Since the early days of the Church, its leaders and missionaries have used personal friendships to open the doors for proclaiming the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth. The core objective of Church Public Affairs today is:
“Build strategic relationships with opinion leaders who affect the reputation of the Church of Jesus Christ, and whose actions and influence can help or hinder the Church’s mission. Additionally, when we work strategically and prayerfully, we can establish relationships with opinion leaders who can endorse, authorize, and defend the Church.”
It was mid-July of 1949 when a group of missionaries departed Salt Lake City for their mission’s to France. Missionary work in Europe was just returning to normal after WW II, and business people and their families were once again taking to the Ocean Liners to conduct business or visit families in Europe. When the missionaries arrived in New York City, they looked around the streets of the city for a few hours and ten boarded the USS Washington for the ten-day Trans-Atlantic crossing.
One of the missionaries had no idea that a friends he made on the ship would result in one of the most unique missions the church had known. It provided a humble missionary with the method and means to bear his testimony of the truthfulness of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to major business, religious and governmental leaders throughout Europe.
Paul W. Litchfield, Chairman of the Board of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was one of the world’s foremost industrialists. He was on the National Boy Scout Executive Board, a Philanthropist, Naturalist, Educator and Author. Paul grew up in Boston where he attended Boston Normal School, later earning a degree in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He joined the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1900 where he helped build it into one of the largest and most successful tire businesses in the world.
As a member of the National Executive Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Paul knew many Church leaders. When asked what religious he belonged to, Paul would say with a smile, “My Pastor is Richard L. Evans, and my church is The Music & Spoken Word Church.” (Elder Richard L. Evans was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was the voice for the national radio and TV program by the Church entitled, “Music & the Spoken Word”.)
Paul kept his eyes open for bright articulate young men who had a “mission” in life. When he saw a group of young clean-cut missionaries, dressed appropriately and minding their business on the ship, he approached them at dinner one evening and commended them on their looks and behavior.
During the transatlantic crossing, the missionaries decided to hold church services. Elder Carl J. Christensen of Las Vegas, Nevada went to the ship’s purser and requested space for the service. When the missionaries were given a large lounge seating 100 people, they wondered how they would ever fill it. With the spirit of new missionaries, they put their faith to work making a dozen posters that were hung on the ships bulletin boards reading, “LDS Church Services (Mormon) on Sunday, Deck 5 Lounge, 10:00 a.m., sermons will answer the questions, Where do we come from?’ Why are we here?’ Where are we going?”
On Sunday morning, the missionaries were shocked to find the lounge filled to capacity. During the service, Elder Christensen noticed that the man who had complimented them at dinner the night before was at the meeting. Following the meeting, Elder Christensen approached the man, introduced himself, asked him if he had any questions, and thanked him for attending. The following day, Elder Christensen and two other missionaries were on the top deck of the ship studying their scriptures when Mr. Litchfield approached them, sat down and begin to ask questions about the Church. The missionaries responded to his questions, much to his satisfaction.
He asked them where they were going? They told him they were assigned to the French Mission for two and one half years to preach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of France and the French speaking people of Belgium and Switzerland. At this point, Elder Christensen handed the Book of Mormon (paperback) he was reading to Mr. Litchfield and said, “If you are serious about life’s questions, then read and pray about the Book of Mormon and you will know it is true.” Elder Christensen had Mr. Litchfield read the promise by Moroni. (Moroni 10:3-5)
Following a brief conversation, Mr. Litchfield invited them to his cabin that evening for a cottage meeting,’ to which they agreed. Not knowing what to expect at the cottage meeting’ that evening, the missionaries spent much of the day fasting, studying and praying to sharpen their knowledge of the gospel.
When the missionaries arrived at Mr. Litchfield’s cabin, they found Mr. Litchfield, his family and assistant, Frank Baldwin, ready for the meeting. Mr. Litchfield greeted them warmly, called the meeting to order and turned the time over to Elder Christensen to offer a word of prayer and introduce the topic of discussion.
Elder Christensen remembers: “The topic of discussion that evening was The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” telling them, “Our purpose is to teach you the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have no desire to argue, but we are prepared to respond to all of your questions.”
“Mr. Litchfield didn’t say much at that first meeting, but would smile broadly as we responded positively to each of the questions,” remembered Elder Christensen. A fast friendship begin to develop between Mr. Litchfield and Elder Christensen, leading to several additional gospel discussions during the trip.
When their ship arrived at Le Havre, France, Mr. Litchfield came to Elder Christensen and thanked him and the other missionaries for their integrity and willingness to share the gospel with him. Elder Christensen thanked Mr. Litchfield for his hospitality, telling him that their gospel discussions had better prepared the missionaries to carry out their responsibilities in France.
