President Tingey

John P. Livingstone, Same Drum, Different Beat: The Story of Dale T. Tingey and American Indian Services (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 55-78.

In 1968 President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency invited Dale to his office, where he called him to serve a three-year term as a mission president for the Church. He was assigned to the Southwest Indian Mission, headquartered in Holbrook, Arizona. The mission was dedicated to the teaching of Native Americans in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, and southern Colorado. He felt honored but wondered if his friendship with Elder Boyd K. Packer had anything to do with the call. [1] They had worked together as administrators of seminaries and institutes, some of which were among Native American people. Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve had made work among American Indians a leading priority of his Church efforts, and such attention from an Apostle gave the call a strong profile in that day.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed an early interest in Native Americans owing to Book of Mormon descriptions of their ancestors, known as the Lamanites. A revelation to the first president of the Church, Joseph Smith, said in part, “And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them.” [2] Four early Church members, including two witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates, traveled over one thousand miles to preach to the Catteraugus, Wyandot, Shawnee, and Delaware Indians. [3]

The Delaware were the first Indians in the United States to be placed on a reservation by the New Jersey colony back in 1758. Later the Delaware and most other Indian tribes were moved to lands west of the Mississippi to lands that simply became known as the Indian Territory, where they were first visited by Latter-day Saints. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was organized in 1824 under the War Department and was later moved to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. As more and more white settlers moved west, skirmishes and wars broke out as American Indian bands and tribes reacted resentfully to the lack of the free movement they had previously enjoyed and to the resulting encroachment by whites and other American Indians who had been pushed west.

Cultural discrepancies were not well understood by either whites or Native Americans, and they viewed each other with great distrust. Native Americans found many white people to be duplicitous or two-faced. On the other hand, most white settlers thought the American Indians to be thieving, savage, primitive, and uneducated. Violent interactions further deepened perceptions, and finally the American Indians were overrun by the sheer numbers of settlers from the East. Superior firepower of the Anglos ensured subservience, and American Indians had no choice but to be forced onto reservations, usually of the white people’s choosing. These reservations were usually out of the way and undesirable to settlers, and they did not afford the means for Native Americans to enjoy their previous livelihoods. The men especially felt humiliated and stripped of their ability to provide for their own. They became impoverished and discouraged. Many turned to alcohol and violence to escape feelings of defeat and despair. [4]

Brigham Young, in his “Thirteenth General Epistle,” dated 29 October 1855, encouraged Latter-day Saints in close proximity to Native Americans to help them rather than hurt them: “Besides being the cheapest, it is far easier, and exercises a better influence, to feed and clothe than to fight them.” [5] Feeling that Native Americans were indeed the descendants of Book of Mormon people, Latter-day Saints usually attempted to befriend them, although once they established settlements in the Great Basin, they felt at times justified in retaliating against perceived atrocities, especially those perpetrated by renegade American Indians who were not necessarily acting within tribal jurisdiction or direction. Troublesome issues such as American Indian slavery were addressed under the administration of Brigham Young, and either whites or Mexicans involved in trading slaves were prosecuted before the law, although some Latter-day Saints bought American Indian children to save them from slavery. [6]

Attempts to convert Native Americans in the West were difficult at first because pioneers were unfamiliar with the language and customs of the tribes around them, and personal interactions were fraught with danger and misunderstanding between potential communicators. As Latter-day Saints and American Indians became more familiar with each other, individuals became friends and lost their fear of each other. Some early missionaries among the American Indians were interested in them and developed an affinity for their languages, wanting to help with intercultural difficulties. Over time, some members living close to American Indians wanted to get to know them better and sometimes initiated contact. As the Church grew in the West and stakes were formed around reservations, stake missionaries were called to teach the gospel to their Native American friends.

The earliest formal mission among Indians was the Navajo-Zuni Mission, which was organized 7 March 1943. [7] The first mission president, Ralph William Evans, served only part time and was otherwise a trader at a trading post in Shiprock, New Mexico. [8] Stakes in the areas lying south and east of the Navajo and Zuni reservations had worked hard to reach out to Native Americans prior to the organization of the mission.

Back in December 1942, President Evans had taken George and Mary Jumbo, two Navajo converts, to Salt Lake City, where George was to have back surgery. They visited Elder George Albert Smith, then the senior Apostle, who had recently visited the reservation, and who, in turn, took them to meet President Heber J. Grant. Mary made a passionate plea to the aging Church president to send missionaries among her people. President Grant urged Elder Smith to move ahead with missionary work among Indians.

