Jack & Lucky Chapter 7, part 2
Chapter 7, Part 2
The two missionaries continued teaching and working unsteadily for the next week. Elder Green was lazy and used every excuse to go shopping, stay home and study, anything but work. He did well at meetings but didn’t do so well knocking on doors. The two didn’t make much progress.
It’s hard to keep track of the days, time goes by so fast.
Jack’s diary lagged behind reality once again and he lost track of the details.
Meanwhile, the weather deteriorated with a light snow fall. Jack caught a cold and had to stay in part of the time with a sore throat and other symptoms. That was fine with Elder Green who was more than generous and cooperative when it came to finding time to rest.
By the middle of December the two were working less and getting along less well. Jack didn’t complain about Elder Green’s lack of ambition because it fit his sagging spirit. This could be arguably the first low cycle for Jack. He was doing as much as the others, their efforts were not successful either. He was upset with his companion for his own lack of effort but not wanting to work himself, he didn’t want to push.
Finally one evening Jack suggested the need for more effort. “It doesn’t seem like we’re getting much done.”
“Don’t blame me, we work when we can.”
“I’m not trying to blame anybody. I’m trying to think of a way to make this work be more effective.”
“This is the way it’s been done for as long as I can remember. I don’t know how to do anything different. This weather isn’t cooperating.”
“I had one idea. Listen to this and tell me what you think. Instead of just going around knocking on doors blindly and surprising people, we can write a letter of introduction. This letter will tell people we’re coming the day before. We could drop the letter in mail boxes, then follow those letters.”
“That sounds like a lot of extra work. Going around the area twice. When you get to be Senior Companion you can do it your way, for now we just knock on doors.”
“In this area with apartment buildings, it would only take a few minutes to pass out the letters.”
“You talk to Pendleton and see what he thinks.” Elder Pendleton thought the idea was worth trying. So, Jack wrote a letter and the others helped translate it. He typed it and they got copies made. They would begin to use it the next week.
The diary entry for December 14th reveals the first serious sign of mental disaffection in Jack’s missionary career.
We tracted, nothing spectacular. We went to a meeting at 9:00 PM and talked until 1:30 AM. At first we discussed The Church, then the conversation drifted toward church and state, then to state, communism, US foreign policy, history of communism… it proved to be a very enlightening discussion with a group of young men, economic students, who spoke some English.
This had very little to do with the main purpose of their missionary effort. Jack was receptive to the kindred nature of fellow Economics students.
Both Jack and his companion drifted too easily into interesting discussions with students. That was the kind of person they attracted in this college town. Most of their appointments involved teaching these curious university students who wanted to know all the details about this strange American religion, all at once. This was interesting for the missionaries too but had a very low probability of creating a convert. Elder Green was satisfied with this effort and inadvertently set an example for Jack to follow in the future. Even this kind of teaching looked good on the weekly reports.
The next day brought a more serious focus followed by three days out of focus.
We tracted and visited call backs and tried to clean up the book that Elder Cates left. We gave one Screening Discussion. We are fasting today because we planned to deliver a Third Lesson tonight at 8:00. It is hard working with the Lord for strength, but we made it through and ironically the contact, a boy about 20 years old, postponed the day of his repentance until next Tuesday. We’ll get him. I think he’ll accept things right.
We had a long meeting with the District Leader, Elder Pendleton and Warden to bake a chocolate cake. Real missionary activity…something interesting happened today. I received a slip of paper in the mail telling me that I had a package at the Post Office. I went and it was my check. The Mission Office had made an error. They sent it to me COD with 60,224 Lira written on the outside. They wanted me to give them the money before I could receive the letter. Naturally I refused it. I hope they send it back the right way soon. Oh well.
We went out to comebacks and appointments but with no success. Then we happened on the Sports Palace and watched volleyball and basketball and roller skating for a while…Not much accomplished today.
