(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
[Editorial Note: The below is a selection from the autobiographical writings of Glen L. Rudd, a former member of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, now deceased. The setting is the beginning of his first mission to New Zealand, where he learned many important spiritual and life lessons. His mission president was Matthew Cowley, who was later called into the Quorum of the Twelve.]
Elder Dastrup said, “Run down the street, catch up with him, hold out your hand, and do the best you can to tell him you want that money.” I reluctantly did what he said. The old brother gave me his coin which was the last money he had in the world. He was happy and shed a tear. When I got back to Dastrup, I was embarrassed. He said, “What you just did is let him give a servant of the Lord the last money he had. He now has faith that the Lord will take care of him.” That was one of the first experiences I had in finding out I was not just a former cheerleader from Utah, but a respected servant of the Lord. . . .
About three weeks after arriving in Hastings, Elder Dastrup and I were on our bicycles going through the district and had traveled 30 or 40 miles. As it was getting dark, we rode into a long driveway leading up to a Maori home. When we got there, it was actually dark, and the family had already gone to bed because there was no electricity. When we got to the house, they were all awake and welcomed us in. The mother was about to have another child, but she got out of bed, put new sheets on the bed, then told my companion and I that we were to sleep in the one and only bed in their home and that she and the rest of her family would sleep on the floor. I absolutely re fused to let her do that. Elder Dastrup did not argue but just said, “Do what you're told.” So we slept in the bed while the wonderful Maori family slept on the floor.
That night I did not sleep well, but I began to realize that in their eyes I was a little more than I had ever seen myself to be. As we rode our bikes down the old gravel road through our district, about every mile or two we would come to another home that was usually set back off the highway. By the time we rode down the driveway to the house, the mother would have food cooking for us. It did not do any good to tell them we had just eaten 30 minutes before because to the Maori people the finest thing they could do was to feed the servants of the Lord. On more than one occasion, we would eat six and eight meals a day, each time making the family happy-and us gaining weight.
The Maori people of New Zealand were magnificent souls. They had more faith than anyone I had heard about. At least in my youth I had not seen faith being displayed like I saw it in the Maori areas.
There were very few doctors except in the major cities, so most of the Saints we lived among were a long way from a doctor. They really did not have much faith in doctors anyway—all they wanted was the priesthood and the blessings that came from priesthood leaders.
All of this added to the education of a city boy from Salt Lake who was gradually, but surely, beginning to realize that missionaries are more than just high school or college boys from America. This continued on during my entire mission, but after the first month and a half I had an entirely different concept of who I really was and whom I represented and why I was there. As a mission president years later, I did my best to help every young missionary find out as quickly as possible who he really was.
New Zealand, a land where freedom is cherished; a land blessed with great natural beauty; inhabited with a people possessing great strength of character; where a temple has been dedicated to the Lord. This lovely country, by any standard, is among the most beautiful countries in all the world. The vista of trees, flowers, beaches, and mountains, hold visitors spell bound. All of nature's loveliness seems to have been gathered from the far comers of the earth to be combined in this land known to the ancient Maoris as Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud. No visitor leaves these lovely shores with out the conviction that here is a virtual “Garden of Eden.”
The pakeha, or white inhabitants, are men and women of great courage. Most of them are descendants of courageous pioneers who left their homes in the British Isles, and elsewhere, to face the challenges of a new country where they could enjoy religious, political, and social freedoms-where they could build a new way of life to fulfil the dreams and ideals denied them in their native lands.
When the first white men arrived in New Zealand they found the great Maori people. Maori men have been known for many decades as the symbol of supreme manhood. In the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., stands a seven-foot statue to the Maori. Under this statue is the inscription, “to the Maori, possibly the most perfect physical specimen known to mankind.”
The Maori of today are worthy descendants of the original Maori inhabitants of this country. In modem New Zealand, the pakeha and Maori live together as one united people, working together and inspired by a burning pride in and loyalty to their country.