Mr. Litchfield presented Elder Christensen with two business cards. On one card, he wrote the names of the General Manager for Goodyear in the Europe, stating that if he ever needed help to contact this man. On the second card, Mr. Litchfield wrote: “Introducing Elder Carl J. Christensen, Mormon Missionary,” signed Paul W. Litchfield, Chairman of the Board, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, with his international phone number on it.
As Elder Christensen prepared to disembark, Mr. Litchfield extended his hand and said, “May God bless you on your mission!” (During their discussions, Mr. Litchfield had asked Elder Christensen how much he was being paid as a full-time missionary. When he was informed the missionaries were not paid and that their families were paying for their missions, he was deeply impressed). Mr. Litchfield then handed Elder Christensen a large roll of $20 bills, telling him that this was to help the missionaries with their expenses.
Elder Christensen thanked him, to which, Mr. Litchfield asked, “Please keep me informed on the progress of your mission!” Elder Christensen agreed.
The missionaries met their Mission President, President James L. Barker, in Paris where they were assigned to their fields of labor. The missionaries briefed President Barker on their missionary efforts on the ship.
Elder Christensen remembers, “President Barker was especially impressed with the kindness of Mr. Litchfield in assisting us preach the gospel during our voyage.” President Barker encouraged Elder Christensen to stay in touch with Mr. Litchfield during his mission. (James L. Barker had been the Dean of Languages at the University of Utah and had authored several Priesthood Manual’s and gospel books including, “Protestors of Christendom”).
Shortly after settling into his missionary work in Geneva, Switzerland, Elder Christensen sent Mr. Litchfield a letter giving him an update of his mission, encouraging him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and telling him of his experience in learning the French language. He again thanked Mr. Litchfield for his friendship, telling him that he would write as time allowed.
A short time later, Elder Christensen was surprised to receive a large box of “goodies,” along with a money order to help Elder Christensen meet his missionary expenses, and a copy of Mr. Litchfield’s recent book, “Autumn Leaves – Reflections of An Industrial Lieutenant.” Over the next several months, Elder Christensen and Mr. Litchfield exchanged several letters, mostly gospel centered, with Mr. Litchfield asking questions and Elder Christensen responding to them.
In early 1950, Elder Christensen received a telegram’ from Mr. Litchfield stating, “can you spend several days with me at Brussels beginning May second at my expense reply promptly by air mail,” signed, “Litchfield.” Mr. Litchfield was traveling to Europe in May to the International Conference on Rubber’ in Brussels, Belgium. Elder Christensen wrote Mr. Litchfield back and informed him that missionaries were not allowed to take part in such business travels, but he would inform his Mission President of his request. Elder Christensen was surprised when his Mission President gave his approval, telling him, “The Lord will bless you as you carry out your missionary duties.”
At the appointed time in May of 1950, Elder Christensen met Mr. Litchfield at his hotel in Brussels, accompanying him to all of the meetings, receptions and dinner events, acting as his interpreter and personal assistant. During the 14 days Elder Christensen traveled with Mr. Litchfield, Elder Christensen was introduced at each of the meetings, receptions or dinners by Mr. Litchfield as an LDS Missionary serving in the French Mission who had been given permission to act as his temporary assistant in Europe. Mr. Litchfield always gave Elder Christensen time for a spiritual thought and to respond to questions.
At a dinner given by the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, Mr. Litchfield introduced Elder Christensen to Ms. Pearl Maesta, American Minister (Ambassador) to Europe, appointed by President Truman, along with the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Elder Christensen remembers, “I spent most of that evening responding to questions about the Church and our Missionary Service in Europe, and bearing my testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Following the Conference in Brussels, Mr. Litchfield and Elder Christensen flew to Stockholm, Sweden for additional meetings and dinners, where Elder Christensen was again introduced as an LDS Missionary and personal assistant to Mr. Litchfield. Each day during the remaining week he was introduced to an entirely new group of governmental, political and business leaders, which allowed Elder Christensen to respond to their questions and bear his testimony to them.
A typical question was, “What is a young Mormon Missionary doing in such high business circles?” (Frankly, Elder Christensen had asked himself this question many times, but with his Mission President’s approval, he would fulfill his missionary duties to the best of his ability!) At one particular reception, one of the guests pointed out the plainness of Elder Christensen’s suit (navy blue) at a semi-formal business gathering, to which Mr. Litchfield responded, “We have an appointment with my tailor in the morning.” Next morning Mr. Litchfield took Elder Christensen to a tailor and had him fitted for two new high quality suits, for which Elder Christensen was thankful.
