Saturday, June 2, 2018

Revelation on the Priesthood

While serving in the army, Allan met a kindred spirit, Brad Carter.  They hit it off well, as they both loved thinking and debating.  Brad had joined the church while serving in the army and frequently had religious discussions with Allan.  After getting out of the military, Brad found himself in Provo and looked up Allan, renewing their friendship.  In September 1978, President N. Eldon Tanner, First Councilor in the First Presidency of the church read a letter to the body of the church announcing that the prophet at the time, President Kimball had received a revelation that priesthood and temple blessings should be extended to all worthy male members of the church.  Brad was an African American and up until this point, had not been able to receive the priesthood.  This was a topic that had frequented Allan and Brad's conversations and now with this announcement, Brad would be able to not only receive the Melchizedek priesthood, but receive temple blessings and serve a mission.  Upon hearing the news in general conference, Allan and Janice picked up the phone and called Brad.  What was going through his mind?  How did he feel?  Allan remembered sharing tears of joy and Janice remembered Brad humbly feeling anxious, realizing the weight of receiving the priesthood that he had longed for.  Brad wasn't the first black member of the church to receive the priesthood, but was among the first and only six months later found himself serving a mission in Haiti, teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Allan and Brad would stay in touch for years and Allan would often speak of this experience with fondness, admiration for Brad's faith and emotion knowing how much this meant to him. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Following basic training, Allan would end up in Mainz, Germany at Lee Barracks near Wiesbaden where he would serve the remainder of his four years in the military. There is not a lot of history available for Lee Barracks, but Dad remembered it used to be an underground airbase during world war II. Planes would land and a portion of the runway would lift up so the plane could be stored underground. It was here at Lee Barracks that Allan met what would end up being one of his very good friends throughout his life, Brad Carter. Allan and Brad were stationed together at Camp Pendleton and were at Lee Barracks together. Brad joined the church while stationed in Germany and a few years later would be one of the first african americans to receive the priesthood. Although out of the military by this time, Allan and Brad were together when President Spencer W. Kimball announced that blacks could receive the priesthood. Dad would tell of hugs and tears of joy at this momentous occasion. Brad would later serve a mission to Haiti.

Dad's memories of Germany were centered around church activities rather than military, a testament to his continual faith and ability to place priorities where they should be. However, he does recall his military experiences as being very bland. While stationed in Germany he would attend church in an old German Secret Service building as part of the Kaiserslautern Stake. Although not recorded Allan's children remember him telling of his experiences, particularly in the church while serving in Germany.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Camp Pendleton

Boot camp was to be at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, CA. At this time in 1972, the United States was still at war in Vietnam. President Richard Nixon was re-elected toward the end of the year, on the heals of promising peace negotiations and the statement by Henry Kissinger that "peace is at hand" the day before election day, 1972. However, negotiations soon collapsed and the 27,000 U.S. troops still stationed in Vietnam were given the orders tocarry out Operation Linebacker IIin December whichincluded large raids and a variety of bombings. In January 1973, peace negations resumed culminating in the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, officially ending the United States' direct involvement in the war. However it wouldn't be until 1975 while Allan was stationed in Europe that the Republic of Vietnam surrendered and U.S. troops were systematically withdrawn. So while Dad doesn't specifically mention Vietnam as part of his decision to join the military, it had to have been at least a consideration. Although the war was winding down there was still a very good chance Allan would be stationed in one of the most dangerous parts of the world where the U.S. military had a historically large presence.

Upon arriving at Camp Pendleton, Allan quickly learned that he would not be cut out for thephysical trials of the infantry. "When I got to bootcamp, basic training, I found that I had spaces in my neck, in my spine that were too narrow for the nerves. So, when I put heavy equipment on, it pulled downon those nervesandcaused irritations. I found out through doctors that I wasn't going to be able to carry thosehelmets and all that heavy stuff. And so my military occupational specialty (MOS) changed from infantry to medical health specialist."

"So, while I was in the military, I got to work a lot with doing metal health counseling. The thing I remember the most is that when everybody else was pulling guard duty and other special duties, my MOS protected me. I didn't have very much guard duty at all. It was kind of a nine to five job, while in the military, which was nice and made it a whole lot easier to get through."