On 26 February 1943 Elder Smith called Ralph W. Evans to preside over the Navajo-Zuni Mission. Sister Rhoda Lewis was the first full-time missionary, and she had Mary Jumbo as her companion much of the time. [9] The mission functioned much like a stake mission. Virtually all of the Navajo-Zuni missionaries were senior couples, with a few older men serving alone. [10] In 1944 stake presidents and their respective stake mission presidents from units bordering the Navajo reservation, together with President Evans, met in President George Albert Smith’s office in Salt Lake City. They were there to review progress among Native Americans in the Southwest. The stake missions ended up being amalgamated into the fledgling Navajo-Zuni Mission. Most of the work focused on the Navajos, with only modest attempts made to proselyte among the Zuni people. “In July, 1944, Elder and Sister Ernest Wilkins were assigned to work with the Zunis. However, due to local opposition, mostly stirred up by other churches, they were forced to leave and were reassigned to work with the Hopis. This was the lone effort of the Navajo-Zuni mission to work with the Zunis. Thereafter their success was with the Navahos [sic] and Hopis and so the mission was really misnamed.” [11]

In October 1946 President George Albert Smith and Elders Spencer W. Kimball and Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the mission. They went to Blanding and then moved on to Window Rock, where President Smith spoke to an interdenominational meeting regarding Church work among Native Americans. [12] This visit among the Navajos no doubt kick-started Church efforts among American Indians by giving Elder Spencer W. Kimball an intimate look at the plight of the tribe and establishing within him a vision of how Latter-day Saints could help these humble people living in dirt houses and speaking a language recognized as one of the most difficult in the world.

On 13 September 1946 newly called Church President George Albert Smith asked Elder Kimball to “look after the Indians. They have been neglected. I want you to have charge and look after all the [American] Indians in all the world.” [13] About a month earlier Elder Kimball had had a vivid dream about being among American Indians in Arizona. He awoke perplexed. His patriarchal blessing had spoken of preaching the gospel among the Lamanites. [14] Elder Kimball organized and headed the Indian Relations Committee, and Golden Buchanan became the first coordinator of Indian affairs. [15]

By 1947, when President Evans was released as mission president, there were only five full-time missionaries in the mission: two couples and another older brother, Elder Ural D. Burk. S. Eugene Flake, of nearby Snowflake, Arizona, succeeded as mission president in the summer of that year. Two years later the mission name was changed to the Southwest Indian Mission. [16] Missionary work received new vigor when young missionaries were called to serve among the American Indians of the Southwest. In April 1951 Golden Buchanan was named mission president. The missionaries began to learn the Navajo language, and the mission began to look more like a regular mission of the Church. Alfred Eugene Rohner served as president from 1955 until 1958, when Fred A. Turley was called. In 1961 J. Edwin Baird became president, and American Indians in the Central States Mission were included in the mission. This continued until the organization of the Northern Indian Mission in 1964. Hal Taylor succeeded Edwin Baird, and Dale Tingey followed President Taylor. [17]

Elder Paul H. Dunn, Dale’s General Authority friend, spoke with President Hugh B. Brown and gently protested Dale’s new calling, saying he was greatly needed in the seminary and institute program, perhaps even more so than in the mission field. Perhaps he felt Dale should watch over institute of religion development in California, which was dear to Elder Dunn’s heart. As Dale reported, “President Brown said to him, ‘That’s very interesting. I’m going to call you on a mission, too. I don’t think that either of you is indispensable.’” Elder Dunn had not served a mission previously, and the two of them serving simultaneously provided for some time together during the mission presidents’ training seminars and for a continued sharing of ideas during their terms of service.

Elder Dunn was called to preside over the New England Mission in Boston, Massachusetts. Friendly competition between missions followed, and Elder Dunn visited the Southwest Indian Mission several times following general conferences in Salt Lake City. President Tingey’s missionaries were thrilled to be taught by Elder Dunn, who was a very popular speaker among youth in the Church.

Moving down to Holbrook was somewhat of a trial for the older Tingey children. Leaving junior high and high school friends was tough. And the combined mission home-mission office was some distance from town, making neighborhood friendships a little more difficult for the kids. Some culture shock affected them also, with almost one-half of the school children being black or Native American. The younger children hardly knew the difference from the homogenous makeup of their former Utah community, but the older kids had to make an adjustment.

When the Tingeys first received their mission call to the Southwest Indian Mission, Dale tried to make things special by having Elder Dunn come over to make the announcement to the family. Dale’s daughter Diane said that the family had made a trip to the East a year or two earlier and had stayed with the Boyd K. Packer family in the stately old mission home mansion while he presided over the New England Mission. Mission president accommodations looked good to them. But when the time came for the family to move down to Holbrook, Arizona, Diane said, “Us older kids were thinking about the mansion we had visited in New England. We were so excited. But when we got there, the mission home looked like a Motel Six to us. Here we had driven through this lonely barren desert only to find a little two-storey boxy little building that was the mission home. We thought, ‘This is a joke!’ We thought there was a big mistake. But it was no joke and there was no mistake. I wanted to cry.” [18]

At that time, Diane was the only girl in the family, and she arrived to discover that eight elders lived at the mission home too. Although a little overwhelmed at first, she soon made friends and developed some great memories. Her dad included her in the youth missionary program and asked her one summer if she would be a “sister missionary” for a short while in the ancient homeland of the Hopi Indian Tribe. She said that while they were there Dad would buzz their temporary house trailer and drop notes from the airplane that said, “Will be back in a few days.” She remembered longing to go back to home and Mother’s cooking but figured it was one particular incident that encouraged her father to take her back home: “One day while trying to light the stove, I blew the whole side of our oven out; I mean it actually bellowed out the whole side of the trailer—well, I came home soon after that.”

