[This letter report was submitted at six weeks of service in the Church History Library on July 27, 2009.]
July 27, 2009
Elder and Sister Dixon, Zone Leaders
Collections Zone, Church History Library
Family and Church History Mission
Re: Proposed Release Date
Dear Elder and Sister Dixon:
At your request, Sister Enslen and I have calculated a proposed release date for our mission. We would also like to take this opportunity to report on our mission activities to date.
We originally committed in the late fall of 2006 to serve a 23-month mission, and our strong desire remains to totally fulfill that 23-month commitment in an honorable manner.
Our original call to serve requested that we enter the MTC in early April of 2007. However, after Dr. Don Doty, who oversees the medical treatment of missionaries, realized that a registered nurse (Sister Enslen) was being sent to Cambodia, he convinced the Missionary Department to change our MTC reporting date to Monday, March 26, 2007. This change allowed Sister Enslen to obtain some special medical training without delaying our ticketed departure for Cambodia. Thus, we duly reported to the MTC on March 26, 2007.
Following our excellent training in the MTC, we arrived in Cambodia on April 6, 2007. We labored there until we departed Cambodia for the United States (Alabama) on April 11, 2008. We were given a leave of absence from our mission due to the discovery of my father’s terminal illness. I am his only son. Our time in missionary service at that point totaled 12 months and 15 days.
My terminally ill father lingered much longer than any of his doctors expected. Originally believing that we would be returning to missionary service in September of 2008, Matt Heiss and Jeff Anderson of the Church History Department scheduled some training for us. Sister Enslen and I came to Salt Lake City and received two days of training, mainly relating to the conducting of oral interviews. We received that two-day training on July 31 and August 1, 2008, in anticipation of a future assignment relating to the acquisition of oral interviews from former general authorities.
My father did not die until January 6, 2009. After taking care of estate matters as his named executor, and after situating my mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, as comfortably as possible in our absence, Sister Enslen and I traveled to Salt Lake City to re-commence phase two of our mission. By the way, while serving in Cambodia, my mother underwent treatment for breast cancer, a condition also unknown to us when we departed for Cambodia.
We arrived in Salt Lake City out of “training sync,” so to speak, on June 12, 2009. Sister Simmons, who works in housing, very kindly helped us secure an apartment that day, and we were basically moved into that apartment before dark. We reported for work on Monday, June 15, 2009. After obtaining security badges with the competent assistance of Elder Sorenson, and after being assigned office cubicles in the new Church History Library by our zone leaders, Elder and Sister Barnum, I began working on acquisitions. Sister Enslen began entering data into the database presently being compiled on all former missionaries, as well as taking a shift at the nurse’s station.
We continued in those endeavors for three full weeks. During that time, the Church History Department refined and approved through proper channels a general authority acquisition project which Sister Enslen and I are assigned to diligently pursue during our tenure. Our assignment is to secure historical records and/or oral histories from 40 living emeritus general authorities or their next of kin if deceased. We work under the supervision of Jeff Anderson, a staff employee in the Church History Department. Our assignment will necessitate considerable travel, mostly within the State of Utah, but occasionally outside of the state.
I have also thus far been assigned 30 open house leads (potential donations of historical materials) to pursue, more than 10 international-related acquisitions to pursue for Matt Heiss, and a minor part to play in the proposed acquisition of a voluminous and valuable collection from an outside professional collector. I have been chipping away at these rocks and have thus far completed approximately 25 total acquisitions for the library.
Perhaps my most significant acquisitions to date have been a 17-page heretofore unknown-to-archives handwritten manuscript authored by President Wilford Woodruff; an Ambrotype glass photo that was transported to the valley in the Martin handcart company by one of its sojourners; the records of the first mission president in Novosibirsk, Russia; the missionary journal of Wilbur Peacock, companion to Elder Mark E. Petersen; a record of the founding of the Sandy Relief Society by Eliza R. Snow, Bathsheba Smith, and Emmeline B. Wells; a DVD of the testimony of a French/Muslim/Arab convert to the Church of 20 years; and a firsthand student account of the “BYU Spy Ring” episode during President Ernest L. Wilkinson’s administration.
We were privileged to join the new incoming class of missionaries on July 6, 2009. In addition to our work on the demanding acquisition projects I mentioned, we have participated, and certainly look forward to continuing our participation, with our fellow missionaries to the very fullest extent possible in all of the same labors and activities that they undertake—two weeks of family history training (wherein Sister Enslen and I input more than 700 ancestors into our PAF files), attending daily devotionals, orientation, assisting with branch activities and assignments, taking our shifts at guarding the artwork at the Conference Center, manning the nurse’s station, performing data input into the former missionary database, playing the piano, leading music, giving talks, attending temple devotionals, attending socials, etc. We have faith that the Lord will bless us to accomplish all that is expected of us during our allotted mission time.
In my “spare time,” I am researching and writing an article for publication in a historical journal, The Alabama Review. I am authoring a 14-chapter pre-exodus history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the State of Alabama for the time period 1838-1848. Unknown to even most astute Utah historians, there were seven congregations of Mormons in Alabama during this early decade. Nothing concerning early Alabama Mormon pioneers has ever been published in the State of Alabama, and it has taken me almost two decades of posturing to obtain a go-ahead-nod from the Alabama History Association for the publication of this history.
Returning to the question of a release date, technically speaking, if we ignore the two days of training in July/August 2009, and if we ignore the moving into our apartment on June 12, 2009 (and we should ignore those things), we will have served exactly 23 full months as of April 30, 2010.
We understand that the standard operating procedure in our mission is to release missionaries on the last Friday of each month. If we are understandably regimented to that procedure, then our nearest release date would be Friday, April 24, 2010, six days short of the full 23-month commitment. Notwithstanding a release on that date, we would be perfectly willing to continue our acquisition labors through April 30, 2009, the date through which we will be paying the rent on our apartment anyway.
Based on the foregoing, we recommend a release date for us of April 24, 2010. Be all of that as it may, please know that we humbly submit ourselves to the decision of our mission presidency, President Dennis E. Simmons and his most able counselors, having full confidence in their righteousness and the access that they have to the spirit of revelation within their stewardships.
We are grateful for the opportunity, Elder and Sister Dixon, to present these matters to you. We appreciate all of the devoted labors which you perform on an unrelenting daily basis. We feel honored to serve under your inspired direction and supervision.
With appreciation and admiration,
Elder John E. Enslen