Elder Tucker's Drift: The Trial of the French Mission, Part One
In the meantime, Johnson, an ardent admirer of Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote to him concerning the incident. Word eventually got back to President Christensen that something was amiss in Marseille. In April 1958, he sent Tucker to investigate. Tucker made several visits in April and May, each time assuring the president that the situation was in hand and that the missionaries had been counseled not to study things that they could not understand. The president did not yet realize that the person assigned to resolve the problem was the source of the problem.
Having preceded Tucker into the mission field by four months, Harvey had never been openly approached to share in Tucker's teachings, even by Wakeham in Marseille. Favorable reports and personal acquaintance reversed his initial negative impression of Tucker. In fact, Harvey was deeply moved when, during a testimony meeting, Tucker called him forward to speak on the principle of fasting. Harvey had been fasting secretly and took this request to be more than a coincidence. Yet Harvey had no doctrinal ties to the Tucker faction.
In May, Harvey was transferred from Marseille to Mulhouse and in August to Nancy. Little did he anticipate that the Adam-God controversy in Marseille was the warning breeze before the tempest.
While attention was focused on Marseille, the affair smoldered more dangerously in Paris, emitting fumes that would soon expose its presence to Church authorities. Elder Shore, having returned to Utah, eventually made good on his promise to Tucker. He perused Salt Lake bookstores and among other items, purchased Priesthood Expounded, a doctrinal polemic presenting beliefs held by the Church of the Firstborn. This church, organized by the LeBaron family in Mexico, claimed priesthood authority superior to that found in the LDS Church and also propounded the necessity of practicing polygamy. Tucker was very impressed with the book's arguments (Silver 1961, 5). He and Sister Lamborn typed excerpts from the literature and that July circulated them to other dissident missionaries.
The serious-minded new Paris recruit, Ron Jarvis, requested more information directly from Ervil LeBaron in Mexico. It arrived in late July. In the meantime, Harvey Harper, a missionary from Bakersfield, California, was appointed as his senior companion. The two jointly considered the material. Jarvis recorded in his journal, 2 August 1958, their efforts to receive guidance:
Upon deciding to retire last night we were discussing plural marriage, and upon Brother Harper's suggestion, we read the 132nd Section of The Doctrine and Covenants and then asked the Lord for a testimony of that principle. We took turns praying and after being plagued a bit by the presence of evil spirits the light of the Holy Ghost fell upon me and I received a testimony of the truth of that principle. Brother Harper could not seem to feel the same assurance which I felt and on several more attempts to pray we finally retired about 200 AM after praying for two hours.
Their prayers continued but to no avail for Elder Harper. Nevertheless, they had both lost the desire to continue their missions. Twice they left their Paris duties to inquire into possibilities for working to earn their passage home. Finally, on 14 August, they divulged their feelings to President Christensen. President Christensen, a generous and forgiving individual, tried to talk the problem through with them. He then counseled them to join him in fasting and prayer prior to meeting with him again the next day. When Jarvis prayed that night, he struggled to receive a testimony of which course to pursue. The effort was inconclusive. On the morrow, Elder Tucker was also present, having just returned to Paris from a visit to an outlying district. Under the direct questioning of the president, Tucker's cover began to unravel, and President Christensen soon realized this was something bigger than he could handle alone. On 19 August, a Tuesday, he telephoned the First Presidency in Salt Lake. The following Saturday, Apostle Hugh B. Brown arrived in Paris.