Monday, September 16, 2019

Mormons in Indonesia (1949-1969)

The Great Basin town of Tooele, Utah is a long way from Tanjnung Priok, the port of Jakarta, but there is a link between the two that helped to permanently establish the Mormon Church in Indonesia. In 1944 Maxine Tate (born 1914) of Tooele journeyed to the Philippines as a young widowed LDS woman where she worked as a recreational therapist in the hospital service of the American Red Cross eventually overseeing the work in military hospitals from New Guinea to the Philippines and on to Japan. Her duty was to help improve the condition and moral of soldiers in any way possible. While in Leyte she met Colonel E. M. “Pete” Grimm an American sailor from San Francisco who was the grandson of a Methodist minister. That historical and geographical forces combined for these two to ever meet is quite remarkable. Maxine initially thought she would be assigned to help the war effort in Europe (she spoke French). Instead she was assigned to New Guinea, but then ended up serving primarily in the Philippines. Pete (born 1899) had lived in the Philippines for many years prior to the war where he worked in shipping. In 1941, after a visit in the U.S., Pete set out for the Philippines again. He had a plane ticket, but for some reason decided to trade it with another man for a boat ticket. While Pete was at sea the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and invaded the Philippines. At that point the man who flew with Pete’s ticket was already in the Philippines and ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for three years. Pete’s ship was diverted to Australia and there General MacArthur knowing of Pete’s extensive shipping experience enlisted his service in the military. After the war, Maxine and Pete were married (1949) and Pete returned to his work running the tug, barge, shipping and salvage company of Luzon Stevedoring along with many other business endeavors.
The newlyweds set up house in Manila and within a few years a son Pete and a daughter Linda joined the family. Pete’s work took him throughout the seas of Southeast Asia, from Hong Kong and Hanoi to Singapore and Jakarta. Much of his travel, often accompanied by Maxine and the children, was aboard their private yacht the Lanikai. Maxine remembers one of their first visits to a newly independent Indonesia. As the Lanikai sailed into Tanjung Priok harbor, she saw Dutch émigrés aboard ships sailing for the Netherlands.
As a devout Mormon, Maxine was always a missionary whether at home in Manila or sailing Southeast Asia. While never formerly called or set apart as a missionary her decades of travel to the many islands of Indonesia gave her a unique opportunity to spread the gospel in a land not yet formerly opened or dedicated for Mormon missionary work. In her own unique ways she was following in the pattern of ground-breaking, door-opening missionaries like the sons of Mosiah, Paul, Samuel Smith and Willford Woodruff. Throughout the 50s and 60s Maxine carried boxes of the Book of Mormon first in English and later also in Dutch (after she realized that many Indonesians could read Dutch) as well as other church pamphlets on the Lanikai to hand out to whomever she might meet. Many of her efforts were directed at a captive audience—the channel pilots who would come on board to help the Lanikai navigate through the remnant of WWII water mines in Indonesia’s channels and harbors. During their time at the wheel, Maxine said she would “indoctrinate” the Indonesian pilots with teachings about the church followed by a gift of a Book of Mormon. Other students of Maxine included the many government and business leaders she met along the way. Some of these proselytes even wrote back stating something along the lines of “I read your book, I now be baptized”--although few ever were. [1]

Pete and Maxine Grimm aboard the Lanikai
 In her decades of travels she helped spread the gospel to most every island. Her journal notes that while in Surabaya (on Java) she taught two Indonesians and then in nearby Madura they had Sunday School on the boat and taught two more Indonesians.  On the mostly Muslim island of Ternate (to the east of Sulawesi) she met some Pentecostals who were very interested in what she taught. When they asked her what would happen to them if they joined the Mormon Church she told them that they “would have the Truth and would be most joyful.”
In route to visit a manganese mine in 1968, Maxine remembers travelling with two Indonesian Muslims named Ali and Abdulla. She wrote in her journal that one morning after breakfast she taught them a lesson about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon followed by presenting them with their own copies of the Joseph Smith pamphlet and the Book of Mormon. She noted that Abdulla was “really listening to her message.” In spite of the language barrier between the two (she with her self-learned basic Indonesian and he with his smattering of English), Maxine knew that Abdulla understood the gist of her message when he summarized it with: “Ah mum, ah mum, we see, we see, Islam it goes so far and Mormon he go farther.”
