Missionary Legacy in Australia Spans Decades
“I had always hoped to come to Australia, and I could not have been happier,” said Scott, who grew up on ‘faith down under’ stories."
A love of the Gospel and a love for Australia go hand in hand for the Tingey family whose legacy of missionary service in Australia spans almost 100 years.
When Scott Tingey of Salt Lake City received his call to the Australia Adelaide Mission in 2010, he was excited about boosting a missionary connection that began in 1917 when his great-grandfather Clarence H. Tingey, headed to our shores as an eager missionary elder.
“I had always hoped to come to Australia, and I could not have been happier,” said Scott, who grew up on ‘faith down under’ stories.
Those stories encompassed not only his great-grandfather but also his grandparents, Burton S. (Buzz) and Beverley Tingey who served a remarkable five full-time missions to Australia between them.
The first Elder Tingey served in Australia’s only mission (at that time) and most of his missionary work was centred in the major cities.
There were only a few hundred Latter-day Saints in Australia in 1917, no purpose-built meetinghouses, and no official recognition of the Church, none of which deterred Elder Clarence Tingey and around 50 fellow missionaries who embraced the challenge of a field ready to harvest.
According to family today, his initial missionary service shaped Clarence’s love for Australia while two subsequent calls to return and serve as mission president (11 Oct 1928 – 29 April 1931; 25 Feb 1932 – 25 May 1935) forged a bond that made the country his family’s second, much-loved home.
“His wife Hazel and their young children Marian, Burton (Buzz) and Joseph Willard were with him throughout that missionary service,” explained Clarence’s daughter-in-law, Beverley Tingey.
“As a boy my husband Burton went to Enmore Boys’ School which was close to the mission home and he lived the full life of any active child.
“He enjoyed being part of a missionary family, and it was always special when his father took him on the train to his assignments.”
While Clarence presided over the Australia Mission during those two back-to-back stints of service, he founded the Austral Star, a monthly publication begun in August 1929 and designed to connect Australian saints with one another.
During a 1973 recorded interview with R. Lanier Britsch (for the Historical Department of the Church), President Tingey related: “The Australian Mission at that time covered the whole continent and Tasmania, an area larger than the United States … and our branches were widely separated. Perth was 3000 miles away from the mission headquarters and we didn't have the advantage of air transportation. We had to move by train or by boat, and it took a long process to get there.
Unable to make frequent visits to distant branches and with the hope of sort of tying the mission together … we (created) … the Austral Star, and we published it at the mission office every month. Originally it went out as a mimeographed roll of paper. After that it developed into quite a little paper and we had it printed properly. Our people became interested in it and they would send in articles, (as well as) … sketches. (The paper) … gave us the chance to communicate from the mission office, sending out instructions and advice and answering gospel questions.”
That concern to unite, teach and preach led to a wider media initiative as he gave the first radio talk by a member of the Church in Australia, while an additional opportunity came via a week-long Centennial Conference held at Melbourne’s Albert Street chapel from 31 March to 6 April 1930.
In April 1929, President Tingey also organised the first branch presidency not filled or overseen by fulltime missionaries, with Archibald Campbell called as Brisbane branch president along with his counsellors Thomas Dean and Edward Hardman.
All this and more was observed by young Burton/Buzz Tingey who had no inkling when he later sailed beneath the recently-built Sydney Harbour Bridge on his way back to the U.S. with his family, that he too would be blessed personally with not one but two mission calls to Australia.
“Burton’s first mission began 21 February 1947,” again related Sister Beverley Tingey. “He had completed his time in the U.S. Navy, the war was over and missionaries were allowed to return to the mission field.
“He was so happy to be going back to the country he so loved, and where he had spent so much of his childhood.”
(Younger brother Joseph ‘Wid’ Tingey also returned as a missionary, serving in Australia from November 1947 to 1949.)
The next era of Tingey missionary service saw Burton, with his wife Beverley, called to preside over the Australia Sydney Mission from July 1985 – July 1988.
“We received many wonderful elders and sisters during our three years in Sydney,” she recalled. “About 40 per cent were from Australia and New Zealand and the islands, with some coming from the U.S, Canada and Europe.
“It was so inspiring to see them work together for a common goal (and to) see their testimonies grow and develop. Not only did they teach and baptise, but they set an example for all of us to become more like the Saviour.”
Another momentous change came with the building of the Sydney Temple.
“The Temple was built and dedicated (in September 1984) but the angel Moroni was not on top – there had been those in the community who did not approve,” Beverley said. “Three weeks after we arrived, council approval was given and within an hour the angel Moroni was hoisted up on the Temple; we were able to watch it happen on the television.”
The excitement touched the Tingey offspring who had joined their parents on their mission to Australia. While Burton and Beverley left seven older married children at home in Utah, it was Jill, then 20, and David, 16, who experienced firsthand the land in which their father and grandfather lovingly laboured for the Lord.
“Jill and David loved their Australian experience,” Beverley said. “From our pet cockatoo at the mission home, through to their own missionary roles.
”They loved teaching the gospel. After completing school at Chatswood High, David became a ward mission leader in Sydney before his own fulltime mission to Chile; and Jill also served a fulltime mission to Guam, before returning to us in Sydney and serving as a stake missionary and support to us in the mission.”
If you are losing track of these Tingeys, ‘no worries’ because each one of them can be characterised by their love for Australia.
“It’s a beautiful land,” Beverley affirmed. “We loved going from the sandy beaches to the Snowy Mountains, and we followed the Pacific Highway many times as we visited stakes, districts and missionaries.
“The thing that stood out most of all is our association with the wonderful people we met, both missionaries and saints – our love for them is forever.
“My husband passed away on the 25th November 1992, so I am especially grateful for the experiences we had together. When you serve the Lord, you are blessed beyond measure.”
The sentiment was echoed by Scott who completed his two-year mission in March 2012.
“It was a choice experience to meet, teach, and grow to love so many people; people born in Australia and others from all parts of the world who now live there,“ shared Scott, who served in metropolitan Adelaide, Whyalla and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
The first among Burton and Beverley Tingey’s 55 grandchildren to serve in the land down under, Scott bridged a gap in which plenty of Tingey missionaries were serving – but serving elsewhere. (Scott’s father, Alan, served in the Guatemala El Salvador Mission while seven of Alan’s eight siblings served overseas missions in Korea, Germany, Japan, Italy, Taiwan, Guam, and Chile.)
Scott said one of his mission highlights was seeing how the church was run in Aboriginal communities, and feeling of those saints’ great love for the Gospel.
“The other highlight would have to be the baptism day of each convert,” he added. “Seeing their happiness, and being part of their conversion process as they accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so quickly committed to live it.”
Now back home in Utah with parents Alan and Susan, Scott reflected on another small blessing: “I never got to know my grandfather Buzz Tingey, but on my mission I was blessed to meet people who knew and loved him from his time in Australia, and who took the time to share their memories with me.”