Allan would then spend some time at Fort Huachuca , southeast of Tucson, AZ to receive some medic training. However, shortly after arriving, the rules were changed so that field mental health counselors were no longer required to have medic training. Allan remembers, "my whole experience in the military seemed to be quite light, when you think about it in terms of the way that other normal military people have to deal with things." While in Arizona, he remember getting numerous encouragements to apply to teach mental health classes and principles, however was not able to pass one of the tests required to be considered. "And so, as a consequence, that disqualified me from being a teacher, even though they thought that I had good quality and good potential... So I missed out on an opportunity." Allan even wondered if he had passed that test, if he would have stayed in the military longer, received his bachelors in mental health or other potential paths. But, it was not to be and so would be sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas to receive more mental health training before being shipped overseas to Germany.

A Different Kind of Transfer

West Virginia was Allan's last area of his mission. He flew home to Utah as the family's first returned missionary. It was only a few days after arriving at home that he moved into Deseret Towers and prepared to begin school at BYU. However, it wasn't to be. Although Allan had a few part-time jobs already he could not afford tuition and was forced to think of alternatives to college; including the military. Allan remembers, "I figured I can go through the military. They can give me the G.I. Bill, which will pay for my schooling, and help me to get through that period. And so that's what I was figuring on doing. I also had great delusions of gradeur. I was going to be a ranger, a special forces. I was going to do all that strange stuff, like jumping out of airplanes and stuff like that. And they convinced me, well, we've got to start you off in the infantry, and they if you like that-because basically, that's all the special forces and stuff is, is really just glorified infantry. And I reluctantly agreed to that, so I went in the infantry."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

West Virginia

Allan had just received a new assignment from the mission president. He was called to serve in a small branch in West Virginia. His hard work and cooperative faith had led to some unforgettable experiences in Akron. The Lord had blessed Allan and his companion with the opportunity to teach dozens of youth in different settings. He remembers receiving an irate letter from a local Methodist minister asking he and his companion to cease teaching the youth of his congregation. He also remembered teaching a Catholic youth group which led to more gospel discussions and seeds planted. But it was off to West Virginia to continue the work and have new experiences.

What he found was an area drastically different from the suburban areas of Kentucky and Ohio. Here was a people very humble in circumstance, many of whom survived by growing their own crops and slaughtering their own animals. The people were a little backwards, but also very accepting of strangers. "They would allow [us] to come and talk and visit with them, but they didn't want anything else..., just to visit." Dad also remembers, "They would be willing to share what little they had." Homes were often accessed from ridge top roads and down a steep driveway into a "hollar" or hollow. The houses were self-built and full of homemade goods such as rugs, furniture and quilts. Allan recounts eating "the best food in the world."

Dad also remembers the purpose of the missionaries in this area was more in supporting and teaching the local members than proselyting. He and his companion would hold various positions of responsibility in the branch, and was even asked on one occasion to be the relief society president. Soon Allan's companion would be transferred and a new missionary would enter the area, ending up to be Dad's final companion. There is a great story about a prank he played on this companion here. At the end, Allan wouldn't see many baptisms in West Virginia, but it was likely a humbling experience, giving him a first glimpse into real poverty and life in a small and backwards town.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Youth in Akron

In the summer of 1967, a small family traveled to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks to enjoy nature and each others company. On the way home, the mother, father and their two teenage daughters, Marivene and Martha stopped in Salt Lake City. They took a tour of the visitors center and attended the Promised Valley Pageant at the foot of the Salt Lake City Temple. Marivene describes a “feeling of conviction that swept over me as I looked down at the people on that simple stage with the temple so beautifully lit in the background.” Martha still had 50 cents to spend and so purchased a copy of the Book of Mormon. Both Martha and Marivene began to read the book on their trip back home to Stow, Ohio, just outside of Akron. Marivene remembers being “fascinated by the Joseph Smith story and the introduction to the Book of Mormon” and feeling a strong identification with Joseph Smith and his search for the true church. Very soon after arriving a home, two missionaries knocked on their door. Marivene and Martha’s mother politely told them they were not interested. Marivene, having overheard the converstation reread the Joseph Smith story that night and having been taught to pray by her parents, asked the Lord about the truthfulness of this story. Several months passed and the same scene replayed itself, the missionaries knocked on the door only to be turned away and a wondering by the young sisters how and when they would be able to learn more about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.

