prayed some more. I still received no reply so I prayed some more. Still nothing came. I finally gave up and realized I needed to go on a sales appointment I had set.

As I was driving to my appointment I figured I would need to take no answer as a no, but then as I drove on the presence of the Spirit began to manifest in my innermost self and these words formed within my mind:

“Joseph, my son, Margaret is indeed the one you are supposed to marry.”

I then answered within my mind, “But if this is so how am I supposed to get there let alone marry her and bring her back? I have no money.”

The voice replied, “Do not concern yourself. I will soon make a way for you to go to England.”

I immediately stopped the car and turned around and went back home. The heck with the appointment, I had more important things to do. I sat down and wrote one of the longest letters of my life, sixteen pages.

I told Margaret that I was going to soon be headed to England and that God had confirmed her witness that indeed I was supposed to marry her. The thing that puzzled me was the message said that I was “soon” going to England, but I could not see how that could be. I had no money to speak of and the only person who could loan me enough for the trip would be my mom.

But a while back she married a guy from the old school who did not believe in loaning or giving money to kids so it would do no good to ask her. I told Margaret that the soonest I could imagine getting there would be in about six months. It would take at least that long to save the money to get there, return and also pay the costs of Margaret immigrating.

I finished the letter and immediately put it in the mail.

Then two days later something very unexpected happened. My Mom’s husband suddenly died of a heart attack. Immediately, the thought came to my mind, “Is this God’s way of preparing the way for me to go to England? It is a strange way indeed, but maybe this is it.”

I felt a little cheesy approaching her so soon after her husband’s death but felt impressed to do so. I figured that with her husband out of the way there was a 50/50 chance she would help me.

I explained the witnesses we both received and was surprised by her supportive answer, “Well, you are 25 now and it’s about time you found someone. I will help you but when you get there – if it turns out that you are not well matched I don’t want you to feel obligated to marry her. If that happens I want you to just return home.”

The next thing I did was apply for a passport and buy a plane ticket. Then I sent Margaret a telegram. I do not recall which she received first – the telegram or my letter. I do recall they arrived very close together.

The telegram just contained a few short words telling her the date I was going to arrive.

So, from the moment I received the message that I was “soon” going to England to the time I was on my way was only a little over a week. In this case soon really did mean soon, unlike many prophecies I had heard throughout my life.

When I arrived in Peterlee the first person I went to see was Sister Douglas. It was great to talk to her again after five years. Her daughter Jo was out of town so I wasn’t able to see her. It was just as well as she may have been a distraction.

Margaret and I were to meet that night at the church after her Relief Society meeting. I remember walking toward the church in the dark of night watching it get closer and closer as I took each step. I thought about what I really knew about this girl I was supposed to marry and it wasn’t that much. I was pretty nervous about what would happen next. Then I heard a member shout out, “There he is! I can tell him by his walk!”

What happened the next couple weeks is a story for another time as I have digressed far enough from my mission story. Suffice it to say that I did marry her and brought her back to the USA and we had seven children together multiplying and replenishing like good Mormons do.

This marriage led me to higher knowledge in a very unexpected way for it turned out the marriage was extremely difficult and a question I had for God was why is it that I was supposed to marry this woman whose approach to life was so different than my own?

The surprising answer that came after two years of pestering God was that we had been together in past lives and I had karma in connection with her that brought us together again.

When I learned of this truth everything changed. My belief system was turned upside down and I had to make great adjustments in my approach to life. Unfortunately, Margaret thought the devil had got a hold of me, but that also is another story.

Chapter Fourteen
The Lost Luggage

I really hated leaving Peterlee. It was becoming like home to me as I grew close to a lot of people there. In addition, we had a large number of people we were teaching and it looked like we should continue to have many baptisms. Elder Ware was a nice enthusiastic elder, but I wasn’t sure he was able to do what was necessary to complete the teaching process.

I was replaced by an Elder named Cosmo, who I happened to know. He was also a nice guy, but somewhat of a geek, as we say today. His eyesight wasn’t very good and he needed strong glasses to correct it. He had these weird glasses with the thickest lenses I had ever seen. Today they can make strong lenses without such thickness but at that time they lacked the technology. His glasses almost made him look like a spaceman and some Elders kidded that Cosmo was an appropriate name for the guy. We often just called him Cosmo, leaving off the title of Elder.

