Event: Spring 1959
Updated: 25 May 2013
Who dares tell the Holy Spirit when and how to communicate with anyone? The 'call' came in the spring of 1959 as I was riding my bicycle one morning to the Berkeley campus of the University of California where I was an undergraduate engineering student. A clear, gentle voice in or around me was quietly saying, "There is responsibility waiting, having something to do with Russia. Do you accept?"
As if it were a regular occurrence, even though this was my first such trans-personal experience, when I finally understood the message and its question, without hesitation I said, "Yes!"
A little later I began to think and wonder, "What have I done? I have clearly made a commitment to God! But what is this 'responsibility'?" I began to speculate, "Could it be the mission that President McKay told me was about to open?"
Meeting President David O. McKay
Two years earlier, in the summer of 1957, I had first been introduced to Mormon Church President David O. McKay in the Laguna Beach Ward. The ward bishop, Ferren L. Christensen, presented me as "the young man I told you about who speaks Russian". Without comment Pres. McKay took my right hand in both of his, closed his eyes for what seemed a long time, while silently nodding. When he finally opened his eyes, he looked straight into mine and said, "This is good. Keep it up. I have a strong feeling that that mission is about to open. Maybe we can use you."
Having said "yes" on that Berkeley spring morning, I believed I needed "credentials" that I did not then have. So, I made two decisions (while still on the bicycle!). The first was to take a Ph.D. in science; the second was to get to know my real self. I was confident this would equip me with the outer and inner credentials required.
Ignoring the possibility that my earlier, clandestine military experience might complicate this mission, my strategy during those Cold War years was to take advantage of a Soviet willingness to host American post doctoral science students. It did not even occur to me that the Holy Spirit might have had an entirely different plan in store for me.
April 2009 comment:
I should add that two or so weeks before meeting Church President David O. McKay in 1957, I had intended to leave the Mormon Church. Having been discharged from the Army the year before, but unable to talk about my Berlin Spy Tunnel service, and profoundly angry at the CIA for what I believed was its subsequent betrayal, I now wanted nothing to do with government or organized religion.
However, I felt responsible to make my position clear, since Bishop Ferren L. Christensen wanted me to accept ward responsibilities. In his office I told him frankly, "Bishop, I'm searching for truth and I don't believe it's here. Please don't expect anything from me."
Christensen surprised me with his response: "Well, the truth may not be here, but you don't know it. Tell me, have you ever read the Bible?" I had to confess that I hadn't. "Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?" Same answer. "The Doctrine and Covenants?" No. "The Pearl of Great Price?" Yes. (Small book.)
He continued, "Again, the truth may not be here but you haven't done the first things necessary to find out. You are the biggest hypocrite I have ever met in my life!"
He had me flummoxed and I made an inner vow: No one would ever say such a thing to me again and tell the truth. I decided to become completely active and obey all the Church rules to give it serious attention. It wouldn't work, I thought, and then I could walk away from it in good conscience.
A week or so later Ferren introduced me to President McKay.