Belfast, Ireland—The captain of the Irish national soccer champions is a Latter-day Saint named Eric Bowyer, who has been his soccer league’s Player of the Year. Excerpts from an article in the Belfast Telegraph about Eric precede an interview with Eric and Editor Doyle L. Green, who recently was in Northern Ireland.
“Eric Bowyer was nominated Linfield ‘Personality-Player of the Year,’ The twenty-two-year-old defender who gave up his job in the printing trade to take an economics degree at Queens University received the trophy at last night’s dinner in Belfast of the first Newtownabbey Linfield Supporters Club. Eric was described … as a ‘model player. Eric is dedicated to the games, takes training seriously, and his discipline has always been first-class. He is a credit to Linfield,’ said Mr. Korrigan.
“Bowyer has made tremendous strides during the past season, being capped by the Irish League and nominated on the Northern Ireland Under-23 Panel. Originally a fullback, he was successfully converted to mid-field by manager Ewan Fenton.”
Q. How long have you been playing soccer?
A. Since I was about five. In Ireland that’s just the way it is—from an early age we play football, or soccer, as you call it. I’ve played for this team for about six years—two or three years for their second team and the last three years for their first team.
Q. What did your teammates think when you joined the Church?
A. I think they didn’t believe it at first, quite honestly. I think they thought it was a passing fad for me. I still get a lot of bantering about it. I don’t know if they admire me, but they don’t give me a hard time.
Q. I understand that you are the captain of the team?
A. Yes. We’re a semiprofessional group.
Q. What does that mean?
A. It means the team manager chooses the captain and that we get paid wages, which aren’t particularly high. It works out to be about half the average wage of our area. It helps you along, but the money isn’t good by any means.
Q. During the course of a season, how many games would you play?
A. Between fifty and sixty games per season.
Q. Have you done a lot of traveling?
A. Well, I took a working vacation to the United States last summer. Raymond Lowry, president of the Lisburn Branch, filled a mission in Germany. Then he wanted to go to America and see a lot of his friends who had been on missions there too. So off we set. We spent some time in and around New York and then took a Greyhound bus across the country. In Utah we stayed in Salt Lake City and Provo for about three weeks and visited in Cedar City for a time. Then we went to San Francisco, back across to New Orleans, and then home.
Q. What did you think of America?
A. I’m not sure we got a very representative view of America. You see, we were with Mormon contacts all the time. But I liked it—I really liked it, though not the big eastern cities so much, because I just wasn’t used to so many different peoples all mixed up. It was so different. People weren’t friendly. In New York we stopped a lady and asked her to show us the way, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. I guess she thought we were going to attack her. I said to myself, “What’s going on here?” But we enjoyed San Francisco and Salt Lake City—I thought they were tremendous.
Q. Was the trip a help to you in your life?
A. It was fantastic. I’ll never forget the experience, and it built my testimony a lot. It could have broken me. I’d only been in the Church a few months, and when you meet the missionaries here, they are fantastic. You wonder what the people will be like at their own back door. But the families we stayed with were fantastic to us. You could see that they live the gospel, and you could see the happiness it has given them. That helped me a lot.
Q. How do you feel about the Church?
A. I suppose I haven’t really appreciated some of the blessings I have. Many times I deny the Lord when I do what I want and sort of plod my own way, but I know that the Lord does live. I wouldn’t be where I am and wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have if it weren’t for him. I know that this church is true. I remember when I joined the Church a year and a half ago, someone said to me that I would never regret it and that I would be happy. I remember sort of laughing to myself, but it has been true. The times that I have been happy are when I have been living the gospel, and the times when I’ve had problems are when I have wanted to go my way. That is my testimony.
Q. Tell us about your conversion and baptism.
A. I went to a dance one night with my miss. As we were dancing, I saw this girl. Later I danced with her and asked where she came from. She told me she was a Mormon from Salt Lake City, and I thought, “Oh, crumb, what have I got here?”
We talked on a while and she made a profound impression on me—it was just the way she talked. She didn’t talk about religion or she didn’t stuff it down my throat, but I could just tell by her words that she had very high standards, and I liked her. She was a student and was only passing through Belfast. She hadn’t even intended to come to Belfast, but for some reason she did and we met.
She went on to tour Europe, and we corresponded. On the way back she stopped in England, and I went over and saw her there for a week. She had a tremendous effect on me, and I started thinking about the Church. After I came back from England, about a month later, the missionaries called. It had nothing to do with her—it just happened that the missionaries called. At the time it seemed so fantastic, but looking back on it, I’m sure it was all meant to be—you know, the way it happened.