It turned out that Elders Cosmo and Ware baptized Margaret and her sister but the conversion rate settled back down to a crawl again after I left.

I was transferred to the city of Lancaster, which was in the Northwest of England. When I arrived the mission was called the Northeast British Mission, but about this time they combined the Northeast and Northwest British missions to one mission and just called it The North British Mission. This gave President Payne many more missionaries under his authority and twice the territory.

I placed my luggage safely in the luggage area of an adjoining car and settled down for a relaxing trip on the train. When on an LDS mission you spend almost 365 days a year 24/7 with another human being. This really made me miss having a little solitude and time to myself. About the only time I ever had entirely to myself was during a transfer where missionaries had to travel alone for maybe 4-8 hours.

I figured I would relax for a few hours and maybe do a little reading and thinking.

When I bought my ticket I was told that I had to make a transfer at a certain city and then after the transfer I would go straight on to Lancaster.

As I was relaxing by the window I watched for the names of the towns as the train made its stops and then I realized that I didn’t remember clearly the name of the town where I was supposed to make the transfer. All I could remember for sure was it started with the letter N.

When I realized that I wasn’t sure the name of the town where I was to make the change my ride changed from one of relaxation to one of tension. I watched anxiously at each stop. Finally we came to a town that began with the letter N. I believe it was Northallerton. I tried to recall but wasn’t sure if this was it or not. The problem was I only had a couple minutes to decide. If I didn’t get off at the right station who knows where I would wind up.

I figured the best thing to do was to quickly get off the train, ask a clerk if this was the right exchange and then get to the luggage car and retrieve my things.

I went to the door and was perplexed as I couldn’t open it. As I was hurriedly trying to solve this mystical problem a passenger saw that I was having a problem and opened it for me. I got out and after a couple minutes found a clerk who verified that I was at the right town for the exchange to Lancaster.

Now all I had to do was retrieve my luggage. I went back to the door from whence I came and was alarmed to fid that it had no handle and no way for the passengers to open it. I went to the next car and had the same problem. “What’s with the doors on this train?” I thought to myself. Was I in the Twilight Zone?

I later found out that I was supposed to exit from the door on the other side of the train, that they didn’t want passengers to leave from the side of the train I exited. That’s why I had such a problem with opening the door. The helpful passenger evidently knew a trick to opening it.

Anyway, I started to panic. I had to get back on the train and get my luggage in the next couple minutes or I faced disaster. I went from car to car pounding on the doors but no one came to my aid. Then after a short time the train started to take off. This time I really panicked and ran down an employee and asked if he could stop the train. In a typical English calm he said there was nothing he could do now it was in motion.

I then watched the train take off with everything I owned. I had all my clothes, my scriptures, my typewriter, everything but the clothes on my back and my raincoat. I later concluded that the raincoat was probably the best thing to take with me if I could only have one thing as it rained almost every day for the next couple weeks.

I’ll never forget that sinking feeling had as I watched that train take off with all my worldly goods. The only way to understand the feeling is to experience it and I certainly do not want to have it again.

I checked with the clerk to ask what could be done and he said that I should check with the lost and found after I arrived in Lancaster.

I made the exchange and instead of having a relaxing ride enjoying my solitude I was as close to a nervous wreck as I had ever been.

As I approached Lancaster I knew my new companion was supposed to be there to meet me. I wasn’t looking forward to explaining my embarrassing situation.

I’m surprised that after all these years I have been able to recall all my companions’ names up to this point. I’m not positive on this one. I believe he was called Elder Hollingshead – so we’ll go with that.

Sure enough one of the first things he asked was, “Where’s your luggage?”

I told him I had none and explained the situation. Fortunately, he was pretty understanding. We went to the lost and found and the clerk gave me a ray of hope. He said that the train with my luggage would have stopped in Leeds and if no one claimed it, then it would wind up at the lost and found there.

He then said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” I said. Both of us were somewhat relieved for no luggage would not only be a hardship on me, but my companion as well, as my having no possessions would require that he do a lot of sharing with me.

We went back to the lost and found the next day and the clerk said my luggage ha not arrived. He seemed perplexed by this and again said, “I’ll cable Leeds again and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

We went back the second day and it still had not arrived and again he said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

We went back the third day and still no luggage. Again the clerk said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

I began to wonder if he was really cabling Leeds as we returned the fourth and fifth day and still no luggage, but each time he said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

After a week I started really getting concerned. Was it possible that everything I owned was gone forever?

