// Early History of the Barcelona, Spain mission // by David Hall
Early History of the Barcelona, Spain mission
by David A. Hall
(David A. Hall was in the first group of eight missionaries sent to open Barcelona in October, 1969, and was appointed as the first clerk of the Barcelona Branch. The following is taken from his daily journal that he kept during this period.)
The story of the mission in Barcelona begins with the opening of Spain to the missionary work in June 1969. I had received a call to labor as a missionary in Mexico, entering the Language Training Mission in April 1969. Therefore, I was in Provo when Spain opened.
In late June, in the Spanish language section of the L.T.M., we received a group of seven missionaries with calls to the French Mission. We were puzzled when they arrived. Why would French missionaries be sent to learn Spanish? It took time for us to learn that they had been called to labor in Spain. They would be in the Spain Zone of the French Mission, headquartered in Paris. That was the first that we in the L.T.M. had heard that Spain was open to the missionary work, and we were excited!
Wednesday, July 23, 1969, a group of us at the Language Training Mission had interviews with Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Council of Seventy. Elder Angus Cannon Fox and I, because of visa problems
in getting into Mexico, had our mission calls changed from Mexico to Uruguay.
We were disappointed on two counts. First, we had our hearts set on going to Mexico, and it was a tough adjustment to think about going to some other place. Second, we found out that the visa problem had
come to light about two weeks earlier, but, since Elder Dunn had lost the original notice about it, our departure into the mission field had been delayed by that much.
Anyway, they told us to be prepared to leave for Uruguay by that Saturday. However, on Saturday, we were informed by President Wilkins of the Language Training Mission that a letter had been received from the missionaries in Spain that there was an urgent need for two missionaries fully prepared in the Spanish language and missionary discussions to go to Spain right away. Elder Fox and I were selected to fill those slots, and on Tuesday morning we were on our way.
On Wednesday, July 30, we found ourselves in Madrid, not a little dazed from the abrupt and exciting change.
President Smith B. Griffin of the French Mission greeted us at the Madrid airport. At the time, Spain was merely a zone of the French Mission. There had been four missionaries in Madrid. Elder Fox and I arrived together with two new transfers from Argentina, making us eight in all.
The first four missionaries in Spain were: Elder Clark Hinckley, Elder Craig Ward, Elder José Luis Barco, and Elder Robert Hernández.
My companion, Elder Ward, was one district leader, and Elder Clark Hinckley was the zone leader and the other district leader. Elder Hinckley spoke with us about the peculiar circumstances of our transfer to Spain. He told us that Elder Dunn's losing of the original instructions about our transfers delayed us so that we would get connected to the request to send missionaries to Spain. We were not called to Spain originally, he said, because there was no mission in Spain when we got our calls, but this is where the Lord had wanted us from the beginning.
The Madrid Branch was meeting in a schoolhouse. I don't have the address recorded, but, as I recall, it was close to the Ministerios Barrio in northern Madrid, a little east of the Paseo de la Castellana, which was also close to our residence.
On August 15 and 20, 1969, the seven new missionaries arrived from the Language Training Mission. On Saturday, August 16, Elders Hernandez and Barco left on the train to open the city of Sevilla.
On September 12, Elders Hinckley, Hernandez and Ward left for the United States. Elder Fox and I, who both arrived in Spain on July 30, became senior companions, with less than five weeks of experience
in the mission. It was a real challenge.
On September 9, President Griffin flew in from Paris and each of the missionaries talked to him on the phone. I asked him when the group would be going to open Barcelona and expressed my desires to be in
that group. He said that would be done toward the end of November, and he would keep me in mind.
On September 10, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Twelve came to visit, and he and President Griffin spoke to the missionaries and then to the Madrid Branch.
A problem in our early teaching was social pressure that was exerted on potential converts. One convert family who seemed like they would make excellent members scheduled their baptism and then didn't
come to the service. In September, we found out why. The husband had been dismissed from his job because the boss said all of his employees were Catholics. And the wife said that she was afraid of what would happen socially with the children, when all their friends were Catholic. Another convert decided not to get baptized because of pressure from family members. This was repeated over and over with people who believed what we taught.
On October 4 we got five new elders transferred from Uruguay.
October 8, 1969. Elder Maudsley and I found out something very interesting in visiting with Sister Baker of the Madrid Branch. She told us that when Elder Romney had dedicated Spain for the teaching of the gospel in May, 1969, he talked about the success and growth of the mission, that it would grow and the church would grow very rapidly, and there would be stakes in no time. He also mentioned the trials the missionaries would suffer -- that temptations would be such that they would be tried to the utmost.
