Scott M. Jefferies
I remember waiting to receive my mission call. I was attending Brigham Young University and my call was to be sent to my home in Nyssa, Oregon. Mom had specific instructions to call me the day I received my call and she was supposed to call after 5:30 pm so that I would be sure to be in my dorm room. My friend, Mike Groesbeck, who also lived in my dorm at Deseret Towers, was waiting for his mission call but his was being sent to him at his school address.
On the day I got my call, I got out of classes at about 3:00 pm and walked to the dorm and checked my mail. Mike picked up his mail and his eyes lit up as he saw a letter from Church headquarters. We were both excited as he opened the letter, he was going to Brazil.
I knew that there was a good chance that my call had been sent out the same time as his. I couldn't wait until Mom might call at 5:30 so I called home. Mom answered the phone, her first words were, "How did you know that it came today?" I told her about my friend and then asked where I was going. "Italy!" was the answer. I was really surprised. I had not requested any certain mission, nor given any preference when I had filled out my papers. I really had no idea of where I wanted to go or where I might even like to go. Italy came like a shot out of the blue. I didn't even realize that there was a mission in Italy. I was very excited.
This all happened in January 1969, as I was finishing up my first semester of college. The semester ended near the end of January and I went home to Nyssa. I was to enter the Mission Home in Salt Lake City about the 24th of February so the days in February went by quickly as I went shopping for white shirts, a suit and all the other things I needed. Mom also gave me a crash course on cooking, darning socks, ironing and scrubbing toilets.
My missionary farewell was on February 16, 1969, at the Nyssa 1st Ward. Bishop Reed Ray presided and spoke. Mom, Dad, my brother Mike and I spoke too. Both of my brothers had served missions, Bill to Australia and Mike to the Central States. I always wanted to go on a mission but I remember when I really came to know that I wanted to fulfull a mission. Mike was going on his mission and we were in Salt Lake City, in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. In those days the missionaries met together before going to their various fields for a testimony meeting on the last day of their stay in the Mission Home. We were singing "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" and I looked up from the hymn book and my eyes caught Mike's as he was looking at me. Chills ran up and down my spine and the words got caught in my throat and the Spirit touched me and let me know that the Church was true and that I was to fulfull a mission when I was old enough. I was about 16 at the time and I will never forget the experience.
I entered the Mission Home and met the others who had been called to the Italy Mission. There were about 17 of us and we were assigned to stay together. Elder Jensen was my companion in the Mission Home and the only thing I remember about him was that when we ate our meals I finished mine very quickly and was ready to go, to move out, and he ate very slowly. It was probably a very healthful practice, but I was in a hurry, I was a missionary now and a missionary didn't have time to leisurily enjoy a meal. I enjoyed my meals, I always have, I just enjoyed them in a hurry.
While in the Mission Home, I went through the Salt Lake Temple to take out my Endowment along with the other missionaries. We met in the basement of the Mission Home building and heard talks and counsel by the General Authorities. On our third day in the Home, we went to the Church Office Building and were set apart as missionaries. I was set apart by Theodore M. Burton, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. He spoke to me briefly before setting me apart. I remember how kind and gentle a man he seemed to be.
While in the Mission Home I also remember "Scripture Sally". Whenever we walked from the Mission Home to the Hotel Utah where we ate our meals, a lady would shout to us as we walked by. She would tell us that we were "Mormon puppets" as we walked along the sidewalk memorizing our missionary discussions. Some of the Elders would stop and argue with her and they would cite scriptures back and forth. I never thought it would be appropriate. My faith was not shaken, I knew that the Church was true and that I had been called by a Prophet and that if he wanted me to memorize discussions to give to investigators, that's just what I would do. I felt sorry for her in her state of apostacy.
After about 5 days in the Mission Home, all of the missionaries bound for the Language Training Mission boarded buses for our short drive to Provo. The Mission Home had been a good spiritual experience but it seemed like I was on such a "high" the whole time that I didn't ever settle down long enough to get a lot of practical good from the experience.
Language Training Mission
Once in Provo, we were taken to Allen Hall, an old B.Y.U. Dormitory, and we were welcomed by the Italian Zone of the Language Training Mission. Allen Hall also housed the missionaries headed for Brazil so my friend Mike Groesbeck lived in the same residence hall.
We were the second group of missionaries to go through the Italian L.T.M. Prior to that time, the missionaries went directly from the Salt Lake Mission Home to Italy. Elder Boyce was the leader in charge of the Italian missionaries and our first teachers were Elders Erickson and Abner and later we had Elders Toscano and Seabury.