Korongata: my first New Zealand home. I arrived disappointed, discouraged, homesick, and sad. I was sick and skinny. I soon realized I wasn't as grown up or mature as I thought I was. I stayed in Korongata only a few short months, but I learned better how to pray, how to study, how to adjust to a new culture and way of life.
In Korongata I met fine Maori members full of understanding and patience, full of love and forgiveness. They could have been insulted or offended by me, but they smiled and let me grow up without unkind words or actions.
In Korongata, I saw the gospel being lived by Saints with simple lives. I saw them happy even in the depths of economic depression, with few of the luxuries of life. I witnessed unity and brotherhood like never before. While no one had much, all were willing to share so that none had while others had not. I heard and felt testimonies from humble people.
In Korongata, as a weak servant of the Lord, I received respect from a people all stronger and more secure in the gospel that I. There I blessed the sick. I comforted the distressed and used the priesthood with thanks and appreciation that I had not known before.
In Korongata, I was blessed through sickness and distress. The Saints fasted and prayed for a strange, immature boy whom God had sent to receive special blessings and some special lessons so badly needed. Their prayers were answered and everyone shared in the results. When a transfer came to go where I had so much wanted to go only a short while before, I felt like I was leaving home and my closest friends.
My initial disappointment had turned to appreciation; discouragement had vanished; homesickness was under control; sadness had turned to happiness and love for the finest Latter day Saints I had ever known.
Korongata—where I read and studied the Book of Mormon in the early mornings by sunlight and in the evenings, by candlelight.
Korongata—where I saw death accepted and handled with tenderness and understanding.
Korongata-where I saw the priesthood in action and in control of a simple, humble way of life and where I saw mothers and children sustaining husbands and fathers with faith and true devotion.
Korongata—where I grew up, never to forget that in my youth the Lord had seen fit to bless my life and put me on a path of righteousness to follow “new loved ones” that taught me the finer points of what it means to be a true Latter-day Saint.
After about two weeks on that first bicycle trip, I suffered with a terribly bad chest cold. It was so bad that I was taken to the doctor and he immediately informed my companion that I had tuberculosis. I went to the hospital and had x-rays and was told to go home and go to bed. President Cowley was notified. The people fasted. President Cowley came and gave me a blessing. I was made well.
About a month after we arrived, Elder Ottley got the chicken pox. All of the elders went to D'Urville Island to spend the Christmas holidays except Elders Cardwell, Ottley and me—we were quarantined. I spent lots of time reading the Book of Mormon.
One day while we were cleaning out the water tank, Brother Randall rushed up in his old car and said, “Come quick!” My companion and I jumped in the car wearing our old work clothes and rushed to the home of Tori Reid. His wife had fallen and had hurt herself and was prematurely giving birth to a baby. The Relief Society president, Annie Krunau, delivered the baby and turned around and handed it to me. I had never seen anything like that before. With the urging of Brother Randall, we named and blessed this little baby, which died later in the day.
After a couple of months, Sister Olive Edwards had a little baby and she and her husband asked me to name the baby. I named her Marva, after my girlfriend at home.
My diary says that I arrived in Korongata weighing 122 pounds. Two months later, I weighed 148 pounds. I had gained two stone six pounds. I continued to get heavier, but more important, I gained love and patience and true Christianity. When the time came to leave Korongata, I left as an entirely different person than when I arrived—and I now had two real homes.
One of the many discoveries that I made on my first mission is that repentance is real and true. Among the Maoris I found that there were many transgressions. I also discovered that repentance followed very quickly. There were a few, of course, who did not fully repent. But, the majority who transgressed came back in full Church fellowship. Many of our finest and strongest priesthood leaders had gone through the process of transgression, repentance, and forgiveness and returning to full activity. To my young eyes and mind this was a great testimony of gospel principles.
I met a fine couple in their early fifties. I thought they were nearly perfect. The wife radiated a great spirit. Her husband seemed to be almost like one of the faithful in the Book of Mormon. He lived up to his name.