Allan had just been transferred to Akron. His experiences in his last area left him just a little disheartened. But his new companion was a hard-worker and very strict in obeying the mission rules. Dad recalls the experience with this companion as a sort of “retraining.” Soon though this companion would be transferred and Allan would receive a new companion, Elder James Leavitt. Dad remembers “Then I got a companion that was from central Utah. Rather interesting guy. He had care packages that would be sent to him by his family ever so often that had beef jerky and dried fish, all kinds of strange things. And he would talk an awful lot about his pride and joy, which was his car, and about the life back in central Utah, in Delta, Utah. But he would work. We would get out and do the work. But he would sure spend a lot of time talking about his favorite things back in Utah and his life back there. In fact, it got to the point where he and I kind of got into a scrap after a while over a couple of things. The mission president was telling me that 'we've got to learn to work these things out. Our companion is the most important person that we've got to work with right now. So we've got to work out a meaningful relationship here.’ So my companion and I decided that we were in the wrong, both of us, and we needed to repent and to fast and pray and to try to get the strength to do the missionary work. So that is what we did, we fasted and was trying to do the right things, and that’s when we had the most success of all.”

At about this same time, the Youth Pilgrim Fellowships of the Community Church of Stow decided it would be beneficial to study other faiths. Two young members of this group, who also happened to be sisters suggested they invite the Mormons to come and address their youth group. It had been almost a year since the missionaries last called on the Marivene and Martha’s home but now was a chance to learn more about this peculiar church. The group agreed and gave the sisters the task of setting up the appointment. Marivene recalls, “I remember we looked up the Mormon’s in the phone book. ‘Mormons’ referred us to ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ and ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Reorganized.’ We had no idea which one we wanted, so I closed my eyes and stuck a pin in the book. I like to believe that the Lord guided that pin, and we called the number for the chapel. There was no answer, so we called the number that said ‘if no answer call…’ and spoke to a gracious women who identified herself as Arlene Walsh, the wife of the bishop. She explained that the ‘elders’ usually were sent to meetings like this and that she would be happy to have them call us.”

Allan and his companion had received phone calls like this before. They had a lot of success teaching youth groups in this area, but up to this point, only seeds were being planted, there had not yet been any serious interest. And so, after setting up an appointment with a young girl named Martha to come talk to another youth group, Allan and his companion decided to fast and to pray that this experience would be different, that the Lord would soften their hearts that they would come to know the message they would teach is true.

The appointment to meet this youth group was for a Saturday morning. Marivene recounts, “Since the deacons in the Congregational Church were old men, we naturally assumed that we would be speaking to two elderly gentlemen. Accordingly, the Saturday morning, we changed from jeans into skirts and blouses so as not to offend their antiquainted sense of propriety. Imagine the surprise when Martha announced their arrival and ushered two young men into the room! Elder Leavitt introduced his companion as Elder Allan Kjelstrom.”

“We discussed open versus closed communion, statements of faith and modes of baptism,” Marivene remembers. Allan recounts “We felt the spirit there, and it was the spirit that was answering [their questions]. We would have an answer immediately. As soon as someone raised any kind of question. Even if it was a difficult one…we would have a very good and reasonable answer.” The two elders would pass out copies of the book of mormon and invited all to learn more. Marivene describes, “There were four of us that took the first discussion. A young man named Dave, Cathy McMillan, my sister Martha and I all met at the McMillan’s with the elders. Everyone was interested throughout the discussion. Then came the challenge, ‘when you know that this is true, will you be baptized?’ Dave and Cathy flatly refused, Martha agreed, pointing out the conditional ‘when’ and I said, ‘if I know this is true, of course I’ll be baptized, but that’s a big if.’ I did not realize at that time that I already knew it was true from my prayers. Martha and I took the next two discussions in our home. I can’t remember many of the details , but I remember the feelings I had as we sat around the dining room table and listed to the gospel. I lived for those Friday evenings and the powerful spirit I felt when the elders came in the house. It was as if they brought heaven with them into our dining room.

