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Mission Apostasy

Mission Apostasy

What happens when the pressures of missionary life get a little too much?  Sometimes the missionary loses it.  And sometimes it's the entire mission!  

...At least, that's what we learn from the lore.  

This page is dedicated to all those stories of good missions gone bad.

 

This is surely a missionary legend in the Nevada-Las Vegas mission by now. I'll not use the names of those involved. Some of them are still members of the church, and I assure you, have become good members of the church. There were four missionaries involved. I had served previously with the Zone Leader, and, later, served with one of the other members of this apostate quad. As the story goes, quite factually, these four Elders decided to investigate the life of a good "Las Vegan" in all it's glory. Now the following was not just an out of the blue kind of thing, this was a pattern of behaviour, as most of this type is. (I speak from experience, unfortunately.) Anyway, these four Elders decided to go down to the casinos and do a little gambling one night. They gambled the night away, and therefore slept the entire next day. The next night, much of the same. One of the Elders found that he liked cigars, and took up smoking them, both while gambling and while at home, and in the mission car, which they used for these night excursions. Ultimately, they sinful rendevous included gambling, drinking, drugs and sex. Now, even though I heard this from one of the participants, even then, I don't know the extent to which this is _completely_ true. Either way, they eventually got caught because they were bragging to an equally apostate member of their activities. Apparently the member wasn't that apostate, because he turned them in. Well, none of the four got sent home, much to the surprise of the entire mission. However, a short time later, one of the missionaries decided to go home on this own accord. The ZL, he was honourably released. He later, or so it is rumoured, sent a letter to the mission president detailing everything he had done on his mission, including appearing on MTVs Singled Out filmed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. The President, after reading the letter, sent it to this Elders' stake president, who promptly ex-communicated him. The other two Elders, one of whom I served with, both went on to serve honourable missions. There were quite a few 'stories' circulating around about what actually happened. I am not even 100% sure that this is the complete story. I am sure that even my company probably felt some shame and embarassment about some of the events, and either down-played, and/or exaggerated some of the events. So take it for what it is worth.

Joshua Biggley, Las Vegas-Nevada West Mission 1996-1998, [JB265@daimlerchrysler.com] March 22, 2000

 

If you're really serious about correcting many of the details which are erroneously reported and/or distorted in this file about the affair, I suggest you contact Dr. Philip C. Smith @ BYU Hawaii. Phil is/was a Bishop in a student Ward there. Phil and I served in the French Mission during overlapping periods: I between [Spring,] 1955 and [the Fall of] 1957; he I believe from 1956-1958. Both of us knew some of the 'players' in this episode. One of William P. Tucker's subsequent plural wives, Marilyn Lambourne, served with the two of us in the Liege District. By the time Tucker visited Liege in his Assistant capacity and operated out of Paris I had been released. Wm.Tucker initially passed through the Mission Hq. in Paris while I was laboring in the Paris District; at which time I met him. Phil was, I believe, still in Belgium at the time. Following the blow-up and expose` of what had been occuring in areas frequented and visited by Tucker and related releases and excommunications, Phil was asked to stay on as Tucker's replacement as Assistant to President Harold W. Lee during a transition period to President Christensen which Phil can best explain himself; should he be disposed.

The best to-date write up on the affair of which I have any knowledge is [with due regard to the K. Mehrer Dialogue article] still: "Origins and Development of The Church of The Firstborn of The Fulness of Times" ...Masters Thesis @ BYU...by Lyle O. Wright, 1963 Chapter VI "Conversion of Missionaries To France" 121 et.seq.

As Wright correctly records, the saga came to a head in connection with the dedication of the London Temple, the early Fall of 1958. The key dissidents were Tucker, David Shore, [who had left France before the movement surfaced and was instrumental in developing the interest of others, sending LeBaron literature, etc.] Stephen Silver, and Bruce Wakeham. The key General Authorities involved were Hugh B. Brown, Henry D. Moyle, and Thorpe B. Isaacson. In addition to the above missionaries, Daniel Jordan, Niel Poulsen, Loften Harvey, Juna Abbott, Marilyn Lambourne, Nancy Fulk were intially excommunicated.Ronald Jarvis, later. Three others decided to return home; confused.

