Jack & Lucky Chapter 6, Part 2
Chapter 6, Part 2
The three said goodbye and the missionaries were on their way down the hill to the neighborhood where they worked knocking on doors. They had been touched by Signore Lino’s politeness and understanding and reflected on this in quiet until it was time for their 7:00 appointment.
“She must have forgotten.” Elder Cook suggested as he rang the doorbell for the last time with no answer.
“Maybe that was just her way of getting rid of us.” Jack suggested, somewhat more cynical about human nature.
“No. I don’t think that’s right, we’ll try again tomorrow.”
In any case they had enough for one day and bought some dinner on the way home.
We were home shortly after 8:00, we studied for a while together, then went to bed completely exhausted.
The partners continued the same pattern for the rest of the week. They went out each day to knock on doors, studied in the morning and evening and every chance they could during the day.
The Tuesday entry in the diary suggests a relief in the routine because Jack got his first letter from Julie.
We checked the post office and to my delight I got a letter from Julie, but nothing else. That was enough for me.
On Wednesday the pair went to the train station for the third time and this time were successful at finding Elder Cook’s motorscooter, a blue and white Lambretta that could easily carry two people. This convenient transportation would make travel to and from lunch and dinner at the student cafeteria much more plausible and less expensive.
Then we came back and began tracting again. We sure get turned down a lot. We had a long meeting with a couple, he talked fast and I just sat and looked dumb. I got so I could give the door approach very good, but my pronunciation is very poor.
Actually Jack’s pronunciation was reasonably good thanks to Elder Cook.
The vision of two well dressed Americans riding through the streets on a motorscooter, one holding an umbrella struggling forward against the gusty wind, must be humorous to the natives. It was quite a departure from the standard picture of two Mormon missionaries riding their bikes through the neighborhood. Of course not too many people are out on the streets to notice during such inclement conditions.
In the early evening Jack renewed his writing. Julie had agreed to take care of Jack’s earlier journals so he intended to send them to her for safe keeping. After he wrote a long letter describing his work and enthusiasm, he turned his attention to finishing his last journal entries for this third successive year.
September 16. I’m now on my mission and desire to finish this journal…
At one time I justified thinking about standards and plans because `It takes time to attack all issues fairly’ and so I needed to think about things to gain understanding.
Now I think I must have a flexible understanding, one which is open to logic, and objective as it views life. This will not need constant thought to establish a single decision track, but thought now which can be solidified into a decision track constantly open to revision by the objectivity factor.
I have always considered myself easily adjustable. I am subject to whims of unwise action and thought at times, but these consequences, I suppose, are the payment for depending on experience to decide – with objectivity – which thoughts should be revised.
This theorizing is a little confusing but important so it deserves explanation. Jack is suggesting a need to review “standards” on a systematic basis, rather than arbitrarily as they happen to come up in his experience. Furthermore, he must review these issues with a standardized, rational method “open to logic” instead of simply taking “time to attack all issues” in some haphazard way.
This is the best expression he can make of a very complicated conceptual skill developing in his mind. His failure to clearly enunciate the change is due more to the subtle and complex nature of the change itself than to his inadequacy or inability to express himself clearly. It’s always easier to clarify from a distance, as an editor, than from the position of initial exposition.
Jack isn’t arguing in favor of a constant mental struggle but in favor of developing a process or “decision track” that can be used as a standardized tool over and over. The “decision track” would be used to evaluate different ideas as well as a more systematic approach to reviewing all knowledge. He is trying to describe a mentality that is organized, objective, systematic, rational, logical and capable of passing judgement on all the religious questions he was bound to confront. So this is a review of method, or methodology, that he is lamely describing, rather than any specific conclusion.
In Philosophy this discussion is best placed in the category of Ethics, the study of right and wrong, since it doesn’t fit into Logic or anywhere else. How we go about making decisions for ourselves is as much a subject of debate as the conclusions we reach. What is the reasoning process we use to make decisions about simple issues such as telling the truth to our friends? How we decide to be honest, might be different in a more complicated situation, such as telling the truth to our adversaries?
The process of thought behind such issues determines our character as much as our actions, or display of character. We display our character during the accumulation of decisions and life experiences over years and years of action. The thought processes behind what we do is what Jack is trying to acknowledge and revise in an important and fundamental way.