The schedule in the L.T.M. was quite rigorous. We had District scripture study in the morning from 7:30 to 8:00, then language classes from 8:00 to noon. After lunch we had language classes from 1:00 to 4:00, then Zone scripture class until 5:00, then physical exercise and sports until 6:00. After dinner we studied the missionary discussions, individually and together with our companions, until 10:00. Once a week in the evening, we had "Cultural Capsules" to teach us about the country and the Italian people. On Saturday we had language class until noon and in the afternoon and evening we could write letters, wash clothes, shop and have a little diversion. Three of our Saturdays we went to the Manti Temple for endowment sessions.
On one such Saturday, we were on a bus going to Knight Mangum Hall to pick up our sack lunches for our trip to Manti. At a street corner I saw Deanne. She was waving to the bus load of missionaries. I could tell she hadn't seen me. I said "Hey, that was my girlfriend!" I grabbed my companion, got off the bus when it stopped at Knight Mangum, and ran a block and a half and talked to her for a few minutes. She was just as surprised to see me as I was to see her. We ran back to the bus and were on our way to Manti.
Our group was divided into two groups of missionaries. I was chosen as District Leader of the Rome District. Elders Harrup, Mumford, Tweedy, Cella, Jensen, and Sister Lohse were in my district. When I was first chosen to be the District Leader, I became very serious. I thought I had to be that way to do a good job. I had already developed a friendship with Mumford and Cella and they helped me to realize that I was the same person I was before being called to the position and that I needed to be myself. After I finally snapped out of my stuffed shirt mode, Cella and Mumford came into my room with very sober looks on their faces. Mumford said, "I thought we had lost you." We all cracked up and had a good laugh.
My companion, Elder Harrup, had a very difficult time learning Italian and after about 3 weeks he asked to be transferred to an English speaking mission. He was sent to Florida to complete his mission. I tried several times to study with him and help him but he always wanted to study alone. Other missionaries also tried to work with him but without success. I have wondered many times since then, if I would have been a better companion and helped him more, he might have made it.
Mumford, Cella and I became quite a threesome. We would play football during most of our physical exercise periods and on Saturday afternoons. The three of us, and sometimes Elder Jensen with us, took on all challengers. I don't think we were ever defeated, not even when we played 4, 5 or 6 man teams.
Of the 6 discussions to be memorized, Elder Tweedy and I learned and passed off the first three. The others in our group learned one or two. The most discussions passed off by the first group through the Italian L.T.M. was 2 and Elder Tweedy had taken a semester of Italian in college before being called on his mission so I felt that I had done pretty good. The Italian language and the discussions really came quite easy for me and I feel that the Lord helped me in my study and learning.
After two months in the L.T.M., I was becoming a bit weary of studying and being a student and felt I was really ready to preach the Gospel and be a "real" missionary. We were all very excited to get out of the L.T.M. and on to Italy.
We left Provo by bus and went to the Salt Lake Airport. Waiting for me at the airport were Mom, Dad, Deanne, and Deanne's Mom. It was really good to see them but I felt a little uncomfortable being around my girlfriend. On the one hand, I was happy to see her and know that she liked me well enough to be there and that I liked her but on the other hand, I had been set apart as a missionary, and had no contact with girls for two months and I didn't think I was supposed to have any contact for another 22 months.
After all the goodbyes, we boarded our United Airlines jet and flew to New York City. Upon arrival there, we were transferred to the Alitalia Airlines terminal. When we walked into the waiting area, there, before our very eyes sat about 30 or 40 real live Italians speaking real live Italian. We dispersed and for about an hour before our flight, tried out our new language skills, told the Joseph Smith story and gave out pamphlets which we had stocked up on before leaving the L.T.M. it was a bit of a struggle but, to our astonishment, we sould really communicate with them.
We flew from New York Cith to Milano, Italy. In Milano we were met by a couple of missionaries who helped us get to the train station. At the station we met our Mission President, Leavitt Christensen and his wife. They were on their way to Germany to a conference for Mission Presidents and had stopped in Milano to greet us. They were very humble and nice and treated us to our first Italian ice cream.
We went by train from Milano to Florence, the mission headquarters. On the train we again did missionary work. I noticed how patient most of the Italian people were as they listened to me. As I fumbled around with the words, they would listen carefully and even help me along with what I was trying to say.