Jordan, Jarvis, Abbott, Wessel, Wakeham, Silver, Poulsen, Lambourne, and of course Tucker...went to Colonia LeBaron, Mexico and many joined the Joel and Ervil LeBaron group, "The Church of The Firstborn of the Fulness of Times." Tucker and Wakeham were assigned as missionaries thereof to their home state of California. Shore was assigned as Pres. of the Canadian Mission for the LeBaron church. Tucker married Lambourne and was assigned President of the California Mission of the Firstborn church. Wakeham[who married Abbott as his first wife] was assigned as Tucker's assistant. Silver edited a LeBaron periodical for their U.S. Mission.

Jarvis defected soon from the LeBaron church, and was rebaptized a Latter-day Saint in August, 1959. Wessel decided to remain LDS and subsequently returned to France to complete her mission. All in all, there were thirteen missionaries to France who became deeply involved with 'Fundamentalism' and the LeBaron brothers church in Mexico.

It would be interesting to track the demise of said church, and its affect on the lives of these young missionaries. William Tucker died of a rare disease in California. Some, like L.Harvey, I believe returned to the Church. Perhaps Bishop Smith can fill you in on others.

As for the bulk of the stories on this episode I've read on your website: as with most folklore many contain grains of truth. All are no doubt what their authors understood. Some are woefully distorted. Others completely inaccurate. This is unfortunately how Mormon Folklore evolves. Hopefully we can all learn something from it.

I am now in my 63rd year, proud of my service and grateful for my experience and growth in The French Mission. I'm sad to see its record tainted in a few minds by unfortunate events of a little season. That too, has long since passed.

Robert Frame <rframe.lnk@ispi.net> August 26, 1997

 

I served in the French Mission from December 1955 to June 1858. During the Summer of 1958, I studied German at a place near Salzburg, Austria (Bad Reichenhall), and then traveled in Europe (these were the days when such travel was allowed), arriving in London just a few days before the London Temple dedication in September 1958. While in London I visited with French Mission President Milton Christensen. I was asked to return to the French Mission for an indefinite period. I served for several weeks in Nice, where I had been district president earlier, and then was called to be a counselor to President Christensen, succeeding Bill Tucker in that position. I have in front of me a copy of the Dialogue article (Autumn 1988 issue) by Kahlile Mehr. My recollections of what went on in our mission basically accord with his findings, but do differ in a few particulars.

In March of 1960 Bill Tucker came with Dan Jordan to my home in Logan, Utah with the intention, I believe, of trying to convert me to their cause. He told me at that time that David Shore, after his release from the French Mission, obtained some materials about the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times which he sent to Bill, that he read these documents and believed them. After replacing Bill Tucker as a mission counselor, I toured the mission about three times, spending time with each of the missionaries. It was my impression, contrary to the numbers noted in the Mehr article, that although many were impressed by Bill Tucker, as I was for a short time, only a few took this to excess. I encountered only three missionaries during my 5-months service as a counselor (October 1958 to March 1959) who appeared really troubled by what had happened. Among the members I met during this period, there were less than ten who seemed so troubled at the time.

The following is what I know of the nine missionaries excommunicated in London in September 1958. I would love to receive an update on those still living if someone knows anything about their present status.

*William Tucker died in 1967, apparently of a ruptured appendix. Elder (later President) Howard Hunter, who had been Bill's stake president before his mission, had been in touch with Bill and believed that he was having doubts by 1967 about the course he had taken and was thinking about returning to the Church.

*Marilyn Lamborn (Tucker), I was told, returned to Ogden, Utah with their children after Bill's death. I don't have any information relative to her present Church status.

*Nancy Fulk (Tucker) is one of whom I know little since here departure from the Mission in 1958, though she apparently was divorced from Bill and has remarried.

*Loftin Harvey returned to the Church soon after his return from France. He married Rosalind Bousquainaud, a good member from the French Mission. For several years he taught at BYU-Hawaii and is now living in the Salt Lake Valley. He was a faithful member of the

Church when I knew him at BYU-Hawaii in the early 1970's.

*Neil Paulson returned to the Church, or so I have heard. I know nothing of his present status

*Daniel Jordan was killed in the late 1980's.