Marivene continues, “I began to study the scripture more often in preparation for the discussions. We read the pamphlets and we prayed and as I prayed, I felt the hand of the Lord guiding me, and I was filled with peace. My peace was to be short-lived. One afternoon my father asked Martha and I to come talk with him in the family room and I knew something important was about to take place. He told us he could no longer permit us to take the discussions. He said something to the effect that it had come to a choice between his wife and his children and there could be only one choice - - his wife. I can't remember ever seeing my father cry previous to this time, and I've seldom seen tears in his eyes since. I was stunned… [but] determined to find a way around the ultimatum. Eventually, Martha and I decided the Stow Public Library would be a suitable place to continue the discussions, and we finished the discussions there.”

True to Dad’s love and reverence of books and reading, he and his companion decided to donate a copy of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, the Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ and Gospel Principles to the Stow Public Library, Stow High School Library and Akron Public Library. They would also check out and “lose” some copies of anti-Mormon literature and then pay the fine to the library. In time, Allan and James were transferred, but each would arrange a meeting with Marivene and Martha to bear one last testimony of the restored gospel to them before departing. The sisters would spend the next two years studying the books Allan and his companion had donated to the high school library and finally getting baptized after turning 18.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Covington Trials

After spending some time in the mission home, it was now time to leave for the Ohio Mission. Allan traveled by train to Chicago and then took a short flight to Columbus where the Ohio Mission home and headquarters was located. He met with his mission president, E. Garrett Barlow and received his first assignment. He was called to serve in one of the most southern areas in the mission, Covington, Kentucky. Allan would take a 2 hour bus ride south from Columbus just south of Cincinnati and across the Ohio River on the historical Roebling Suspension Bridge to Covington.

At the time, Covington was in it's economic heyday with close to 60,000 people and a part of the greater Cincinnati area. Allan remembers meeting his trainer, a short elder who was full of energy and a hard worker. But, that would last only 2 weeks. His next companion would be one of his most trying experiences on his mission. In his own words Allan remembers "Then I got another companion, and that companion was probably the laziest missionary in the mission field. We didn't do anything of any consequence at all. And many things that were not very good.

"We filled up our time with a lot of crazy things like sleeping in, playing cards and walking around, going to the movie theaters, and walking around town. We spent a lot of time, just sitting around the apartment wasting our time. And I was so frustrated and didn't know what to do."

"Well, the word got back to the mission president. I don't know if it was because I complained to someone or the zone leaders or somebody else complained or that we weren't doing anything. Then the mission president made a change. But this was after nine months of this guy. Or maybe it wasn't that long-but it seemed like it was that long. It was difficult, and I got transferred and he got transferred back to the mission office and eventually went home early. But I got then moved to Akron, Ohio. Actually it was more in the suburbs of Akron and to a great guy who was very strict in keeping the mission rules and trying to do the right things. And so I was being retrained, and after several month of living less than the kind of life you should, it was a difficult retraining process. But a necessary one."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Preparation, Generosity and the Mission Home

After receiving the call to serve, it was time to get ready and prepare to leave. This was a new experience for the Kjelstrom family and perhaps a little surprising how much was involved financially. In his life's history, Allan recounts "Yes, financially it was a big challenge to the family. And in fact, I had a sister-in-law; it was my mother's brother's wife, who took a real interest in my going on a mission. Because they had one boy and he was mentally [handicapped], so they knew that they would not have a missionary, unless one of the girls decided to go on a mission. So they decided they were going to help support me. So they sent my mother some money on a regular basis to help support me on my mission. But they were not the ones who were financing getting me outfitted. That was purely Mom and Dad, and so it was a burden, but they didn't show it. They just did what was necessary and got what was needed."

