Tender Mercies

Tender Mercies

Fifty five years ago I was a young travelling elder of six weeks serving in the British Mission, when I received a call from the Mission President to supervise the opening of a new district. President Woodbury named it the Royal Windsor District and gave me the task of assigning elders to help establish it. It included the towns of Windsor, Slough, Staines and Maidenhead and we chose Slough as our headquarters.

We moved to Slough in a rented van that cost £10 for three days hire, and we spent our first two nights in the top room of a pub at a cost of £1 each per night until we found somewhere more permanent to stay. There were no members at all in the area, so when I dropped the elders off in their respective towns to find lodgings, they were very much on their own.

Four days after we arrived in our new district in May 1961 we had our first baptism - a lady from Windsor - and so our little branch began to grow. For many months, the Royal Windsor District led the mission in baptisms and after just three months the membership had risen to around fifty. On 13th August, the Slough Independent Branch was organised with Brother Wettsein as Branch President and Brother Singleton - a member of just two weeks - as his Second Counsellor. The Slough Branch soon became the largest in the Reading District.

But the work was not without its trials. Staines looked very promising at first. Two weeks after we arrived on May 17th we held a very successful meeting with fifty people in attendance. A family and several others subsequently accepted the challenge to be baptised but changed their minds at the last minute. We couldn't understand why until we discovered that a lady was circulating anti-Mormon literature. But on 17th August we finally had our first baptism in Staines - a lady named Sister Lewis.

These early converts showed great faith. One lady was very nervous the night before her baptism and explained that the day following her baptism she would need to visit her former vicar to explain why she could no longer serve as his secretary.

One of the great blessings of being a missionary is seeing people's lives change as they accept the gospel. Later in my mission, I was able to witness in the London Temple the sealing of two families from the Slough Branch - the Singletons and the Wilkeys

One of our strongest converts was Sister Jean Hearne. She was our best missionary who talked about the gospel to everyone. Recently, I had the blessing of visiting with her. It was hard to conceive that the 60-year old man who picked us up at Reading railway station was the five-year old boy who attended his family's baptism. His son Paul now serves in the Staines Stake Presidency.

Sometimes when we serve in the Church we don’t always see the results of our service. I consider it a tender mercy from the Lord that I have been able to visit the Staines Ward and learn that the Staines Stake now has over 2,500 members covering the area that I helped open up in 1961.

We never know what will happen when we do the work of the Lord. Sometimes the smallest act or kind word can act as a seed that will grow into something very significant. 'Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great' (D&C 64:33).