When we arrived at Florence, the assistants to the President were there to meet us. They took all of our luggage in the mission van and told us to do our best to get to the Mission Home. We had the address memorized so we walked out to the street and asked where to catch the bus. On the bus we had several people alerted to tell us when to get off. We got to the Mission Home before the assistants arrived and they were somewhat surprised that we had made it so easily.
We were taken to a Pensione just a couple of blocks away from the Mission Home and we stayed there while in Florence for a couple of days. That night we ate in our first Italian restaurant. The food was delicious and I knew I was going to enjoy my stay in Italy.
The next morning one of the assistants took us on a walking tour of Florence. The city was beautiful, statues and works of art all over the place and they were having some kink of flower festival so there were pretty flowers all over too.
Before we all went our separate ways from Florence, we had a testimony meeting. We all expressed our love for each other and for making it through the L.T.M. experience together. It was a very good meeting.
I learned that I was going to Torino in Northern Italy. My companion was to be Elder Eric Hansen. Elder Hansen was transgerring from Pisa to Torino and so he came to Florence first and then we went together by train to Torino.
We arrived at the Torino train station late in the evening. There weren't any missionaries at the station to meet us so we walked to the only address we had which was the meetinghouse in Torino. It was only a few block from the station. Two missionaries were living in the meetinghouse because one of them was the Branch President. They called the others and they came and picked us up.
They took us to our apartment. It was in real bad shape. It was in a very old building and the apartment had not been lived in for several months. It was dirty, moldy, and thick dust covered everything. Elder Hansen thought they were playing a joke on me because I was a "greenie" but we soon found out that it was actually our new "home."
Four missionaries lived in an apartment one floor above us and in a few weeks two other missionaries moved into the lower apartment with us. In Italy, districts of missionaries usually lived together in the same apartment so there were 6 or 8 Elders living together sharing the cooking and cleaning duties. Torino had two districts, Torino I on the North side of town and Torino II on the South side.
My first day in Torino was spent cleaning the apartment. Elder Hansen was a good companion and we got along quite well with each other. He knew the language very well and spoke Italian better than any other missionary in Italy. I stell had three more discussions to memorize and with his help it didn't take me long to pass them off to him.
A normal missionary day went like this:
6:00 am Wakeup
6:00 to 7:00 Individual study of language and scriptures
7:00 to 7:30 Shower, shave, and get dressed
7:30 to 8:00 Breakfast with District
8:00 to 8:30 District Devotional
8:30 to 9:00 Study with companion
9:00 to Noon Tracting, street board meetings, contact members for referrals
Noon to 1:00 Lunch with District
1:00 to 2:00 Study
2:00 to 9:30 Tracting, street board meetings, teach discussions during the evenings, meet with members for referrals and to instruct in Member Missionary Program, for dinner we usually had a snack or ate out on our own rather than with the District
9:30 to 10:00 Get ready for bed
10:00 pm To bed
The first time I went tracting, Elder Hansen took the first door and as we walked to the next door, he told me that it was my turn. I was nervous as I tried to get the lady of the house interested in our message and invite us in to talk to her. She didn't. Many times doors were closed in our faces and many people wouldn't open the door at all. Some people invited us in because of curiosity, others because they liked America and wanted to hear about it, and a few were sincerely interested in religion and wanted to hear what we had to say.
When we weren't tracting, we were at street board meetings. The street board was made up of pictures and charts referring to the Restoration of the Church, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. We usually set it up in the Public Park near the train station. As people walked by or waited for a bus they would become curious about the display and stop to look at it. We would then talk to them, give them pamphlets and invite them to church meetings. Sometimes big crowds would gather and the Italians would start arguing among themselves. We would then pick up the board and move it to another location. Several visitors at church meetings said that their first contact with the Church was st the street board in the park.
The Torino Branch was one of the largest branches in Italy. Shortly after I arrived there, a full Branch Presidency of Italian members was installed and the Torino District President was an Italian native from Torino. The members loved the missionaries and made quite a fuss over the new ones. They were surprised that I could already speak Italian since all the new missionaries before me had not been able to because they had not had the L.T.M. experience. Torino had several strong member couples and families and they fellowshipped the investigators we would bring to church meetings quite well. All over Italy I found that the Saints loved to meet together, have fun together and bolster each others spirits. After meetings it was hard to get the group of members disassembled because they would mingle, socialize and chat with each other long after the meetings were over. It was heartwarming and it built my testimony to hear their stories of conversion and the struggles and problems they had to overcome to embrace the Church.
