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“A Sight to Make Strong Men Weep”: Rudger Clawson, World Traveler

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 14, 2011

Joseph Soderborg – he of the Tenth Ward Cornerstone – ran across the following letter recently while researching his paper on LDS missionaries at the outbreak of World War I, to be given at May’s meeting of the Mormon History Association.

Rudger Clawson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve (formerly a counselor in the First Presidency of Lorenzo Snow, for a grand total of four days) was president of the European Mission, based at Liverpool, England, from 1910 to 1913. This letter was written to the president of the Swiss-German Mission immediately following Clawson’s summer 1912 tour of the Continental missions.

This is not, shall we say, a side of Elder Clawson that you’ll find in his Conference sermons … more’s the pity …

The European Mission
of the
Church of Jesus Christ
of
Latter-day Saints

295, Edge Lane, Liverpool.

August 8, 1912.

President Hyrum W. Valentine,
Zurich.

Dear Brother:

I reached Liverpool yesterday after a safe and pleasant journey from Paris. The weather was tempest[u]ous on the channel, causing the boat, at times, to tilt at an angle of about forty-five degrees, when the passengers skidded over the deck like people on snow shoes. I was sitting on Brother Jones’ grip and when the boat tilted up I went sliding down and when the boat again tilted up I went sliding back and landed on the grip again, to the merriment of those who stood around. Brother and Sister Jones were deathly sick. It happened in this wise. Brother J. sat there watching the contortions of several people who were leaning far out to see, when with alarming suddenness he was taken sick and threw up on the deck. There was no reservation – it all came up, a great combination of sandwiches, tomatoes, cheese, grapes and cake, and spread over the deck like a poultice. A gentleman who was nursing his son near by, suffered seriously by reason of his nearness to Brother Jones.

It was a scene that completely overpowered Sister Jones, who succombed but instead of throwing her dinner up she threw it down – – down into the hold and it kept going down until it was intercepted by the luggage. It was a sight to make strong men weep, and other strong men angry. A voice came up from the deep, shouting “ship ahoy, my lady, cast your cargo overboard” but by this time Sister Jones was too far gone to give heed to the order. Your humble servant fortunately escaped and was therefore in a position to appreciate and enjoy, if the word be permissable, the wonderful scene he witnessed. Suffice it to say he will never forget it. We separated at London, Brother and Sister Jones going to a down-town hotel and retiring to bed, and I to “Deseret”; thus our delightful party was broken up and came to an end.

I travelled alone from London to Liverpool. My sisters are here and will sail tomorrow. All are well at Durham House and conditions generally are in fairly good shape. The uprising at Sunderland has apparently subsided. I shall long remember my trip through your Mission. It was very enjoyable.

I left my light summer overcoat in the sitting-room. You will remember I took it out of the grip when I arrived at Zurich in order to reach a suit of clothes that was at the bottom, but we left in such great haste, you remember, that I forgot to put it in again. I am sure I left it at headquarters because I did not open the grip again until I reached Paris, but I did not think about the cost until just after you left, so that I did not have opportunity to speak to you about it. Will you kindly forward it to me at the very first opportunity as I may be needing it now most any time. Write me a line in relation to it that I may know when to look for it.

I trust you will be entirely successful in your negotiations for the new headquarters.

With love and best wishes, I remain

Your Brother

RUDGER CLAWSON



12 Comments »

  1. May I be the first to say “eeew”?

    Comment by Researcher — March 14, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  2. And with that, I’m off to lunch… :-/

    Comment by Paul — March 14, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  3. Oh, c’mon — it didn’t make you laugh? even a little bit? even the 11-year-old inside of you?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 14, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  4. Hilarious! Did he not show that kind of humor in his sermons?

    Comment by Mark B. — March 14, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  5. I chuckled, a little bit, nervously. (I work with the Deacons now)

    Comment by Bruce Crow — March 14, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  6. I didn’t know he’d only been a member of the First Presidency for four days, but this letter might give an insight into the reason for that…

    Comment by Alison — March 14, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  7. wow! truly horrible!

    Comment by john f. — March 14, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  8. Yes, I’m picturing the luggage in deep coverage leaping at the last second and preventing the touchdown.

    Comment by Last Lemming — March 14, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  9. Alison, here’s what’s really behind Rudger Clawson’s short membership in the First Presidency!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 14, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  10. Seriously, wow.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 14, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  11. He really gets to the guts of the issues.

    It actually reminds me of D.O. McKay’s account of getting seasick on his world-wide tour.

    Comment by Steve C. — March 14, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  12. There is nothing quite so satisfying as being able to laugh at someone queasiness, because eventually the boat will stop moving, and so will the lunches. Nice of Elder Clawson to catalog the contents of the recycled lunch. On the other hand, if you are the seasick traveler, there is nothing so annoying as someone who is not affected, and think that it’s all fun.

    Comment by kevinf — March 14, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

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