*Stephen Silver and I had several long discussions in the early 1960's. It is my understanding that his last wife, a woman named Carolyn, returned to the Church with her children, apparently with his approval. I know nothing of his present status. He and I were missionary companions in France for much of 1957.

*Bruce Wakeham is, I believe, living somewhere in Arizona under an assumed name.

*Juna Abbott (Wakeham) died of cancer about 5 years ago.

As for myself, I was released recently as a student ward bishop and am now the executive secretary in my resident ward. I retain a love for and interest in those who took this tragic path, and pray that all who are not yet will, at some time in the future, return to belief and full activity in the Church.

Phil Smith <smithp@byuh.edu> August 29, 1997

 

Just to add my two cents to the fire: from what I understand, there were two French Mission Apostacies. The first involved the infamous Elder Tucker back in the late fifties. This is recounted in the Dialogue article and in a chapter of the book "Prophet of Blood". These are legitimate, authentic retellings. The Dialogue article is based mostly on interviews with Loftin Harvey, who seems to have been a victim of circumstance. He was later rebaptized and is a strong member of the church. His son, also named Loftin, served in the France-Marseille mission (I was his trainer).

The second apostasy is a little more sketchy. In the late seventies there was a France-Toulouse Mission but the whole mission was shut down. According to lore, elders and sisters were marrying and the normal apocryphal stories. One of the juicier ones deals with a hot tub party in a baptismal font. Like I said, this is based purely on stories I heard, except that the mission was closed, that's fact.

Just to stir the brew up a little bit more, after returning from my mission in 1993 I heard rumblings of more problems in the south of France. (what is it with that place?!?) Apparently, the entire mission was placed on "probation" by the General Authorities. Anyone that can add any info on this, either to totally refute or to add anything that they have heare, please post.

Law Clerk <atlit01.wleishma@state.ut.us> July 18, 1997

 

I was interested in reading the stories about the French Apostasy. My husband and I both served in the France Bordeaux mission, which includes the city of Toulouse. I did not serve there, but he did. It is apparent from reading what you have under French Mission Apostasy that their are two stories that are getting mixed up. One took place in the late fifties, but the Toulouse apostasy occured in the late 70s, after which they closed the Toulouse Mission. There were a lot of stories floating around the mission about what happened there, so I don't know what is fact and what isn't. It is true that there are a lot of inactive members in Toulouse who left the church over the whole thing. On paper there are enough members for two wards, but whenever they try to split the ward there, one falls apart. I do know of one elder who went to the library in Toulouse and read the old newspaper accounts of the whole thing. His name was Bart Taylor (though I don't know how well he understood the French in the papers).

Abby Omerza <abbyo@netblazer1.asu.edu>May 17, 1997

 

I don't remember when or where, I suspect some time after my mission, but I recall hearing something about The Church of the First Born being started by a French Missionary. The way I heard it He and his father had planned the whole thing sometime before his mission.

Carl Nielsen [cnphoto@ix.netcom.com] May 1, 1997

 

I was in Framce from the end of 1969 to 1971. (Gee, has it been that long???? ACHHHHH!) I am not sure but what this Apostasy story has taken on a life of its own. All the accounts here seem close to what I was told but they are differing in a few details that seem to render them almost "urban legends." I served in the French-East (France-Switzerland, Switzerland, Geneva mission - we changed names a lot) that was under quite serious behavior restrictions at the time I was there. We were told it was because of what happened there a few years before.

It was reputed that there was a very special missionary - a very gifted and insightful worker - who at times, it was said, could walk down a street in a town, point to a building and tell you on which floor someone could be found to be baptized. He was consistently correct. He rose to the position of Assistant to the President with some very heavy duties. For one thing, he opened and read all correspondence to the President. He would sort that which others could take care of and send them to others and pass on to the president only those that really required his time. He was also empowered to formulate transfers.

Then he went over the hill. He started teaching privately that polygamy had been restored, that missionaries could, and should, date and marry - each other preferably (Brothers and sisters...he did not go that far over the hill!) Those that listened to him and accepted what he said he maneuvered, through transfers, to get them in the same general area. I was told it was Marseilles (but other accounts have it in Belgium and the French Mission - so the feeling it might be urban legend.) From the missionaries he also introduced his teachings to many of the members in the area who took it as gospel - afterall, it was historical and the instructions WERE on mission stationary. When complaints would come in, since he filtered everything the President saw and heard, he would short-circut the message. Thus he became the de-facto leader of the church in that area.