Further teachings occurred at an onboard church service. Maxine writes: “Church Services at 10. Daddy conducted. Abdulla and Joe came. Pete talked about the sacrament, they both took it. Lindy [their daughter] talked on prayer and I pull[ed] all things together and on [F]ast Sunday. Abdulla really listened. Went through Meet the Mormons with them. Joe is reading [the] Book of Mormon. Abdulla says he believes and says Ali believes….Abdulla definitely wants to study it so I will give him all the materials. It can mean a big change in his life he being a Muslim.”[2]
Through her many years of efforts, Maxine never witnessed an actual conversion of an Indonesian from her seed plantings. However, her husband Pete, perhaps after all of the on-board religious discussions, decided to join the church in 1967. He was baptized by his son Pete who at the time was a priest in the Aaronic priesthood.  It was a logical move. When Mormon missionaries first entered the Philippines in 1961, the first meeting house for the early church was the Grimm home; most of the first 2,000 baptisms in the Philippines were performed in the Grimm swimming pool; and when church leaders from Salt Lake City were in Manila they often stayed with the Grimms.[3] Through the years, Pete and Maxine became friends with many apostles and prophets. Pete’s support for Maxine and her church was evidenced by the many times he was called upon to use his friendships and contacts in support of the growing church in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia.
On one of their early stops (early 1950s) in Jakarta, Pete and Maxine met the enterprising Jan Walandouw—a Christian from Northern Sulawesi and a close friend of President Sukarno. Their friendship grew over the years as the Grimms channeled most of their business dealings through him. Walandouw reciprocated by opening doors and by introducing the Grimms to many of Indonesia’s important citizens including President Sukarno. Their friendship was not all politics and economics; it also had a strong religious component. Of all the people Maxine met in Indonesia, Walandouw was the most receptive to her religious distributions and discussions. He often expressed a desire to be the first Indonesian baptized into the Mormon Church.
While the evidence is scant, it seems that Walandouw had a clandestine and perhaps revolutionary side of life too. Apparently his once close association with President Sukarno soured during the 1950s as Sukarno adopted more pro-communist ideologies. Records show that Walandouw was associated with anti-Sukarno groups (including a group of West Sumatran separatists with links to the CIA[4]) and that he journeyed to Japan in January 1958 with other anti-Sukarnoists in hopes of persuading the Japanese government to not use promised reparation funds to strengthen Sukarno’s political power. They also hoped to meet with the president who was on a state visit to Tokyo and try to persuade him to dissolve his cabinet and to change his leftists policies. Sukarno refused the meeting and the changes. From Tokyo Walandouw travelled to Taipei, Manila and then New York.[5] For the next eight years Walandouw seems to have lived a life in exile, afraid of what might happen to him under Sukarno’s regime. During this time the Grimms were not always sure where and what Walandouw was doing, although they did manage to stay connected.
At one point in the late 1950s, Maxine took Walandaow to meet with Elder Ezra Taft Benson in Salt Lake City. The meeting with Elder Benson was one of many meetings over the years that Maxine had with various church leaders. She explained that “every time I went to Salt Lake I would talk to President McKay because I knew him so well saying we need missionaries, we need missionaries.”
In the aftermath of the failed 1965 coup, Walandouw busied himself with drumming up support for the Suharto regime. In 1966 he travelled to Washington DC where he was influential in getting American backing for Suharto.[6] Once back in Jakarta he was able to reconnect with the Grimms. In a September 1966 visit, Maxine wrote that Jan was the same after all these years, except for the fact that his hair was now white. She wrote in her journal that Jan told them all about the “plots and plans” for the overthrow of Sukarno and the communists; how General Suharto had met Jan at the airport when he returned from exile; and how the Indonesian government was purging the country of the communists. Jan also said that next year the Grimms (with Walandouw’s help) would be able to do anything they wanted to in Indonesia. He may have been referring to economic endeavors, but Maxine seems to have envisioned other opportunities. She noted in her journal that all of the intrigue and political maneuverings reminded her of early visits to Indonesia in 1950 when Sukarno’s presidency had been under fire only this time she said “I saw the chance for [the] Church and the Missionaries.” She then wrote: “I loaded him with pamphlets—what an opening for the Gospel. I wish we could have talked more. What a movie this would all make.”[7] 
In November 1966, Walandouw visited the Grimms in Manila where he once again visited with Pete in an effort to get him to help the new government. During that visit Walandouw told Maxine that he had read her pamphlets and then he asked for more to read. She gave him more plus a Book of Mormon. He then told her that he wanted missionaries to come to Indonesia and he told her that he would “personally see that they got taken care of.”[8] By now it seems that Jan and Maxine were both thinking alike in terms of how to get the Mormon Church established in Indonesia.