Elder Sears was my District Leader and he took me with him to teach a 1st discussion to a couple that he and his companion had met at a street board meeting. It was my first actual teaching experience. I could ask questions without too much difficulty but when they answered, I would have to look at Elder Sears. He would nod his head if the answers were right and I would go on to the next question. Brother and Sister Salino were baptized about three weeks after that 1st discussion.
Elder Tonioli was Elder Sears' companion and the Zone Leader. One week he went to visit the missionaries in the Lugano District in Switzerland and he took me with him. He worked with the District Leader and I worked with Elder Corbett. The main language in Lugano was Italian but many of the prople spoke French and German and some spoke English. The Elders in Lugano enjoyed delicious Swiss yogurt and chocolate. The people in Switzerland were much more Westernized and although they spoke Italian, they were very different from the Italian people. The missionaries rode a local train from the city to their apartment which was in a suburb of Lugano. After tracting in the city, Elder Corbett got us on the wrong train and we rode to a mountain village some 25 or 30 miles out of the mission boundaries. The others gave him a pretty bad time when we finally got to the apartment about and hour or two late for dinner.
Elder Hansen and I taught the discussions to two young ladies who seemed to be golden contacts, but they decided not to be baptized even though they came to church meetings for several months. We hoped that they would someday feel the Spirit and decide to join the Church. We were companions from May to August 1969, and then I was transferred to the Torino II District.
Elder Bruce Barney was my new companion. He was a new missionary and had learned only the first discussion in the L.T.M. He was very shy and quiet but very sincere and dedicated to missionary work. I had only been in Italy four months and was now a senior companion. Elder Hansen had taught me a lot about the language and missionary work but I had relied on him heavily. This change forced me to use the language much more than I had before and to assert myself as a missionary and it was very good for me.
We met a young lady at a church meeting. I had seen her at meetings before and knew that she was not a member. We learned that she had taken the discussions but had decided not to accept baptism. I checked with the District Leader and he said that no missionaries were working with her so we contacted her. She told us that she thought that the Church was a good church but that her parents didn't approve of her joining it. We asked her if she had prayed about the Church and read the Book of Mormon. She said she really hadn't. We challenged and committed her to start reading the Book of Mormon and to pray about it. The next time we saw her she asked us to teach her the discussions because she had received an answer to her prayers and wanted to be baptized even if her parents didn't approve. She was old enough to be baptized without their permission so we taught and baptized her.
One day we were at a street board meeting and Nazario Nardella, a young man of about 21 years of age, came up to me and asked how he could become a member of our church. We taught him the discussions and baptized him about three weeks later. He introduced us to a family he was acquainted with and they became very interested in the Church. They seemed to be golden contacts until we taught them about tithing. The father said that on his factory wages he couldn't afford to pay tithing and that he would rather help out his neighbors and friends as best he could rather than give 10% of his salary to a church. We asked him and his family to pray about the principle of tithing and a week later he got an unexpected raise at work and he told us that the raise equalled what he would have to pay for tithing. Even after this sign from the Lord, he couldn't accept the principle of tithing and so they weren't baptized and in fact Brother Nardella lost interest in the Church after his friends decided not to join the Church. It was a difficult experience for Elder Barney and I, after teaching them and praying with them and for them. They had come out to some church meetings and seemed to fit in so well and had accepted the Word of Wisdom. It was difficult but I learned many things from the experience.
Elder Barney was my companion and I was in the Torino II District from August to October 1969, then I recieved a transfer to the city of Catania located on the Island of Sicily off the Southern tip of the mainland of Italy. It was hard to leave Torino. Ihad been in the Torino Branch for seven months and had made good friends with the members there.
The transfer to Catania was a long one. It took about 24 hours on the train to go from Torino, located in Northern Italy near the French-Italian border, to Catania, the Southern-most city in the Italy Mission at that time. Southern Italy was very different from the North. The North was very industrialized with factories and plants providing for most of the employment. In the South, the economy revolved around agricultural interests. Southern Italians were more emotional, more open and outgoing than their fellow countrymen in the North. Unemployment was higher and the standard of living much lower in the South.
My new companion was Elder Jim Stith. He was a mission legend. Stories about him were carried by word-of-mouth throughout Italy. I had even heard about him in Torino. He was pretty big and the word was that he had challenged an angry mob of Italian Communists in Brindisi just before that city had been closed to the missionaries. He had a dynamic personality and could sweet-talk and charm a person with very little effort. I soon had my doubts whether all the stories about him were completely true.
Elder Stith had a bike so I decided to buy one so we could get around together. We went to an open market and I bought the "Black Beauty." It was an older bike but it seemed sturdy enough for me. Elder Stith's bike was the "White Rhino" and as we would head home after tracting in the evening, we would try to out do each other with our "death defying" bike tricks.
