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Editor's Note: We are grateful that Norman Shumway who has written an autobiography has kindly agreed to share the chapter about his first mission along with pictures for a nine-part series which will run every other week. This is the first segment..

Since his first mission, Norman and wonderful wife, Luana, have served in Japan two more times. From 1996-99, Norman was president of the Okayama Mission for two years and the Hiroshima Mission for one when the Okayama Mission was closed. They have also served as the public affairs missionaries in Japan. Recently they completed another public affairs mission at the United Nations.  

Memories of my First Mission

Norman Shumway Part 1

During the summer of 1954, I was interviewed for a mission by the bishop, stake president and Elder Carl W. Buehner, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric (pictured to the left). When Elder Buehner asked me where I would like to go, I replied gGermany.h I still had my heart set on becoming a medical doctor someday, and had heard that a knowledge of German would be useful. Little did I realize that the Lord had very different plans for me, although I should have taken a clue from the message of my patriarchal blessing. Had I gone to Germany, I may have rationalized that the premed curriculum had been sanctioned by the powers of heaven. Had I so concluded I probably would never have followed the counsel of my blessing. However, such a course was not to be. Heavenly Father had not changed His mind regarding my earthly potential.

            The letter dated 26 July 1954 from the First Presidency, signed by David O. McKay (pictured at right), began with: 

            You are hereby called to be a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints to labor in the Japanese Mission. Your presiding officers have recommended you as one worthy to represent the Church of our Lord as a minister of the Gospel.           

This call came as a shock. I was not aware that the Church had any presence in Japan, and I had never before given much thought to the location, status or affairs of that country. Presumably because of the notorious difficulty of learning Japanese, the length of the call was three years rather than the usual two and one-half years. I was reminded that Japan was a place far from home, with a vastly different culture. It did not take me long to accept the call, however. I felt secure that the Lord wanted me to go as called, and that He would resolve all of my apprehensions.

I had lots of time to think about serving in Japan. I did not leave Stockton until the 17th of October when I journeyed to Salt Lake City by train. Upon checking in at the mission home I met Elder Ira Ralph Telford (pictured to the left) who likewise had been called to Japan and who was to be my traveling companion. A week of spiritual guidance and instruction was culminated in entering the Salt Lake Temple where I received my endowment.

I had questions about some of the things I had learned in the temple. I did not want to wait three years for answers, so just before leaving Salt Lake City I returned to the temple and asked naively at the recommend desk if I could talk to someone. Much to my surprise, they summoned President ElRay L. Christiansen (pictured to the right). I followed him into the temple, sat with him on an interior couch, and talked for almost an hour. I gained answers to my questions and was impressed that I could converse so readily with such a lofty leader in the Church.

I was set apart as a missionary by Elder S. Dilworth Young of the First Council of the Seventy (pictured to the left) on 27 October 1954. Of the several missionaries he set apart on that day, I was the only one without family or loved ones present to witness the ceremony. He did give me a beautiful blessing, however, promising that I would have the gift of tongues if I would pray for it and lived worthily of receiving such a blessing. To the degree I was faithful, he promised me success in working among the non-Christians of the Far East. I returned to Stockton two days later where I spent a final week with my family – this time as a set apart missionary.

I met up with Elder Telford again, and we departed from San Francisco on the S.S. President Cleveland for the two-week voyage to Yokohama. (The picture below is of me and my family just before departure.) The ship offered only first and third class accommodations. Since the Church usually opts for second class, they decided to book us in the quite luxurious first class. En route to Japan, we spent one full day in Honolulu. After meeting the local mission president and several missionaries, we bummed a ride to Laie where we visited the temple.   

We learned that there was one other LDS member on board the ship – the assistant purser, Ivan E. gEdh Hall. He regularly came to our cabin with treats and lots of devices for teaching us hiragana, the cursive Japanese syllabary. When not studying, I occupied myself with playing shuffleboard, ping pong and deck tennis. I won the shipboard championship in the latter sport, and received a nice trophy for doing so.

I first set foot upon Japanese soil on 19 November 1954, at 7:00 A.M. We were met by Mission President Hilton A. Robertson, and spent the next ten days with him and Sister Hazel Robertson in the mission home. The only language book then available was written by an Italian, Oreste Vaccari and his Japanese wife, Enko Elisa Vaccari, entitled Japanese Conversation-Grammar. I read its lessons assiduously. In spite of the warmth and comfort of the mission home, I remember being perpetually cold. I put on my glong johnh garments and wore sweaters under my suit. I became very restless, and yearned to be sent out long before President Robertson told me of my first assignment. Both Elder Telford and I were going to Nagoya.

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