Missionary Tales

As a young man I served two years as a French speaking missionary in Quebec, Canada for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Serving a mission was a life changing experience. Talking to perfect strangers every day for two years gave me experience in understanding of how people really think. I learned to love the people and also overcome my natural shyness – to some extent.

There sometimes exists among the Latter-day Saints the idea that our mission as a people is to convert the whole world. Not so.The scriptures are clear on this – while we proclaim1 the truth to the whole world, we are to seek out2 the children of Israel, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, the elect of God, and then gather them to Zion3 in preparation for His second coming. Everyone is welcome but not everyone makes it. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and only his sheep know His voice4. That’s why missionaries only teach and but don’t personally convert anyone. Yet to be a missionary is a privilege. To be a missionary the Lord will trust to actually gather His elect is a special honor5. He is not going to trust them to someone unworthy or spiritually unprepared. That is just a fact — and that’s why it’s important for an unworthy or testimony barren young person to NOT go and waste their time – doing more harm than good.

I had many wonderful experiences while on my mission but these I share below, even 30+ years later, stand out in my mind the most:

The Lost Convert

It was a very dark and cold night in the middle of the Quebec winter. No one wanted to open their doors to us because of the cold, so I was a little discouraged. We came to the end of the street with only 5 minutes remaining before we were supposed to quit our proselyting efforts, so it seemed like a logical stopping point. However my senior companion wanted to work right up to the limit and go the extra mile. I was game and asked “Where should we go?”. There were three houses across the way each standing apart and so he raised his hand, starting to point to the right and then swung his arm hard to the left and said “Let’s go to that one”. So we crossed the street and as we approached the porch a woman opened the door and enthusiastically invited us in. I have never been so enthusiastically welcomed by a total stranger! We began to teach her about the gospel and she believed with all her heart. We asked why she had greeted us so warmly. She then told us that missionaries had previously taught her and she was scheduled to be baptized but had fallen ill, was hospitalized, and had lost all contact with the missionaries. Then she saw us from her window and could tell that we were LDS missionaries but was just too shy to come out of her house — so she prayed6 that the Lord would send us to her. It was at that very moment that my missionary companion raised his hand and pointed directly at her and we began walking towards her house. She was indeed baptized at last.

Already Converted

I was transferred to Alma, Lac St. Jean (pronounced lack-san-schon), an area never before opened up to missionary work. The name “Alma” is also in the Book of Mormon, so I thought that was neat. Nobody had heard of us, so no serious interest in our message of the restored Gospel, but there was general curiosity so that we placed about 15 Book of Mormons a week.

One day a man met us, invited us in, and told us he had collected the entire set of Playboy magazines – every issue – and that we were welcome to come see and look for as long as we wanted. We responded that, a-hem, we did not read Playboy magazines but we did have an important gospel message we would like to share. He responded that, a-hem, he wasn’t interested in any gospel message but he did have Playboy magazines he would like to share. At this impasse, we politely excused ourselves, to continue our door-to-door proselyting.

Three houses later we came across a place where there was no answer, but the front door was sealed shut and unused. We about gave up but then decided to go around in back looking for another door. In the back yard, sitting on a stone wall, was a old man, Hector Pelletier (I can use his name because he was 88 at the time and this was 37 years ago). This didn’t seem too promising since many old people, in our experience, we’re very hard to communicate with rural Quebecois dialects, perhaps no teeth, hard of hearing, set in their ways, and then finally “too old to change”. However, after we introduced ourselves, he immediately invited us in and we sat at his kitchen table as we began to tell about Joseph Smith and his search for the true church. He listened quietly, intently, and then suddenly raised a finger and declared firmly “The true church has got to have Prophets and Apostles7!” We were stunned!!! That concept was part of the first lesson, but we had not gotten to it yet! He never said another word, that I can recall, throughout the rest of the first lesson, but he could hear us well and seemed to understand exactly what we were saying. He accepted a Book of Mormon and began to read. He would read throughout the night, and he read, prayed, believed and accepted everything we taught, and we soon set a date for baptism. We asked Monsieur Pelletier how it was that he already knew so much about the Gospel and was so ready for it. He said that ever since he was a young man working in the woods, as a lumber-jack, he would take his Bible with him and read it. He had to hide this activity because at that time his Catholic priest forbade Bible reading (the priest said it would corrupt him without the proper training). But young Hector ignored that advice. Because of his faith, the spirit of God enlightened his mind so that he could plainly see that his Catholic church did not match up to the scriptures. He was looking for modern Prophets and Apostles!