Our apartment in Catania was just a couple of blocks from the shore of the Mediterranian Sea and just a few miles from Mt. Etna, an active volcano. At night we could see red hot lava pour down the mountainside.
The Catania Branch was smaller than the branch in Torino but there were several strong members there. My stay in Catania was quite short. I was there only about three weeks during the month of November, 1969. I was just getting settled into my new city and situation when I received my letter of transfer from the Mission President and it really shocked me. I was called to be the Branch President of the Palermo Branch.
The transfer to Palermo left me feeling very unprepared and a little upset. I was supposed to be a missionary not a Branch President. The rumors I had heard were that Branch Presidents spent almost all their time doing Branch work and that they usually got lazy when it came to missionary work. The feeling of being upset soon left me, however, and I vowed that I would do the best job I could as a Branch President and that I would continue to do missionary work.
Elder Curtis Wilkey was my new companion. He loved to study the scriptures and conference reports and we would get into some interesting discussions when we studied together. He was a hard worker and I utilized him a lot in doing the Branch work. Other missionary Branch Presidents I knew had a tendency of trying to do everything themselves and not involving their companions but by involving Elder Wilkey in much of the paper work and report writing, we were able to finish the Branch work and do missionary work.
The Branch affairs were in quite a state of confusion. A young, unmarried Italian of about 21 years of age had been the Branch President for about five months before I arrived. Pressures of the calling and personal problems had gotten to him and he just up and left Palermo without any word. A few weeks after I became the Branch President, he came back but he was embarrassed about what he had done so he only came to church meetings sporadically.
The Palermo Branch consisted mostly of young unmarried men and women and older ladies. There were no strong families and few strong Priesthood holders. It was in poor financial condition and was having a hard time paying its bills and expenses each month. I asked the District President, who was also the missionary zone leader in Catania, how I was supposed to meet the financial obligations of the Branch when there wasn't any money in the budget. He just told me that he was sure I would find a way. I tried to stress the importance of paying and donating money to the budget to the members but most of them were not in a position to do so because they were either students at the University or widows. Part of my monthly check from home supplemented the Branch budget each month I was in Palermo.
Elder Wilkey and I got our haircuts at a certain barbershop in Palermo. We talked to the barber about the Church and he showed some interest. We taught him the missionary discussions and he wanted to be baptized. We tried to get him to introduce us to his wife and the rest of his family but he always told us that they were not interested. He came to church meetings alone but seemed very sincere so he was baptized. Not long after his baptism, he told me about financial difficulties he was having and he wanted a loan from the Church. I referred him to the Mission President who looked into the matter and decided against giving him monetary assistance. He continued to come to Church but expressed no interest in advancing in the Priesthood and eventually drifted into inactivity.
We tracted out the Previti family. Mr. and Mrs. Previti said they weren't interested but they had no objection to their 20 year old daughter, Antonia, taking the lessons if she wanted to. She was a golden contact and eager to learn about the Church. Her mother and father were always very nice to us and would sit in the same room while we were teaching their daughter but they would act like they weren't listening. After Antonia was baptized, her mother and father came out to church meetings with her and eventually expressed interest in taking the missionary lessons themselves. Two other missionaries in our District taught them the discussions and they were baptized. Antonia had a brother and he came to church meetings too but he said he wasn't ready to join the Church.
Brother and Sister Previti also came to me with their financial problems and I again referred their problem to President Christensen. Theis time the decision was made to help them out. Elder Wilkey and I had to go to an attorney's office and talk to him regarding the problem. Our religious vocabulary was very extensive and when talking about religion or the Church we had no problem but in matters outside religion, communication didn't flow quite so fluently.
Elder Hartman Rector, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was one of the General Authorities who supervised the Italy Mission and he came to Palermo for a zone conference for the missionaries and members. After the evening meeting was over, Sister Giuseppa Oliva, of the Palermo Branch, asked me to ask Elder Rector to give her a blessing. Sister Oliva had joined the Church in South America and after her conversion, her family had moved back to their native Italy. She was one of the first members of the Palermo Branch and was Relief Society President. She had had an operation and while recuperating at home, evil spirits had visited her. Our District Leader had cast them out of her home. They had not visited her again but she was not healing up from her surgery the way she should have been and she was experiencing much back pain and couldn't perform her duties as Relief Society President which really concerned her.