She spoke about another time when she drove an old mission truck and tried to pull into a service station to get gas but actually hit the gas pump. “I was bawling and didn’t want to drive it home,” she moaned. Dad was only marginally encouraging when he said, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to you, you’ll be fine.”

Diane remembered her bedroom had two beds, and sometimes she would come home late to find American Indian visitors sleeping in her bed. One time she discovered that Dad had given away her bottle of perfume. She laughed, “He gave my perfume away! And that’s just the way he is. He gives the shirt off of his back—and off everyone else’s back too. We’ve learned to never leave things at Dad’s home if you want to see them again. And don’t give him a present—he gives it away to someone he feels needs it more than he does. Another time, he had been given a real nice coat, he really liked it, but he absent-mindedly left it somewhere. Later someone called Dad and said they had found the coat, and said it was the nicest coat they had ever seen. Well, Dad gave him the coat. If you want to do something for him, take him somewhere or make him something to eat. But he’ll give your presents away. That’s just him.” [19]

Richard Winder said something similar about when he and Dale were companions in Czechoslovakia. He remembered, “One day in the city of Plzen I came into the apartment and Dale said, ‘Richard, I’ve been reading scripture about our need to become perfect. I’ve decided to work on you first. I gave your other suit away to brother Zenk today.’ He was most generous with his or other’s property.” [20]

Diane remembered a later time when Dale gave away her sister-in-law’s sewing machine, which had been stored at the Tingey house for a while. Dale didn’t know whose it was. A good Native American sister needed a sewing machine, and he knew of one that had not been used in a long time. The children learned that if you want to store something at Dad’s, it may be given away to someone who needs it.

Elder Spencer W. Kimball visited the mission once on short notice. Dale welcomed him to a zone conference that was in session and turned the time over to the Apostle. He spoke for a while and then took questions from the missionaries. After several questions, one missionary came up with a somewhat contentious question. Dale recorded, “The missionary got up and asked, ‘Why do we have to call these people Lamanites? Everyone knows that it’s a degrading title. It represents the bad people in the Book of Mormon, and no one really wants to be associated with that title.’ [Elder] Kimball, in his sweet, gentle voice, asked the missionary, ‘Well, what do you suggest we call them then, Elder?’ The missionary replied, ‘I think that we should call them Nephites.’ [Elder] Kimball explained, ‘Well, Elder, there are no promises to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. They had their day, and they became wicked and were destroyed. The promises concerning the people today were all to the Lamanites.’” [21]

Elder Kimball then quoted from the Book of Mormon in Alma 9:16–17 and explained the blessings promised to Native Americans:

“For there are many promises which are extended to the Lamanites; for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance; therefore the Lord will be merciful unto them and prolong their existence in the land.

“And at some period of time they will be brought to believe in his word, and to know of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers; and many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name.”

Dale was deeply touched and impressed by Elder Kimball’s careful explanations and references to scriptures in answering missionary questions. When Elder Kimball spoke, it was as if his words were burned into Dale’s mental and spiritual “circuits” in such a way that he was completely converted to the cause of improving the plight of American Indian people. Reflecting on Elder Kimball’s keen interest, Dale said, “To see one who was high in the ranks of the Church and who was so totally involved in the welfare of the Lamanite people was a real eye opener for me.” [22] Usually when Church leaders visited, Dale looked forward to a big meal at a restaurant, but Elder Kimball would say, “Why don’t we have something simple like bread and milk and cheese?” President Tingey said the meals kept him humble. [23]

Mission work did not come easy for the new president; he felt that the missionaries perhaps saw him as more of an administrator, and he worried that they felt the previous president, Hal Taylor, was kinder, gentler, and more loving. At forty-four years, Dale was more the age of their fathers rather than the grandfatherly age of President Taylor. He thought that more direct accountability was needed among the missionaries and that the organizational structure and mission mechanisms needed to change to accommodate his leadership style. The missionaries “couldn’t figure out what kind of president I was,” he complained. “The mission work started to slow down.” [24]

By 1968 the Southwest Indian Mission had missionaries living in interesting conditions. Many on the Navajo Reservation, such as those in the communities of Indian Wells or White Cone, lived in trailer units near trading posts. Some missionaries in Tohatchi or Kayenta, Arizona, lived in trailers that were parked next to small church buildings designed especially for reservation conditions. A few church buildings had a special small home for missionaries to live in. St. Michaels, near Window Rock, not only had a house for missionaries but also a home for the local seminary representative.

There were two categories of missionaries: missionaries who served on the Navajo reservation and missionaries who served in cities or on non-Navajo reservations such as the Zuni, Hopi, Pima, Papago, Ute, Paiute, and Havasupai. Most of the missionaries were not trained in the Navajo language. The missionaries serving on the Navajo reservation were trained at what was then known as the Language Training Mission. Before today’s Missionary Training Center facility was built, missionaries were housed in a variety of buildings in and around BYU campus. Most Navajo missionaries stayed and studied at the “Iona House,” located on the northeast corner of the intersection of 700 North and 200 East in Provo, just south of the Maeser Building at BYU.

