By Cecily Markland
More than 60 years and 5,000 miles later, a vintage Book of Mormon has been returned to the family of the missionary who took it to England.
Inside it reads “copyright 1948 by George Albert Smith” along with the handwritten name, Elder Lorin Lamar Jones, and an address on LeSueur Street in Mesa.
The book was recently returned to Lamar’s son, Lorin Jones, after first making its way back to Lamar’s two living siblings. Members of Udall Ward, Mesa Stake, Maurice (Maury), with his wife, Minda, still live at that LeSueur address, and Willard LeRoss, and his wife, Mabel, live nearby.
Lamar was the youngest of nine children of Willard and Edna Jones. “He left for his mission from right here, but it was the 5th Ward then,” Maury explains.
Church service and sacrifice are part of their legacy. Their great grandfather, James Miller Jones, joined the Church in Detroit, Michigan, in the early days after the Restoration. When James’ father forbade him to mention Mormonism, he went to Palmyra, New York, to be with other Church members. He later helped bury the martyred prophet Joseph Smith and migrated west with the Saints.
Their father continued that dedicated service. A farmer with four daughters, he was serving as the first bishop in Virden, New Mexico, when called to a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas.
“In those days, they would call married men on missions,” Maury says.
“They didn’t even release him as bishop,” LeRoss adds. “His counselors took care of things until he returned.”
Willard, knowing boys could help on the farm, considered it a great blessing “after the trial of faith,” when his five sons were born in fairly quick succession after his mission.
When Willard turned 60, he sold the farm to LeRoss and moved to Mesa where he and Edna could spend their remaining years doing temple work.
“He said as long as he had a heartbeat, he would work in the temple,” Maury says.
Two of the Jones girls served missions and, although it meant juggling missionary and military service, all five boys served. All five later served as bishops as well.
Emma, Corilla, and LeRoss served in the Central States Mission. After LeRoss’s first wife passed away, he served with his second wife, Mabel, in Pennsylvania and then Mexico. Edwin was in the Army Air Corps during WWII, but later was a stake missionary and he and his wife served fulltime missions to Ghana, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Melvin served in the military in Okinawa, followed by a Southern States mission. Maury, because he had been in the Navy for a year, was called to the Canadian Mission at 18, although missionary age was then 21. Later he served as stake mission president.
Lamar was called to the British Mission in the early 1950s. After returning, he married Mary Lou Goodman and worked with Melvin, at Mel Jones Masonry until 1991, when he had a stroke. The couple had six children, and had 19 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren when he died in 2009 at 78.
While on his mission, Lamar gave a Book of Mormon to Peter Sansome. Peter asked Yvonne Ritchie, a Swedish woman, who was living in England with her American husband, if she “could take ‘care’ of the book,” Yvonne later wrote. She wanted to bring it back to the United States, but, says even after moving to Tucson in 2004, “some of our things … were just put in a bookcase.”
Finally, in 2012, Yvonne called the Mesa Temple and told the secretary, Janet Anderson, “I have an old Book of Mormon …” Sister Anderson was impressed to call Helen Schlie, a bookstore owner for many years, who has an original Book of Mormon herself.
Helen was thrilled. She had known Willard and Edna Jones and now lives in the same ward as Maury and LeRoss.
She delivered the book to the brothers. They, in turn, passed it to Lamar’s son, Lorin, of the Sossaman Ward, Boulder Creek Stake.
“It’s amazing that it got back to me,” Lorin says. “I don’t cry easily, but as soon as I opened it and saw my dad’s handwriting, tears came to my eyes. I don’t have anything of my dad’s from when he was younger. I am honored to have this now.”