Many of you have read Lengthen Your Stride by Edward Kimball. It’s a great book in an of itself, and it includes a CD with a treasure trove of material. Included on the CD is a much longer version of the book, but few people read the “long version.” Edward Kimball and Deseret Book disagreed on some parts of the book that the publisher wanted to cut, so the compromise was to add the CD for people that wanted all of the details. I’ve been reading the long version of the book.
Benchmark Books has published a limited edition of the long version (only 400 copies were made), known as Lengthen Your Stride: Working Draft. I’ve actually purchased one of these rare books. I thought I paid too much for it, but just checked Amazon and discovered that new copies are selling for $475 or $500 plus shipping (more than twice as much as I paid for it.) Wow, now I feel like I got a good deal.
I plan to write about some of the cool stuff in the longer version of the book. I will highlight the additional reading material in blue color. I was especially intrigued to learn about missionary efforts in Muslim countries, that receives short shrift in the shorter version. The short version does mention Egypt, but completely leaves out Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and China. Here’s some of the good parts from chapter 14 page 18 (page 176 of the long version) that highlight the difficulties in trying to proselyte in Muslim countries.
Egypt. In 1975 businessman Lynn M. Hilton, inspired by President Kimball’s sweeping view of missionary work, including the Muslim world, established a business in Egypt drilling water wells. The International Mission president set him apart as district president of Egypt and the Sudan, where forty-four Mormons lived among sixty million people. He filed papers seeking governmental recognition for the Church but was met with pleasant smiles and endless delays. Over the four years he lived in Cairo five General Authorities visited. Hilton engaged in proselyting until the police chief forbade his proselytizing Muslims. When the leaders of the Coptic Christians complained, the chief ordered Hilton deported, despite the fact that he had business interests in Egypt, but relented when Hilton agreed not to proselyte any Egyptian of any religion. He was, however, not forbidden to teach expatriates. Consequently a few Ethiopians and Koreans living in Egypt were baptized. At the end of 1979, when the Hiltons left Egypt there were fifty-six Church members.93
In further pursuit of government recognition, in September 1979 the First Presidency met with professor D. Delos Ellsworth. As a representative of the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at BYU, he had been working with government and university officials in Egypt to improve agricultural practices and has their good will.
President Kimball told him, “We are concerned that the Arab world not think that the Mormons are too pro-Jewish. We want the leaders of the Arab nations to understand we believe that the Arabs are children of Abraham and as such are entitled to the blessings of Abraham. In your meetings with any of these leaders would you please convey that to them.”
Howard W. Hunter, who was overseeing development of the BYU Jerusalem Center, also strongly encouraged LDS outreadh to Arab and Muslim peoples.
President Kimball gave Ellsworth a new formal petition to the Egyptian government for recognition of the Church. He also provided credentials for Gerald WIlliams, a BYU law professor then working in Cairo, to officially represent the Church in seeking that recognition.94 As he left, Ellsworth asked, “Is there any advice you could give me?
President Kimball shook his hand, looked him straight in the eye, and, without a smile, said, “Yes. Â Don’t make any mistakes.”
Iran. When David Kennedy visited Tehran in 1974 a branch of the Church already existed, made up almost completely of Americans.96 He hired an Iranian law professor to help obtain legal recognition and missionary visas. Dean B. Farnsworth, a BYU English professor who had lived in Iran on professional assignment from 1959 to 1961, was appointed mission president in July 1975. He had four missionaries. They contacted Iranians who had visited Church visitors centers in other countries and indicated they would like to know more about the Church. The elders also taught free English classes. They could answer people’s questions but were not allowed to approach strangers. The lawyer who had been fired failed to act, and Farnsworth had to spend much of his time pursuing the legal recognition of the Church that would permit it to own a meeting place. Legal recognition finally came in November 1977, just a few months before Farnsworth was released. The new mission president, William Attwoll, had to leave the country along with his missionaries in December 1978 when the fundamentalist Islamic revolution overthrew the government of the shah and made further delay dangerous. The mission formally closed in 1979.