Navajo reservation missionaries usually served in remote areas at least ten to twenty miles away from any of their fellow missionaries. They drove pickup trucks on reservation roads that were usually ungraded and often impassable due to frequent wind storms that brought shifting sand and soil. These storms could create blinding, blizzardlike conditions, leaving “snowdrifts” of sand to impede travel between camps of hogans. Among the Navajo, a grandmother’s hogan was usually surrounded by her daughters’ hogans in their matriarchal (Grandmother often “owned” the land and the sheep) and matrilineal society (lineage was determined through the mother’s clan). Roads leading to these remote camps would often be clogged with sand drifts and leave relatively inexperienced young men digging out their trucks with their bare hands.

Most missionaries on the Navajo reservation did not have phones but could communicate with mission headquarters by using the phone at the trading post or at the home of the local seminary teacher, if he lived nearby. But long-distance phone calls were expensive to missionaries trying to live on $120 each month. Missionaries serving among the other smaller tribes were usually not quite as isolated.

With communication difficulties, mission presidents were faced with problems that could become significantly advanced before intervention could be made. When a companionship became discouraged or delinquent, the isolation meant that things could fester and get out of control before the president even became aware of the problem. It also meant that solutions needed to be quick yet long-lasting in their effect. The long distances meant that multiple visits were impractical, which made good judgment as necessary as savvy discernment. And Dale was blessed with both.

Once, when responding to a phone call from a local branch president, Dale drove out to Lukachukai, a small community on the Navajo reservation, to visit with two elders who were “breaking all the rules,” as the branch president put it. Ruminating over his approach to the two missionaries and praying, with some fervor, over how he should manage the mission affairs, Dale recounted:

As I was praying and driving, I heard [a] voice say, “Teach the missionaries to keep their covenants, so I can bless the mission.” That didn’t seem to be the right answer, so I kept driving, trying to figure something out. Then I heard a reverberation of this voice saying, “Teach the missionaries to keep their covenants, so I can bless the mission.” This was another of the four times that I heard this voice. I am not sure whether this was an audible voice, or if it was like what happened to Enos in the Book of Mormon where he described it as, “the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying. . . . [25] But by the time I had reached the two elders, I was convinced that it was the answer to my prayers, and 1 was going to begin working with the elders on keeping their covenants, so that the Lord could bless the mission. [26]

He told the two elders that he had a message from the Lord for them. He asked if they were ready to keep the covenants they had made in the temple to dedicate themselves to the work of the Lord. When they floundered a little in responding (and perhaps they were affected by the sight of their new mission president on their doorstep at 6:30 A.M.), he asked them to retire to another room and talk it over. Before too long, they came back, vouching that they would do it.

Dale said, “That became my theme song with every elder that I met for the next several months—every interview, every area conference, every zone conference. I taught them that the responsibility rests on us, and until we’re worthy, the Lord can’t bless the mission. The elders had the idea that the problem was with the Indians. I worked to switch that over so the problem was with us, and that the Lord couldn’t bless the Indians or anyone until the missionaries were worthy to be a vehicle for that blessing.” [27]

Feeling that regularly visiting and supervising about 250 missionaries over Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, and southern Colorado (with a little corner of California, next to Yuma) was next to impossible in a car, Dale decided to use a Cessna 172 airplane he bought into with two other owners. Within a few months, they suggested he buy them out, as he was using the plane daily. It was much easier to keep tabs on young missionaries living in remote reservation outposts from the air than from ground travel. He developed a system of checking on them by buzzing their quarters and seeing how long it took them to get outside and be visible to their airborne president. If everything was okay, they would simply stand there as he flew over again. If they needed help, they would wave their arms and he would land in a field or on a nearby roadway and meet with them. Sometimes, elders awoke with a start if they were not out of bed on time in the morning when the plane went overhead.

One particular elder had a problem of sleeping too late in the mornings. He could never get dressed and out of that apartment. One time I knew I was going to catch him, so I flew low and circled back quickly so he and his companion wouldn’t have time to dress. The elder came running out, threw up his hands, and his pants went down, so I knew they were still breaking the rules. We made a deal that he could sleep in as long as he didn’t eat anything on the days he slept in. He agreed to the commitment. The next morning he called me and said, “Oh my gosh, I slept in. I’m so sorry.” I said, “Don’t worry about it, Elder. Just don’t eat anything today. That was our agreement.” He agreed. The next night he called again and said, “I was so tired this morning from not eating yesterday that I slept in.” I said, “We have an agreement. Just don’t eat anything today. You made a promise, and I want you to keep it.” Then he called that night at 12:05 A.M. and said he was starving to death. He figured it was a new day, and if he could eat, he would be sure to be up on time in the morning. I said, “Go ahead.” That seemed to solve his problem. [28]

Mission visitors from Salt Lake City would sometimes fly with Dale too. He would say, “Today we need to go out to Kayenta. It’s five hours by car, but we can make it in forty minutes with the plane. What do you say?” Elder LeGrand Richards smiled, “Let’s go by plane, but don’t tell the Brethren.” [29]

Despite the convenience, flying could sometimes be dangerous. One week, Dale had been driving out on the reservation while the airplane was being repaired in Flagstaff, Arizona. After picking up the plane, he arrived at about 10:30 P.M. in Holbrook. He had the habit of swooping over the mission home, and Jeanette would know to go pick him up at the Holbrook airport just three blocks away. But this night was different.