President Griffin came into town that same day (October 8) for our zone conference. I made a special point in my interview with him to tell him how much I wanted to go to Barcelona, saying that I felt the city had been specially prepared by the Lord to receive the gospel. He assented in that sentiment. As I recall, he did not commit to any plans to open the city. After my evening prayers, however, I became so sure that I was leaving Madrid for somewhere, hopefully Barcelona, that I washed my clothes and began preparing to go.
For the next three days, I'll include direct excerpts from my journal, to help give a better flavor of what happened in forming the Barcelona Branch.
"Friday, October 10, 1969. We continued conference this morning with our testimony meeting, which lasted a number of hours. And then we got our transfer information. I and seven others will be going to Barcelona. That sounds pretty good.
"We got that information at noon and were asked to prepare to leave by 2:00. We actually got out at 7 p.m., nearly missing the train.
"We talked over our plans in the train, and found ourselves very poorly supplied with information on Barcelona. I had done some calling to get references, etc. before leaving but even that was very unfruitful. We decided to get a hotel on arriving and from there look for permanent residence with a family or in a pension.
"My companion is a new elder from the Language Training Mission - Elder Spackman. He had no Spanish beforehand and now knows little. But he's anxious to work. And that impresses me. I'm sure we'll do well together and accomplish a lot for the Lord.
"Saturday, October 11, 1969. We slept on the train. I woke up at 6:30, one hour before arrival, and spent the hour in the corredor admiring, through the window, the Mediterranean coast. The sight thrilled me -- the rocky shore with the trees--and convinced me that I'm going to love Barcelona.
"We made arrangements by telephone to stay in a hotel (or rather a Hostal) within walking distance from the train station. There came the time when the manager asked us who we were, and he had a very hard time comprehending it. I think we felt the significance of the occasion -- as the first missionaries to arrive in this city of over 2,000,000. We set up a lesson with the manager.
"With a newspaper we set out on an organized search for a place to stay. Elder Spackman and I decided to find a pension and live there for two weeks or so -- looking for a family with whom we could live. The handbook encourages living with families -- because they'll be receptive then to hearing the gospel.
"We were surprised to find, from our newspaper ad, a wonderful place with a family. We took it right away and moved in tonight.
"While eating supper, an interesting thing happened. She had the television on a musical program that I didn't appreciate. I asked for another program, and she turned it to "Wagon Train." (They have a lot of American programs here.) It so happened that the episode was about the Mormon pioneers. We explained that to her, pointed out Brigham Young, and instead of tending to her chores she stood and watched. She and her family (she's a widow - La Viuda de Hernandez) all have Mormon faces.
"Sunday, October 12, 1969. It was an historic day today. We celebrated the first Priesthood meeting, first Sunday School, and first Sacrament Service in Barcelona. And we did it with a full sense of the history of the occasion. I was appointed clerk, and kept complete records.
"Sister Hernandez offered her home for the meetings, so we all joined here in the morning. She participated in the Sunday School while Elder Michalek gave a splendid lesson on revelation. She nearly cried during part of the program -- she was so impressed. And she told us how happy she was that we had come. The spirit was strong in that meeting -- as we simply blessed and passed the sacrament with plastic cups and kitchen plates. The Lord has really been blessing us.
"For Sacrament Service we went to a beach a few kilometers outside of the city, where we had talks and bore testimonies.
"I keep getting more impressed with this city. The people aren't as carefree as in Madrid, are more cosmopolitan and more serious. I can see them accepting the gospel very rapidly. The city is lovely -- more organized and cleaner, less noisy. I can't help but think I could be in no better place at no better time for my mission -- I just love it."
Monday was preparation day. On Tuesday, October 14, we began looking for a permanent chapel. Sister Hernandez got into the act by going around and looking for us. We found a very good location in the very building we live in. President Griffin came into town that day and looked at it and was impressed. He gave us the go-ahead on it.
He talked with us about our living situation and urged all to hurry up and move into permanent locations. He was happy with what Elder Spackman and I had found and said it was a blessing from the Lord.
The first missionaries were Elders Michael Duffin (zone leader), Jorge Michalek (district leader), Gary Glosser, Kevin Bodily, Robert Bollard, Angel Herrero (the first native Spaniard to serve a mission), Michael Spackman, and myself, David Hall. Elder Duffin was called to be the branch president, and I was called to be the branch clerk. An interesting side note is that 11 years later, in 1980, Jorge Michalek was called as a stake president in Argentina; in 1989, Michael Duffin was called as a stake president in California, and in 2001 was called as an area authority seventy – which indicates the caliber of leadership we had in those first missionaries.
