Doris Annie Axe was born 19 May 1904 in Accrington, Lancashire, England, daughter of Arthur and Ann Elizabeth Boothby Axe. In 1928 or ’29, the Axe family became acquainted with a succession of Mormon missionaries, the first of whom was Louis Salisbury Leatham (1902-1991), of Salt Lake City.
Doris wrote this letter to Elder Leatham after he had been transferred away from her Doncaster home:
13 Nether Hall Road,
August 7th, 1929.
(Written at Bardsea while on holidays)
Elder Louis S. Leatham,
c/o Mrs. Walker,
Stainforth, Old Village,
Nr. Doncaster, England.
Dear Brother Leatham,
I hope I may call you so. You said, if you remember, ‘I should like to know what you think of us fellows’; perhaps when I tell you, you won’t mind me addressing you so.
I’m afraid this is going to be a difficult letter to write so I have started it out in the open, with the sea in front of me and the beautiful hills behind. One feels nearer to spiritual things ‘far from the madding crowd!’ I saw on a motto in a shop window once, these words:
‘With the kiss of the sun for pardon
And the song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer to God in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.’
I think that’s very true, don’t you?
Well, to begin with, I think Mormonism the most beautiful thing on earth. It is glorious beyond description. I could listen forever to its teachings and never tire. I am always hungry for more and when I go amongst the members of the Church and they talk on ordinary topics and don’t mention the Gospel, I am terribly disappointed, like a child that expected something and doesn’t get it.
When first you came to our house, of course, we were not interested in what you were bringing, but before we had known you very long we grew to love you for your own sakes. You were different to anyone we had ever known before, there was something about you that we couldn’t define. I don’t think we shall ever forget the beautiful things you said the day you left us. We were sorry to lose you; it was just as if you took all the sunshine with you. I thought when Elders Wesley D. Amott and Lucien C. Reid followed it would be different, but we loved them, too.
Immediately after you left us, we attended the lantern slide lecture on ‘Mormonism.’ I don’t know why we went, but I know we all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was something that seemed beautiful – if only one could be certain it was true. I don’t mean that I doubted it altogether. I have wanted to believe from the first, but it was so strange and new that I couldn’t really be certain. The members sang two hymns, ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ and ‘Oh, Say What Is Truth.’ They are both lovely; they impressed us all very deeply, especially the first one. That was a wonderful evening altogether and made us wish to know more.
Shortly after that we attended the Sunday night meetings. Of course, they were different to the church and chapel services that we had been used to. They were so sweet, simple and sincere, and everyone was so friendly that one could really feel we are one huge family. I for one, love to attend. Sometimes I miss a Sunday and then I look forward eagerly to the next.
I shall never forget April 1st (1929) when we attended the Sheffield District Conference. It was the most really happy day I have ever had in my life. I hope I shall be able to attend every conference. (President A. Wm. Lund was the speaker.)
About this time there were two things that troubled me very much, one of them was that polygamy had been practiced. This seemed to me a horrible thing and I thought, how could this religion be so beautiful with an evil like that at the beginning of it? The other thing was that the people belonging to the Church were called Saints. It seemed to me as if one was exalting oneself very much to call himself a Saint. I had always thought those most truly religious were humble and meek.
As I have said before, these things worried me very much; I could not get them out of my thoughts. You see I wanted to accept all your teachings, but it was as if these two things were blocking the way and keeping me back. I prayed that I might know whether this was the true Gospel or not, and spent all my spare time in studying the Scriptures. I found much in the Old Testament to confirm ‘Mormonism’ and at last I found in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants two passages that set my doubts at rest. After that I felt quite sure – and oh, so thankful.
Of course, I told you at Roche Abbey how the imperfections of the Saints trouble me at different times, how that I expected people who were familiar with a perfect Gospel to be perfect themselves. I have read that little ‘Star’ article since then, ‘The Beam’ (by Widtsoe), which you referred me to. I’ll try not to forget it and that the Gospel is perfect, but we are all of us human and weak. I’ll try to look for the good, not the evil.
I wish that all of them at home were actively interested, they believe and yet – I don’t know how it is with them, but I feel as if I cannot, I dare not hold back, believing what I do.
Best wishes for your happiness now and always.
Your sincere friend and sister,
DORIS A. AXE.
Two weeks later, 24 August 1929, Elder Leatham returned to baptize Doris at Sheffield; Elder Reid confirmed her. Doris’s father followed her into the Church in 1934, her mother in 1949.
In 1936, Doris married Fred Rich (1907-1979); he never joined the Church, but Doris remained LDS and had his temple work done following his death and was sealed to him then. Doris herself passed away at age 89, on 14 January 1994.