When I got to the airport, I found that there were no lights on the landing strip at all. I pushed the key in the plane [to activate the landing lights and there was no response]. I called on the radio and I couldn’t get an answer. So I decided to land without lights. I circled past the wind sock and saw the wind was coming from the southwest. I went out and made an approach, but just as I was ready to land, I felt impressed to go up and around again. I did this several times. In the meantime, my wife went out there and woke up the people at the airport. They asked her if she had read the news or heard anything about the airport closing down for a little while so they could make improvements. They had dug channels across the airport. She asked them what would happen if I tried to land. The official explained to her that I would hit the ground, then hit the first channel and flip over; the gas tank would be on top of the plane, and it would explode. That terrified her, so she ran home and got all eight missionaries [to pray], I made nine attempts to land, and each time I felt strongly that it wasn’t good to attempt it because of my lack of confidence. On my ninth time, as I went past the wind sock, I heard a voice say to me, “Go to Winslow.” It was a frustrating thing because . . . Winslow was fifty miles away. I knew that I would have to wait for my wife to come and get me. But I really feel it was an answer to my wife’s and the missionaries’ prayers. [30]

Dale became good friends with Navajo tribal leaders who seemed to appreciate his fun personality and genuine efforts. Obtaining building sites was made much easier through these friendships, and Dale had significant success in finding and securing building sites for chapels on the reservation. While not all interactions with Native American leaders were positive, a friendly foundation was laid for the Church as well as for Dale’s later philanthropic efforts through the American Indian Services organization.

Dale also enjoyed working with Native Americans who were Church leaders. Eugene Naranjo of the Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico was a counselor in the mission presidency and became Dale’s great friend. [31] President Naranjo had learned about the Church years earlier while working near Tooele, Utah. He described to Dale how an older man with gray hair and a beard would come to his house and teach his family beautiful things. According to President Naranjo, the man would then walk out the door and disappear. As he learned more about the gospel, he always wondered if the man were one of the translated beings in the Book of Mormon known as the Three Nephites. President Naranjo was very faithful as a counselor and would often drive six or seven hundred miles on a Sunday, visiting various branches to build up leaders and encourage members to remain faithful.

Native leaders like President Naranjo were very helpful in assisting missionaries and leaders to understand the culture and the issues faced when American Indians joined the Church. Most tribes welcomed missionaries onto their reservations. The Navajo tribe had the largest of all the reservations in the Southwest Indian Mission. Navajo families tended to invite visitors right into their homes and usually responded positively when invited to listen to a missionary discussion. If the time was not convenient, someone would go to the door and step outside to address the missionaries rather than calling out to the knocker to enter.

When missionaries were invited in, it was not uncommon for the family to line up in birth order to welcome them. The Navajo people generally did not shake hands but rather would clasp hands. The strength of the clasp indicated the strength of the relationship. Missionaries usually received a very loose clasp at first but would notice the firmness increase over time as they got to know the family. Many Navajo women seemed embarrassed at the firm handshake they received on initial contact with novice missionaries.

Missionaries learned there were other cultural differences to be recognized. Looking older people in the eye was considered bad etiquette, as was using older people’s names in their presence. Navajo greetings always included a relationship address such as, “Good morning, my mother” or “It is good, my grandfather.” Increasing age was valued; the people felt that wisdom and insight came with experience. Older Navajos would often chide missionaries for driving their pickup trucks too fast down reservation roads.

At times, medicine men would paternalistically caution missionaries not to let Navajo people call them white men, or bila-gaana. “You are Gamali (the Navajo word for Latter-day Saints),” they would say. White men were looked upon as generally selfish and somewhat devious. Missionaries enjoyed the special status that showed the Navajos’ respect for and trust in them.

The Navajo people generally seemed appreciative of the young missionaries trying to speak the native language. In the late sixties and early seventies, any older individuals who spoke English usually had served in the military or had other off-reservation experiences. Some of them would not use their native tongue when speaking to the missionaries, as if worried it made them appear backward or primitive. But missionaries learned much about the culture through learning the language—verbs came at the end of each sentence rather than in the middle, so one waited patiently until the end of each sentence to understand what was going on.

In Navajo society humility was valued and egotism discouraged. Togetherness and selflessness were public expectations. The white people’s society was seen as opposite. Older Navajo men would gently nudge each other when a white person drove up to the trading post gas pumps in a big, shiny new car. Knowing glances and the slightest sly smiles bespoke their amusement at the idea of anyone needing such luxury.

Drinking among the Navajo was usually a public event. For a variety of psychological and perhaps even genetic reasons, alcoholism had been a problem among American Indians for centuries, and they rarely hid their alcohol consumption; on the contrary, they usually partied publicly, in groups. [32] The teetotaling missionaries were often uncomfortable when they happened upon a drunken group, as they would be facetiously invited to join in and teased when they would not. This kind of teasing seemed, to the missionaries, to be what kept American Indian people in line culturally and socially. If one independently stepped too far forward or backward in the eyes of the community, good-natured teasing would follow. If the good-natured variety did not seem to have the desired effect, more serious recrimination and perhaps outright persecution might follow. The group was valued ahead of the individual. Children were often shamed into conformity, which, to the missionaries, seemed to explain the negative self-image problems many people manifested. This community conformity also seemed to work against missionary conversion efforts. That is, people seemed to be willing to accept the gospel as preached by the missionaries, but church attendance did not always follow professions of faith for many. It was discouraging at times for most missionaries. And that discouragement would manifest itself in a variety of ways. Often during his time as a mission president Dale was left to deal with missionary problems that reflected this discouragement, as well as with plain old foolishness among young men.