My first thoughts about asking Elder Rector were that he was very tired as he had been in Italy for about a week and each day had been filled with meetings with missionaries and members. He only had about an hour to get to the airport and catch an airplane for his next stop on his tour of the mission. But Sister Oliva was a good Sister and I knew that she wasn't feeling good. Half apologizing, I asked Elder Rector if he would give her a blessing and he, without hesitation, replied, "Sure." He asked me to assist him and he told me to tell her that he would have to five the blessing in English and that I would have to translate it for her later because he had to leave for the airport. I told Elder Rector about her surgery and the continued pain in her back but I didn't say anything about the evil spirits because I thought that they were no longer a problem. Elder Rector then gave her a blessing and he cast evil spirits out of her body. Sister Oliva's eyes were full of tears. Elder Rector left the room and I sat down and began to translate what he had said. Sister Oliva nodded as I told her that Elder Rector had cast the evil spirits out of her body and she told me that she understood what Elder Rector had said and done. It was a very spiritual experience and I knew that both Elder Rector and Sister Oliva were very special people.
While in Palermo I had two wrecks on the "Black Beauty." We kept our bikes in the garage area underneath our apartment building and we would ride our bikes down a steep embankment to the garage. One night I started down and found out that my brakes didn't work. I made the first sharp corner but not the second and impailed myself on a garage door. Another time we were riding home from a tracting area and I was hit by a car which turned right without signalling. I rolled over and over in the street for several feet and the driver of the car and my companion both thought I would be dead or injured badly. I was dirty and had ripped my pants a bit but I had no bruises or scratches and only had a few sore muscles which I didn't feel until the next morning. The "Beauty" didn't fare quire so well and required an extensive stay in the bike shop. I didn't think much of it at the time bat as I look back on the incident, I know that the Lord blessed and protected me from serious injury.
In the Italy Mission, every Monday after 12:00 noon was diversion or preparation day. During the afternoon and evening we washed clothes, cleaned our apartment, wrote letters and did some sightseeing and physical activity when we could squeeze it in. A few miles from Palermo was a beautiful beach resort named Mondello. Our district went there one Monday afternoon. We had a picnic, played with Frisbees and had an enjoyable, relaxing day. We had such a good time that I planned a Branch activity at Mondello. It was a real good social event for the members to get together for a fun activity.
As Branch President at Palermo I had some of the most special and spiritual experiences of my mission, and many sad ones too, as I worked with the members. Some grew and were strengthened by the opposition they encountered from their friends and family, other fell away from activity because of the same opposition. One brother whe had been very strong in the Church and had held leadership positions but had become inactive, started coming to church meetings again a few weeks after I became Branch President. He progressed and I called him to be one of my counselors. A couple months later, I noticed some changes in his attitude and in his talks he said some strange things and I had to correct him. At his home one evening I confronted him about some of the things he had said. He became enraged as he told us that he thought that the missionaries were servants of the devil and that the Church had been true up until the time of Brigham Young and that since that time the Church was in a state of apostacy. There was a very dark, evil spirit in his home and all we could do was bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Church and then leave his home.
Another brother in the Palermo Branch was very slow and backward. He went into a bank one day to cash a check. The teller couldn't understand him and he got frustrated. When he got excited, the teller called the police and he was arrested. The family called me and my companion and I went to the jail to visit him. The police explained that only his immediate family or his priest could visit. I explained that the man was not Catholic and hat in a sense, I was his priest. They refused to let us visit him. About a week later the misunderstanding was resolved and he was released from jail. This incident sure made me appreciate America and the freedoms and rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States.
I was in Palermo about five months from December 1969 to May 1970. Elder Wilkey finished his mission and Elder Tea was my companion for my last three weeks in Palermo. When I was transferred, Elder Cella replaced me as Branch President and I sold "Black Beauty" to him rather than ship her to my next city.
I had become close to the members of Palermo and learned to love them very much and in spite of the many problems I had encountered as Branch President, it was hard to leave Palermo. Many of the members were at the train station to say goodbye to me.
My new city was Bari and I was called to be the District Leader. Arriving in Bari, I found that the missionaries and the members there had a bad attitude about the missionary work. They thought that no one in Bari wanted to join the Church. We did meet with some outright opposition but it wasn't really different than any other city in the mission.
My new companion was Elder Salvatore Ciccarello. He was from Florida and a convert to the Church. His grandparents had emigrated to the U.S. from Italy. He loved to sing and play the guitar, must have been the Italian blood in him.