The Bologna District missionaries planned a trip for the 20th of December. They worked on the weekend so they could tour the city of Ravenna during a weekday when everything would be open to view.
Ravenna was about 70 miles east near the Adriatic Sea.
In this small city there are churches with murals and art dating back to 400 AD. We got to the train a little early. I have no money, so I borrowed for the train ticket. Then we went by “diretti” to Ravenna in 1- 1/2 hours. We began to look at churches. I took pictures as did the other elders. Elder Pendleton took lots in color with his Pentax. We didn’t eat too much, we were too busy. I went to buy an orange from a street vender and he gave it to me free. We began to walk out to a particularly famous church but then decided to hitch-hike when a ride happened along.
This particular church has ancient mosaics and murals that depict religious people performing services and wearing draped clothing. The clothing is typical of the period except there are markings similar to those placed on Mormon garments. It was nearly 4:00 PM by the time they made it to the church, so the chapel was nearly dark and poorly lit. Most of the best mosaics are high inside the central chapel. The entire interior of the church is decorated with these intricate works of art. The mosaics are composed of small tiles about 1/2 inch square and are huge although distant from the viewer. Each tile is placed precisely according to color, some were real gold.
The one mural which had the alleged temple garment is quite high and distant. It wasn’t clear whether the artist deliberately depicted some symbol or if there were tiles missing. The photos in the tourist book Jack purchased were more clear than the real thing. In fact he bought two extra books, one for President Downey and one for President Ezra Taft Benson. He had overheard a previous conversation and knew of their interest in these murals.
The missionaries had to hurry, so from the point of view of a theological, archeological or artistic expedition, the tour was a disappointment. From the point of view of enjoyment, camaraderie and pure good fun, it was a rousing success.
We returned the same way and just about didn’t make the train back. We were late so we walked fast. Then started running the last one half mile. We must have ran in record time, but we made the train in good shape. I slept on the way back. We passed such notable cities as Bagnocavallo (horse bath). We switched trains at a small stop and I had some candy…then we were back in Bologna just in time to run to an appointment at 7:00, which didn’t hold up. They postponed their repentance.
Teaching the Gospel was a chain of natural disappointments interspersed with a few moments of glory. Too few it seemed.
Then home to check our mail. Would you believe? I received another transfer. This time I’m going to Brescia, up north, as SENIOR to Elder Baldwin. I have mixed emotions about this assignment. Mostly I’m eager, but I’m not ready. I know it. But I’ll never be ready more than when I have to be. Oh well, it will work out. I’ve got lots of ideas and good advice from others.
So here was Elder Lincoln, less than three and 1/2 months from the beginning of his mission and he was assigned to be Senior Companion to someone who had arrived in the same group as he had. He was ambitious enough for leadership so he felt a certain prestige associated with this new assignment. As it happens, missionaries are expected to succeed and moving up the hierarchy of leadership is one of the best ways to measure that success from the outside. Jack’s new assignment would impress the folks back home who didn’t have the foggiest idea what was actually going on on the inside.
It wasn’t entirely clear but there must be something amiss about this Elder Baldwin. Jack hadn’t paid much attention to him when they were together in the US. They hadn’t spoken much to each other there. Jack also remembered Elder Baldwin from their visit at the Vicensa conference. Their conversation had created a distinctly bad impression. Elder Baldwin shared that sour attitude toward life Elder Milton had expressed. “People are always sad and need religion to bring happiness into their lives.” Jack had found that negative concept so curious, so he was expecting the worst.
Jack heard from Elder Pendleton that the group of missionaries in Verona had finally been dispersed as predicted by Elder Cook. Beyond that there was no detailed information on what transpired. News about such goings-on traveled slowly through the mission organization. There was almost no contact between missionaries in other districts. Jack had no idea what to expect once he arrived in Brescia.
