This letter was written by non-Mormon Kitty Gwendoline Padfield Sumpster (1898-1994) to Elder Norman Dunn (1882-1960), then president of the Birmingham District and holder of many other responsible positions; it is dated 14 April 1946.
Dear Mr. Dunn,
You will probably be surprised to hear from me again. I have had rather a guilty feeling because I never answered the kind letter you wrote me last September in reply to mine asking if I should be in order in taking Sacrament at Ravenslea [the Church’s London headquarters]. Unfortunately, owing to your change of address and delay in post, your letter did not reach me until the day after the visit to Ravenslea, so I did not feel justified in partaking on that occasion. However, I have a very real plan, if I am still well and able, to pay a round of visits to my “adopted sons” in America in several years time; so when I spend some time in Utah I shall avail myself of the opportunity then afforded.
Had I met you in your Church when I paid either of my visits, I had intended to tell you the following true story; but perhaps it will come even better in this form, as I should undoubtedly have been handicapped in my telling by the presence of the hero of the story, Jay Brady [of Sanpete County, Utah; inducted in March, 1943; still living, so he won’t be further identified here]. He is a very modest lad, and would probably have made every effort to side-track me. Remembering your “Five Minute Stories” in Sunday School, I wondered if you would like to use this for the help and encouragement of your little community, which must now be feeling the loss of many vital young lads who have returned to their homes in America.
The story, as I know it, begins back in September, 1943, when the Camp near our home was given over to American troops. The Minister of our Church here had worked very untiringly for the British troops who formerly occupied the camp, and in common with many other families from the Church we had regularly invited several soldiers to tea on Sundays. When the Americans arrived our Minister contacted their Chaplain (a truly splendid young Christian) and before many weeks we were once more expecting “Soldiers to tea,” only this time I felt even more trepidation than usual over offering the very humble hospitality which was all I could afford. When my sixteen-year-old son finally said, “Here they are,” I felt dreadful! However, I opened the door to two very nice boys, one of whom, Jay, was even shyer than the other, and that was saying something. Thinking to set them at ease, I hurried tea along, and, of course, “No tea,” and even “No coffee,” and the reason quietly proffered that it was against his religious principles. (Anyway, it cleared that difficulty up for him for all time in my home, for he never was offered such a drink after that.)
The topic then turned to where their far-off homes were situated, and I at once recognized Utah as the home of the Mormons, and discovered Jay was of that community. At the time it certainly was not at all a recommendation in my eyes. But I was, nevertheless, very favourably impressed by a twenty-year-old lad who had the courage to declare his principles so uncompromisingly to complete strangers in a foreign land. Throughout the whole time he was in England he was the only Latter-day Saint in all that camp, so he had his battles to fight single handed, except for the growing sympathy and understanding which he engendered in fellow-Christians.
But I’m a long time getting to my story, for, so far, I expect you can duplicate this in the lives of many of your Church members. The following is what impressed me as moral courage of a very high order:
The boys were Glider Troops, and, as such, were trained to fight and exist in small isolated groups. Their Chaplain was very much alive to the fact that once they were in action he would probably be unable to maintain regular contact with all groups. So he decided to organize “Company Fellowships,” and one member of the “Airborne Christian Council” in each company was appointed as “Sky Pilot,” to organize Company Fellowships in his own company. Jay was on furlough in Scotland when this decision w as reached, and he returned to find himself faced with this big responsibility. I believe he did feel a little dismayed, but he prayed about it (perhaps I should say I prayed about it, too)and he took on this great task. Now it was left to each Sky Pilot to make this proposed weekly Company Fellowship known to his Company in the way he thought fit. Most of the boys were content with posting notices on the Company Notice Boards, and hoping for the best. Not so Jay. He sought permission to address the Company after one of the usual Saturday morning gatherings when the officer of the Company addressed the men on their forthcoming schedule of work and such-like Company matters. The officer concerned was not a Christian, but he had a respect for Pfc. Brady, and agreed to his request to put the matter to the men at the conclusion of the normal Saturday morning proceedings. At the appointed time, young Jay walked out to the front and commenced his announcement with the words: “Let us pray,” and there and then led that whole company, of all denominations – but mainly pagans – in prayer. Then he announced the formation of the Company Fellowship, and asked the co-operation of all. Can you believe the strength of character that was required to quietly lead those men in prayer on such an occasion? It must have been quite a shock to a vast number of those men to find themselves all unwittingly in the presence of praying men.
I heard a very modest account of this from Jay when he came over to spend the week-end a few hours later, but it wasn’t until I saw the Chaplain that I learned all the details, and learned what a profound impression had been made on the Chaplain, by what he called “The best piece of work which had been done at the Camp.”
That Company Fellowship lived on from that day in March, 1943, until the regiment went home to America in December, and must have been a source of help and consolation to many. All the time the boys were on the Continent those meetings were held whenever circumstances made them possible, and it has occasionally been my happy privilege to furnish the substance for the talk, when conditions have made it impossible for Jay to prepare very much himself. I have counted it a rare privilege to be able to help in a small way sometimes.
After hearing this story, you will readily understand why I was always ready to help Jay to visit his Church on the very few occasions when it was possible for him to do so. I wrote, at the time, and told Jay’s mother of this incident, but in her sheltered little Rocky Mountain valley, where practically everyone is a real Christian, I don’t think he realised at all what it cost her son to say those few words: “Let us pray.”
Now Jay is back home in Utah again, and is completing his interrupted education in Brigham Young University. My prayers go with him, that he may continue strong in faith and courage throughout his life on earth. Perhaps one day in the distant future, when I have paid that hoped-for visit to the States, I can send you another five minute talk about the man who has grown from the lad of1943.
Please excuse the typewriting, and my unskillful use of the typewriter, but I am minding the Minister’s two tiny sons while his wife attends evening service, and the chance to tell my story tonight was too good a chance to be missed.
With kind regards,
(Mrs.) KITTY G. SUMPSTER
[Mrs. Sumpster did make her trip to America in the summer of 1954, traveling aboard the Queen Elizabeth.]