I thought over some of the valuables I had there. Not only would I miss my scriptures which were heavily notated and marked for reference, but I had and additional seven translations of the Bible that would be difficult to replace along with valuable books. My Olympia typewriter was worth more at that time than is an expensive computer today.

Finally, after two weeks and still hearing, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.” I began to adjust my mind to the fact that I may never see my belongings again.

With the little extra money I had I brought a used bike so not much was left for necessities. Fortunately, Elder Hollingshead let me borrow some of his underwear, socks, razor and all kinds of things. Underwear was the most difficult thing to replace as we had to wear the special Mormon garments so I couldn’t just go to any market and buy some. I wrote asking for extra money and my companion also loaned me a little extra to tide me by.

One thing cheered me up though. Remember about that giant hamburger I said I made? Well that happened shortly after I got to Lancaster as this was the first town I worked in where we did our own cooking. Unfortunately, even this made me sick as I overstuffed myself.

Time moved onward. Three, four, five weeks passed and still no sign of my luggage. All the evidence indicated it was lost forever. Finally on the sixth week I received the most battered and wrinkled postcard that I have ever seen make it through the mail. The postcard had so much wear on it that when I held it in my hand it didn’t feel like it was made of cardstock. It felt a little like a piece of old cloth.

I could barely read it but discovered that it was first sent to my address in Peterlee and then forwarded to Lancaster. I looked at the original postmark and it was sent, not from Leeds, but from London and the date was only a day or two after my transfer. To my joy the postcard said that they had two pieces of my luggage and if I sent them several pounds they would forward it to me. Unfortunately, I originally had three pieces of luggage so it looked like one may have been lost.

I then put two and two together and figured out the mystery of the worn postcard. The luggage had went clear to London before it was discovered and they opened it in an attempt to find the owner. The only address they could find was in Peterlee so they sent the notice there. Elder Ware grabbed the postcard intending to forward it but stuck it in his back pocket and carried it around with him for five weeks before he remembered to forward it to me.

After controlling my urge to send elder Ware a piece of my mind I became concerned that they may not have my luggage after six weeks. I took the chance and sent the money requested to the return address on the card.

In just a couple days my luggage arrived, but instead of just two pieces all three were there. The third piece was a large duffle bag. It had a couple tares in it but nothing was missing.

I was thrilled to have all my books again and even as I type this I can look up at my bookcase and see my scriptures and the seven extra translations of the Bible now sitting in my office bookcase. They have indeed served me well for I have used them a lot in the many things I have written over the years.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 15 & 16

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Fifteen
Junior Again

Shortly after I retrieved my luggage I received another transfer.

My time in Lancaster had a number of drawbacks that hindered success. First it takes about two months to properly prepare someone for the change of coming into the Church. A couple years before I arrived the Church organized ball clubs in England hoping that would be a good way to rouse interest and help missionaries find investigators.

Unfortunately, this program was greatly abused and we heard stories about missionaries rounding up kids and telling them if they wanted to play ball they had to get baptized. Many kids were thus baptized not even knowing what they were joining.

When I arrived, there were many inactive members on the roles that came in through the sports program.

Fortunately, the Church saw the error of their ways and ditched this, and by the time I arrived the authorities insisted the people be actually converted before they join. I completely agreed with this and went the extra mile to make sure anyone I baptized knew what they were doing and believed the teachings.

In good circumstances the seven weeks I spent in Lancaster would have been just enough time to get a good start on the teaching process, but I was not in the best of circumstances. First, the apparent loss of everything I owned was a big distraction and secondly I was no longer a senior companion. Working with an orthodox missionary as a co-senior forced me to compromise on a number of things and work in a more orthodox manner.

On the positive side Elder Hollingshead was a nice guy and I liked him. This was the only digs during my mission where we had to do our own cooking and he did most of it and was a good cook. If I remember correctly we did baptize one person there, someone that my companion had already been teaching when I arrived.