Following his two week tour with Mr. Litchfield, Elder Christensen returned to the Mission Home, giving President Barker a full briefing on his unique missionary experiences,’ thanking him for the opportunity. “I do not know why the Lord chose me for this assignment, but I feel that all of my activities were in keeping with my missionary calling, Church standards and Goodyear policy.” Letters between Elder Christensen and Mr. Litchfield continued during the following year, with words of encouragement from Mr. Litchfield and Elder Christensen challenging him to continue to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.
In the fall of 1950, Mr. Litchfield penned a letter to Elder Christensen. “During a recent business trip to the west coast, I stopped in Las Vegas to meet your parents and family. They are fine people.”
In mid-1950, a new Mission President had been called to preside over the French Mission, a highly intellectual and spiritual man by the name of Golden L. Woolf. In early 1951, Elder Christensen was serving in Strassbourg, France when Mr. Litchfield notified him that he would be attending the International Conference on Rubber’ in Rome, Italy in May and again wanted Elder Christensen to be his assistant and interpreter. Elder Christensen immediately penned a letter to President Woolf, who upon receiving the request, wrote Elder Christensen a short curt note. “Who has ever heard of such a request from a full-time Missionary? The answer is NO! Focus on your missionary work!”
Elder Christensen wrote a brief note to Mr. Litchfield thanking him for his invitation, but informing him that he could not attend the conference because he needed to focus on his missionary activities in Strassbourg, thinking that was it. A short time later he received a brief air-mail’ letter from Mr. Litchfield. “Don’t be discouraged, the Lord will provide!”
A couple of weeks later, Elder Christensen received a telegram from his Mission President informing him that his travel with Mr. Litchfield had been approved. What Elder Christensen did not know until sometime later that Mr. Litchfield had communicated his request directly to President George Albert Smith, a National Boy Scout Executive Board Council member with Mr. Litchfield, requesting that Elder Christensen be allowed to travel in his missionary capacity as his Assistant in Europe. He explained that Elder Christensen was a good example, a great ambassador for the Church, and that he spoke his mind openly and freely about the Church and its teachings at every opportunity. President Smith informed Mr. Litchfield and the Mission President by telegram that Elder Christensen was approved to accompany Mr. Litchfield.
Elder Christensen remembers, “The Rubber Conference in Rome was similar to the one in Brussels the year before, many introductions, many questions about the Church, and many opportunities to bear testimony to the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel.” On the closing day of the Conference, Mr. Litchfield announced that Pope Pius the XII had invited him to bring two other guests to the Vatican for a personal audience the next day.Mr. Litchfield informed the group that he and Elder Christensen were two of the three and asked his Assistant, an Orthodox Catholic, to join them.
Meeting with the Pope at the Vatican
The next morning, Mr. Litchfield and party arrived at the Vatican for their audience with the Pope where they were taken to a sitting room where the protocol officer gave them careful instructions on meeting the Pope.
Elder Christensen remembers,”I was first to be introduced to the Pope. I was nervous, but I walked to where the Pope was seated and said, My name is Elder Carl J. Christensen and I am from Las Vegas Nevada.”
The Pope then asked: “Are you a student here?”
Elder Christensen responded “No, I am a full time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, called to preach the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of France.”
The Pope then asked how he was being received by the people of France, to which Elder Christensen informed him that many French people listened to their message and were being baptized. The Pope commended Elder Christensen for his dedication to the Lord and to the people of France. The Pope then looked intensely at Elder Christensen and asked, “May I give you an apostolic blessing?”
Elder Christensen nodded his approval. The Pope said, “I bless you that you will have a successful mission and that God will bless you in your service.”
Elder Christensen thanked the Pope and departed. At dinner that evening, Mr. Litchfield gave an overview of their audience with the Pope, informing the dinner party that “Elder Christensen spent more time with the Pope than the rest of us combined.”
During his two weeks with Mr. Litchfield in Italy, Britain, Luxembourg, and Holland in May of 1951, Elder Christensen again had many opportunities to introduce the basic teachings of the Church to many people, bear his testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and giving out many copies of the Book of Mormon. At the conclusion of the tour, Elder Christensen thanked Mr. Litchfield again for his kindness and renewed his challenge for him to read and pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. He told him, “I know the Book of Mormon is true, as I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in it fullness.”
Elder Christensen remembers Paul W. Litchfield as a man of great integrity and a great friend of the Church. He said, “Carl, the Gospel you preach sounds too good to be true, but I believe it!”