It is this thought process, the “decision track” behind what we do, that digests many different inputs and analyzes motivation to generate an impulse to act. This thought process is like the human digestive system that churns and blends food with acids and absorbs nutrients and produces the building blocks of our body. It also excretes waste and creates gas. A similar process occurs in our minds with the same results. The books we read, lectures we hear, events we witness (and TV we watch), are all digested and processed by our minds to provide the motivation and emotions by which we act and live. This process also excretes waste and creates gas and if we are not careful the waste products become the most obvious part of our personalities. This might be the overt expression of anger, pettiness and other destructive emotions.
By creating a deliberate, thoughtful process, Jack was well on the way to controlling the mental output and thereby developing a responsible, well motivated character for himself. It is no accident that the next subject with which he concerns himself is the subject of Knowledge. Both the mental digestive process and the output are concerns of Epistemology.
The next thing–I would like to make a definition of Knowledge and Truth. Knowledge is a combination of those thoughts and attitudes we acquire through the process of education, discussion, observation, interaction, rationalization, reason, inspiration, etc. Knowledge is the subjective concept of truth each person holds in his thoughts, as the approximation of that truth he seeks. Truth, then is simply fact, absolute existence of material non-subjective, and non-arbitrary, truth is what is. Then with these terms applied to my religious attitudes, I certainly have a knowledge of the gospel, the divinity and existence of the Godhead, etc. But I must have faith, which has been explained before, in order to accept the knowledge and live with it because my knowledge is not yet a knowledge exactly approximating truth. I have faith that my knowledge is close to reality. That is in fact what faith is, reliance upon acquired knowledge to interpret life in terms which will be most accurate and objective.
I hope that I am making myself understood for this is a very important concept. The importance of this comes in the fact–when one reaches an understanding in his mind he has the responsibility to live it. For I have the understanding of the philosophers and of the psychologists and of the religious concepts. I have the responsibility to accept them in their whole or not at all, and must fight in my mind to justify some positions or rather approximations of truth with my religion, and still maintain a working knowledge of contradictory worldly philosophies for my own edification.
He who understands people, or thinks he does, as I do, then has the responsibility to lead others in righteous paths, according to the dictates of his understanding. I have accepted this responsibility and I am now preparing myself so that I may take my place in the world as a leader in both faith and the things of the world. With this I make an end, enough said.
When reading this Journal it must be remembered that Jack’s most recent educational experience was as a Sophomore! So if the content of his writing is sophomoric, it is in part excusable as being representative of his level of maturity. He is confronting the process of the dialectic that was described earlier. He recognizes the tentative nature of his conclusions about “standards and plans,” and his willingness to systematically challenge his previous conclusions.
When he refers to “standards,” he doesn’t just mean those of the Mormon religion. He is likely suggesting his willingness to challenge all morality, all ethics and all rules of society. It is not that he has any special competence or training to equip himself for such a Herculean task, it is that his presumptuous and impetuous nature knows no bounds. He thinks it’s his responsibility to challenge such ideas and standards as a form of intellectual honesty.
He is demonstrating much more than a theoretical approach to life. It may seem vague and sophomoric in retrospect but the depth and clarity of his thoughts will win. Eventually a simple, even eloquent exposition of what is happening inside that thick skull will emerge from his writing. That is an important achievement when it comes, well worth the effort. Knowing how his thoughts mature is particularly useful to those who might want to travel the same path of intellectual growth or avoid the same mistakes, depending on your perspective.
Jack could not deny or repress his strong inclination to challenge each of his previous conclusions. As he went along gaining new experience the best he could do was prepare himself for that process of challenging. The dialectic would continue but he could, to some extent, control the quality of the outcome by controlling the rational process, the “decision track,” which digested the information he discovered.
That there was, even at this early stage in his mission, a serious conjecture dealing with his relationship with religion, is significant and a portent of more to come. There are doubts in his mind that survive and surge as a subliminal activity well below the surface of a dedicated, determined person. He was trying to control the surges, the process, as well as the conclusions. These impulses to reason would eventually break free and dominate his mind.