Allan remembers going through the temple for the first time in preparation for his mission. "My parents were not active in the church at the time. And so, I had to go through the temple to get my endowment before I was to go to the mission home...there were...temple workers that were willing to help but I didn't have any friends or family [there]." This would prove to be a turning point for Axel and Juanita who began to work on becoming active while Allan was gone, later being able to be present in the temple for Allan's marriage.

The generosity of his extended family and the faithful support of his parents would bless Allan's life and continues to bless his posterity. Allan would gather the necessary items including a briefcase, scriptures, missionary library, clothes and luggage and report to the mission home in May 1968. He was set apart as a missionary in the mission home on May 8, 1968 by Elder Elray L. Christiansen, a general authority and assistant to the twelve.

The mission home was a large home located on State Street in Salt Lake City, about three or four blocks away from the temple that had been converted to a training center for outbound missionaries. It had large dormitory rooms with as many as 10 beds per room. After an orientation he said goodbye to his parents and was assigned a companion. At that time, missionaries only spent a few days in the mission home, meeting with various general authorities. Allan remembers having meetings with Bruce R. McConkie and one particularly special experience, meeting with Harold B. Lee in the Salt Lake Temple.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Called to Serve our King

I think Dad would agree that the year following his graduation from high school was one of his life’s most significant. He decided to attend a year of college, in Taylorsville. “When I first graduated from high school, I went to an electronic technical college…It just seemed to be a better deal. It’s not really where I wanted to go, but that’s where I wound up.” He went there for a year, working part-time and leaning toward achieving a certificate in electronics. Allan describes his thoughts and feelings at that time; “None of that was really what I wanted to do anyway. I’m not sure why I went that way, but I guess I couldn’t find the money to try for BYU. I wanted to go to BYU, but I’m not sure why I didn’t try for that. I think my oldest brother Kelly had somewhat of an influence. He was saying he would help pay for my schooling if I would commit to go to school for four years and forget about this mission stuff. And if I would just go ahead and finish my college, he would help get me into work wherever, and maybe even be able to help get me a job with IBM, which is where he was working. But I had to have that commitment, and I just wasn’t willing to do that. I was ready and waiting. I was just biding my time for a year before I went on my mission.”

At a time when college wasn’t as wide spread of an option as it is now and coming from a family of relatively humble circumstances, this would have been a hard decision for most. But not for Allan. His propensity toward obedience and activity in the church led him to the natural and easy decision to serve a full time mission. “I liked going to church. I liked the activity and associations there, and so it was good for me. It was like going on a mission was not something that was – it was something that was expected, but I didn’t feel pressured by it at all. It was something I wanted to do.” Despite being the ninth child, Allan was the first to serve a mission, not just in his immediate family, but the first of his ancestors who had joined the church on both his mothers and fathers side. Although he may not have realized it at the time, the decision to serve a mission would become a significant milestone not only in his life but a turning point for many of those around him.

At the time, his parents were not active in the church, but Allan had already established his faith and the decision to serve was immediate and without doubt. His papers were submitted prior to his nineteenth birthday and his call was received shortly thereafter.

Allan remembered the day he received his mission call. Upon returning home, his mother told him that he had a letter from the church. “I think she knew it was the call” he said. “So I opened it up and there it was. You are going to Ohio, you need to bring these things, don’t do these things.”

Allan was called to serve in the Ohio Mission, a brand new mission that had recently been created from the Great Lakes Mission. It consisted of all of Ohio, most of West Virginia and small strips of both Kentucky and Pennsylvania. “I was excited to get the call…I was a little disappointed I went state-side, I (had) hoped to go on a foreign mission, but then I had many years since been thankful that I did not have to learn a foreign language, because I have learned since that I do not have much aptitude for language. But it was exciting to receive, and to plan.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Uncle Allan

Like most growing up, Allan's family was a significant part of his life. However, Dad's was a little unconventional. Being the ninth of ten children, Allan was an uncle before he was even born. His next oldest sibling was seven years older than he and most of his other brothers and sisters were already married and with children when Dad was a young boy. As a result, Allan was closest to his nieces and nephews. Jerry Alexander, Faye's son and Allan's nephew was likely closest to him and shares some great memories here. Cindy, Dad's niece also shares memories of Allan here.