His baptism was something special. There were no members in Alma and the closest branch was in Chicoutimi and no baptismal font there so the baptism was scheduled for Lac (lake) St. Jean. It was a bright sunny summer day with the sun glistening off the waters. My missionary companion and Frere Pelletier were dressed in beautiful bright white shirts and pants and as they entered the lake they had to walk quite a ways out before the water was deep enough. In that area of Quebec, almost everyone has a summer chalet and there were many chalets close by. There were several chainsaws were running, cutting firewood, but at the sight of two men in white, suddenly all the chainsaws stopped. People were transfixed as they saw them walk out, the arm raised to the square, heard the baptismal prayer, and then saw this 88 year old man immersed completely into the water. As they returned to shore, there was much joy among the missionaries and the few members who attended and I confirmed him a member of the Church by the laying on of hands, right there at the waters edge. We later heard that some people in the chalets who saw all this stayed up late into the night discussing it. They knew that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river but they had never seen an adult baptized by immersion – it was a new concept!

The next day we attended Church with Frere Pelletier where suddenly filled with Spirit of God, he arose to share a fervent and powerful testimony of the restored Gospel and of the Prophet Joseph Smith with the members in the Chicoutimi branch. I was amazed – it really seemed like he could have been a member of the Church all his life and yet he had never seen anyone share their testimony in a meeting before. I was well aware that we missionaries never “converted” him at all. The Spirit of God had already taught and converted him years ago. He was just waiting for additional light and knowledge — and authorized messengers to make it official.

What an absolute honor for me to be one of those messengers8!! Later, looking back on it I realized that the Lord allowed us to be tested with the Playboy magazine solicitation. I would like to think there was never really a chance that we would have accepted such an invitation, but if our response had been anything less than perfect, I am positive we would never have been allowed to find Hector Pelletier.

Patience in Affliction

This story was told to the Elders in our district by the missionary companion to Elder Farnsworth.

Elder Farnsworth is a big fellow and as they were out proselyting, he introduced himself to a little Quebecois man who responded with “Oh, one of you guys!” and then POW, he punches Elder Farnsworth right in the mouth. Well, some missionaries might have swung back, but not Elder Farnsworth! With blood trickling down his chin he simply looked at the man and said “Do you have a wet towel?” His assailant was shocked! All he could say in reply was “Uh…uh… sure. I’ll be right back!” and he soon returned with a wet towel and then began to apologize, saying he had just had a very bad day, and was so sorry etc. The Elders were invited in and they taught the family. I always thought it was an amazing story. By keeping a cool head and a brave but meek attitude, Elder Farnsworth made a friend9 for the Church instead of an enemy.




1DC 75:2-5

2 Hearken, O ye who have given your names to go forth to proclaim my gospel, and to prune my vineyard.
3 Behold, I say unto you that it is my will that you should go forth and not tarry, neither be idle but labor with your might—
4 Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you.
5 And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.

2Jeremiah 16:14-16

14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.
16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

3Moses 7:62

62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.

4John 10:4-5,26-27

4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

5DC 75:5

5 And thus, if ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.

6Matthew 7:7-11

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

7Luke 11:49 & 1 Corinthians 12:2 & Ephesians 2:19-20 & Ephesians 3:5 & Ephesians 4:11 & 2 Peter 3:2 & Revelation 18:20

49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles…

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; …

8DC 18:15-16

15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

9Matthew 5:39

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

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