I was surprised to receive a transfer after only about seven weeks, but was excited at the prospect of being a senior again. As I opened the envelope and started reading my spirits dropped. I was being transferred to the city of Carlisle and to again occupy the position of a junior companion. Now they didn’t make anyone a junior who had been out over a year as I had, but they do make some a glorified junior. That’s basically what my next assignment was. I was to be a companion to a District Leader.

As I said earlier a District Leader oversees about a dozen missionaries in addition to regular missionary work. It was possible they were preparing me to be a District Leader but usually his junior companion is not someone in training but either a green elder or one who is slow of learning or has other problems. Most District Leaders were picked from the pool of senior Elders.

I thought this was a strange way to treat an Elder such as myself who had broken several mission records and proven he can teach and baptize if they just let me go. I thought perhaps President Payne was punishing me for not cooperating in the silly contest or perhaps staying out till 3 AM or who knows what else. If he is, I thought, he is not hurting me but he is hindering the Church in that fewer people will come into the fold.

Well, maybe he did hurt me a bit because the next companion was the elder from hell. I do not recall his name and have no desire to. He was near the end of his mission and had only baptized one person. The guy had an ugly face and a personality to match. He never smiled, never told a joke and was always deadly serious. I was amazed that they placed him in a leadership position for he neither inspired or motivated anyone.

When we went knocking on doors he was such a sourpuss that no one wanted to listen to him longer than about three minutes and when it was my turn to talk he just stared at me with a jaundice eye and then criticized anything I said afterwards.

After a week or so I made some suggestions of things we could do to have greater success and he tersely replied that if I gave him any more lip he would beat the hell out of me.

Getting in a fight with this guy was all I needed to make sure I stayed a junior companion forever. I bit my lip and tried not to antagonize him, but I think that my reputation of success just gnawed at him and made him more bitter than ever. He didn’t want any suggestions from me let along taking charge of anything.

Every day working with this guy was worse than a bad marriage. I say worse because in a marriage you have some time apart from your spouse where you can get your bearings, but in the mission relationship you are with your companion 24/7 and there is no side benefit as that which comes from a relationship with the opposite sex.

After about six weeks I couldn’t stand it any longer and knew I had to do something. The only trouble was that if one complained about his companion he was usually considered the one with the problem. One was expected to stay positive no matter what. Even so, I had t take a chance so I wrote President Payne throwing in as much positive stuff as I could think up while dropping strong hints that the elder from hell just wasn’t working out as a companion. The hint must have worked for a short time later I received another transfer.

Again I was thinking “senior companion” as I opened the envelope, but no such luck. I had another assignment clear on the other side of England in the city of Scarborough. Again I was to be a glorified junior companion, or a companion to another District Leader. I looked to the skies and thought, “What’s the matter, God? You got so many members in the church that you don’t want any more? You’d think you’d use your almighty power to clear the way for me to just be a simple missionary bringing people in the fold. But no! I have to be a junior again and follow orders from another missionary that doesn’t have a clue as to how to do the work successfully.”

The elder from hell was actually quite upset I was leaving. I was surprised that he didn’t want me to go as he acted like he hated me all the time we were together. I’m sure I wasn’t the first one to complain about him and I think he suspected I asked for a transfer.

As it turned out I went from an elder with one type of problem to another with even more problems. I think President Payne read my letter and thought something like this:

“So Elder Dewey thinks he has it bad and is complaining, eh? Let’s give him something to really complain about. We’ll send him to Elder Eldridge.”

Why they made my new companion a District Leader was a mystery for he was the most notorious problem elder in the mission that hadn’t been sent home. He didn’t take missionary work seriously and had dated numerous English girls in the first half of his mission, which was a huge no-no. The only way they would allow him to stay on his mission was to promise to behave himself and write a personal letter to Mark E. Peterson every week. Now Peterson was a leading apostle known well by every member of the church and so to get his attention in a negative way was something quite outrageous.

Perhaps a larger problem than another problem elder was the town of Scarborough itself. Some thought that Peterlee was the most difficult town to work, but Scarborough was much harder for several reasons. It was a retirement town located by the sea and it seemed that over half the people had a foot in the grave and were just too old to change their ways.

The second thing that interfered with missionary work was that it took extra time to attend to the duties of District Leader. The third problem was that elder Eldridge had little interest in missionary work and it was all I could do to get him to put in several effective hours a day.