Business dealings often took the Grimms to Hong Kong where they had offices and two slipways. There they became friends with Brent Hardy, mission president of the Southern Far East Mission (which included Indonesia). In July of 1968, Maxine and her children spent a couple of hours visiting with the Hardys. President Hardy said they talked a lot about health food (a passion of Maxine’s) and that they “also discussed the work of the mission at length.” He asked her specifically about Indonesia and what she told him “was very encouraging.” Maxine told him about Jan Walandouw, about his exile, his efforts to oust Sukarno, his return to Indonesia as “a national hero”, and his current top position in the Ministry of Economic Affairs. She also told President Hardy about Walandouw’s exposure to the church, his reading of the Book of Mormon and that he thinks Indonesia needs the Mormon Church and that missionaries should be sent in. Maxine told Hardy that Walandouw “would cut the red tape to get them in and take care of them after they got there” and that “he would be the first one to be baptized after they arrived.” On her upcoming trip to Indonesia, Maxine promised to set up a time for President Hardy to visit Jan Walandouw in Jakarta to check out the possibilities.[9]
Two months later Walandouw joined the Grimms in their Jakarta hotel room for Sunday services. After the sacrament, they discussed its meaning which then turned into a discussion about “everything else.” Maxine then noted, “Jan is definitely with us all of the way, he is going to write [Elder] Benson and ask him to come.  I hope we can be here at that time.”[10] 
It is not known if Walandouw actually wrote Elder Benson, but with or without that letter, things were starting to roll. Maxine’s regular visits in Salt Lake City with President McKay as well has her associations with church leaders like Elder Benson and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley (in 1967 Elder Hinckley noted in his journal that Maxine Grimm had indicated it would now be possible to get visas for missionaries to serve in Indonesia[11]) were certainly part of the mix as well as President Hardy’s regular correspondence with church headquarters about the many countries (with or without missionaries) within his mission. On December 22, 1968, President Hardy received word from church headquarters that Indonesia could now be opened up to missionary work (he later learned that this announcement was a little pre-mature). He assumed it would only take a few months to get the “legal red tape straightened up first.”
On New Year’s Eve the Grimms hosted a party in the Marco Polo suite at the Peninsula Hotel for the Hong Kong missionaries. President Hardy and his wife Elaine also attended. Sister Grimm talked about her recent trip to Indonesia. Based on her report Hardy noted that it “looks as though the work will move there very fast.” Motivated by the recent approval, the visit of the Grimms and their promise of an appointment with Walandouw, the next Monday President Hardy went and applied for a visa to visit Indonesia.[12]
Trying to coordinate visits to Jakarta between the seafaring Grimms and the country trotting Hardy was not easy, especially when most communications were via inconvenient cables.  Hardy had hoped to fly to Jakarta after a visit to Hanoi, but he only got the cable from the Grimms while in Vietnam after his itinerary and flights had been solidified and appointments made back in Hong Kong. In the end he said the delay was a good thing, for when he returned to Hong Kong there was letter from Elder Benson recommending that perhaps if Hardy had not yet visited Jakarta to meet Walandouw, then that meeting should be delayed. Hardy then called Elder Benson and told him that he had worked very hard to set up the meeting with the Grimms and Walandouw and that he hated to let it “slip through our fingers.” After further discussion of the matter, Elder Benson suggested that President Hardy go ahead with the visit and that he write a report for Elder Benson to then “present to the brethren.” His discussion with Elder Benson was “not negative at all” which made Hardy feel better because he had “pushed pretty hard.” Elder Benson also clarified that official approval to open Indonesia had not been granted as had been indicated in a previous letter. Hardy was glad to get that cleared up before his trip to Jakarta, otherwise he “would have been holding discussions based on erroneous information.”[13]