One specific source of his concern was a struggle to understand and make sense out of the words of other missionaries and Church leaders who expressed their absolute certainty that “the Church is True.” When they meet, such as his time during the Mission Home, they confide their testimonies to strengthen each other’s resolve and reinforce their own motivation. A commitment made in public is less likely to be broken or so goes the theory of Church leaders. There was a regional conference soon and in the back of Jack’s mind he intended to listen closely to the words used by other missionaries when they expressed their knowledge and commitment.
Jack still challenged his own knowledge and conclusions and the concept of knowledge itself. His knowledge about religion was based on a desire–a desire to believe that he could recognize and had expressed openly. His belief was based on a rationalization rather than having come from empirical method or spiritual sensitivity. He was not satisfied that his belief in religion came from some higher source of inspiration.
A year before he had observed in his journal, September 15, 1965:
It seems that psychiatrists have decided that there is a God only in the minds of men, each different from the other. But in fact man has always needed this supreme image of all-power with the resultant attitude of self-inflicted servitude. Then this would suggest a question such as — `What is God?’ — then I feel it should be left un-answered unless of course one knows because one should accept his ignorance as fact and continue to wonder and search for further understanding. I probably have many of the same passions and needs as a good number of other people and if they need a belief, I must have one too. In fact I do, and have had a strong belief in the tenets of the LDS Church mostly because my parents did. But now I can see no better way of life than these tenets suggest.
The main point about religion is consideration for the other person. Whether or not one is religious he should at least be considerate in the full meaning of the word.
Thus Jack began his missionary activity less than satisfied, prepared to challenge whatever modest beliefs he did possess. His ill temper and frequent bouts of sarcasm suggest more than just a lack of contentment. In these clumsy thoughts lay the seed of dissent or at least the opening for continued objective thinking. Elder Cook was an unwitting victim to the internal struggle Jack was repressing. Jack projected against Elder Cook his dissatisfaction with his own religious convictions.
Jack was still eager and willing to work hard but his motivation was TO GAIN a testimony rather than being a RESULT OF his testimony. He had all the raw material to make a leader in the mission and he was ambitious for that. Going door to door looking for “investigators” was a routine that would occupy much of his time during his missionary experience. Like that legendary search for a needle in a haystack, the job of the missionary is to continue looking beyond hope and against all odds.
Jack’s frustration with the language and his companion was compounded when he encountered a more serious issue to add to his internal conflict. There was a regional conference scheduled at Vicenza. He put a few things in his Alitalia bag and rode behind Elder Cook to catch the train, stopping for breakfast on the way.
Jack read The New Testament and was engrossed in relative silence on the way to Verona. Elder Cook was equally preoccupied reading, so the pair proceeded comfortably with only an occasional comment. It was a cloudy day so the spectacular beauty of this scenic area was not displayed to distract from reading.
In Verona they were to join four other missionaries and make the remainder of their trip to Vicenza together. At the train station Jack made a pleasing discovery, the international magazine rack.
“Look at this Cooky, there are magazines here in English.” That was Elder Cook’s nickname, although he didn’t much care for it.
“Well what did you expect. We’re not completely isolated from the outside world.” Jack ignored the sarcasm and walked toward the magazines. He had gotten immune to Elder Cook.
“I think I’ll buy this Time Magazine, do you mind?”
“Why should I mind what you buy? As long as you don’t let it completely distract you. We’ve been working hard enough and today is D day, after all.”
D day was short for diversion day. The missionaries were encouraged to take just one day a week for personal organization, laundry, recreation, relaxation and general diversion. They could be tourists on this day and even wear normal clothes, not the usual white shirt and tie. Jack had one pair of Levi shrink-to-fit blue jeans especially for this purpose. He was wearing those as he traveled to save his suit pants for the conference.
Elder Cook broke Jack’s concentration, “We could take the bus to where these other guys live but I don’t remember which bus to take. It’s not too far anyway, maybe a mile, let’s just walk, Okay?”
“That sounds fine to me. We’ve got plenty of time.”
Jack stuffed his Bible in his Alitalia bag and followed Elder Cook’s short, quick strides, sometimes beside, sometimes behind. He read the Time Magazine when he wasn’t stepping up or down curbs, dodging traffic or tripping over cracks in the sidewalks. This was a habit he had cultivated when studying his missionary memorization. The Bible took second fiddle to the international news, not a good sign.