We spent many hours tracting and holding street board meetings. We sold several copies of the Book of Mormon and taught several 1st and 2nd discussions but it seemed like all of our investigators lost interest after the initial stages of teaching the lessons. If we ever got an investigator out to a church meeting, there wasn't the same warm fellowshipping by the members which I had seen in other branches.
Near the end of my stay in Bari, we had a very successful open house at the meetinghouse with displays, films and presentations which involved both the members and the missionaries and it seemed to help the relations between members and missionaries.
While in Bari, one of the young branch members, Felice Lotito, was called on a mission to England. He was one of the first native Italians to go on a mission outside of Italy.
After three months in Bari, from June to August 1970, I received a transfer to Taranto.
My companion in Taranto for one week was Elder Winston. The Elder Mike Webb was transferred to Taranto and we were called to be zone leaders of the Taranto Zone which consisted of the Districts of Taranto and Bari. I also acted as the District Leader for the Taranto District.
Elder Webb and I had a mission car. It was one of the older mission cars and usually wouldn't start in the mornings. I would have to push it and Elder Webb would sit in it and start it. I was bigger than Elder Webb so I always got the pushing job. We would try to park it on a little hill at the end of the day so I wouldn't have to push it very far.
While in Taranto, the mission headquarters was moved to Rome. A zone leaders' conference was held in Rome so Elder Webb and I drove our car to the conference. Elders Mumford and Cella had become zone leaders too so they were at the conference and it was great to see them again. We had a good training session in the morning and then President Christensen gave us the afternoon to do some sightseeing in Rome. An afternoon was hardly enough but we did get to the Collesium and the Roman Forum. We also saw st. Peter's Cathedral and part of the Vatican City. That evening all of the zone leaders got together for a talent show. I told some corny jokes and of course had to do my Superman routine. All through my mission, missionaries and members thought I looked like Clark Kent or superman (Nembo Kid to the Italians). I also had to do my slow motion baseball pitcher. What was billed as a talent show ended up being a comedy night but we all had a good time and I think Sister Christensen laughed the hardest. She cooked and served us a beautiful meal. The normal mission meal that the missionaries cooked was fish sticks, potatos, and peas with no substitutions so Sister Christensen's home-style cooking was a welcome and delicious change.
When we got ready to return to Taranto, we were given the keys to a brand new Fiat 500 to replace the old 500 we had been driving. It was just as small as the old one but at least it started without problems.
As part of our responsibilities as Zone Leaders, Elder Webb and I visited the Bari District and a U.S. Servicemen's Branch at Brindisi. There were about three families and 3 or 4 single guys in the Servicemen's Branch. They were stationed on a sma11 N.A.T.O. Base near Brindisi. Their meetings were held in an elementary school on the base. The spirit in their meetings was very good and it was good to visit with Americans although it made me a little homesick. We also visited an Italian member in Brindisi and one in Leece, a few miles south of Brindisi. They had joined the Church when missionaries had been in those cities, but there hadn't been any there for about one and a half years.
On our trips to Bari and Brindisi we got to see some beautiful scenery and countryside. We stopped in some of the small country towns. The people there were very backward and most of them, especially the older people, spoke only their regional dialect rather than Italian. The buildings were very old and there weren't many modern facilities.
While tracting, Elder Webb and I found the Chirico family. Sister Chirico started reading the Book of Mormon and after only about 6 ar 7 pages she knew it was the truth. They had four children, two of which were baptisimal age. They came to church and the Basile family fellowshipped them. The Basile's had kids about the same age and the whole family helped the Chirico's embrace the Gospel. Ernesta was out of work and only did odd jobs so we were afraid to tell them about tithing but they accepted it without hesitation as they did all the other principles of the Gospel. When they were baptized it was one of the greatest joys in my life. To see a whole family come into the Church and accept the Gospe1 with the great faith that they had was a wonderful experience. They had certainly been prepared by the Lord for membership in His Church. I'm sure I learned as much or more from them as they learned from me.
One Sunday at church several U.S. Servicemen showed up at the Italian Branch. We found out that an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Independence was in port and the L.D.S. servicemen had come ashore to go to church meetings. They told us that they had been working with a young man on board ship and that the missionaries at Naples had taught him a 1st discussion and that he was ready for the 2nd. We got permission for all of the missionaries to go aboard the aircraft carrier on Monday afternoon. The ship was huge and we took an interesting tour of the carrier. While on board, Elder Webb and I taught a 2nd discussion to the investigator. It was the first time I had ever given a lesson in English and I found it to be a little difficult. I found that I was thinking in Italian and having to translate the words into English in my mind. The young serviceman was a golden contact and we learned later that he received the rest of the discussions and was baptized.