One New Year’s Eve, Dale had the distinct impression come to his mind that he should go to Tuba City. Jeanette and some of the office missionaries were preparing dinner that afternoon. When Dale told his wife about his feelings, she said, “Well, you’d better get going as soon as possible if you feel that way.” [33] Dale ate quickly and left for the airport, from which he flew his Cessna to Tuba City. He could not find the missionaries at home, and someone said they had gone to Flagstaff—which was some distance out of their proselyting area. (And Dale knew they did not have permission to leave their area.) He got a room at a little motel that looked like a Quonset hut near the Church meeting house (where the trailer the missionaries lived in was also located) and waited for them to arrive. Soon it was 9:30 P.M. and still no eiders. Then midnight came and went. Finally about 2:00 A.M. Dale heard the missionaries pull up in their pickup truck. No missionaries were ever more surprised or embarrassed than those were when President Tingey stepped out of the darkness and asked them where they had been. The district leader among them promised desperately to never do anything like that again. But the president responded with a twinkle in his eye, “No, you won’t, because you’re not the district leader anymore.” Dale was always careful to preserve the dignity of young missionaries who had strayed, but he knew when to be firm. He was grateful for the blessing of being sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord and following its direction to the benefit of missionaries and missionary work.

Missionaries were not the only ones who sometimes strayed and needed his interventions. Dale recounted:

When I first went to the mission, I was nervous to work with the Indians. I had only worked a little with the Indian children in seminaries; now the burden of the whole responsibility of all the Indian leaders was on my back. The district president was very anxious for me to excommunicate one of the old Indian leaders who was a branch president. . . . I was stalling to try to gain a little experience when he just insisted that I go out there with him and hold a court [disciplinary council] for the old man. So we drove up to Gallup. There was this big, old, traditional Indian with his bun in his hair and his big, black hat on. He was just sitting there. They were anxious to excommunicate him, so I sat there and listened to the proceedings. At first, I felt that we should give him another chance and not excommunicate him. Then a direct feeling came to me that the only way he would learn is if he were excommunicated. He wouldn’t speak and was kind of rebellious, almost intimidating. The responsibility rested on me to tell him that we had found him guilty of these violations and that he would be excommunicated, but that we loved him and we wanted to work with him because he was our brother. He jumped up out of his seat—I thought he was going to come over and hit me. But he came over and threw his arms around me and said, “You’re a good man. You have spirit.” It was interesting. [34]

That was not the only time that cultural differences made circumstances difficult to read. Bowman Paywa, the branch president on the Zuni Reservation in New Mexico, called the mission office to talk with the president. He said he had a serious problem and did not know what to do. There was a Sister Martinez in the branch that was said to be well over one hundred years old. He had received some papers and eventually phone calls from the temple in Mesa suggesting that likely she was now dead and that he should send her name to the temple so her work could be done. The problem was she was not yet dead. The branch president was concerned, “Is it standard practice when a person has passed the age where they think she should be dead, to follow up and request the records? What am I supposed to do?” he asked. Kidding him in what he thought was a joking voice, Dale said, “Well, then you should shoot her. That’s what we’re supposed to do when they get to be that old and the temple needs to do the work for her.” After a pause, President Paywa replied, “I didn’t know we did that.” (The president was always grateful the conversation did not end there.) Dale asked, “Well, how old is she?” and was told that a party was being held the next Friday for her 114th birthday. He concluded that he would fly over to the Zuni Pueblo with Jeanette and attend.

Dale had learned in History of Southwest Indian Mission of a miraculous healing incident performed by Elder Llewellyn Harris beginning on Sunday, 20 January 1878, where over four hundred Zuni Indians had been blessed by the priesthood and survived a smallpox outbreak on the reservation. [35] At the birthday party Dale decided to ask this elderly woman if she remembered the incident. Sister Martinez responded, “Do you see these marks on my face? They are pock marks.” He recorded, “She told us that she was a child at the time; she was one of the people that he [Elder Harris] blessed. She had been waiting for the blessing, and on the day that she was to receive her blessing from him, she died. Her father wanted to bury her, but her mother said no. Her mother continued to massage her heart until Elder Harris came and blessed her. She said to us, ‘I haven’t been sick since that blessing in over a hundred years.’ She was very articulate and rational. My wife kept trying to talk with her. She finally turned to my wife and said, ‘Can’t you see I’m eating? I don’t have time to talk.’” [36]

Llewellyn Harris recorded an incident during the administration to sick Zunis where a child had stopped breathing. He said:

I put up with a Zuni Indian known as Captain Lochee, who had three children sick with the small-pox. After I had been asleep two or three hours, I was awakened by the cries of the family and some of the neighbors who had come in. I arose and inquired the cause of the crying, and was informed by Captain Lochee that his child, a daughter of about 12 years of age, was dying. I saw she was gasping for breath. I felt like administering to her then, but the Spirit of the Lord prompted me to wait a little longer. I waited until she had done gasping and did not appear to breathe. The Spirit of the Lord moved upon me very strongly to administer to her, which I did; she revived and slept well the remainder of the night. I also administered to the other two who were sick in the same house that night. All was quiet the remainder of the night, and all seemed much better in the morning. The news of this spread through the town, and the next day I was called to visit about twenty-five families, all of whom had one or more sick with the small-pox. They also wished me to administer to the sick, which I did. I was called upon to visit from ten to twenty families a day for four days after my arrival, and administer to their sick. The power of the Lord was made manifest to such a degree that nearly all I administered to recovered. [37]

Whether Sister Martinez was the child mentioned may not be easily determined. The Tingeys were impressed with her functioning ability at that advanced age and later noted that temple work had been done for her in Mesa some time following her death.

Dale had similar miraculous experiences of his own. One dramatic occasion occurred when one of his missionaries was seriously injured. Elder Lynn Marrott was serving as the mission secretary when he accompanied Dale (who had family visiting) and some others down into the Grand Canyon to visit the Havasupai Indian Reservation. While riding one of the trail horses through a wide section of the trail down into the canyon, the elders started playing “cowboys and Indians” on horseback. In the hot weather, Elder Marrott became dizzy and fell from the saddle of his galloping horse. Even after many years he could still remember seeing the horse’s hooves as it dragged him. [38] Dale recorded:

He fell off the horse and his foot got caught in the stirrup. The horse dragged him down through the mountains over rocks, dirt and boulders. We didn’t know anything about it [he was some distance ahead of the group] and as we came down the mountain, we ran across him [only] to find an older Indian leader sitting there holding Elder Marrott in his arms. The Indian said that he had caught the horse and stopped it, then pulled the missionary from the stirrup. Elder Marrott was in his arms in convulsions. The Indian was just calmly sitting there. I asked my sister (Olive Nielsen, a nurse) what we should do and she said we should get him into the shade. We got him into the shade and he expired. I said, “Well, we want to give him a blessing.” She replied, “It’s too late. His face is purple, it’s a death color. He’s gone.” I asked, “Well what can we do?” She said, “If we were in a hospital, we would put him on a respirator, but out here there’s nothing you can do.” I said, “Well, I’m going to give him a blessing.”

The Indian man was Leon Rogers who I had made a branch president six months after his baptism. I looked at him and asked, “Do you believe we can do it [restore him]?” He said to me, “Do you believe we can do it?” I said, “Yes, I believe we can do it.” He said, “Yes, I too believe we [can] do it.” We blessed him that he would be restored to health and that everything would be okay. My sister was sitting there and this was by far the greatest experience that she has witnessed in her life. He came back to and commenced to tell us what had happened. He explained that he had had an out of body experience and that his spirit was up above us and he was watching us. He told us everything we had said. He even told us how we had carried him from one point over underneath the tree. He said that he then began to feel a . . . motion that was sucking him right back into the body. [39]

p>A helicopter was dispatched and flew Elder Marrott to the Grand Canyon Hospital. Doctors found that he was bruised but had no further complications. Elder Marrott was actually within days of the end of his mission. In spite of some residual headaches, he returned home and went on to work with the Church Social Services Department.

Dale was particularly happy with a mission effort to give Indian Placement Program students an opportunity to do missionary work in association with his full-time missionaries. The program had been initiated under the efforts of Elder Spencer W. Kimball a decade and a half earlier and allowed native students access to adequate schools where they could live with a family instead of being relegated to a cold boarding school environment. Many parents wished to have their children attend off-reservation schools to help their children further their opportunities. Some critics of the program felt it was a poorly veiled proselytizing program, but most students felt benefited by the program even if they did not stay actively involved with the Church. [40]

During the summer months, when they returned home from living with Latter-day Saint families, students often were looking for social activity at the frequency and intensity they had become accustomed to during the school year. Both the students and their parents were anxious to have something worthwhile for them to do rather than languishing at home waiting for school to begin in the fall. “Youth missions” were the answer. Students in the placement program who were sixteen years of age and older were given an opportunity to become the companions of full-time missionaries and serve short-term missions. Over six hundred of these Native American youth served under President Tingey in addition to the 250 full-time missionaries who came from all over the United States, islands of the Pacific (many Polynesians—also regarded as Lamanites—were called to serve in the Southwest Indian Mission), New Zealand, and Canada. The large number of young women who applied often meant that the thirty to forty sister missionaries had three or even four companions at a time over the summer. The hardworking sister missionaries and elders trained these young people to live like missionaries and to “fast” for a time from the activities they would normally indulge in over the summer months. The resulting self-control and social skills benefited many of the students. Several later went on to serve full-time missions for the Church.