Elder Christensen returned to the Mission Home, provided a brief overview of his missionary activities to President Woolf who assigned him for the remainder of his mission in Nice. Elder Christensen remembers, “Nice was the most productive period of my entire mission. I had learned that building good friendships goes a long way in introducing people to the Church. Friendshipping was the motto of our Branch. We had musical productions, plays, picnics, and a host of activities that made it easy to invite almost every person we met to the activities where we could teach them the gospel.”
At the conclusion of his mission, Elder Christensen was invited by Mr. Litchfield to visit him in Ohio. Elder Christensen took a train from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio where he was met by his good friend Paul Litchfield. Upon meeting Elder Christensen at the train station in Cleveland with a big hug, and with tears running down his checks, Mr. Litchfield said, “It is good to have you home from a successful mission.”
Mr. Litchfield then drove Elder Christensen to his home in Akron where Elder Christensen reported his mission to his good friend. As a complete surprise to Elder Christensen, Mr. Litchfield offered him the opportunity of finishing his college education, becoming an Executive in Goodyear, and completing law school.
Following prayerful consideration of the offer from Mr. Litchfield, and with approval of his parents, Elder Christensen accepted. Elder Christensen then traveled on to Las Vegas where he reported his mission to his Bishop, Stake President and ward, before returning to Akron.
Elected as Nevada District Court Judge
During the next several years, Carl J. Christensen became an Air Force Intelligence Officer, an LDS Group Leader at Lackland Air Force Base, TX, a District Missionary in the Akron Ohio District, a member of the “Goodyear Executive Team,” and later became a prominent attorney and Jurist in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Judge Carl J. Christensen was elected to the Eighth Judicial District Court of Nevada five successive times-always unopposed. Judge Christensen remains active in his ward and stake filling many church callings. Judge Christensen is a recipient of The Silver Beaver Award’ from the Las Vegas Area Boy Scout Council for his community leadership and dedication to Scouting.
Following Mr. Litchfield’s formal retirement from Goodyear, he lived in Litchfield Park, AZ (west of Phoenix) where he invited Carl, his family and parents to come and visit him. “Carl, please come and visit me so we can reminisce about those great missionary days in Europe, and you can teach me more about the Restored Gospel.”
Carl spent many days with Mr. Litchfield at his home, on the golf course and at social events where Mr. Litchfield now referred to Carl as “my good Mormon friend,” which always opened the door for him to respond to questions, bear his testimony about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and give out copies of the Book of Mormon.
During the last visit between the two great friends, Mr. Litchfield took Carl to his library and said, pointing to a center shelf. “Carl, I want you to know that the $.50 paperback copy of the Book of Mormon you gave me on the SS Washington stands next to the three leather bound copies of the Book of Mormon I have received from Church officials.” Upon examination, Carl found that each of the leather bound copies of the Book of Mormon had been personally inscripted by President Heber J. Grant, President George Albert Smith, and Elder Oscar A. Kirkham (Elder Kirkham was a member of the First Council of the Seventy, and was recognized as one of the Church’s most respected Scouters)!
Mr. Litchfield then commented, “When you gave me the missionary copy of the Book of Mormon and challenged me to read and pray about it, I did as you directed and know that it is true! However, I need to confess, I have not read the three leather bound copies of the Book of Mormon all the way through.”
Judge Christensen concluded, “Paul W. Litchfield opened hundreds of doors for a humble missionary to bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and to give out dozens of copies of the Book of Mormon.He was a great friend of the Church and believed its teachings, and always enjoyed our gospel conversations.”
Prior to his death at his residence in Litchfield Park, AZ in 1959, Carl was invited by his good friend to give him his “last discussion.” Elder Christensen blessed Mr.
Litchfield, “Because of your friendship to the Church and its missionary program, God will bless you for it. I now bless you that you might fulfill the new mission’ to which the Lord will soon call you!” Mr. Litchfield thanked Elder Christensen for his friendship, and for “teaching me the gospel!”
Temple Work Performed
In speaking of his unique missionary experiences, Judge Christensen said, “I will always be thankful to the Lord for the friendship of Paul W. Litchfield because of his friendship and mentoring, I had the opportunity to bear my testimony and give out copies of the Book of Mormon to hundreds of people in Europe, at Goodyear and in Arizona.”
Judge Christensen concluded his comments, “My experience as a missionary taught me that by developing sincere friendships many doors were opened to preach the gospel.”
Shortly after the dedication of the Las Vegas Temple in 1989, Judge Christensen received approval to perform the Temple work for his good friend, mentor, and missionary supporter Paul W. Litchfield. Of that occasion, and with tears of joy running down his cheeks, Judge Christensen said, “Paul accompanied me through the Temple that day!”