The missionaries must have called six times to find me at home. They kept coming back because my mother told them I might be interested in the Church. One missionary had a profound influence on me, too. He was a tremendous character and I really got to like him. Without the girl I wouldn’t have been interested, and if another missionary had contacted me, he might not have reached me. I joined the Church on December 4, 1969, and I was lucky that my missionaries stuck by me. Some get moved on and sort of lose contact with their investigators, and the people fall by. The missionaries stayed with me until I got my feet on the ground, and then I was lucky to make friends in the Church quite quickly and easily.
Q. What did your parents think when you wanted to join the Church?
A. They said that it was fine if that was what I wanted to do. My parents have been really good in that way. I have really good parents and they felt I knew what I was doing.
Q. Has your life changed since you joined the Church?
A. I doubt if it has changed visibly, but I know that I have a much deeper appreciation for life. It has helped me at the university a lot; now I study because I want to learn about things and I feel that I am privileged to be there. I feel that if I’m not working. I’m misusing the talents I have been given, whereas before I know I would have worked just to get through—to figure the quickest way through the university. That is one change I know. I have changed too by going to church on Sunday. You know, as they say, you never get any sleep in the Mormon Church. Sunday is spent entirely in church—I’m second counselor in the Lisburn Branch presidency—and during the week I go two or three nights a week. This is incredible from my point of view, because while I always believed in God, I believed that if I didn’t do too much wrong I would be all right; and I never went to church and hadn’t very many religious ideas. I find myself thinking about the Lord a lot of the time during the week, which was something I never did very often before. The Church has had a tremendous effect on my life. It really has.
Lakeside, California—Marilyn Olsen is the head teacher at a state school for delinquent girls near San Diego, California, which is about the same as being vice-principal, because the principal is head of three schools.
“I got the job about a year ago when I broke up with a fellow and wanted a total change in my life. So I sent applications everywhere, and my qualifications as a business education graduate and my long list of school activities, as well as being a Mormon, seemed to be what they were looking for,” explained Marilyn. She moved to Lakeside because the job was right and the “M Men and Gleaner activity was lively, and this was important to me too.”
Marilyn is winning recognition these days for the remarkable curriculum she has developed to teach business techniques to students who have failed to learn or who haven’t learned under traditional systems.
“When people feel like failures, they don’t take an interest in anything. I’ve found that students can type ten to fifteen letters from the book and still not remember where to put the return address. To arouse their interest, I decided to have my students write real letters and do real work. Their skill and interest picked up immediately. Some of them have stayed after school as many as five hours to finish a project for the association of educators because they felt it was important. They weren’t paid for it, either.”
“I wish we could get kids and parents to realize how important person-to-person caring is. That’s why family home evenings are so important. I know from talking to these girls that they ache to have someone to confide in.”
Marilyn also has some interesting views on the single girl and the Church. She points out that a girl who is competent in her chosen field can be labeled bossy and domineering if she lets her leadership talents get out of hand. “I’ve actually learned to change my vocabulary in dealing with fellows on the committee at church. Instead of saying ‘I think we ought to do it this way,’ I say, ‘Brother Roylance has asked me to suggest this.’ It works a lot better. Girls need to watch the tone of their voices and their mannerisms when they are in leadership positions—but I guess that applies to everyone, doesn’t it.”
As chairman of the regional M Men and Gleaner council, Marilyn knows something about being a leader. She also knows something about applying the gospel in everyday life and being a special human kind of human being.
Salt Lake City
“What we are doing here today is manifesting gospel power. It is an organized way, an unpretentious way, by which brothers and sisters come together to listen to one another. …”
From the ends of the Western Hemisphere they came to Salt Lake City, Church headquarters for the All-Lamanite Youth Conference.
Gathered together in the common bond of their present lives and their past history, each of the eight hundred Lamanite youths at one time or another during the conference answered to himself the theme question: “A Lamanite: Who Am I?”
Many of the participants in the panel discussions and workshops that took place over the three-day period found their greatest problem to be “relating to the world as it stands.” Within this statement lie the problems of the increasing number of militant Indian youths who are choosing “red power” as their motto and standard; the tension between newly baptized Lamanites and others steeped in Indian history and heritage; and the conflicts of tradition versus the modern way of life—“white man’s society.”
“If I understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, if I understand what the Book of Mormon is about, if I have any understanding of the mission of Joseph Smith, it is to bring us all together, to bring us into a unity of faith,” said Victor L. Brown, Jr., associate director of the Church’s Social Services Department.