There was a compression of new young men entering the mission. New missionaries were being absorbed rapidly by anyone who had experience, so elders who had little experience, like Jack and Elder Baldwin, were forced to work together to gain more experience and essentially stumble over each other. That might have been the logic behind assigning Elder Baldwin to Jack, it might have been the luck of the draw. In any case, this transfer would create two openings for new missionaries.
Jack would have to wait to see how well his innovation, the introductory letters, would work. He was leaving and that was that.
In order to keep contact between missionaries and the Mission Office, the mission leaders scheduled a Christmas conference. They would all celebrate Christmas together in Firenze. Jack had to travel to the conference and then back-track to go past Bologna on his way to Brescia. He said good-bye to his third companion in as many months. He wouldn’t miss Elder Green the same way he had been disappointed by losing contact with Elder Cates.
We woke at 5:00 or so to get ready and make last minute preparations. Elders Pendleton and Warden were supposed to come by. When they didn’t we went to them. They over-slept, so we missed the first train at 6:05. We waited and then went to the train. Elder Green and I went first to get the tickets and save time, because we were cutting it close. We locked our bikes together and finally made this train at 6:45. We reached Firenze at 8AM or so and found a bus. (I even managed to do a good deed and helped a little old lady with some heavy bags.) I was carrying a brief case, my camera case, an umbrella and toilet kit as it was. We took the bus to the Youth Hostel that was way out of town on a hill. We made it to the meeting by 9:00 but had no time to spare.
It was real good to see my friends again and meet new ones. We were in the meeting until 1:00 talking about the conference schedule and other topics of interest. We discussed whether or not to include the number of meetings on the weekly reports, and the various criteria for meetings, office staff responsibilities, and other caretaking subjects. I was getting hungry because we went fasting to the conference.
Jack waited two hours after the first session to be interviewed by President Downey. He still hadn’t eaten all day.
“Hello Elder Lincoln, I’ve been hearing good things about you.”
“Hello. I’m glad to hear that. But you don’t believe all you hear I hope?”
“I like to believe the good news. Tell me yourself how things have been going.”
“I enjoyed my time in Bologna. The teaching slowed down after Elder Cates left, I thought we had a convert but the guy completely changed his mind suddenly…Ah…I study every chance I get.”
“It sounds as though you’re doing just fine.”
“I went to Ravenna with the other Elders to see the mosaics. I bought two extra copies of the picture book showing the temple garments and markings. I thought you might like to have a copy.”
“I’ve been hoping to get a copy. Elder Benson wants me to send him a copy too.”
“I bought an extra copy so you can have two. I’ll bring them tomorrow after the conference.”
“That’s fine, I can pay you for them then. How do you feel about your work?”
“We had some very good contacts in Bologna, so I’m a little disappointed to be leaving. I’m not sure I’m ready to be a Senior Companion.” Jack was exaggerating and being modest at the same time.
President Downey looked at his watch and then down to his prompting sheet. “We think you’ll do just fine. Transfers are a necessary evil in this fast growing mission. I’m sure you’ll do even better in Brescia. Do you have any problems?”
“No, other than I’m starving from fasting. I’m short on money because of a mistake in mailing my check but that problem will iron itself out.”
“Well, good. One thing I ask everybody, do you ever masturbate? That can distract you from your work.”
Jack paused from natural embarrassment rather than from guilt. “No, I don’t have any problem with that.”
“Good. Just work hard in Brescia and help your companion, he has some good experience, so if you work together you’ll do just fine.”
President Downey said his goodbyes and then left in a hurry.
Jack wanted to ask why he had gotten stuck with a missionary with a sour attitude but he didn’t know how to phrase this question in a diplomatic way. He was the last to be interviewed that day, the president was probably late to meet his family.
The purpose of the interview was to give each elder a chance to complain or disclaim in private and help the president become acquainted with each missionary. Jack was puzzled about the question concerning masturbation. It was discouraged of course, because it “distracts people from their work.” Other missionaries must be having a problem with that. Jack had managed to refrain but twice since coming to Italy he had nocturnal emissions associated with erotic dreams. Jack didn’t mention that because he knew it was perfectly normal. You can stop people from having sex and enjoying life but you can’t take their humanity away. Up to this point sex had not become a problem for Jack as it had for some of the elders. More on that in Brescia.
