James Rex Griffiths Jr.

James-Rex-Griffiths-JrMy name is James Rex Griffiths Jr. and I served in the New England States Mission from 1961 to 1963.

Braden is my grandson through my son, Wade.

New England Call

I received my mission call to New England the first of June, 1961. I entered the mission home in Salt Lake City the first or second week of July (stayed there for one week of missionary orientation), then boarded a train for New England (Boston) around the middle of July.

The train trip took about three days with a stop in Chicago to change trains. We traveled by coach which meant that by the time we reached Boston, we were sweaty and stinky and all of us ready for a shower. I was called as the Group Leader and as I recall we had 11 or 12 in our group.

My first mission president was John Carr. Prior to his call to serve as a mission president, he was an executive for ZCMI. He was about 6′ 10″, so we made him the center on the mission basketball team (ha, ha).

The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Boston was 95-degree temps and 95% humidity. I kept waiting for it to cool down – never happened.

My first companion was Dennis Wilson from Twin Falls, Idaho. At that particular time, missionaries were allowed their own vehicles and Wilson had a white ’57 Buick convertible with red rolled and tucked leather interior. To say the least, it was a “chick mobile” – yikes. Wilson spent more time polishing his car than doing missionary work.

new england mission 1963Our area was Natick, Mass., and our branch president was Elder Robert D. Hales. I served in Natick from the middle of July to the middle of October and was then transferred to Dartmouth / Halifax, Nova Scotia.

My companion (Dave Nielsen) was the District Leader, Robert Gunyon, and Dick Hollingshead were the Zone Leaders, and those guys were just what I needed. Those guys were committed to missionary work and we worked our fannies off.

Converts: James and Kimberly Grant

In December we met a young family, James and Kimberly Grant, and taught them and baptized them on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve of 1991, I received a phone call from James Grant expressing his gratitude for two young missionaries who brought the gospel to his family. He talked of having served as the branch president, in the district presidency, high council, sending two sons on missions, and a lifetime of joy and happiness in the church. Incredible call.

Nova Scotia

Nova-ScotiaIn January 1962, still in Nova Scotia, I was called to be a senior companion and received a “greenie” (Elder John Moon) from Springville. Trust me, he was green, but we worked hard and had a couple of baptisms before I was transferred in May to Brunswick, Maine.

My companion was Elder Blain Taylor and we were blessed to have a young airman (Bill Hensley), from the Brunswick Naval Air Station, who was a member and loved missionary work. The three of us were able to teach a young airman by the name of Roddy Vaughn and Bill was able to baptize him. Sweet experience. Just a side note – Elder Taylor’s folks sent him his entire guitar and sound system. He had this amazing Gibson electric guitar and he was an excellent musician. By the way, Elder Taylor was 6’9″ tall. We were quite a pair.

Truman Madsen – Call to Mission Office

Truman-MadsenShortly after I arrived in Brunswick, Maine, our mission received a new mission president. His name was Truman Madsen. His wife’s name was Ann and the had three children: Emily, Barney, and Mindy.

In August of 1962, I was called to serve as the district leader in the Billerica District of Massachusetts – that district included Concord and Lexington, wonderful historic townships. My companion was Larry Pascoe and my zone leader was Dick Hollingshead. Seems like we were always doing “splits” and Dick and I were always together. Without question, he was my closest missionary friend.

Around October/November, I received a phone call from President Madsen, asking me to come to the mission office. After visiting (an interview) for a few minutes, he extended the call to me to serve as an assistant to direct the Youth Program for the mission as well as oversee the MIA (Mutual Improvement Association – now YM & YW) for the North and South Regions of the mission. South was Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. North was Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island).

He also called me to work with a member and friend of his, Loren Dunn, who worked for the New England Council. Our project called for a mission-wide distribution of Books of Mormon to all of the mayors where missionaries were serving. These were the large Books of Mormon that had the Arnold Friberg paintings in them. This program was a huge success with enormous media exposure.

Youth Conferences

President Madsen also called me to organize three different Youth Conferences (Springfield, Mass., Sharon, Vermont, and Halifax, Nova Scotia) where we invited Elaine Cannon and the 3-D’s (folk singing group).

Our first three conferences were so successful we did it again (same format) five months later. I served as an assistant to President Madsen for nine months and needless to say, it was thrilling and rewarding. I loved him and I knew that he loved me. My companion for seven of those months was Elder Lynn Fisher.

I was released in the middle of July 1963.