John Robert Mallernee
THE EPISTLE OF SAINT JOHN
I was born David Roy Trueblood, the son of Roy Lane Trueblood and Hazel Irene Trueblood (nee Albertsen), on 28 January 1946, in Ellensburg, Washington, during a poker game in a tent beside the railroad tracks.
In that family, I had five older sisters, and two brothers were to be born in subsequent years.
Within the next two years, the Trueblood family would be separated and scattered, with all but one child being adopted and raised by different families.
While exact details remain unknown and controversial, official court records indicate abandonment.
I became John Robert Mallernee when I was adopted in Decatur, Illinois by William Vincent Mallernee and Virginia Lee Mallernee (nee Mapes).
After I was adopted, five sisters (two stillborn) would be born in the Mallernee family.
My father was a career Army sergeant, serving in two wars, and the family would regularly go together to the local Methodist church, and have nightly family prayers and study the “HOLY BIBLE”.
It was an idyllic, secure, normal family environment, but I grew up troubled and rebellious, being repeatedly kicked out of school and repeatedly running away from home.
In my fifteenth year, my parents decided they could no longer control me, and I had committed no crime, so the local juvenile court committed me to the state mental hospital, first in Texas, and again in North Carolina.
Being a teen-age disciplinary problem, I was locked up with adults in a maximum security unit for the criminally insane, isolated, deprived of further education, given repeated electric shock treatments, used as a human “guinea pig” for testing experimental psychotropic drugs, terrorized, sexually assaulted by other inmates, and nearly dying from infectious illness on a couple of occasions.
Years passed, and I was freed, living in Raleigh, North Carolina, a fully grown man, without education, training, basic skills, or even knowing how to drive a car.
I worked at various menial labor jobs, and stayed in rooming or boarding houses.
One day, while out of work, I was at the unemployment office, where I met an unemployed sixteen year old black deaf mute, struggling to stay in high school, while supporting his family.
Later, I approached the minister of Trinity Methodist Church, which I regularly attended, seeking to find financial help for that boy.
The minister explained to me that he had a son at Duke University, a daughter at the University of North Carolina, a brick home, and two cars.
He further explained that this was an all white conservative congregation in a white, conservative, Southern community, and he wasn’t about to risk everything to bring a black person into that church.
Actually, I had not thought about bringing a black person into our church.
All I desired was to get him some help, so his family could survive and he could finish high school.
The minister’s comments left me literally stunned, as if someone had struck me in the head with a two-by-four.
How could he possibly be a true representative of Jesus Christ?
I staggered from his office and went home to the boarding house, pondering over this event.
I pored studiously through my “HOLY BIBLE”, praying often, wondering if there was a true church, why there were no prophets of God in our time, why the words of God seemed to have stopped two thousand years earlier.
I spent my last few dollars at a theater, seeing the movie, “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” over and over.
Then, with just the shirt on my back, and a few coins in my pocket, I stuck out my thumb, hitch-hiking west, into an unknown destiny, mentally comparing myself to the biblical prophets wandering in the wilderness of ancient Israel.
Eventually, my wanderings took me to Decatur, Illinois, where I met some of my biological siblings and visited our father’s grave.
Wanting to meet our biological mother, youngest brother, and two half-sisters, I began hitch-hiking towards Portland, Oregon, where they lived.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, I took the free guided tour of Temple Square, my introduction to the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, the “Mormon” church.
Due to my conventional Methodist upbringing, I was shocked at what I then perceived as blasphemy and heresy.
However, I was also highly impressed by the great accomplishments of the “Mormon” people, their obvious great faith, and the severe hardships and persecution endured and overcome by “Mormon” pioneers.
Penniless, I had no coat and it was too cold to sleep on a park bench, so I wandered the streets and hills of Salt Lake City all night long.
At one point, seeing a copy of “THE BOOK OF MORMON” displayed in a shop window, I thought,
“Someday, when I’m settled down and have enough to eat, so that I don’t owe any obligation, I want to read that book and see what gives these people such great faith.”
During the wee hours, I stole some food, was arrested, and jailed for the rest of the night.
The next morning, the court ordered me to leave town, so I continued hitch-hiking.
Somewhere south of Salt Lake City, as I was walking along a Utah highway, I felt the sensation of “a voice crying from the dust”, referred to in the “BOOK OF MORMON”, indicating,
“You don’t need to go any farther. This is what you’ve been searching for. This is where you belong.”
But, I ignored that spiritual prompting, and continued with my wandering, eventually arriving in Portland, Oregon, where I was reunited with my Trueblood kin.
One day, while working at the Portland Hilton Hotel, I strolled past the desk of a secretary, Karen Slater, and saw a copy of the “BOOK OF MORMON”.
I told her of my experience in Salt Lake City, and asked if I could read the book.
She took me into a nearby broom closet, to get away from the other employees, where she bore her testimony, literally aglow and obviously inspired, as she enthusiastically told me of the history and details of Joseph Smith, the “BOOK OF MORMON”, and the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints.
Subsequently, the missionaries would visit me in my room at the Y.M.C.A., and I struggled mightily with these novel and strange “Mormon” concepts, so different from what I had been taught by my parents and the Methodist church.
