A Bible Story

In the late 1950s when I lived in Montier, the folks who attended church, generally went to one of the two churches located in Montier—the Methodist Church, across from the cemetery, or the Church of God of Prophecy, on Highway 60, a couple hundred yards west of Welsh’s Montier Grocery. 
The Methodist Church, a solid structure built from Ozark rocks with a walkout basement, is now the private residence of a Montier and Birch Tree High School classmate of my brother Jack.
The Church of God of Prophecy had the larger congregation, and that’s where most of my friends and I went on Sundays. It’s still a functioning church and looks much the same as it did back then, although the tan asphalt sheet siding, patterned to look like bricks, has been replaced with vinyl lap siding. It’s a rectangular, one-story building without separate interior rooms, so Sunday school classes settled in the corners; mine was in the southeast corner at the back of the building. 
Myrtle Welsh (the Montier Grocery co-owner) taught our class of a half-dozen little pilgrims. Without denominational Sunday school booklets, we used the Bible. Each week, we had to come prepared with a memorized Bible verse. One boy often opted for “Jesus wept.” We understood it was the shortest verse in the Bible.
Whether John 11:35 is the shortest verse, however, may depend on whether the letters counted are from the original languages or the English translation. That nuance would have been lost on me because I usually looked for the weirdest verse I could find. I found one about a king who was going to chastise his subjects with scorpions. As I recall, nobody was impressed. [In case you’re wondering: I Kings, 12]. 
Several of the students in my class had smaller Bibles, the size of a paperback book, which they brought to class on Sunday. For some odd reason, the only Bible my grandparents had was a dictionary-sized New Testament. So, for Christmas in 1958, my grandparents gave me a small, leather-covered Bible that zipped up, with a glass ball containing a mustard seed attached to the zipper.
Of course, it was a King James version (KJV), a translation from the “original tongues” set forth in 1611 A.D, and authorized by James I, king of Great Britain. I didn’t know there was any other version until I got to college and took a three-hour religion course, The Life and Teachings of Jesus, or LTJ, as we all called it. 
The LTJ professor was not enamored of the KJV and insisted that scholars considered the Revised Standard Version to be the preferable interpretation. After law school, I could have pointed out to the professor that the very first Missouri statute (RSMo 1.010) references King James (not the KJV) which, incidentally, is why some old English Common Law may still apply today in Missouri. But I doubt he would have been impressed.
In 1965, I packed my Bible when I traveled to Wyoming for a job in Yellowstone Park. It came in handy in my discussions with the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), whom I met there. I had read the basics about the Mormons, leaving Missouri and crossing the desert with Brigham Young, but my knowledge ended there. I was surprised to learn of their latter-day connection to Independence, Missouri.
I had imagined they might be old-fashioned, but the Mormon kids looked like they could have been featured on the cover of a teen magazine—clean-cut boys, and girls with stylish hairdos and tons of personality—imagine Donnie and Marie Osmond. They religiously would not drink Cokes or coffee because of the caffeine, but were accomplished and enthusiastic dancers, which seemed ironic to me. In Willow Springs, most churchgoers didn’t dance, but they could drink coffee like truckdrivers.
With dancing, I was at a disadvantage. They knew the latest dance moves, and I was a clodhopper (my wife still says that about my dancing). In Willow Springs, dancing was not allowed at school functions, and most of us never learned the dance crazes of the Sixties.
Our only exposure to dancing happened at “Teen Town” on Friday nights, where awkward teenagers who hadn’t reached driving age gathered at the Legion Hall. Boys, too shy to ask a girl to dance, congregated on one side of the dancefloor, and girls huddled on the other side, as 45 RPM records played. 
On special nights, DJ Tom Nelson (WSHS, 1963), using radio station KUKU remote equipment, would spin Top-40 tunes. One slow song he played, “A Theme to a Summer Place,” usually coaxed a few intrepid boys to the other side of the dancefloor. But by 1962, Chubby Checker and the Twist changed it all—everybody could dance. Unfortunately for me, by 1965 the Twist was out of style, and I was, again, a clodhopper.
When I returned home from Yellowstone at the end of the summer, I prepared to leave for college and didn’t notice for a while that my Bible was missing. When I couldn’t find it, I concluded it must be somewhere in Yellowstone Park, but after Labor Day, the Hamilton Stores shut down. With the state of telecommunications back then, archaic by today’s standards, I figured an expensive, long-distance telephone to the headquarters in California would have been futile. A sinking feeling hit me that my irreplaceable Bible was forever lost.
Nine years later in August 1974, when I lived in Kansas City, my mother forwarded a box to me that had arrived in the mail from Hamilton Stores, Inc. It contained my long-lost Bible and a letter from the Hamilton Store personnel director: “Your Bible was sent to us last January, but we did not have your address in our California office. We have just now traced it down in our storage files here in Yellowstone. Knew that you would be happy to get it back after all these years. We are enclosing the anonymous note that was sent with it.”
My belated thanks to Hamilton Stores and “The World’s Greatest Procrastinator.” I will forever ponder the identity of that anonymous Good Samaritan. 
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