They passed through the piazzas and plazas of bustling Verona. They went past the edge of the business district and past the rundown neighborhood of garages and small warehouses. Elder Cook had lived in here in the same apartment so he knew the way with Jack following dutifully. In fifteen minutes they were climbing the stairs to a third floor apartment without having exchanged two words.
“I hope these guys are ready to go, I’m starved and ready for a big meal at the mensa.” Elder Cook complained and groaned slightly as he took two steps at a time. Jack added: “You can say that again!” He said that to bait Elder Cook.
Elder Cook took the bait and repeated himself in his attempt to be a tease.
Jack shook his head in silent disgust.
When they arrived, there was a note on the door. It instructed them to meet at the apartment of the other two missionaries who lived in town.
“They expect us to chase all over town looking for them. That’s Elder Lamont, he is really inconsiderate and lazy. I don’t know how he ever got to be a District Leader. Seniority I guess. He’s always got some other plan goin’. I’m surprised he’s not in Venice today. I don’t know Elder Baldwin but he must be willing to go along with anything.”
Elder Cook was genuinely perturbed as usual. The two made their way back down the stairs and onto the street. “I just hope this map is good. It looks like they’re about ten blocks away. So I guess we go find them.”
Jack followed without comment, still absorbed in reading. Students at the University of California at Berkeley had begun protesting the Vietnam War. There was a movement of “hippies” using psychedelic drugs. Inflation was increasing and the US economy was growing after a tax cut. He hadn’t taken so much interest in the news when he was in the US, here it had a fresh fascination.
They followed the accurate instructions. When they arrived the door was open. Jack and Elder Cook walked in during a point of vociferous dispute. The group was playing pinochle. Someone had played out of turn and wanted to change their card. There was loud shouting about “board’s the play” and “if you’re dumb enough to play out of turn you have to leave the card on the table!” It was a good thing they didn’t have weapons.
“Sorry to interrupt your friendly game. You guys ready for lunch?” Elder Cook inquired as he went into the dimly lit room.
“Hi Cooky!” Elder Lamont called out greetings for the whole group since no one else broke their concentration on the game. “We’ll be done in just a minute. We’re so far ahead anyway these guys will never catch up.”
“Bull shit!” explained one missionary Jack didn’t recognize. He was sitting with no shirt exposing his garments. “You guys just got lucky this time. We’re way ahead in total games.”
“Hi Link!” The only one Jack recognized was Elder Hunt, his former traveling companion.
Jack smiled and waived his rolled Time. “How you doin’ Hunt?” He was a little startled by the crudeness of the group. This was his first exposure to how other missionaries really lived. Up to that time he had only been acquainted with the relative properness of Elder Cook. His assumption that others might be of the same character was obviously not valid.
“Okay lets go eat. Just let me get my shirt on and take a leak.” The one without a shirt was Elder Milton. He laid down his cards. “I got the rest of the tricks anyway.” He showed a hand with an ace and the rest spades which were trump. The others surrendered their cards without protest.
After a brief discussion relating to the schedule of the conference, they left for the student Mensa. Elder Cook had gotten emotionally exercised over nothing because their progress toward the Mensa was not disturbed by this apparent detour.
After lunch, it was Elder Milton who suggested they take bus number 23 when it came. They all got on but after a moment it appeared to be going in the wrong direction so he inquired as to the final routing. Sure enough it was the wrong bus. They had to get off after two stops and connect with a different bus that would return to the train station.
That was the way they learned the bus system, by trial and error. Riding buses was so cheap, ten Lira, it made little difference how many times you had to pay to get where you wanted to go. Even so, the driver gave them all transfers so they didn’t have to pay for the second bus.
Jack read Time and only glanced at the interesting scenery of the city. In twenty minutes they were on the train to Vicenza.
In the first session of the conference, the missionaries met with the mission president and his assistants beginning at 8:00 PM. The Elders were cautioned against owning motorbikes and advised to take special care because of the potential for injury. These were discouraged but not forbidden.
