It was a mission that almost didn’t happen. But as Frances Leslie recalls, the experiences she and her husband, Harry, shared were among the most wonderful of their life together.
Frances remembers vividly the Sunday in Byron, Wyoming, when Bishop John Abraham invited Harry and her to consider serving a mission. “My first reaction was a very quick no!” she says. “Harry made no comment, but it soon became apparent that he thought we ought to go.” The bishop asked them to go home and discuss it, then pray about it.
A day or so later, Frances remembers finding an outdated copy of the Ensign lying on the dining room table as she was cleaning; she had no memory of putting it there. “That issue had a cover story about couples going on missions, so I sat down to read it,” she recalls. “Before finishing the article, I thought to myself, I could go on a mission like that!” That same evening, when Harry came home from work, he said, “Frances, I have been thinking. The Lord has been very good to us, and I think we should go on that mission.”
She and Harry soon agreed that despite some health problems, they should spend a year serving the Lord full-time. They told the bishop they would go, and within a few months they received a call to serve in the Tennessee Nashville Mission.
“When they arrived in the mission,” their mission president, B. Lloyd Poelman, later wrote, “I felt their sweet spirit and debated with myself about where to assign them to serve. Then came the conviction that they should serve in Jamestown, Tennessee.”
At the time, Jamestown was a small northern Tennessee town with a tiny, struggling branch. The Leslies enthusiastically loaded up supplies from the mission office and went off to Jamestown.
For the first few weeks, their reports to their mission president indicated little of what they were doing. “Mostly getting acquainted,” the reports would say. “We are meeting people and trying to gain their confidence.”
Perhaps the first memorable event to occur for the Leslies after they arrived in Jamestown was to meet a couple visiting the area who had served there sometime before. “I was especially thrilled when we met because I recognized them as the very couple who had been featured in the article in the Ensign, the article that had made me feel I could go on a mission myself,” says Sister Leslie.
“Suddenly, I knew why that Ensign had been on the table. It was there to tell me that Harry and I had a mission to perform together, even to whisper where we would be sent.”
After a few weeks in Jamestown, the Leslies’ letters to the president started telling of new contacts who were attending church with them—first two, then four, then seven people. The pattern was a steady increase, and on one occasion, they had twenty-four investigators at church.
Soon, baptisms began to occur. The little branch began to grow, and the sincere love this couple had for people there met with less and less resistance. People the Leslies taught could feel their humble sincerity.
They wove themselves into the fabric of that little community, winning people over with friendship, compassionate service, and understanding hearts. Many were the nights Brother and Sister Leslie sat up comforting those who were severely ill or those who had lost loved ones. Many were the visits they had around kitchen tables with those who wondered about the meaning of life.
The year passed quickly, and soon the Leslies were home again, with many memories of the friendships they had made in Jamestown. Today, the Jamestown Branch is thriving, with more than one hundred active members meeting in a chapel that was built a year after the Leslies left.
Less than three weeks after Harry and Frances returned from the mission field, Harry was diagnosed as having cancer. He died within the year, and Frances counts the blessings of their missionary service together as among the greatest of their life. “The memories,” she says, “grow fonder and fonder.”
Like the memories, the Jamestown Branch continues to grow. “The legacy left by the Leslies and others like them who have shared and lived the gospel here,” says branch president Edward Cain Stephens, “is a strong flock of Saints and the most beautiful building in our town.”