One day the wife told me of his riotous life prior to the time that I met them. He had been a heavy drinker and done terrible things to his wife and family. Her prayers, year after year, were finally heard. Somehow or other, he made a complete change in his life. I could hardly believe the story she told me of his previous life. Her testimony was that prayer and faithfulness had influenced him and he was now a stalwart and true Latter-day Saint. I then thought of him as Alma the younger who changed his ways completely and became a great leader among his people.
In 1939, after I had been in New Zealand about five months, I received a new companion who had just arrived from northern Utah. One day we traveled with the mission president to a city about 200 miles away. Afterwards we began hitchhiking back. After a rough day, we found ourselves in a strange, small resort town with no place to sleep and nothing to eat. By 8:00 p.m. we finally gave up and decided to sleep in a shelter in a park.
As we crossed the street, the same man who had given us our last ride saw us and stopped. He took us to his home and fed us. Then he invited some neighbors over so that we could have a meeting. He also said we could sleep in a new house he was helping to build.
This man began the meeting by telling us that he had been a minister for twenty-five years in the Church of the Brethren. He claimed to be well versed in the teachings of the Bible and also familiar with many other churches. He had a full wall of books; and while looking at them, I noticed a Book of Mormon. He commented that he had read it a couple of times.
Our host outlined the meeting: I was to talk first and explain Mormonism; then he would take equal time to reply. I was then to have ten minutes to summarize, and he would take the final ten minutes. No one was to interrupt us while we spoke, and we were to be kind and courteous. We agreed that we would not argue or debate—just explain and teach. (My new companion was scared and begged not to be called on.)
We followed the plan. I began with the Articles of Faith and briefly explained each one. He then attacked what I had said in a masterful and methodical way. He was well versed and really knew the Bible. In my next ten minutes I tried to correct his misunderstanding, but he ruined my "fine presentation" in his final ten minutes.
The meeting concluded with everyone sure that this man had proven Mormonism to be anything but the true religion of Jesus Christ. At that moment, it seemed that I had suffered a crushing defeat. My five months in the mission field, pitted against his twenty-five years as a minister, did not give me the confidence I needed on that occasion.
Before anyone left, I got up and asked for just five minutes more. My minister friend did not want to let me have it, but his wife said that she thought it would be all right. The minister consented to let me have my final say, feeling certain that nothing I could say would overshadow his splendid work in disproving Mormonism. A wonderful thought had come into my mind. I realized that I really had twenty years of experience as a Latter-day Saint, though only five months of it as a missionary.
With a sincere prayer I arose and told the story of the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I related it simply and carefully. I talked of the visit of Moroni and the coming forth of the plates and the Book of Mormon, a copy of which he had, and had claimed to have read. I told of the martyrdom of the Prophet and Hyrum Smith. And then from the very depths of my heart I bore my testimony of the divinity of all these things. When I finished, the whole spirit of the meeting had changed. It was a wonderful feeling, and the Spirit of the Lord was present to sustain the testimony I had almost forgotten to bear.
The good minister arose and, in a sweet way, closed the meeting. His concluding comment was: "You didn't do very well explaining the articles of your faith; but I would give all I own if I could stand and testify, as you have done, that I know that what I teach is the truth." He admitted to all present that he really did not know the truth, and expressed his hope that he would someday bear such a testimony. There is no valid defense against a sincere testimony.
During the administration I had one of my first great spiritual experiences. I blessed her and promised her she would get well. As I said these words I had a strong feeling of peace and comfort come which let me know that Marva's mother would not die but would be made well.
I have not said anything about this experience over these many years. As I write this in 1995, I am in my seventyseventh year. I want to share this testimony that men, even young men, who hold the priesthood, and are living correctly, will receive direction from the spirit and will have the assurance that the Lord will ratify the promised blessing.
From that moment in the hospital I never worried about whether Marva's mother would survive. She lived until she was nearly ninety-years old and raised a fine family, including my very special wife.