The conference on Sunday began with regular church sessions including a small group of local members, some of whom were Americans. The leadership introduced a new member, like a trophy, who had been recently baptized. After the meeting they all traded companions for a break. Jack left for lunch with Elders Milton and Baldwin.
As they walked across the open military campus, Jack coaxed a persistent question from his mind. “That discussion about the new member made me wonder what actually makes people attracted to The Church before they decide to join?” Jack made this comment as a question.
Elder Milton suggested, “It’s real simple. People need to get relief from their painful lives. Life is a series of problems, emptiness and meanness, and people just want to find relief.” He was a tall, heavy set fellow with a perpetual scowl. He looked the part of what he was describing.
“That’s a terrible thought. Is that the way you really think about life?” Jack argued.
“That’s true for most people.” Elder Baldwin added his insight to the discussion.
“Life is full of sadness, hardships and loneliness for most people. They feel desperate and forlorn even when they don’t admit it to themselves.” Elder Milton continued his depressing litany.
“That goes for you too Lincoln.” Elder Baldwin was being argumentative. He was very dark but handsome with a very young, almost childish expression under his black curly hair. He could have been a movie-star, or male model if he would ever smile.
“That all seems so cynical. My life hasn’t been that way. I have a lot of happy memories and look forward to each new day.”
“That makes you the exception.” Elder Milton was a slow walker compared to Elder Cook. They both seemed sullen and argumentative. They enjoyed a certain predatory aloofness in their attack on Elder Lincoln.
For Jack, this was a whole new shocking perspective of what life was like. He was intrigued by this point of view like people stare at rattlesnakes in a cage. He couldn’t imagine how these missionaries came to such a conclusion.
“What about logic and reason. Can’t you convince people how complete the Mormon Doctrine is once they are willing to listen?”
Elder Milton shook his head. “Ya, sure, theoretically. You can convince them but you have to relieve their misery or it won’t matter. They won’t change. If they don’t feel a terrific emotional gain, they won’t take the plunge.”
Elder Baldwin extrapolated further. “The first lesson should examine how miserable their lives are and how great they could be, if what you say is true.”
“Right Baldy. You may have something there. I end up talking about that some times. But don’t let the Zone Leaders hear you suggest that. Their job is to stick to the party line, so I’ve never actually planned to follow that strategy, it just happens.”
“If you tell people how bad the Catholic Church is, about the apostasy, does that help?” Jack was grasping for counter-arguments to defend the First Lesson.
“It should but it doesn’t because they almost always agree. That doesn’t have enough impact. That’s not what makes their lives miserable. You have to figure that out somehow, then provide a solution. There is a subtle difference for each person. You make a mistake if you try to standardize your approach or simply rely on a single theory of conversion like the First Lesson.”
Elder Baldwin took this line of argument a step further. “If you’ve had some kind of sadness in your life it would be easier for you to understand. You probably have, you just can’t admit it.”
Jack felt like telling Elder Baldwin to shut-up but he resisted. “So for people who have a happy life, there is no hope of being converts right?”
“Nobody’s that happy, that’s the point.” Baldwin interrupted again with his petulant attitude.
Jack felt like he had just been hit in the face with a baseball bat.
They arrived at the Snack Bar and joined the others. Jack moved away thinking, “I don’t want to be around those guys, they’re too depressing.” He chose to spend his time with Elder Cook who, even when he had nothing to say, was more upbeat than Milton and Baldwin. Even Lucky at his worst was more optimistic than those two.
The afternoon session was more of the same, with instructions, songs and inspirational readings to keep everybody enthusiastic about the work they were supposed to be doing. The conference was over early and Jack and Elder Cook were back on the train by 4:30. They were in Trento by 7:15 in time to drive up the hill for dinner at the Istituto.
After they had begun to eat from big bowls of spaghetti, Jack confided his misgivings to Elder Cook. “I’m not sure what I expected but those missionaries today were a sorry bunch.”
“That’s the way some people are when they get off on their own. That won’t last long. The president will hear about it and separate those guys.”
“How? Are you going to write a letter?”
“No. It’s not my place to do that. Elder Fratelli is the Zone Leader. He’ll figure things out soon enough. I talked with him after the meeting and he indicated he wasn’t satisfied with the way things were going in Verona. The politics of the mission are complicated. But one thing is for sure, you don’t gain anything by saying bad things about other missionaries even when there is a real problem. Those complaints will get you a bad reputation and that spreads to everybody else and then you’re doomed. No one will cooperate with you.”