The story goes that the President KNEW something was amiss but he couldn't quite figure out what. About that time there was the dedication or something happening with either the Swiss or London temple at which an Apostle made an appearence. He then came to the mission where the president expressed his concerns. It is said as they walked down a hallway they passed a small room with the door open where this Assistant was running something off on the mimeograph machine. The Apostle turned to the President and said, "There's your problem."

By the time they got it all figured out, several missionaries were excommunicated and sent home and several members were too. It was told me that there was, shortly thereafter, a conference meeting in Marseilles. At this meeting this elder showed up making the claim to revelation and leadership and asked all those who would to follow him. It is said a significant portion did.

In my two years I met less than 10 members who had been members for ten years. Only one who had been a member in the area longer than twenty. Several of these older members lay it at the feet of this affair. I can't remember the name given. However, it may well have been Tucker - again the Urban Legend thing. He was said to have returned first to the Ogden area where he recruited several members to his church, which I believe was the "Church of the First Born" or something like that. Anyway, through their in-church contacts they got a hold of many membership records. My mother uses her middle name ONLY on Church records. She got a mailing from these people using her Church-only name. There was quite a to-do that several clerks had been pulled into this new church and had stayed as apparent LDS members to get such records. It is also said they recognized the importance of the Temple and were specifically targeting temple workers in hopes of getting the full temple ceremony.

An acquaintance of my mother's (We were living in Ogden at the time) rode to Salt Lake with a friend who also had a couple of other friends with him. My mother's friend said he felt uneasy getting into the car. One of the other passengers was this fellow. As for moving to Mexico or what happened after that I have no idea. The legend continues.

As I said, I have no idea whether I was told the truth or some urban-legend or if someone was just spinning a tale. This, however, is what I was told by more than one source while on my mission.

Charles Marston [charlie@WEBER.CAMPUS.MCI.NET] April 17, 1997

 

The following was sent to me by a Franco-Belge Mission contemporary Richard Edwards from Layton,Utah. I sent him copies of our email correspondence and mentioned your research and web site. He sent me this letter. We have kept in close contact over the years. Mary is his wife. Herstal and Seraing and Liege are in Belgium, Reims is in France. "R.C." is a friend of mine who was personal friends with Steve Silver and met Tucker personally. Our Mission President was Joseph T. Edmunds.

3/16/97 Dear Mac,

I really appreciated the stuff you sent on missionary folklore. You spurred me on to re read my missionary diary and I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few days reliving some of those choice experiences. I even copied a few pages and wrote a big long letter to President Edmunds and shared an experience or two. I also wrote letters to two families we were able to teach and baptize that I think are still active.

As regards to the French Mission apostasy, I understand that part of it did occur in the city of Herstal. When I arrived there, it was really a dead place. There was the little chapel there but only about 6 members were regular attenders. One was a Frere Petitjean. The rumor was that he actually was illiterate, but for some reason, he could read the scriptures. I can remember tracting there and quite occasionally when we would get into a door, someone would say, "Oh we used to have the missionaries in our house all the time. They knew the scriptures frontwards and backwards." We would ask, "Who were your missionaries?" They would say, "Elder Tucker."

Here is an entry, "Wed, Feb 9 We had a l-o-n-g wet tracting day in Herstal with Elder Larsen and Shepherd. Tracting was really poor, but we managed to get out 4 B O M's. We didn't do much else today except talked to an apostate of "Elder Tucker". We were cold, tired and wet all day long."

I can remember while a ZAP (Zone Assistant to the President) with Elder Hilton, we had been talking with some other missionaries and the subject got on the devil and evilness and we really began to get spooked. Hilton and I drove across town to our apartment in silence. We had prayers and went to bed. A few minutes later he let out a scream and I about had a heart attack. What had happened was that we had left our apartment door ajar. The neighbor's cat from downstairs had entered the room, quietly jumped upon Hilton and nestled right on his throat and started to purr. He thought that the devil had gotten him. We had some really good times there.... I am really thankful for the whole thing and the super experiences.