Unlike the elder from hell though Eldridge had a winning personality and everyone liked him. He loved visiting members (especially if they had cute daughters), not for seeking leads, but just to shoot the bull. Members loved to have him come around and all seemed willing to listen to him talk on and on. In fact he talked so much I couldn’t get in a word edgewise and I was known as the “quiet one” when I was with him. Members thought I was shy but one just had to elbow his way in to get anything said when he started rambling on.

At least Elder Eldridge was an affable guy with a positive outlook and was far more pleasant to work with than the elder from hell.


Chapter Sixteen
The Encounter

Elder Eldridge wasn’t much into working hard. He was more into making his mission a fun experience and making a lot of friends than he was in converting anyone.

Even so, we did manage to get a little standard missionary work done. One day when we were out knocking on doors we met a nice family with several young children. I believe their last name was Sherlock. They invited us in and we gave them a presentation on the Book of Mormon and left them a copy to read. They said they would read it and we made an appointment to come back in a couple days.

We came back as promised and knocked on the door. There was no answer, but there was a light on and it looked like they were home so we knocked again and then again. As we were about to give up the door creaked open and standing there was a very frightened looking Mr. Sherlock.

He said, “Please go. We are not interested any more.”

This seemed very strange as they were very interested a couple days ago and we left on a very cordial note.

I asked what the problem was. Surely there had to be some explanation.

He creaked open the door a few more inches and spoke very nervously, “We did what you said and we started reading the Book of Mormon. We began to wonder if it was true and decided to pray about it. We got about half way into the prayer and suddenly my wife was struck down and fell to the floor like she was dead. I was able to revive her, but she hasn’t been the same since. She has been freezing cold ever since and in great torment. It is obvious to me that you guys are from the devil and we just want you to go away.”

As he spoke I sensed a dark presence, one that I had wrestled with in the past. I spoke to him, “You must let us in! We can help your wife.”

“She doesn’t want to see you. We just want you to go away and not come back.”

“But I know we can help your wife.”

“Just go,” he demanded.

I felt very strongly that we assist her and almost shoved my body into the doorway saying with a raised voice, “We can help your wife and make her better again. I know what’s happened to her.”

Just as he was about to force the door shut on us a voice came from in the house. It was his Mrs. Sherlock, “Bring them in,” she said in a weak voice.

Mr. Sherlock pushed the door back open and reluctantly invited us in. We went in the living room and found Mrs. Sherlock sitting in a chair with several blankets wrapped around her. Her kids were there also looking very worried.

“She’s been like this for two days,” he said. “She says she is freezing and can’t get warm no matter what we do and feels horrible.”

I grabbed her hand, looked at her and asked, “Are you in pain?”

“Yes, she cried. “This is horrible. I feel like I am going to die and go to hell or something.”

“God is stronger than this evil presence that is trying to overpower you. Will you give us permission to give you a blessing so you may be healed?”

“I’ll try anything,” she said.

We then laid our hands upon her head, went through the healing ordinance and then I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ we command all evil to depart!”

Immediately upon finishing this sentence her body gave a tremendous shake and she slumped in her chair for a moment. I could sense that everyone in the room was terrified that an even worse calamity had befallen her. Then, just as suddenly, she got her strength back and placed her hands on her face and said, “It’s gone. Whatever it was is gone and I feel wonderful.”

Then she started to cry and said over and over, “It’s true! It’s true! It’s true! These boys are from God. I know this beyond any doubt. If they want us to get baptized I’m ready right now!”

We spent a few more minutes with them, made an appointment to come back in three days and ended with a prayer. As we were leaving Mr. Sherlock said to us, “I think we’re all going to get baptized real soon.”

Elder Eldridge and I then went out to the van, got in and just took a couple breaths in silence. Then suddenly he slapped himself hard on the knee and shouted, “By George, the Gospel is true after all!!! You know there just might be something to all this stuff we’ve been telling people!”

“There’s something to it, all right,” I said. I knew that Eldridge didn’t have his heart in his mission, but was surprised to learn that he wasn’t really a believer… until now.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 17 & 18

This entry is part 9 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Seventeen
Creating a Barrier

It seemed as if the conversion of the Sherlocks was in the bag and we felt as if we were floating on cloud nine during the next day, but as the evening drew on I began to feel a disturbance in the force.

Later that evening I couldn’t ignore it any longer and told Elder Eldridge that something was wrong with the Sherlocks and we needed to go pay them a visit. Eldridge resisted a little but when he saw my earnestness he agreed.