Elder Cook was expecting a new camera. The two made a trip to the customs office but it hadn’t arrived.
“I hope that camera makes it alright. I ordered it through the military catalogue and had it sent direct. It’s a single lens reflex Pentax with extra lenses, time exposure and all the extras.”
While in Vicenza, Elder Cook had conferred with one of the American military members who had ordered the special Pentax camera for him. The military member had already forwarded the camera directly to Trento to Elder Cook’s address.
“I can see that cameras are the main pastime for missionaries around here,” Jack observed. “The zone leaders were both carrying their fancy cameras too. Elder Lamont and Milton both have the same kind of camera you’re talking about. I’m going to be satisfied with a much smaller model.”
“If you want to get one I can help you pick one out. Maybe you should look at one of the half frame kind. You can take twice as many pictures and still get reasonably good quality. Some of the small models aren’t so expensive. When my new camera comes, it has a built in light meter, so I’ll sell you my old one if you want. It’s something you learn how to use in your spare time.”
“Sure. That sounds great.”
Since the conference, Jack had learned to appreciate Elder Cook more. In spite of their differences, Elder Cook and Jack were beginning to get along better. Elder Cook helped Jack purchase a small, half-frame camera, made by Agfa.
The two went out tracting again after lunch according to their routine. During the last few weeks the weather had been consistently dreary, cloudy or raining. The sky was clear so they took an unplanned, close-range tour during the afternoon.
We took a ride up the hill to the tomb of some soldier. This is a huge memorial, and I took lots of pictures of the surrounding hills and town with my new camera. It was quite pleasant to see on a clear day. After, I went to sleep in a meeting.
Sunday…at about 5:30 we went to have a pizza again. There sure are a lot of people wondering around on Sunday evening. This is the evening Europeans window shop and exchange gossip with their neighbors. Then we returned and I finished memorizing the Joseph Smith story.
Today I wrote down my ideas on teaching methods, because my companion and I are in conflict on several issues. If I haven’t caught up to him in eight months I will not feel I have accomplished a whole lot. I think he is a poor teacher. Besides all of that, I ask him something and he will invariably say `I don’t know.’ which perturbs me. If someone asks me a question I try to help them find an answer. I am trying to refrain from asking him questions. We get along good most of the time, however. Sometimes he has a weird personality, but I just ignore it then.
Jack and Elder Cook had been looking for another apartment during the previous two weeks, in fact ever since Elder Cook had tangled with their landlady. Today they found one through an agency. They were so anxious to leave the old lady they agreed to pay the fee. They worked all day knocking on doors and going to appointments with no success.
The two missionaries went to an appointment at 9:00 in the evening.
The people were friendly, and are willing to listen. They appear very intelligent. They speak English. We had tomato juice there…
So persistence pays off.
Earlier during the day the two had done some shopping.
I bought my new fountain pen today. It is a Pelican with a gold tip and a black table mounting…I don’t have to worry about spending any more money, I don’t have any left hardly… I think of Julie often and miss her.
Jack enjoyed writing and particularly enjoyed using his new, fancy pen. Even though he couldn’t afford it, he was fascinated with this sleek, black, tapered fountain pen. It was mounted handsomely on a heavy black stand made of obsidian. The gold tip wrote effortlessly. It was a joy to use such a nice pen. From then on, Jack used it for all his writing. Such a fine fountain pen would last a lifetime, so he felt this innocent fetish was worth the sacrifice.
Thursday was a wasted day because Elder Cook was feeling poorly with his cold. In the extra time Jack wrote a poem to Julie. Their separation is beginning to affect Jack’s attitude, a quiet depression.
It was a normal day Friday, the two missionaries were back on task. They have a goal of working eight full hours each day, six days a week. In fact one of the tasks of a missionary is to fill out a weekly report listing all the hours of teaching and tracting. They had to record what they did, how many lessons they taught, which level they were, the names of significant contacts and what they did on their time off. They worked hard and pushed themselves through Saturday using every hour to best advantage.