I studied my “HOLY BIBLE” and the “BOOK OF MORMON”, comparing them, spending night after night on my knees in prayer, seeking an answer.
I suspected Joseph Smith of being a fraud and con artist, copying the words of Isaiah from the “HOLY BIBLE” into the “BOOK OF MORMON”, and the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, a gigantic hoax.
But, one day, during the wee hours, as I was on my knees in prayer, the sudden realization came to me that the “BOOK OF MORMON” was indeed truly the inspired word of God, and that this was all about to slip from my grasp.
If the “BOOK OF MORMON” is truly the word of God, then that means Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God, and that means the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is indeed the only true church on this Earth that is authorized by Jesus Christ, for you cannot have one without the other, as all of those elements are inseparably connected and intertwined.
Once I accepted that this was true, I then had to decide if I was willing to change my entire way of living and thinking, and make a total commitment to this church for the rest of my life.
To have this knowledge and not do so, would be the same as turning my back on Jesus Christ, so there was only one course open.
Accordingly, on Saturday 06 May 1967, I was baptized by Elder David Lyman Bates in the Portland, Oregon First Ward of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, and confirmed the next day.
As a new convert, I was invited to witness a priesthood blessing, requested by a member who was ill.
The brethren placed their hands upon his head, saying,
“We, the elders of Israel – – – “,
and I heard no more, for my heart leapt within me at the realization that the “lost sheep” of the ancient House of Israel had been restored, and I was alive to see it.
Lacking formal education, but an avid reader, that summer, I successfully took the General Educational Development (G.E.D.) test at Portland State College (now Portland State University), thus acquiring official recognition for the equivalent of a high school education I had been denied.
In 1967, the United States was embroiled in a controversial and unpopular war in Vietnam, with many of America’s young men refusing to serve in the military, burning their draft cards, fleeing to Canada, or deserting the military ranks to seek refuge in Sweden.
Because of my years in a state mental hospital, I was classified “IV-F” (unfit for military service).
As a result of a letter I had written to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, seeking an opportunity to prove my worth by serving my country, I was reclassified “I-A” (fit for military service).
The various uniformed services still would not allow me to enlist, so I volunteered to be drafted, and on 07 December 1967, I was inducted into the United States Army.
Trained in communications repair, I was stationed in Germany, and when my time was up, I re-enlisted, requesting assignment to the war in Vietnam.
Stationed at Phu Lam, Republic of Vietnam, I would attend “Mormon” church services in downtown Saigon, held in the home of an American architect.
There, I witnessed and photographed the significant historical event of a Vietnamese elder and the Vietnamese president of the Relief Society as they sat at a desk, diligently laboring to translate the “BOOK OF MORMON” and the “TESTIMONY OF JOSEPH SMITH” from the English language into their native Vietnamese.
I volunteered for combat duty, and was transferred to Dong Ha, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating communist North Vietnam from South Vietnam.
I would hitch-hike to Quang Tri to attend Latter-day Saint services, and helped Lieutenant James Mack Richards to organize a small group of Latter-day Saints at Dong Ha.
Bored with my desk job, frustrated at being frequently under enemy fire, and having a “Gung Ho!” spirit, I volunteered for duty in the famed 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles”.
During that time, the United States Army suffered a severe morale problem, due to a combination of an unpopular war, overt racial animosity, and flagrant use of illegal drugs.
At Camp Eagle, near Hue and Phu Bai, I was asked by a group of my fellow soldiers if I was a “head” or a “juicer”.
As I was unfamiliar with that terminology, they explained that a “head” used marijuana and a “juicer” used alcohol.
I responded that I was a “Mormon”, that I did not use either drugs or alcohol, and that if they used illegal drugs in front of me, I would report them.
They threatened to murder me.
I meant what I said.
They meant what they said.
I did report (to no avail, as it turned out) fellow soldiers who were smuggling marijuana and heroin back to the United States.
As I lay sleeping, a fragmentation hand grenade was detonated in the doorway of my hooch, where much of the blast was thwarted by the sandbags.
Because I was lying down, I was surrounded by shrapnel punctures, but none of the shrapnel hit me, whereas if I had been sitting or standing, I likely would have been killed.
When I volunteered a second time to remain in Vietnam for an additional six months (for a total of two years), I was rewarded with a requested special thirty day leave, with round-trip transportation to Israel.
That trip was one of the most memorable and inspirational experiences of my life.
There I was, in the land of the “HOLY BIBLE”, walking where Jesus Christ walked, and seeing the people and historic places of the exciting modern State of Israel.
Returning to the United States after my tour of duty in Vietnam, I was stationed at Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation, a remote, isolated area in California, used to test experimental military equipment and tactics.
I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend my first General Conference of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints, where as a uniformed soldier on active duty, I was permitted to sit in a reserved area, thus avoiding having to wait in long lines, and able to attend every session of the conference.
I learned to drive a car, got my first driver’s license, and bought my first car, a customized 1963 Chevy II Nova station wagon, painted red, trimmed with black, white, and yellow racing stripes, with chrome mag wheels, 383 V-8 engine, and an automatic transmission from a 1965 Chevelle.