Indonesia. In January 1970 missionaries began proselyting in Indonesia. After some initial difficulty with the police, the Church obtained recognition in 1970, but the recognition did not permit door-to-door proselytizing. A separate Indonesia Jakarta Mission was organized in July 1975. By 1977 the Book of Mormons was published in Indonesian and membership reached twelve hundred, but continuing governmental restrictions on visas and proselytizing and danger from violent conflicts between Muslims and Christians led to discontinuation of the separate mission the end of 1980.95 Repeated visits by David Kennedy between 1979 and 1983 failed to lighted the government restrictions.99 Local missionaries continued to serve until the mission reopened in 1985 under a native mission president, only to be closed again in 1989 as a separate mission and became part of the Singapore mission.100
Saudi Arabia. Since the 1960s, Mormons working in Saudi Arabia had met together as a branch under the International Mission. By 1984 there was a district with eighteen branches and about fifteen hundred members, who met for religious services in homes in groups of twenty-five or fewer, as required by government regulation. They met on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, and dressed casually so as to be inconspicuous. Members refrained from proselytizing.
In April 1984 Elder Packer orgainzed the Arabian Peninsula Stake to include these Church members, nearly all of them Americans working for oil companies or on Saudi projects. Â In 1985 Saudi secret police detained for a time several Church members based on reports of proselytizing made by two Saudis who had been fired by a Mormon supervisor. Â After several months of investigation and close surveillance of LDS meetings, the reports were determined false and the complainants imprisoned. Â The government kept close watch to assure compliance with the law.101
Malaysia and Singapore. Â Four missionaries from the Southern Far East Mission arrived in Singapore, a secular state, in March 1968. Â With government restrictions on visas and tracting, conversions were few. Â Foreign missionaries were excluded between 1970 and 1988, but local missionaries carried on, and by 1974 membership amounted to perhaps two hundred. Â A separate Singapore Mission, opened in 1974, was discontinued in 1978 and reopened in 1980 with responsibility also for India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Â In 1985 membership was nearly one thousand.102
The first missionaries in Malaysia, a largely Islamic nation, came to Kuala Lampur in June 1972 on thirty-day tourist visas. Â When the Singapore Mission was organized in 1974 it included Malaysia. Â Official recognition in 1977 allowed the Church to acquire a chapel site for its few hundred members, many of them expatriates, but severe restrictions on proselytizing and denial of missionary visas greatly slowed growth.103
Spencer talked with as many people as he could who had lived in or had traveled in China or had connections there. Â He sought information and ideas useful in planning eventual missionary work among that huge population.104
In September 1978, before assembled Regional Representatives, Spencer praised the Chinese for being: “a disciplined, industrious, frugal, closely knit people. Â Their moral standards are very high by modern western standards….Family life is strong.” Â He then stated: Â “When we are ready, the Lord will use us for his purposes. Â There are almost three billion people now living on the earth in nations where the gospel is not being preached.”105
In response to this challenge, Dallin H. Oaks, president of BYU, asked Bruce L. Olsen, his assistant for University Relations, to begin planning for a BYU performing groups to go to China. Â Two months later U.S. president Jimmy Carter announced that the United States and China would exchange formal diplomatic recognition on January 1, 1979. Â Byu sought and obtained an invitation for a musical group to tour China in July.106
That April 1979, in a talk to Regional Representatives, President Kimball reiterated his point: Â “The door to China is starting to open. Â Rather than waiting to be asked, we should take affirmative action to obtain approval to enter.”
Kimball and BYU continued to make overtures to the Chinese, and then the author talks about India and notes that there were 500 members in India when President Kimball died in 1985. Finally, I wanted to conclude with
As a result of the revelation in June 1978 authorizing ordination of black members of the Church, a burst of missionary activity occurred in Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Ghana. In 1964, before the revelation, a plan to send five missionary couples to Nigeria had foundered when negative publicity about the Church’s priesthood ban led the government to deny visas (see ch. 20).
In November 1978, Rendell and Rachel Mabey and Ediwn and Janath Cannon, called as special representatives of the International Mission, arrived in Nigeria.132 By early 1980, after serving in both Nigeria and Ghana for a year, they reported Church membership in the two countries at seventeen hundred.133 In 1980 and 1985 the Church established regular missions in those two countries.134 In 1981 Benjamin Crosby Sampson-Davis and Samuel Eko Bainson, the first full-time missionaries called from West Africa, served in the England Manchester Mission135 (see ch. 24).
After the 1978 revelation substantial missionary efforts also opened on the Caribbean islands with large Black populations. New missions were established during President Kimball’s time in Puerto Rico (1979), Dominican Republic (1981), West Indies (1983), Haiti (1984, and Jamaica (1985).
I was shocked to hear about some of these missions, especially Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, though I wasn’t surprised to hear about problems with proselyting. It was interesting to hear the Coptic Christians complained too. What are your thoughts?