Elder Tucker's Drift: The Trial of the French Mission, Part One
An elder who proselytized door-to-door with Elder Tucker after his appointment as counselor recalls: "His door approach was firm and respectful. Lessons were simple, clear, forceful, and adapted to the special needs of each individual contact." This public performance could not help but gain the confidence of his fellow missionaries. In approaching them to gauge their susceptibility to his private beliefs, he worked clandestinely, not intending, it would appear, to cause defection from the Church but to lay the groundwork for what he perceived as needed Church reforms.
Much of Tucker's influence was definitely for the good. He was a firm advocate of the Word of Wisdom. He worked hard and his strong recommendation for spirituality in missionary work inspired many to greater exertion in their own callings. Juna Abbott, for example, had been an airline stewardess. As a sister missionary, she remained cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and excessively concerned with make-up and appearances. Strongly impressed with the teachings of the Tucker group, she changed dramatically, becoming simple, austere, and studious.
Tucker attracted various confederates, one of whom was J. Bruce Wakeham from Duarte, California, and a member of the same Pasadena Stake as Tucker. He and Wakeham not only seemed cast in the same mold, but Tucker effusively praised his cohort, on one occasion pointing to Wakeham and exclaiming, "Now, there is a prophet of God!"
A second adherent was Stephen Silver. Appointed as Tucker's companion after he became a counselor, he absorbed Tucker's teachings on a daily basis. According to one acquaintance, Tucker's teaching profoundly affected Silver's personality. Previously fun-loving, cheerful, and energetic, he became somber, pious, and reticent.
A third confederate, the ethereal and elusive Daniel Jordan, struck others as extreme in his attitudes and action. He refused to eat white bread or chocolate. He would pray in the open, looking straight up in the air. He kept a pencil and pad by his bedside to record his dreams, which he considered revelations. Rather than proselytize, he generally devoted himself to study. His abnormal behavior and aloofness at times frightened others.
Tucker gathered these three elders to the Paris mission center in March 1958. During the next several months, all four continuously traveled the mission publicly proclaiming the gospel but privately propounding their own special doctrine. They would team up with individual missionaries during the day and in the evening conduct study and testimony sessions. Usually, they would test a missionary's receptiveness by stating an apostate principle. What came next would depend upon how the elder reacted. If he was confused and quizzical, they might pursue the topic to bring him around. If he denounced their principle and appeared to be knowledgeable, they would drop the subject.
One prospective adherent was Ronald M. Jarvis. Arriving in the French Mission in late 1957, serious-minded and dedicated, he had come on his mission with a testimony of the gospel but, according to a post-mission interview, also determined that he would follow his testimony if it conflicted with the direction of Church authorities. He was displeased to find some missionaries shiftless and inattentive to their spiritual development. He was equally disgruntled with what he regarded as a lack of spiritual vitality among the local members. Critical of the mission as a whole, he was thus disposed to be greatly impressed by the energetic work of Tucker and his associates.