Elder Tucker's Drift: The Trial of the French Mission, Part One
Apostle Brown was not able to undo in a weekend attitudes and decisions that had been building for months. He could not dissuade the two disaffected companions from departing without permission from the mission. Jarvis, who had been so impressed by the manner and arguments of Elder Shore, was not impressed that Brown was inspired of God.
Meanwhile, after his talk with President Christensen but before Apostle Brown's arrival on Saturday, Tucker had gone with his traveling companion, H. Ray Hart, to Lausanne, Switzerland. Hart had dismissed the doctrines Tucker had brought up in casual conversation, thereby unknowingly disqualifying himself as a target of Tucker's proselytizing. Hart, unaware of Tucker's dissonance, was attracted to Tucker personally and thought he had the qualities of a General Authority. His first intimation that something was amiss came Friday evening after dinner at the branch president's home. Tucker began to argue convincingly that David O. McKay was indeed the president of the Church but was not a prophet. Hart was almost convinced and so greatly disquieted that he slept little that night. The next morning a telegram arrived requesting they report immediately to the mission home.
The two traveled to Paris in silence, arriving late Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning Apostle Brown interviewed them individually. Hart at first supported Tucker out of friendship and admiration, but he eventually realized that he had been duped. Tucker came out in open defiance of Apostle Brown and the Church. Apostle Brown summarily released Tucker as a mission counselor.
According to one source, Tucker's spiritual state powerfully affected even those who had never met him. Mary B. Firmage, Zina B. Hodson, Zola Brown, and Lawrence Brown, all children of Apostle Brown, arrived at the French mission home on Sunday, 24 August. They had been on an excursion in Europe and knew nothing of what was afoot in France. As they sat down to dinner, a young man came in. Suddenly, Mary remembers, she felt a terrible spirit. She and Zina looked at each other, and Zina whispered, "It's Satan!" indicating that she shared Mary's feelings.
On Saturday, 30 August, a week after Apostle Brown's arrival, Henry D. Moyle, a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, addressed a conference of French missionaries in Brussels. He plainly said that missionaries should get up early and spend their time proselytizing. In their studies, they should concentrate on the scriptures and that not to excess (Hart 1987; Snow 1987). The text of a speech he gave two years later to the French missionaries on the same subject provides a clear statement of his position: "If you want to put your time in the mission field to the best advantage, stay with the scriptures. They are complicated enough for the best of us. There is no greater challenge for us than to read the scriptures and then teach the simple principles that are found therein" (Moyle 1960, 1).
The pious Stephen Silver, whose personality had changed so noticeably as Tucker's Paris companion, had been serving in Nice as the district president in the Marseille District since June. While he had rejected the modern Church's authority or truth, he still believed in the original Restoration. He wrote in his journal, "The great truths I was learning were strengthening my testimony of the mission of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I felt the responsibility of bringing these truths to the French people." Yet he soon found that it was not easy to be in the Church and yet not be part of it. Juna Abbott, the former airline stewardess serving in Nice and a member of Elder Silver's district, received notice from her friend, Sister Wessel in Liege, about Elder Moyle's district conference address. Sister Abbott informed Silver, who recorded his dismay, "All we had studied in the wonderful old books and believed in was thrown down and trampled upon and rejected."