Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Old Mission Stories

Hi Rick,

Dirk and I attended the SL Temple this morning and your
name came up as we talked about life, the scriptures
and our missions. Dirk and I go way back to my baptism
in 1970 and we have continued to stay in touch all these

I know you and I only knew each other for a short time
near the end of my mission when you had come back from
valley I know what you meant.

Give my love to your Mom and Dad. He was a great
mission President and your Mom was a great mission Mom.
I learned so much from them about both the church and
life. They are both great latter day Saints.

I've just finished up a call as Branch President of the
Long Beach Branch in NY and retired from a successful
career with KeySpan Energy a NY gas & electric utility.
We are living in a beautiful condo on Capitol Hill with a
view of the SL Temple and the valley. Our new ward is
Capitol Hill First Ward where I'll be lucky to handout hymn

I've never gotten over my strange conversion or my strange
life, but I've learned to accept the things the Lord has
laid upon me in a quieter way over the years. See my story
a WIP (which is good therapy for me an amateur writer) on
the web at: Below are a few
stories from my mission:

Tough Skin II

When I first joined the church there were members who
would come up to my face and tell me what a lousy job I
was doing in a calling. Some would yell in my face in
hopes of driving me out of the church. I learned to turn
the other cheek and endure those trials by leaning upon my
testimony, the good leaders of the church and praying to
my Father in Heaven who always knew my heart.

These are just some of the growing pain we must all
endure as we help one another grow in Christ. I thank God
for the wisdom of that great Stake President who gave a
little talk at my friends (Dirk) baptism on having a tough
skin and enduring to the end and keeping a tender heart.

There are many times when people have hurt my feelings in this
church, but I have learned by experience it is better to have a tough
skin and forgive those who may offend me. I always try to remember
what Jesus said while upon the cross. "Father, forgive them for they
know not what they do."

I feel to conclude this section of my writing with two faith
promoting experiences from my mission. While serving in Elko, Nevada
in December of 1973, my mission President gave the entire mission a
challenge to go tracting for Christ on Christmas. He advised us not
to set up any dinner appointments but plan a full day's work for the
Lord. He promised if we would do this, the Lord would provide a
Christmas dinner for us. My companion and I rose up to the challenge
and tracted the whole day with little success. We left tracts and
with some we prayed but no food was offered. Then around 9 pm we
knocked on the door and two little old ladies invited us in. They
were kind and polite and allowed us to give them our message. After
which they asked about our Christmas and what we had had for dinner.
When we told them we hadn't eaten, they were shocked, and said we
can't have that. They took us downtown to a restaurant and treated us
to a fine meal. The promise of our mission President was of the Lord
and we enjoyed a great gift of faith from he who made Christmas

Months later, I was called to be an assistant to my Mission President
and moved back to Sacramento. He told us (me and my new companion)
that we were his new gladiators of truth. He wanted our counsel and
expected us to tell him our true thoughts and not just be yes men.
This counsel set the stage for another very interesting experience.

One day while my companion and I were on our way to a Zone Conference
in Gridley, our car broke down in Marysville. I had served in the
town just across the river in Yuba City. I made a few phone calls to
the local leaders and they got our car put in a shop and drove us up
to Gridley to our Zone Conference. While we were waiting I preached
the gospel to some homeless person while my companion watched in
fright. I was always one to try to make good use of my time in
sharing the gospel with others no matter whether they be rich or
poor, good or bad.

After Zone Conference, our mission President drove us down to Yuba
City to recover our car. The mechanic assured us it was all fixed and
our Mission President left to return with his wife to Sacramento.
After paying the bill, we started for Sacramento a few minutes behind
our President. To our surprise the car again broke down just a mile
from the gas station. I quickly called a member who told us the gas
station was now closed and we would have to leave the car overnight.
My companion was upset as he had a lot of office work to do back in
Sacramento. I felt this was a sign and that we could do some
missionary work. We called the Elders who lived in Marysville and
they picked us up and took us to their Apt. They offered dinner and I
said, "No thanks. I have other meat to eat." My companion looked at
me like I was clearly crazy. However, I felt the spirit of God upon
me and I had a great desire to visit some of the people I had taught
in Yuba City over a year ago that to my knowledge had never been
baptized. I asked if any of the Elders would go with me and a young
Elder volunteered. We went first to visit the Sister Missionaries
whose area it was. They both had been sick and I believe we gave them
blessings. I asked them about some of the families I had in mind and
if they knew any of them. I asked if they minded if we visited people
in their area and they said fine go ahead. We visited around 5
families that night and they all expressed renewed interest in the
church. We had a spiritual feast and knew that the hand of the Lord
was in this.

I also recognized that it would be important for this Elder who I
introduced to these families to continue the work with them. I
mentioned that transfers were going to take place the following week
and I would talk to the President about moving him into that area.
My statement was simple and logical. Yuba City was the larger city
with two wards and just one set of sisters. Marysville was smaller
with only one ward and two sets of Elders. My suggestion to the
President would be to transfer one set of Elders over into Yuba City
so that there would be one set of Missionaries in each ward. Since
all the people we visited were in Yuba City II it was logical to move
those Elders into that Ward and have the Sisters remain in Yuba City

The next week during our late Wednesday night transfer meeting with
the President I made the suggestion and presented my reasoning. Again
to my surprise I got a flat no without any discussion or reasons. My
spirit was grieved and again I felt misunderstood. My companion and
President were both from Utah and had a close friendship. My
companion knew of my desires and had heard me tell the Elders what I
planned to do. I got the feeling the President had already been
briefed on my proposal from my companion who might have put his own
spin on it. I don't know for sure, but if he told the President that
I promised anything without his permission or authority it would
explain why the President shot down my idea so quickly. However this
wasn't the case. I had felt the spirit and only told the Elders what
I would try to do. Now it seemed all was lost. My President had
closed the door and I told the Lord I wouldn't argue the point with
him anymore. My President was my authority and I would submit to his
decision right or wrong and say no more. In my prayers that night, I
expressed my hurt to the Lord and how I thought his hand had been in
our strange encounters in Yuba City, but there was nothing else I
could do. It seemed my President and companion were dead set against
my proposal. Yet, I thought, it isn't my proposal, but the Lords.
However, I didn't have the courage to tell them that. It is the
President's right to receive revelation for the mission and not me. I
was just a counselor. My President had the final say.