To answer your questions about the French Mission Apostasy, the above story is really about all I know from a first hand experience. There were plenty of rumors but no one had any direct knowledge. I did call Kahlile Mehr and in fact bought my Dialogue from his wife. He lives in Centerville or at least he did. I talked to him once on the phone and I can't even remember why he did his research because he was not a former missionary. I think he works at the Church Office Building. One of the guys that was "x-ed" was Loften Harvey and he is in the phone book, living in West Valley and someday I hope to visit him personally. I don't recall you ever telling me the story about "R. C." I was always under the impression that Tucker spent most of his life in Mexico, where he died at an early age.

I remember the stories of the missionaries dusting their heels in both the cities of La Havre and Brest, and it seems to me that I heard that two early missionaries were murdered there.

I know nothing about money being donated for the chapel in Herstal and while I worked there for three months, I never heard any such thing. I certainly could be true though.

I think that I told you that I went to the Historical Department a couple of times and read all about the Apostasy right from the church records, some of which were filled out and sent in by all of the Mission President's counselors, Tucker included. You know the report that you used to have to send in, monthly historical summaries? Well, they are there. I read everything that happened during our time too. To my great dismay, I even found out a really sharp family that Elder Erickson and I baptized in Seraing, in the summer of 1964, the Louis Crahay family, had been previously baptized in Leige, in 1959. They never said a thing and pretended to be Golden Investigators. I think during those days, there was not a network of information from city to city or Zone to Zone and no one ever knew. You can be sure how greatly disappointed I was to find out.

I remember the story about two sister missionaries that were way out from no where in the Ardennes or Bastogne visiting a military graveyard and Elder Shields, ZAP, happened to cruise by and see them an they were quite embarrassed. I would know their name if I looked them up.

Your Friend,

Rich

Mac Woolf [mwoolf@getnet.com] April 06, 1997

 

In the Franco-Belge Mission area (I was there in the mid 60's) we had the story of missionaries in the early days dusting their heels and calling a curse down on the whole city of Le Havre, thus explaining why there were no missionaries in the city. The curse must have ended because I believe there are missionaries there now. It would be interesting to me to know if there really was some truth to the original story though.

Another story of legendary proportions was the infamous French Mission Apostasy. This occurrence was of great interest to me in that it occurred exactly mid way between the time my grandfather was president of the French Mission in 1953, and when I came out as a missionary in 1963. I have talked with everyone I could find who knew about the incident. I met a man here in Mesa who was the mission secretary during that time. I asked him if I could come over sometime and have him tell me his story. Before I could meet with him he died. In a moment of inexplicable courage I asked his wife several years after his death if I could read his mission journal. She did not seem too anxious to share it......I am still waiting. Much embellishment has been added I believe to the actual facts. The William Tucker episode and the so called apostasy of his group was in 1958. I have several narrations on the subject but one of the best was in Dialogue by Kalil Maher. I may not have that spelling right.

Mac Woolf [mwoolf@getnet.com] March 06, 1997

 

A whole group of us missionaries were together talking about some of the old mission stories that we had heard. One missionary brought up the topic of the apostasy of the Touliess (sp?) Mission, which would have been our mission if it hadn't been shut down. But there were about 30 missionaries and a bunch of members that were excommunicated from the church. I guess what happened was there was an Assistant to the President, a guy named Tucker, he had gone apostate and there were quite a few missionaries that followed him. He hand picked certain missionaries out of the whole mission -- he'd go on splits with them and convert them to his way of thinking. They taught the members there false doctrines, like breaking the word of wisdom, taking off on long trips out of their areas, elders and sisters going on dates and disobeying the law of chastity. When those missionaries got sent home, they started their own religion and a bunch of them went down and formed a colony in Mexico. I don't know how many, but a lot of them tried to come back into the church years afterwards. I don't think Tucker was ever let back into the church, but some of his followers were. It was in California where they were re-baptized. It had a pretty big impact on the whole area, because this happened in the mid to late 50's, and when I was there in the early 90's we'd bump into people on the street who would tell us that they remember those missionaries that got excommunicated. Sometimes they'd say "Yeah, I was a member of your church, but I got excommunicated back in the 50's"

Darrin Cummings (personal interview with D. Glenn Ostlund) March 08, 1997

 

 

 

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