We got there around 10 pm and knocked on the door. Mr. Sherlock answered and was nervous again, but invited us in this time. We sat down with them and they said they were glad we came by for there was indeed a problem. This time the problem was not with Mrs. Sherlock, but the children. One of the kids had her eyes open during the blessing and when we commanded the evil to depart she saw a gray figure leave the room. This frightened her significantly and was still fearful about it.

Secondly their other kids started acting out of character, almost like they were possessed. They seemed to suddenly become uncontrollable. The Sherlocks wanted to know if anything could be done.

“Here’s the problem,” I said. “You must have something significant to contribute by coming into the church and this evil presence does not want you to move forward and is trying to stop you. Because of the blessing we gave you it seems that you are off limits so it is going after your kids as a way to get to you and discourage you.”

“Well, I love my kids so he certainly has a good plan of attack. Is there anything we can do?” She asked.

“There is always something that can be done. We must always remember that the power of God is greater than the power of evil or the Prince of Darkness. What we can do right now is have a prayer together and ask God to protect your children from evil.”

This we did and afterwards we all seemed to be filled with peace and we had hopes that the problem was solved. To play it safe we went back there the next evening to see how they were doing.

They seemed happy and said a second miracle had occurred – that right after our prayer the children returned to normal and still seemed fine. They again seemed enthused about learning more about the church and getting baptized.

The next day I again felt a disturbance in the force. We had scheduled a lesson so we were supposed to visit them anyway. I was curious about what the problem was this time.

They invited us in again but did not look peaceful or happy. Mrs., Sherlock spoke, “The kids are back to they way they were almost as if they were possessed. On top of that my husband is getting negative and is again wondering if you might be from the devil. If this continues and the only way to stop it is to quit seeing you, then I do not think we have a choice.”

I said that there was always a choice and there is always something that can be done. I explained to her that what has happened merely fulfills the words of Jesus in Matthew. I opened the Bible and read:

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

“Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Matt 12:43-45

I closed the Bible and said, “This evil presence we cast out is not giving up. He apparently has gone and gotten seven times the reinforcements and is determined to discourage you no matter what.”

“Seven times the reinforcements – now that’s all we need,” she said. “There was a big enough problem with what we went through already. We certainly do not need seven times the original number against us.”

I almost regretted reading them that scripture, but replied, “It doesn’t matter how many are against us. If we do not give up and have faith then we can prevail.”

Then I recalled another scripture that I thought would instill hope. I told them of a man who brought his possessed son to the disciples and they could not cast out the evil spirits plaguing him. Then Jesus came along and did it. The disciples were amazed and asked Jesus why they could not do it.

He replied, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (See Matt 17:14-21)

So this is what we will do,” I said. “Elder Eldridge and I will fast and pray until your home and children are safe. We have helped you before. Will you give us another chance?”

They agreed but I could tell they were nervous about the situation.

I told them that we would come back in three days and bless their home and that it would then be off limits to all evil entities.

As we left and drove away I was inwardly hoping that Elder Eldridge would go along with my plan. I felt that I was taking a risk for he didn’t have a reputation for doing the spiritual work.

He wanted to know more details. I told him that these people must be important for some reason otherwise they would not have attracted the attention of the evil forces. Their power seemed to be enhanced and it now appeared that the only way to overcome the evil was to follow the advice of Jesus and fast and pray. I told him that I thought a one-day fast wouldn’t do it that we needed to fast three days and nights with no food or water and then return and bless their home.

“The church tells us that we should not fast more than a day,” he said.

“Yeah, but a day will not cut it. We need three days,” I said.

“Normally, I would have said no, but after what we have been through the past couple days I’d say that I must go along with you. I’m in!” he said.

We started our fast at that moment. Now fasting without either food or water gets to be difficult after the first day for the body needs liquid much more than it does food. We were also quite active which increases the need for water.

Then to our dismay we recalled that we had promised the local church that we would take a whole day off and work on the construction of the church with the members. As our luck would have it this day fell on the third day of our fast.

We debated calling it off since we would most likely be drained of strength and have to work on ladders and scaffolding. We both decided to honor our commitment else God may not hear our voice.