After the interview, I bought some cookies and milk and visited and talked to the other elders. At 7:00 we held a talent show. Some of the skits were real sharp. My district skit came off well. (I wrote it and Elder Pendleton presented it. It was rather sarcastic about missionary life, but funny.) There is really a lot of talent in this Mission.
Associating with the other missionaries was the fun part of any such conference and Jack found new friends and renewed old associations such as with Elder Cates. His friend Elder Goldman was there, they agreed to tour Firenze again when they got the chance.
The main conference began the next day, Saturday at 9:00 AM.
We first separated into groups of Juniors and Seniors. I went with the Seniors. I’m in the upper half of the class already! Wow. After some considerable discussion on why to get up at 6:00 and other helpful topics, all in Italian, we joined the Juniors. There was more discussion, about finances, working and getting along. We all feel the need to learn the 6 lessons after this meeting.
Jack and the others were fasting again, by this time he was famished and dehydrated. Fasting was supposed to dispose one to receive the Spirit and was a frequent part of the ritual of missionary conferences, for Jack the hunger part seemed to interfere with the humility part.
Jack had seen Elder Baldwin, of course, but made no effort to spend time with him. Baldwin likewise was content to go his own direction. They had different friends. Baldwin wasn’t too excited about being a Junior to someone who had the same time-in-service as he had. So they were off to a rather disturbing beginning before they even got together. There would be plenty of time to associate when they saw each other every hour of every day, every week so why start now?
The conference adjourned at 1:00 for free time.
I was going to eat, but decided instead to play football. After I borrowed some clothes from Elder Black, I joined the game. We played tackle, which was rough and fun. I was quarterback for a couple of attempts with some success, but our team lost. We had two casualties, Elder Lamont hurt his shoulder stretching the muscles. The other, Elder Seaburg hurt his cheekbone and bled profusely. I’m not sure what happened exactly.
I went out with Elder Goldman to eat. We wandered around Firenze for a while then joined the group at 7:00 for Christmas caroling. We sang all around downtown. We even sang for news and background music for the arrival of the pope at a big church, Santa Croce. We sang Church songs too. A little exciting. A lot of people heard us. We even saw the pope in the flesh from a distance. But we were all more excited to go back to the president’s house to have a Christmas Eve party. We exchanged anonymous gifts and talked. I got an orange marble egg, real useless and impractical (the necessary qualities for an appropriate gag gift). I gave a cut-out doll thing; don’t know who got it.
Sunday brought regular church meetings with the whole group. There was a group dinner and by 3:00 PM the conference was over.
My new comp [companion] and I set out for our field of labor…We prepared and then hurriedly rode to the train station, bought tickets and were on our way to Bologna to stay overnight. We got there and I finished packing a little.
Jack and Elder Baldwin chose to come to Bologna directly from the conference to avoid paying for another night at the Hostel because Jack was out of money. Elder Green stayed with the others to tour Firenze.
The next day the schedule was distorted, the others didn’t make it back to Bologna as planned.
We waited and waited for the others to come so we could leave, but no luck. Elder Green has a bag of mine, (the Alitalia bag) he’ll have to send it with my clothes that are still at the laundry. We picked up my two big heavy suitcases and briefcases and started for the bus. We took buses to the train station that was very fatiguing with all the luggage. I keep acquiring more stuff and books. On arrival we discovered the others had come so now I could ship my motorbike. After some hustle we got aboard and departed. I owe Elder Green money. I’ll pay him as soon as possible. That check thing really screwed things up. I would much rather have sent my luggage but didn’t have the money.
The two had to carry all the luggage including the typewriter. This was difficult even with the help of Elder Baldwin because he had a small bag of his own.