On Sunday Jack and Elder Cook took time to study and write letters because they had no way to attend Church. Since this was the first Sunday they went without breakfast and lunch. It is a tradition for Mormons to fast and pay the amount they would have spent on food to The Church for the community welfare fund, called a “Fast Offering.”
I studied and read until I decided to write suggestions to the President. So I did that, a three page typed letter. I hope he has time to read it.
Jack related some of his suggestions to Elder Cook. “I would like to try a street meeting approach. What do you think about that idea?”
“We used to do that in Germany but nobody liked doing it that way. I don’t like the idea particularly.” Elder Cook was his usual defeatist, dead-pan self.
“I want to find out what President Downey thinks about it. I’m going to ask him if anybody else has tried it in Italy.”
“If you like that typewriter, I could make you a good deal. You have been using it more than I have lately. I spent too much money on my new camera and I could live without the typewriter.”
“How much do you want for it? How long is it going to last before it breaks down?”
“That’s a good brand, Hermes, made in Switzerland. I bought it from another missionary, I suspect it’s been passed around a bit. How about $20.00. And, you don’t have to pay me ’til one of us gets a new assignment.”
“That sounds alright. I hadn’t planned on having one but I’m getting used to it.” So now Jack owned a typewriter or he would when they parted company.
Jack had been toying with the possibility of having a street meeting. He had designed a sign board he planned to use but his language was still a problem without the full support of his companion. His time would come.
Tuesday Jack wrote:
The days seem to pass so fast I can’t count them. I guess its because I’m pushing myself, which I intend to continue to do. I got a letter from Julie and Mother yesterday, I just finished answering Julie’s today…
The work continued Wednesday.
In one of our meetings we got dropped quite soundly. I still can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s the way we use the black book.
Jack thought the picture book gave people a quick answer and didn’t challenge their curiosity on the main points of the message. That was a soft sale approach that let people off the hook emotionally and didn’t carry their interest or make them think.
By Friday Jack had memorized the first two conclusions.
We tracted a lot today, mostly to no avail. We had two meetings, I did one Joseph Smith story, but nothing special. It tried to rain in the afternoon but didn’t really succeed. I felt weak all day and tired. I had a sore throat. My companion gave it to me along with his cold. I haven’t had it very bad though.
Jack was stubbornly resisting any medical problem that interfered with his own desire to work.
Saturday morning came too early for a groggy, half sick missionary. Jack permitted himself the luxury of sleeping an extra hour. It was the day for the excursion with Signor Antonioli the director of the Villa Tombosi. After their morning ritual, the missionaries rode up the hill to the Istituto. The day was cloudy and threatening rain but the three left undaunted after exchanging warm greetings.
The sight seeing tour extended through the Valle di Non, Largo di Tavel, Valle di Sole, Valle Rendena, Valle del Sarca, the Dolomite mountains and other sights of interest. Each valley was inhabited by people living in a picturesque, storybook culture. Many houses were of Austrian or Swiss designs, nestled around the edges of the narrow river valleys. Each community contained at least one old, prominent church with a tall spire and bell tower. The communities appeared frozen in time.
The weather was clear when they arrived at the Dolomite mountains. The jagged rock spires and outcroppings were recognizable as one of the most rugged and unique mountain ranges in the world.
I got lots of pictures with my new camera.
Signor Antonioli was a most gracious host.
We went to a movie at night, the story of the Algerian battle for independence, mostly documentary, very emotional even without the language.
Jack sympathized with the soldiers since he regarded himself embarked on a righteous battle, soldier of the Lord to spread the gospel.
Jack received the first of many transfers after little more than two months. This change was to occur after a conference scheduled near Torino, associated with the dedication service for the Italian Mission.
When Jack and Elder Cook met the others they socialized quietly until President Downey and President Ezra Taft Benson came from Milano.
The conference meeting began with an address by Sister Benson who spoke about her family and some of their missionary experiences. President Benson, one of the Twelve Apostles was the General Authority in charge of the European missions. He spoke and put his emphasis on being close to the Lord, gaining faith, working diligently in any task. `Lose ourselves in the work’.