Then on the third day of our fast we both put in one of the hardest days of physical work in our lives. No one knew we were fasting and it seemed those in charge took delight in making us missionaries work extra hard. We hauled bricks, dirt, concrete and planks all day long.

By the end of the day we were both completely exhausted. We weren’t sure if we had the strength to eat and drink if it was placed in front of us.

We went to our digs that evening, cleaned up, said a prayer together and went off to the Sherlock’s home.

They invited us in and we asked them how they were doing. They said that their children were better for about a day after we left, but now they were being affected again. They said they were at the end of their rope and hoped that something would work.

I then told her that we were going to place a blessing on their home so that no evil being or force could enter it or bother their children.

Mrs. Sherlock sighed as if she was reluctantly willing to give us one more try.

We then all knelt together in their living room and I led us in prayer. I again commanded in the name of Jesus Christ for all evil to depart from the entire house as well as the children. I then asked God to place a barrier around the house through which no evil entity could penetrate.

When we arose from the prayer a feeling of great peace fell upon all of us and we all seemed confident the prayer would be answered. We departed with cheerful hearts.

I do not recall how we broke our fast that evening. Our landlady fed us breakfast, lunch and dinner and if we missed then we were on our own. I would guess that we got some fish and chips as Scarborough had some of the best available in all of England. Much more important though was renewing ourselves with liquid refreshment.

I do not recall what we ate or drank, but I do recall feeling proud of Elder Eldridge for joining me on this spiritual quest and being as supportive and believing as he had become.

Now the question was – were the Sherlocks going to join the church and live happily ever after or did the Prince of Darkness have something else up his sleeve?


Chapter Eighteen
A Persistent Adversary

A couple days later we went back to the Sherlocks and gave them the next lesson. They were pleased to report that the children had returned to normal and everything seemed peaceful on the home front.

Then after we finished our lesson Mrs. Sherlock shared something else with us.

“I didn’t tell you everything that happened to me that night you gave me the blessing,” she said.

“What else happened?” we wanted to know.

“Well, it was rather unbelievable and I have been reluctant to talk about it but I feel I am supposed to tell you.”

We were all ears.

She continued, “When you two laid your hands on my head and you started to speak suddenly I saw a great light and a being or angel descended and stood right beside us. He had a white robe and his whole body glistened brilliantly. I could see that he wore sandals and his feet rested about a foot above the floor.”

“That was quite an event,” I said. “Do you know why he came or did he communicate anything to you?”

“I received quite a number of impressions,” she said. “First he came to assist you in casting out the evil presence. Secondly, he came to give me some information, some of which I am supposed to share with you.’

“Did he speak to you?”

“No, not in the normal sense,” she said, “but he transmitted a lot of information to my mind. In an instant I understood a number of things.”

We encouraged her to continue.

“The first impression I received was that there is more scripture than the Bible.”

“We have already taught you that,” I said and pulled out a Book of Mormon. “This is a book of scripture that is in addition to the Bible.”

“No,” she said emphatically. That was not what he was referring to. There is more scripture than the Bible and Book of Mormon.”

“Then he must have been directing you to the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, revelations given to Joseph Smith.” I opened my scriptures to their location and showed them to her.

“No, no, this is not it. The scriptures he showed me are written on golden plates.’

Well, the Book of Mormon was originally written on golden plates,” I said.

“But these scriptures have not been translated yet.”

“The only thing that fits that description is the sealed portion of the plates that Joseph did not translate,” I added.

Her eyes lit up. “Sealed!” she said. “Yes, that’s the word I was searching for. His communication to me said the plates were sealed and the day is not far away when they will come forth.

We then related to her about the prophesies about the coming forth of the sealed plates. Then we expressed curiosity about why she would have received this.

She answered, “He gave me information about my youngest son (who was about 5 years old in 1966). He is supposed to be a prophet and somehow help in the work when the sealed plates come forth. If we join the church he will definitely become a prophet, but if we do not then he probably will live an ordinary life.

“Then I guess that is one more reason for you to join the church, so your child can fulfill his destiny,” I said.

“That’s where you are wrong,” she said. “Some of the information that came into my mind were the results of what would happen if we joined the church and also if we did not join. As I said, if we do not join our son will live an ordinary but peaceful life but if we do the whole family will experience great difficulty, especially him. I saw how the people would treat him when he began his work and many will mistreat him and hate him. I do not want my son to be persecuted!”