Then we stopped in Verona and had a good visit with some of the sisters (lady missionaries) that were on their way to Vicenza. We departed again still struggling with the luggage. It was night when we arrived in Brescia. We took a bus and arrived finally to my relief at 6:05 PM. I was very tired and happy to be here. We are staying in an extra room that is part of the local church facility. A couple of elders stopped in, Elders Ballard and Cox. A very odd couple. We rode double on their peddle bikes, great fun in the dark and we went with them to eat at `the Signorina’s.’ She knows many missionaries. A sweet lady. We had lots of spaghetti and such. Then we walked back. We went to bed at midnight after a long day and a heavy weekend.
Brescia was another city with a small core group of Italian members. In fact a Fratello [Brother] Larcher was the Branch President of a small Branch. A Branch for Mormons is an organized group of members, not enough to be a Ward (which would have a bishop), under the leadership of one person, the Branch President. Elder Baldwin had been staying at his house so his clothes were there.
One of the responsibilities of living in the church was to act as de facto janitors.
We had lunch after which we proceeded to clean the church where we are staying. Then we cleaned ourselves. I did it in cold water, ugh. Then we had Mutual, where we talked about authority. And I struggled (in Italian) with an explanation of `Peter and the Rock.’ Then we tried to find out what to do with Elder Cox who had been temporarily left without a companion. Finally he went with the others.
Elder Cox’s companion, Elder Seaburg, was still in Firenze receiving medical attention because of his football injury.
“Mutual” (also known as “MIA” or Mutual Improvement Association) was the name for the Mormon equivalent of a youth meeting. Young people between the ages of 12 and 21 get together once a week in the evening. The group is frequently a social gathering but there is often a lesson component for different age groups. The “Peter and the Rock” story is the Mormon interpretation of the scriptures relating to the Apostle Peter. He was presumably selected to lead the religion among the disciples during the New Testament days. The “rock” is interpreted figuratively to mean the cornerstone of The Church organization. Or so the legend goes.
That evening there were five young people at Mutual including several young investigators. There were two quite attractive young girls in the group. After the meeting Jack noticed Elder Baldwin paying too much attention to one of the young ladies. He seemed to be smitten with her and was exuding what charm he had to attract her admiration. After they spoke together for a half hour, Jack came out for a second time to send her home.
“It’s getting late. You better get home.”
Elder Baldwin scowled. “Nothing’s wrong, we’re just talking.”
“You should be getting home before it gets too late and your mother starts to worry.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I stay out this late all the time.” The Italian girl was very charming.
“Well it’s too late for me because we have to get up early. Elder Baldwin you have to help out here.”
They were safe in the large front room which served as a foyer but Jack was insistent and stayed until she left. They were all smiles when she finally said goodbye. Immediately afterward Elder Baldwin returned to his normal scowl.
Jack didn’t say anything by way of reprimand, not wishing to make their relationship worse but made a mental note not to let Elder Baldwin out of his sight.
Wednesday Jack slept late because he was coming down with another cold, or the same one acting up again.
I’ll fight it…I took a hot bath this morning that was good…I prepared my flip book.
Jack had prepared a notebook similar to Elder Cook’s that had pictures to help explain who they were when they went to the doors. He had received most of the pictures from Julie. He was careful not to use a picture of The Book of Mormon or anything that could be interpreted as a sales pitch. He did have a supply of books that he would either loan or give away. He would order more as he needed them.
Then about 2:00 PM we went out to inspect our area. I got lost and turned around but finally figured out how to get where we were going. We tracted for a while. It snowed and our feet were all wet and it was cold…no great success. We returned home about 6:00 PM for dinner. I slept for an hour at my desk. Shame, shame. Then ate the spaghetti sauce Elder Baldwin fixed, it was good this time. Last time he didn’t do so well, too much salt. Then I studied, I’m working again on memorizing the First Lesson. Hope to have it by the weekend. I’d better.
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