Dale’s philanthropy and money-raising skills perhaps began to thrive in this effort when many native parents were unable to come up with the money their children needed to participate in the youth missionary program. Many businessmen and well-to-do Church members were tapped (some might say squeezed!) by President Tingey as he outlined the need for funds that could provide these youth with thirty or forty dollars a month for subsistence and experience they could have gained in no other way. Many responded to his call for financial help for the youth missionaries. The valuable experiences for the young people undoubtedly resulted in lasting social benefit to those communities and tribes whose children served so selflessly.


[1] Tingey journal, 53.

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 28:8.

[3] Scott R. Christensen, “Native Americans,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, ed. Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 817.

[4] John P. Livingstone, “A Case Study of Four Indian Families Participating in a Church-Sponsored Alcohol Intervention Pilot Program” (masters thesis, University of Regina [Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada], 1981), 15.

[5] James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), 2:178.

[6] L. R. Bailey, Indian Slave Trade in the Southwest (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1966), 159–70.

[7] Deseret News 1999–2000 Church Almanac, 419.

[8] David Kay Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission (n.p., 1965), 115.

[9] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 114.

[10] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 120.

[11] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 116.

[12] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 119.

[13] Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), 237; Francis M. Gibbons, Spencer W. Kimball: Resolute Disciple, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995), 160–61. Elder Kimball described the meeting:

Then one morning in 1946, the Prophet of the Lord called me into his office and asked me to give leadership to a committee of the brethren to see that the gospel was carried to all the children of Lehi, not only to those close by but to those all over the world, including the isles of the sea. An hour or two later, as the Presidency and Council of the Twelve sat in regular session in the temple, the President of the Church referred to it again: “The church is so large now,” he said, “our missionary field is extending, too. It is not just Europe and the United States, but other parts of the world. . . . I was talking with one of the brethren this morning in regard to the Indians, and I feel that the work of disseminating the gospel among the Indians is one of the most important things we have to do—not only to the Indians close to us, but all over the world, in the islands of the sea, and elsewhere. That is going to take more time than it has taken before. We must find people who are willing to go and make the sacrifice” (excerpts from remarks of President George Albert Smith in meeting with Council of the Twelve and Presidency, 13 September 1946, in Spencer W. Kimball, “Lamanite Prophecies Fulfilled,” Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah: Extension Publications, Brigham Young University, 1965], 4).

[14] Kimball and Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President, 236–37.

[15] The committee was called by several other names, among them Indian Committee, Lamanite Committee, Lamanite and Minority Committee, and Minorities Committee. Several General Authorities served as coordinators until January 1962, when Dean L. Larsen became the secretary to the Indian Committee. He served until 1 August 1966, when Stewart A. Durrant was called. In 1968, Brother Durrant’s title was changed to Coordinator of Lamanites and Other Cultures. On 2 February 1971, the entire committee was released and coordination of efforts among natives fell to LDS Social Services. In 1973 responsibility was shifted to the office of the Council of the Twelve; in July 1975, the Melchizedek Priesthood Department took responsibility for Lamanites and other minority cultures in America. Elders LeGrand Richards and Boyd K. Packer became advisers in May 1976. (Stewart A. Durrant, James Moyle Oral History Program, interviewed by Richard L. Jensen, 8 June 1983, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City [hereafter cited as Church Archives], 7–9.

[16] Deseret News 1999–2000 Church Almanac, 419.

[17] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 124.

[18] Diane Tingey Toolson interview, 26 January 2001, interviewed by author.

[19] Toolson interview, 26 January 2001.

[20] Winder interview, 5 December 2001.

[21] Tingey journal, 56–57.

[22] Tingey journal, 57.

[23] Tingey journal, 66.

[24] Tingey journal, 58.

[25] Enos 1:10.

[26] Tingey journal, 58–59.

[27] Tingey journal, 60.

[28] Tingey journal, 64–65.

[29] Tingey journal, 65.

[30] Tingey journal, 67–68.

[31] Richard G. Oman, “LDS Southwest Indian Art,” Ensign, September 1982,44.

[32] Martin D. Topper, “Drinking as an Expression of Status: Navajo Male Adolescents,” in Drinking Behavior among Southwestern Indians, Jack O. Waddell and Michael W. Everett (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1980), 118.

[33] Dale T. Tingey interview, 24 January 2001, interviewed by author.

[34] Tingey journal, 77.

[35] Flake, History of Southwest Indian Mission, 67–68.

[36] Tingey journal, 79.

[37] Llewellyn Harris, “Miraculous Healing among the Zunis,” Juvenile Instructor, 14 (1979): 160.

[38] Lynn Marrott, e-mail to author, 12 March 2001.

[39] Tingey journal, 101–3.

[40] “The Indian Student Placement Program lay close to Elder Kimball’s heart. But because it put Indian children in white homes for the school year, it was still widely distrusted on the Navajo reservation. To Elder Kimball it seemed the quickest, surest way to improve the Indian’s lot. But to its opponents on the reservation it was a transparent device for proselyting, for providing white foster parents with cheap labor, and for breaking ties with Indian culture. The Church met these arguments by placing only children who had already been baptized and by insisting that generally the children should return to the reservation during the summer. The medical clinic through which children passed each fall had been upgraded; the case loads of supervising social workers had been cut; meetings for foster parents were held” (Kimball and Kimball, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President, 320–21).