The Taranto Branch was quite large and had an Italian Presidency. It functianed quite well and didn't rely on the missianaries to be in positions of leadership. In the short time I was in Taranto, about four months, I grew very close to the Taranto members.
Just before Christmas 1970, Elder Webb finished his mission and Elder Roger Barrus was made my new companion. We were both transferred to Bari and Bari was made the new zone headquarters for the zone.
For Christmas our district decided to go to some hospitals and orphanages on Christmas Day and sing Christmas songs and give out candy to the kids. We borrowed a Santa Claus suit and I was chosen to be St. Nick, probab]y because no pillow-stuffing was needed. Christmas Day was very special as we visited with the children. We gave candy to the kids and pamphlets to adults. Everywhere we went, the people were very appreciative. At one orphanage a priest stopped me and asked me who I really was. As all the little children gathered around me and waited for an answer, I replied, "I'm really Santa Claus, don't tell me you don't believe in Santa Claus." As I left, the priest didn't have anymore to say.
Elder Barrus and I got along real well and we worked very hard. We tracted long hours and taught several lessons but we didn't have any baptisims in Bari. The attitude of the members and missionaries in Bari had improved however, and it looked like Bari would soon be enjoying missionary success.
The week before my mission was over, Elder Barrus and I visited Taranto. We had to visit the Taranto District but I also wanted to see the Chirico family before leaving Italy. Unannounced, we went to their apartment. They were all sitting around the kitchen table reading the Book of Mormon together. They were glad to see me before I left and saying goodbye was very sad and at the same time a happy occasion.
The Trip Home
In February 1971, my mission was over. I went to the mission headquarters in Rome and met Elders Mumford and Cella. Earlier we had decided that we would travel home together. We flew from Rome to Venice. We spent a day in Venice, riding gondolas and sightseeing. Venice has to be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. From Venice we traveled by train to Milano. Knowing that it was my last train ride in Italy was kind of a sad experience. I felt like riding trains was a national pastime in Italy. All of my transfers had been by train. On trains the Italians would pack huge lunches of bread, cheeses and wine. Some Italians would sit and sing out loud. Many times the trains were so crowded that you would have to stand up part of the way. Trains carried university students home for visits, entire families on summer vacations, businessmen on trips and migrating Italians looking for work and missionaries transferring to a new city.
We had originally planned to fly to France but an Air France strike changed our plans and we flew to London. And how fitting it was to leave Italy while a strike was in progress. I had gone through a bus strike in Torino and the National Guard had been called in and their trucks were used to keep the city from freezing up. I had experienced countless mail strikes when it was almost unbearable to wait for a check from home or a letter from your favorite girl, next to your mother. I had even endured a garbage collectors strike in Taranto when the Italians merely decided to throw their garbage into the streets.
We stayed in London for a couple of days. We saw Buckingham Palace, Westminister Abbey, the London Tower and many other beautiful and interesting things in London. We went to church meetings at the Hyde Park Chapel in London on SUnday and then flew from London to Chicago.
At the airport terminal in Chicago we saw some boys who we knew had to be brand new missionaries. They were met by Elders from the mission headquarters in Chicago. We talked to them a few minutes. They were young and enthusiastic. I thought back to when I first entered my mission field. I was glad that my mission was over but at the same time I was so grateful for the two years I had spent in the service of the Lord.
From Chicago we flew to Salt Lake City where I said goodbye to Mumford and Cella. At the airport my brother Mike, Aunt Donaldine and Uncle James Boase met me. I was in rough shape with each additional mile in the sky, I was getting sicker. The stewardesses had given me Pepto Bismal tablets and 7-Up. An air pocket had caused me to spill 7-Up all over my suit and the tablets had caused a pink chalky film around my mouth. I must have been a sight.
From Salt Lake City, I flew on to Twin Falls and finally Boise. One more circling around to land and I was sure I was going to lose my composure. As I walked off the plane and into the terminal, the first familiar face I saw was my sister Jeanne. She had grown up and was tall and skinny and was jumping up and down. with excitement when I saw her. Even though I was sick, it sure felt good to see my family and to feel like I was really home. As we drove from Boise to Nyssa, things looked a little strange. I had been living in very big cities and was used to seeing tall apartment buildings and pavement everywhere I looked. Now I was seeing the wide open spaces again and it sure looked good.
I am very thankful and grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a missionary in Italy. I loved the country and the Italian people and I learned so much that will help me throughout my life.