In the position of being one of the few “whites” to speak at the conference, Brother Brown quipped with a broad grin that “it really doesn’t matter whether we are white and delightsome or white and miserable. In fact, if you’ve ever thought about it, the sicker you are the whiter you get. (That’s not in the scriptures.) You know, the first thing a white man does when the summer comes is to go out and try to burn himself red in search of a suntan.”
Speaking at an evening banquet, President Spencer W. Kimball, Acting President of the Council of the Twelve, noted that the Lord said the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. (D&C 49:24.) President Kimball said this promise is coming to pass.
He said that a short time back he and Sister Kimball were in Tonga where 20 percent of all the islanders are members of the Church and where there are three large stakes, two of them presided over wholly by Lamanites, and the other almost so. In Samoa he saw three more stakes—now there are four—all with Lamanite leaders. Some weeks ago he was in Mexico City, where we have three more stakes with many Lamanite leaders, and this continues in other parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and into South America, into New Zealand, and in Hawaii.
He said that eleven years ago there were no Lamanite bishops or stake presidents—there was no Lamanite stake in the world. Today there are several dozen such stakes. Of the ninety-four missions in the Church, forty-five of them have something to do with the Lamanite program. In 1963, 23 percent of all the baptisms in the Church were Lamanite baptisms. There were over 25,000 that year, and the number is higher than that now. Today the four leading baptizing missions in the Church are Lamanite missions. There are approximately a quarter of a million Lamanites in the Church today.
Following the speeches, several Lamanites spoke about their newfound “mission in life.” A surprising number said they were back in high school, college, or vocational training after a year as dropouts, having found direction in their lives where once there was aimlessness.
Joann Pule, a Cree from Alberta, put it this way:
“When you’re an Indian, you’re someone born of Indian descent who can be pretty much anything—teacher, mechanic, lawyer, or town drunk. But a Lamanite has been baptized into the Church and knows he is special. He knows where he has been, where he is going, and most of all, why he is here. He knows what the true church is, and he has the Holy Ghost to guide him.”
The Winning Talk
A feature of the Lamanite conference was a speech contest in which each regional winner spoke to the theme “A Lamanite: Who Am I?” The winning talk was given by Pershlie Tewawina, a Hopi, originally from Phoenix, Arizona, now in the Church’s placement program at Culver City, California.
“A Lamanite: Who am I? As the sun bathed the desert mesa, where even survival is difficult for all creatures, a mother gave life to a child. I was that child. My father named me Pershlie. As I grew older, I was known by other names. My family name, Tewawina, helped to identify me as a member of the tribe. As I sought new horizons, the white man called me an Indian.
“Then I found the Church and another identity—Lamanite. A Tewawina, an Indian, a Lamanite. Who am I? Am I still an individual? Yes, I am, for I am who I make myself to be. I dream and I set goals. I love and I hate. I dream of my people as a nation again, and I have a goal to try to help them. I love each of these names—Tewawina, Indian, Lamanite—and hate to see people destroying them. I have a responsibility to these identities, but as an Indian, some people see me as a savage; therefore, I must put forth more effort to prove myself.
“But Lamanite is the name I love most. It creates no image; I am grouped in a whole, along with other nations of similar lineage, yet I am singled out as an individual. Now I create my own image. As a Lamanite I am who I make myself to be, and because I live in two worlds, my struggle for identity becomes harder. I want to be known as a Lamanite and to better my ways, but I don’t want to lose my Indian heritage. Some Indian people call me a coconut or an apple, which means to be white on the inside but brown or red on the outside. They say that I want to be white. What do they mean by white? A color, a culture, a better way of life? My skin remains dark, and to better one’s life is not white—it’s progress.
“According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, only the superior survive. I think of the superior being as the one who has the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is prophesied that in the future there will be so much trial and temptation placed before us, countless members will fall away from the Church. I often wonder if I will be one of those. This is where I prove who I really am; whether I stand straight or bend, whether I stay close to the gospel or fall away depends on what I do now and how I do it. I can’t depend on others to do my genealogy or my studying or to save my year’s supply of food and water. My task is laid out before me. All I have to do is to accept it.
“You and I have a responsibility to save our respective nations from being consumed by crime and racial tension. But I as a Lamanite have a greater responsibility. Not only must I strive in behalf of my country, but I must also strive for the redemption of Israel and for my Lamanite people.
“Yes, I am a Lamanite. But even with that I am also known by another name. Above all I am a child of God—I am who I make myself to be.”