The next Sunday, we held the meetings in Elder Duffin's apartment. Señora Hernández came to Sacrament Meeting. She continued to investigate the gospel and accepted a baptismal challenge. The baptism was scheduled in November, but, when she met stiff opposition from her family, she put off the baptism. After her family softened, she was finally baptized.
We had a list of names of members of the Church in Barcelona -- people who had joined the Church in other locations and moved to Barcelona. Of the few that we could actually track down, none were interested in attending church meetings.
In November, we made arrangements to obtain a locale at Castillejos 288-290, in the same building where Elder Spackman and I were living, which would be made into our first official chapel in Barcelona. Elder Spackman and I were on the second floor of the right-hand stairwell. The chapel was on the first floor of the left-hand stairwell. We had met in Elder Duffin's apartment, and then in the living room of Elder Michalek's apartment, for several weeks, and were excited at the prospect of having an official meeting place built for that purpose. It was an apartment that was modified to accommodate our meetings.
We baptized three members into the fledgling branch in 1969, and three more were added on January 10, 1970. The January 10 baptisms included Brother and Sister Joaquín Cardona, who also had three children under the age of 8. The work was slowly taking root.
On January 31, we had another baptism, Brother Hector Noé García. The other January baptisms were done with a portable baptismal font that was shipped from place to place in Spain, but Brother García was baptized in the Mediterranean Sea.
Work progressed on the chapel. Plumbing and interior walls were installed. We purchased heaters, light fixtures, etc.
In February, 1970, we began meeting in the new chapel.
There was a missionary conference in Madrid on March 13-14. We reported on our success in Barcelona, and in turn heard the reports from Madrid and Sevilla. There had been 19 baptisms in Sevilla since the last conference in December. There were only four elders laboring in Sevilla, so their success was impressive.
On March 29, our "landlady," Sister Hernández, came to the meetings with her daughter Dunia, the same one who had prevented her baptism in November. Sister Hernández had struggled with family and social pressures against joining the Church. She was a widow, and was under the understanding that, were she to leave the Catholic Church, she would not be able to be buried next to her husband. It was true that non-Catholics in Spain had to be buried in special cemeteries. It was symbolic of the "outcast" status that non-Catholics were given. But Sister Hernández' family now began to soften. Dunia came to other meetings. Sister Hernández was eventually baptized after I left Barcelona.
Sister Laura Martínez was baptized on April 8. Her parents, who had to give permission for her to be baptized, attended and said they felt a great peace at the baptismal service. Other investigators were present also. At our church meetings generally we were seeing a lot of investigators.
On Saturday, April 18, we were visited by Elder Boyd K. Packer, just days after he was made the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve. The evening meeting at the chapel was a spiritual highlight for the branch. He made a strong impression among the members and the many investigators who were present. Sister DaSilva, an investigator, remarked afterwards, "I know he's a true apostle of the Lord!" She asked Elder Packer to pray for her to receive the permission of her husband to be baptized.
A personal note about this time period centers around my own conversion. I was having a great deal of difficulty with the stresses of the missionary work. Although I had dreams of converting hundreds, my companion and I didn't have one baptism, even though other elders were having some. I drove myself harder and harder, and was even stricter with my companion. I chewed him out on several occasions, feeling that I was inspired to do so. Finally our problems came to the attention of the mission president. Fortunately, I had an underlying testimony of the gospel that carried me through. Although I felt I was right, I knew that the mission president was my designated spiritual leader and that I should obey him. President Griffin's correction, a talk at the next mission conference in Madrid, some impressions that came to me in my scripture study, and some personal words of counsel in my interview with Elder Boyd K. Packer, who came to visit Barcelona in April 1970 -- all those things acted together to soften me and help me. I was a recent convert myself, having joined the Church when I was 16 years old, and this helped me see more clearly the gospel of love that I needed to learn. Thus I was converted to the gospel of love in Barcelona.
On May 10, Brother Jaime Ohms was baptized. He and the other people baptized in these early months were young single people or young families.
On May 14, I was transferred to Madrid.
In July, 1970, the Spain Mission was created, with R. Raymond Barnes as its first mission president. Within the next year, the work in Cataluña moved forward aggressively with the opening of Sabadell, Terrasa, Badalona, and L'Hospitalet. The foothold of the Church in the Barcelona area had been established.
Author David Hall invites your e-mailed comments at: email@example.com, or contact him through his family web site at http://www.davehall.com
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