The next morning came and it was our duty to meet early in the
President's office to make transfers by phone. When my companion and
arrived, we found the President sitting in his chair behind his desk
holding his head. He said, "Elders, I have a terrible headache and
haven't been able to sleep all night. There is something wrong with
the transfers." At that very moment, the spirit prompted me to
present my proposal on Yuba City again. As quickly as I finished, the
President said that's exactly what we need to do. Now Elders do it.
My companion's mouth dropped to the ground in surprise as I felt
vindicated by the Lord.

The true vindication came a few weeks later after I had completed my
mission and arrived home. I received a letter from one of the Elders
I had trained earlier in my mission. He wrote that he was one of the
Elders transferred into the Yuba City ward where I had helped to
reactivate a number of families into investigating the church. He
thanked me and shared a marvelous ending to this miracles story. He
wrote: We visited with the Nelson family and taught them the gospel.
This last Sunday Bro. Nelson got baptized and was ordained a Priest.
Then he baptized his wife and children and ordained his son a Priest.
The will of the Lord was done and great joy entered into our hearts.

The Lord rules in Heaven and Hell in Earth and in his Church and
Missions. For those who have eyes that see, ears that hear, hearts
that understand, minds that discern and wait patiently upon the Lord
all things are possible. The Holy Ghost is real and the gifts of the
spirits are ours according to ours desires, faith, and faithfulness.

Oh, my Brothers and Sisters never, never, never, give up. This Church
is true, the work is real and your lives will be tried to see if you
will endure to the end. Have a tough skin and a tender heart and true
faith in Jesus Christ and you will gain eternal life. In the name of
Jesus Christ amen.

Just another mission story: Late in my mission (last 6 months) I was
finally called to leadership. Then when I had but 3 months left a
stranger thing happened. The Mission President (William Walsh) called
a special mission conference (Mar.1974) for half the mission near
Alburn, Ca for all the missionaries in Neveda and the Sacramento
area. During this conference he announced his two mission assistances
(APs) would be going home in a few days. Then to everybody's surprise
he announced his two new APs and asked for a sustaining vote from the
missionaries. I was one of the names he announced and was sustained
without any foreknowledge save a few seconds before when the Holy
Ghost spoke quietly in my ear saying you are one of them. It was an
honor, but I was also humbled. I thanked the President and he told me
to thank the Lord and get on my knees and pray for help. I shortly
found his counsel very important. After being congratulated by many
Elders, Sisters and former companions a Elder I didn't know came up
to me and asked if he could talk to me privately. I agreed and we
went a little ways off from the people. This Utah Elder said the
following to me: "Elder Luerssen we might of sustained you publicly
here today, but we will never sustain you privately. That calling
(AP) is reserved for those of us born in the church, which have come
from good Mormon families and lived good Mormon lives. Not for some
dirty, hippie, eastern, NY convert like yourself!" I never told
anyone about this while I was on my mission. I took it as an honor
that people would treat me like the prophets of old. In June 1972
while in the Mission home in SLC I had the honor of receiving my
Endowment in the Salt Lake Temple. Following that event our
missionary group was invite to the 5th floor of the Temple in the
Priesthood assembly area to hear President Lee give a short talk and
do some Q&A. During the Q&A time I got to ask President Lee a
question. I asked how Adam & Eve were literally created. It was quiet
in the Temple before I asked that question, but a greater hush went
through the crowd after I asked. To me it was an honest humble
sincere request, but to the majority of the missionaries they thought
I was out of line. President Lee saw my heart and answered it was a
scripture as he answered all the questions that day by opening the
books before us. The answer was we learn that answer in the future.
What happened after the meeting is more important. I stayed behind
with a few other Elders to shake hands with President Lee. He was
very friendly and asked us to walk out with him. As we entered the
hallway he stopped and put his arm around my shoulders and
said, "Elder Luerssen I want you always to remember this." He turned
me around and point to a spot in the Temple and said, " This is the
very spot that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Lorenzo
Snow while he was praying in this Temple." He then announced to those
around us that the Lord Jesus Christ has walked and does walk the
halls of this Temple. This last story happened Jan. 1997 a few weeks
before Dirk and Marilyn got married. I was sleeping alone in my
bedroom as my wife was working the graveyard shift at a nursing home.
I awoke in the middle of the night to the Lord Jesus Christ standing
in the air at the foot of my bed. He spoke to me and said, "Come up
Hither!" I said, "Nay Lord I'm not worthy or ready." He said, "What I

say is clean, Is Clean! But if you do not want to accept of my
atonement and sacrifice which I suffered and died for, you have your
agency." I quickly came to my senses and like Peter of old I begged
the Lord's pardon and said, "I'll do as you wish My Dear Lord." He
said, " I will sanctify you before the nations!" I quickly fell back
asleep thinking it was only a dream, but when I awoke in the morning
a miracle had happened. The ground was covered in a beautiful gentle
white snow which had fallen during the night. The miracle was it had
come out of nowhere, a crystal clear night in which the weathermen
had no answer as to why it hadn't been forecast. To me it was the
sign and witness that the Master had been there and will in his own
good time fulfill all his words to me and all his children.




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