“Any person who does a worthwhile work for God has many difficulties,” I said, “but in the end it is worth it. For some reason you have been given a glimpse into the future and are presented with a choice. I’m sure that if he is going to be a prophet that he will need your guidance and support.”

“But I’m not sure if I can handle what my family will have to go through if my son takes the path I saw.” She was close to weeping and put her hands to her eyes. She then put down her hands and said, “What has happened so far bears witness that you are from God but I do not want my son to suffer as I saw that he would. I do not know if our family has the strength that it will take to fulfill the mission the messenger presented to me.”

We could see that the revelation she received made her very nervous about moving forward and joining the church. We realized that her inclination to pursue the higher path was very fragile and we had to place all attention possible in solidifying the right direction for her. We decided that we needed to visit them every day, instead of the usual once a week, to give them the encouragement they needed.

This we diligently did and with lots of encouragement they seemed to be leaning more toward joining the church. We continued teaching them over the next couple weeks but as we did so another disturbance in the force occurred.

Finally, they revealed what it was. “We have a problem,” they said. “At first we thought this problem was just caused by coincidence and had nothing to do with you or your teachings, but now we are not so sure.”

“So, what is the problem?”

Mr. Sherlock explained, “As you know we own an antique store and this is our sole means of support to take care of our family. The first thing that has occurred is that several of our most valuable antiques have mysteriously fallen from the shelves and have been destroyed.”

We tried to give him hope that this was a temporary problem. Then he said. “But that is not all. Normally, on an average day we have 30-40 customers come in and most of them buy something. In the past couple weeks do you know how many have come in on an average day?”

“How many?” we asked.

“One or two a day and this has happened not one day but every day since you blessed our house. In addition, the one or two have not been buying anything. Between the destruction of my best antiques and having no customers we are headed toward financial disaster.”

I explained to them that problems always occur when you try and do the right thing but he was concerned over the power these evil beings seemed to have. What happened he said could not be coincidence for he had never even had one day that was as bad as every day was now.

I suggested we could go on another fast and bless their business and also put that off limits from the adversary.

“But whatever this evil is it doesn’t seem to want to quit,” he said. “Even if you can get our business back to normal, what next? Maybe our kids will be attacked at school or we’ll have an accident while driving.”

I explained to him that the power of evil is limited – that if they continue that eventually the evil force will lose its power and things will be back to normal.

“But how long will that take? Things have to change soon or we’ll go broke,” he said.

We gave them all the encouragement we could, but as we left we did so with an uneasy feeling. We considered fasting again and maybe offering some universal prayer of protection that would cover their business and anything else we didn’t cover last time.

We returned to see them the next evening and found all the lights in their home were turned off. No one answered the door. We knocked a half dozen times and there was no answer. We knew they were home but didn’t want to see us.

We went back the next evening with the same results…

And the next.

Finally, we got the message. They decided to take the lesser path revealed by the messenger to avoid all the problems that would come if we continued teaching them.

We decided to give them one more try and the next day we visited their shop. It seemed to be teaming with customers. After a wait we finally were able to approach Mr. Sherlock. Before we could get out a word he asked us to leave. We replied that we just wanted a few minutes of his time.

Then he spoke quite harshly telling us that we needed to leave the premises immediately and if we did not then he would have us arrested for trespassing.

This produced a feeling of deep sadness that is difficult to describe. It appeared that this family came to this earth with the opportunity to be of great service to mankind but they placed their physical well being above the rewards of service. I reflected on the scripture, “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.”

I stayed in Scarborough about three additional months after Elder Eldridge left for home. Just before I left Scarborough my new companion and I paid one more visit to their store. Both Mr. and Mrs. Sherlock were there and they seemed alarmed to see me again and were insistent that we leave. I agreed to leave but said I wanted to ask them one question.

“What happened to your business after you refused to see us again?”

Mrs. Sherlock smiled and said that immediately afterwards business increased. It didn’t really return to normal but better than normal. Business had been the best it had ever been and they wanted to make sure that would continue. They both insisted that the best thing we could do to help them was to just leave.

We departed and I have never seen or heard of them again.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Mission Experiences, Chapters 19 & 20

This entry is part 10 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Nineteen

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.


Chapter Twenty
Unorthodox Approach

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