A Telegram from the Colonies

The Keepapitchinin blog has recently been posting photos of groups of LDS people from various places which I find fascinating.  I urge you to go look here and here. The photos of saints in Germany brought back a memory worth sharing.

I spent part of my mission as a desk jockey in a cubicle farm.  My companion and I were office elders, and served as the mission clerk and commisarian.  Others around the mission derisively called what we did “pushing paper for the Lord”, and I guess they were right.    Anyhow, one day as we were diligently pushing papers across our desks as fast as we could, the doorbell rang.  I only knew what a telegram was from watching old movies, but here was a real woman on a real bicycle, delivering a real telegram addressed to the mission office.  I opened it and saw that it was from a person who identified himself as a branch president in East Germany.  The telegram read as follows:

We have heard a rumor that President Lee is dead.  Is this true?

This was in October, 1974. President Lee had passed in December, 1973, and somehow nobody had thought to notify the colonies. I’ve wondered sometimes how it would be to attend church in a place that was so far off the radar.

The final ironic twist came a few years later. After my parents finally convinced my brother and me to move out and get married, they decided they missed having overgrown adolescent boys around, and turned our basement rooms into a missionary apartment. One day my mom called to tell me excitedly that a new missionary had been transferred in who was from East Germany, and that his name was Elder ________. I recognized the surname and his hometown. He was the son of the man who had sent the telegram.


  1. Mark, thanks for this. Those pictures really draw me in and I hoped others would have a similar response.

    I want to say “wonderful memory,” but that doesn’t quite capture what I mean. It’s dreadful and poignant to think that Saints were so isolated that they had to seek such critical information this way, but it’s such a sharp illustration of the problem, as well as how far we’ve come and how fast, that *that* makes a wonderful memory.

  2. Those are the cool kind of things that make me beleive we are more than just a bunch of randomness. Thanks for the story, Mark.

  3. Wow. Thanks, Mark.

  4. Jonovitch says:

    One of my favorite East German stories is how they used to smuggle in Church manuals from the West, then stack 10 or 12 sheets of carbon paper in the typewriter, pound on the keys, and distribute those copies to the different units.


  5. Cynthia L. says:

    Oh Mark, you’ve got me all weepy at work. Thank you so much for sharing. Stories of the sacrifice and struggle against extreme odds that many have gone through for the gospel are always so humbling for me.

    Ever since I wrote that post about the ‘dozen midwives’ that really forced me to put all in one place the blessings I’ve had from being in a ward family (verses hypothetically just practicing the gospel by myself) I’ve been completely overwhelmed by what a huge blessing a ward is. Every Sunday at church, or a the activities we’ve had, I’ve just looked around and thought “wow!!” and that I’m so lucky that there are enough saints here in this corner of the world that we can have a ward, and a building to be together in, and all of it. I guess it’s something I really took for granted before.

  6. Mark, as an indication of the power of a blog like BCC to steer traffic with referrals like this one, Keepa had a 33% increase over its previous best day yesterday. Thanks.

  7. Mark Brown says:

    You’re welcome, Ardis. I guess I don’t understand how that all works. I just assumed that everybody who is interested in BCC is also interested in Keepapitchinin.

  8. As they should be. :)

  9. As they should be. It’s truly a treasure. (serious face)