(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
north and south islands of New Zealand is a very rough body of water known as
Cook Strait. Out of this rough water are many small and beautiful islands, one
of which is D'Urville Island, where lived a large group of wonderful Maori
people, mostly members of the Church. They comprised an excellent branch of the
Church and lived the gospel well. All were related to one another and were
mainly professional fishermen.
missionaries were allowed to visit the island once a year during the Christmas
holidays, but two of my companions and I were unable to go. Some months later,
however, President Matthew Cowley gave me that opportunity, while he and I were
on a trip to perform a rather distasteful duty [interviewing and disciplining a
wayward missionary that had to be sent home]. When we had finished our work in
the city of Wellington, both of us felt spiritually down. He said to me,
"Let's go fishing!" I immediately agreed. I had never had the chance
to go fishing as a young boy because of my bad headaches which came when least
We left Wellington on the inter-island steamer that sailed between the north and south islands. The only way to get off the ship anywhere near D'Urville Island was to climb down a rope ladder lowered from the side of the ship at about two o'clock in the morning, when it was the calmest. This little maneuver didn't frighten me too much until the time to perform it approached.
It was a
dark night with no moon and few stars. As the ship slowed down to stop,
President Cowley and I could see off in the distance a little light bobbing up
and down in the water. It was a lantern held by one of the Maori men who was
rowing out to pick us up. As it got closer, we could tell that the water was
very rough. Before long, we heard one of them shout for us to come down. The
deck steward on the ship opened a gate in the railing and threw down the rope
ladder. I looked down into the water that dark night, turned to President
Cowley, and said, "You are the mission president. You go first." He
looked down that rope ladder into the darkness of the night and said, "I
am the mission president. You go first."
yet bravely, I started down the ladder of twenty or more rungs. Never in my
life had I ever climbed a rope ladder more than two or three rungs long. The
first and second steps were easy because I could still feel that I was near the
side of the ship. But the farther down I went, the farther the ladder hung away
from the side of the ship. After I had gone down about six steps, I felt very
much alone and was hanging on for dear life, praying with each step. I think
that in the darkness of that night, thousands of miles away from home, I
learned how to pray all over again. I was frightened, but I hung on and slowly
and carefully took it one step at a time. Finally a large Maori hand grabbed me
by the ankle, and a voice assured me, "You've made it!" I managed to
get into the rowboat and put on a raincoat to keep from getting wet. I sat down
and relaxed, then looked up the long rope ladder to watch my wonderful mission
president begin to climb down. I am sure he prayed just as hard as I did, and
finally he made it into the boat. We were then with friends, feeling safe and
In a short
while we were on dry land on D'Urville Island. The whole branch was out to
greet us in the middle of the night and to fry fish and other things for our
midnight breakfast. The following morning, after a good sleep, we visited with
some of the saints, then attended to our first order of business—fishing!
President Cowley and I, along with another elder, John Grant, went out with two
Maori men who took care of all the fishing gear. All we had to do was stop the
boat, drop our lines, hook onto a blue cod, and bring it in. The blue cod were
about 18-24" long and good fighters. But every so often, we hooked onto a
baby shark, which was at least 3' long and fought two or three times as hard as
the codfish. The minute we got one on the line, we knew it; and everyone in the
boat would stop to see who had the shark.
That day I
caught about three baby sharks and seven or eight blue cod. Brother Cowley and
Elder Grant caught their share, and we all returned back to the island. It was
the greatest fishing that anyone could ever do. It was my first and by far the
best time I ever had doing something like that.
When our visit
was over and it came time to return to the North Island, it dawned on me that
we needed to climb up a much longer rope ladder, as we were to board a large
steamer. I discovered that a climb like that would be just as dangerous and
treacherous as the climb down and would require practically the same amount of
prayer and effort.
I will never forget that one dark night in the islands of the sea. And the wonderful, momentous day following, in which I experienced the greatest fishing of my life.
rather long trip, Elder Cowley desired to take a small vacation to Yellowstone.
My wife had been in bed for the last couple of months, hoping to have another
baby. She was too sick to do anything around the house. But he insisted that we
go with him, along with Dave and Rosemary Evans and his boy Toni. The night
before we were supposed to leave, I was still positive we couldn’t go; but he
came to our home and gave Marva a blessing, promising her that she would be
well enough to take the trip. The next day we left for Yellowstone and had a
wonderful time. Marva felt good the entire time.
Evans, Marva and I slept on the floor of a cabin in Island Park, and Elder and
Sister Cowley slept on the balcony. Early one morning, as the sun came up,
Brother Cowley woke us with a mighty sermon which he preached over the balcony
in his pajamas. None of us paid much attention to it, but we were glad and
amazed to see him having such a wonderful time on our short vacation.
there, we went fishing in Yellowstone Lake. Elder Cowley stood on the shore and
watched Dave Evans and I cast out unsuccessfully time and again for fish.
Finally, Brother Cowley donned a pair of hip boots, walked out just a few steps
into the lake, threw out his line, and caught a fish. He turned and said, “See,
you brethren don’t have enough authority!”
He waded out a little further in the lake. Suddenly, he started getting shorter and shorter. He legs were spread out, his feet slowly slipped further and further apart, and he was sinking. He yelled for help; but we couldn’t move, because we were laughing so hard. When he was about to go under, we finally managed to quit laughing long enough to rescue him.
[A humorous bonus story:]
For years I
really felt sorry about the pioneers coming across the plains. I had read all
about their hardships and troubles. Then I read The Life of Wilford Woodruff
by Matthias Cowley, and I realized that they had a wonderful time in spite of
their hardships and difficulties. Every night when they came to a place to
stop, they would organize their wagons and Wilford Woodruff would grab his
fishing pole and go to the nearest stream. Almost every night, he caught fish
to take back to cook for his supper. His real expertise was that when others
were sitting around talking, he was fishing. Later, as President of the Church,
he shipped fish in from California almost on a weekly basis. He loved fish.