With frequent lonely all night duty, I would compose songs, both lyrics and melody, but sang a capella, as I could not play an instrument to accompany myself.
I went to Korea, and knowing I would be there for an entire year, with little to do except wait for possible hostilities from communist North Korea, I resolved to learn Tae Kwon Do and to play guitar.
Thus, when singing, I am now able to accompany myself strumming guitar chords.
As I type this, I’m sitting in my room at the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home in Washington, D.C., where I receive a disability retirement pension.
Married and divorced, I have no children.
During and subsequent to my military service, I attended several colleges and universities, but do not yet have a degree.
After leaving the United States Army, I was employed at various times as a police officer, firefighter, medic, and prison guard, but did not complete a career in any job.
Naive and emotionally mixed up, I had some difficult times, in and out of Veterans Hospitals, being arrested and jailed twice for misdemeanor charges, and living homeless on the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah.
I was privileged to become involved in the Veterans Association for Service Activities Abroad (V.A.S.A.A.), an organization of Latter-day Saint Vietnam veterans seeking to reunite families divided by war, rescue Latter-day Saints endangered by foreign tyranny, do humanitarian medical missions in Third World countries, record the history of the “Mormon” Church in Vietnam, and establish normal relations between the communist government of Vietnam and the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints.
In Salt Lake City, I served on the committee which organized, financed, designed, and built the Vietnam Memorial located on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol.
As a volunteer for the Radio Reading Service, I have read local news items to the blind, using the donated broadcasting studio of Ricks College (now BYU – Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho.
As a volunteer adult literacy tutor, I taught adults the basic skills of reading and writing, and helped a couple of people get their high school education and go on to college.
In Saint Anthony, Idaho, I became a local community theater actor, with roles in several plays.
A member of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho, I frequently performed at cowboy gatherings around the state as a singer/songwriter.
Despite my personal unworthiness, Heavenly Father has poured out blessings upon me, preserving my life on several occasions, and giving me many wonderful opportunities, some of which I unwisely misused.
Still, I keep trying.
I testify that Jesus Christ lives.
I testify that both, the “HOLY BIBLE” and the “BOOK OF MORMON”, are the divine word of God revealed to man.
I testify that there is a living prophet of God on the Earth today.
I testify that the United States of America is the “Promised Land” referred to in ancient scriptures.
I testify that “THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES” is a sacred document, written by men inspired by Almighty God.
I testify that the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the Earth today which is specifically authorized by Jesus Christ.
Just as I did, with effort, you may learn these truths for yourself.
According to the scriptures, you must seek before you will find, you must ask before it will be given, and you must knock before the door will be opened.
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is either the Lord’s true church or a gigantic fraud.
There is no middle ground.
I have told you what I believe.
This is my solemn testimony in the sacred name of Jesus Christ.
Friday 16 February 2001
John Robert Mallernee
United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home
Washington, D.C. 20317
Wednesday 08 August 2001
I currently guard a cattle ranch in Jensen, Utah, while the owners, Jim and Norma Goff, are away serving a full-time mission in Kirtland, Ohio for the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints.
I never had (nor am I ever likely to get) the opportunity to serve as a missionary for the Church, and since I will be here, doing full-time, unpaid work, for the duration of a mission, and must financially support myself during this effort (all elements of a normal missionary experience), I requested that I be formally set apart and given an official priesthood blessing, which was approved by the stake president.
So, I am a missionary wearing a gun, riding the range, protecting the Rocking G Ranch, singing cowboy ballads, accompanied by a border collie named, “Ringo”.
I couldn’t ask for a greater blessing!
John Robert Mallernee
My full-time mission for the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints was successfully completed.
I am ever grateful to our Father in Heaven.
For the edification of my brethren, in hope that souls may be brought unto salvation and eternal life, I humbly submit this document in the sacred name of Jesus, who is the Christ.
Amen and amen.
John Robert Mallernee
As I type this on Thursday 16 September 2004, I am residing once more at the Armed Forces Retirement Home (formerly known as the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home) in Washington, D.C.
The Social Security Administration took away my disability, which was my sole income, and because of chronic severe respiratory difficulties, I have little choice but to remain here in the “Ol’ Soldiers’ Home”.
Licensed by the Federal Communications Commission as KB3KWS, I serve as secretary-treasurer of the Home’s amateur radio club, Station NNN0VET in the Military Affiliate Radio System (M.A.R.S.), in which I am licensed as NNN0FSYT (the “T” means I am still in training).
I am honored to be the official bard of Clan Henderson, an ancient and honorable Scottish clan, descended from King Nechtan.
If I ever quit coughing long enough, my ambition is to leave this Soldiers’ Home, and with my rucksack, sleeping bag, tent, and guitar, hitch-hike around the country, earning money singing on street corners or in cafes.
I pray my words may help someone.
©Copyright 2001-2004 by John Robert Mallernee
Author’s Note: This is my personal testimony of how and why I chose to become a “Mormon”, and it includes the story of how I became a soldier, even though I was classified as unfit for any military service.