We went up by cars at 3:00 or so to Torre Pellice, a hill with a round lump on top. We walked up the hill and met the President who had preceded us. In 1851 Lorenzo Snow had dedicated Italy to the work of the Lord, but it was felt that this should be done again. After taking pictures, we sang. President Downey prayed and there was another song from mimeographed sheets. Then, President Benson offered the dedication prayer.
The scene was beautifully placed in autumn colors with snow capped mountains in the distance. There was a rich, verdant hill below us as an apron. The scenery seemed to add to the spirituality. In the prayer President Benson asked that the land would become fruitful for our work. That the great tragedy [the flood November 4th in Firenze] be turned to our advantage. That we would bring thousands of people into the service of the Lord. I am more anxious now than ever to find some serious contacts.
One humorous incident occurred. The prayer service lasted more than thirty minutes. Jack stood so long with his knee locked that his leg went completely asleep. He happened to be standing by Sister Benson and when they began to walk down the hill Jack collapsed on his first step and barely caught himself with his hand and saved himself from rolling down the steep slope. He was alright but everybody wondered what was wrong. After he recovered Sister Benson offered her arm and insisted Jack help her down the hill. Of course she was more concerned about his making it safely down the hill.
After the group returned each of the missionaries had a chance to talk to President Benson. When it was Jack’s turn, he broke the ice. “I enjoyed the dedication ceremony today.”
“So did I,” President Benson explained. “I’ve been looking forward to that for many years.”
“When I was in the president’s home I read some of your book `Cross Fire’. It was real interesting. Do you think you will ever be the Church President to succeed President David O. McKay?”
“No. There are younger men than me, they will surely out live me.” He seemed a little embarrassed by the question.
As it turned out he did become the Prophet. A prophet should have been able to predict such an event, or so you would think. Although he can’t be faulted for having modesty in not projecting himself into that position ten or more years before it actually happened.
After the dedication ceremony Jack said goodbye to Elder Cook without feeling sorry to be embarking on a new adventure. He joined the entourage of Elders he knew from Firenze. They returned to Torino and ate before leaving directly for Firenze rather than staying overnight in the city. They drove all night and Jack slept uncomfortably in the car the entire trip. He was completely exhausted by the time they arrived just before daybreak.
There was a lot of mail when he returned to the Mission Office, six letters including one from Julie.
That made me feel real good. I had to fight to get Julie’s letter. The guys wanted to read it.
Jack made an appointment with Julie to think about each other at a certain time. The first such meditation period was early Sunday morning. Standing with the dark room behind, he looked out the window of the pensione onto the bleak, wet, empty, forlorn street below.
On the other side of the ocean Julie shared his sense of isolation. She sat on her bed propped against her pillow. She had a notebook with stationery in front of her, trying unsuccessfully to write a happy letter. She didn’t share all her sadness with Jack, fearing it would be contagious. She made an effort to send her joy in words and some telepathic love but at first it only came out as tears.
Jack spent a good solid hour of uninterrupted meditation and concentration. His passion for Julie had only grown stronger because of their separation. Later in the morning he joined the local group in Firenze for Sunday School and Priesthood Meeting.
I opened the service with prayer. I took a nap in the afternoon, and after Sacrament Meeting in the evening there was a social get together at the president’s home. His family had arrived so there was quite a group. We had slides and a kind of a Family Home Evening.
In addition to all the other activities The Church sponsors, it encourages each family to dedicate one evening a week for a lesson and group activity. That was an excellent dedication of time if followed on a regular basis. The Church provides lesson books with proposed study topics and suggested activities.
Monday Jack reported to the Mission Office to learn more details about his next assignment. He was to leave for Bologna to work in that historic city, again as a junior companion. He was temporarily assigned as companion to Elder Black because he had to wait two days before he could leave. He prepared by purchasing a large dictionary and accumulated some missionary literature. There were many sad sights in the city as the pair toured during the course of their routine. The recent disastrous flood of the river Arno had left many scars in the city. People were working hard to recover, even the local missionaries had pitched in to help.
More new missionaries arrived Tuesday. Wednesday Jack was entrusted with helping two of them travel north on the train. In comparison he was an old timer and knew enough language to get around. He could cash checks and read train schedules without getting lost, all the essential things even most tourists couldn’t do.
|Book of Abraham
Book of Mormon
|In The Media