Excommunications and Loss: The Trial of the French Mission, Part Two
Early the next morning, Tuesday, 9 September, all French missionaries were interviewed by General Authorities before leaving for the temple dedication services. A select group was called out first, being those most suspected of disharmony with the Church.
Harvey, to his surprise, was included in the first group of interviewees. A week earlier, while still in France, he had confessed to President Christensen that he did not honestly know that David O. McKay was a prophet of God. President Christensen did not know that Harvey's flawed testimony was in no way influenced by Tucker or his doctrines, and Harvey had no way of anticipating the reaction his confession would soon elicit. That Tuesday morning, he entered the interview room and was confronted by apostles Joseph Fielding Smith, Hugh B. Brown, and Henry D. Moyle. They came to the point quickly, Apostle Smith asking simply, "Do you know that David O. McKay is a prophet of God?" Harvey had grown up in the Church. He had accepted most of its teachings casually, with the exception of a strong testimony he had received concerning the Book of Mormon. So, he reflected to himself, could he honestly answer yes to the question posed? He felt a strong obligation to be honest and simplified a sudden surge of emotions, desires, and questions with the reply, "No sir, I'm sorry I don't." Apostle Smith was unaware of Harvey's special situation and, according to Harvey, exclaimed, "I can't believe it!" "Disgraceful!" "Shocking!" With that, Harvey was summarily dismissed pending a more complete interview after the temple dedication. Harvey exited, feeling a great sense of relief that the interview was over. He felt satisfied that he had been honest even if he had not said what he knew was expected of him as a missionary.
Joseph Fielding Smith and Henry D. Moyle interviewed Marlene Wessel, not a Tucker adherent, but a friend to the sisters under his influence. Her demeanor made it difficult for them to determine exactly what her position was. Elder Smith finally decided, "Don't worry about her. She has a cloud over her." Moyle replied, "Still, we can't let her go to the dedication because we have not let the others go." Marlene, like Loftin, had failed the interview.
William Turner, junior companion to the extremist Daniel Jordan but a new missionary not suspected of collusion, was interviewed by a single Church authority, Elray L. Christiansen. Turner had not prepared doctrinally for his mission, taking the gospel for granted and accepting a mission call in stride. In similar fashion, he had accepted what his senior Jordan had taught him without much question. He innocently and forthrightly answered all Christiansen's questions. Yes, he had heard that some General Authorities practiced polygamy. Yes, he thought you should not eat meat. Finally, Christiansen informed Turner that he believed in false doctrine and had better change or he would be excommunicated. When Turner protested in a befuddled way, Christiansen looked him straight in the eye and fortunately detected that Turner only needed help. He jotted a short note to President Christensen and sent Turner to find him.
On the way, Turner passed an open doorway and to his dismay saw his companion, Daniel Jordan, openly arguing with Joseph Fielding Smith. Alarmed, he interrupted to ask his companion if he knew what he was doing. Apostle Smith instructed him to be on his way, then came to the door and closed it.
Upon receipt of the note, President Christensen directed Turner to a room where he sat alone and waited, fearing he would be excommunicated. He watched missionaries who had passed their interviews go by, cheerful in their anticipation of the temple dedication to be held that day. He remembers feeling engulfed by an abyss from which he might never escape. Although he was granted permission to attend the temple dedication after all, coming to terms with the experience took many years.