The next day Pres. Hardy rushed to finalize some work and then flew to Singapore (where he met briefly met with the missionaries) and then on to Jakarta. He expected the Grimms to meet his late evening flight at the airport, but his previously sent cable to them would only be delivered on his third and final day in Jakarta. He proceeded alone to the Hotel Indonesia which at the time was the only international quality hotel in the city. After checking in he went to the all-night coffee shop for a dish of ice cream. He wondered how he would get in contact with the Grimms. He had left the Grimms previous cable in Hong Kong and he did not know their cable address—which was the only way he knew of to contact them. As he ate his ice cream he noticed the place mat, which had a map of places to visit in Jakarta. One of those places—a yacht club, listed a cable address that looked like what he remembered the Grimm’s address to be. He determined that if he couldn’t make contact in any other way he would go to the yacht club to see what he could find. Next morning he took a 45 minute cab ride to the Kartika Bahari yacht club at Tunjung Priok. Imagine his surprise and delight when he found out that the Lanikai was moored there. The only problem was that the Grimms had left earlier to go to the Hotel Indonesia to meet someone (they didn’t know Hardy was staying there). Hardy took a cab back to the hotel and fortunately found the Grimms there. Only later did he find out that the cable address for the yacht club and the Grimms were nothing alike. His jaunt across the expansive city had given him a good view of conditions in the country.
They all then linked up with Jan Walandouw for a tour of Jakarta and to “discuss plans for getting the church into Indonesia.” Jan told Hardy that “he would take care of everything” when the church finally decides it wants to come. Those assurances aside, Hardy “was unable to get specific details as to what the requirements for establishing a Church Corporation or such was.” He later learned that the government was still in disarray and such “details’ had not yet been established. The next day he had a productive visit with Pete Grimm about his impressions of Indonesia. Grimm was “optimistic about the future of Indonesia and [said] that there is no other country in his estimation that has the potential and the resources, both human and natural resources, that Indonesia has.” He also noted that if the “present group of national leaders could preserve the stability and promote the economic growth that the future in Indonesia looks very promising.” Hardy then met with Walandouw and also with an attorney to discuss the details of getting the Church registered in Indonesia. [14]  In a latter journal entry, Hardy wrote that when he asked the attorney that Walandouw brought about the registration process, Walandouw responded with: “Don’t worry about that, this lawyer is the legal counsel for the ministry of religion, he is your legal advisor and attorney in Indonesia and also happens to be the man that issues the licenses and certificates of registration.” At this seeming conflict of interest, President Hardy wrote: “Well it was an interesting experience to say the least.”[15]
Hardy identified Walandouw as a ”doer who works officially as an advisor to the President.” He explained that Walandouw had assigned someone in the ministry of religion to translate the Book of Mormon into Indonesian. (Hardy later met this man and told him the Church wasn’t ready to have the Book of Mormon translated and thanked him for being willing to help).[16]
In his concluding journal entry for his Jakarta trip, Hardy wrote: “The visit to Indonesia has been very fruitful. However I think that the economic and political stability of the country indicates the wisdom, and inspiration, of the Brethren in suggesting that we hold back a while before coming into Indonesia. I am, however, not discouraged about the potential but feel that the time in not quite ready yet. There are ‘friends’ whom I feel the Lord has raised up who are in place to assist in the preparations for the opening of the work in this country.” [17]
President Hardy then sent a several page report of his visit to Elder Benson and the First Presidency. In it he gives a general description of economic and political conditions, he introduces the several Latter-day Saint families he met, and he writes about the Grimm’s ties to Indonesia, their friendship with Walandouw, and his desires and abilities to help. He describes Walandaouw as a man who is “enthusiastic, and dedicated to his country and to the Church. He speaks of the Church as ‘our Church’ and is very anxious to have the Church established in Indonesia.” Following dinner one evening on the Lanikai, Hardy was able to have a private visit with Walandouw about his feelings towards the Church.  Jan, who Hardy described as being “sincere”, indicated that he wanted to be baptized when he went to the United States in a few weeks. Hardy felt that following a review of the principles of the Church, Jan “should be baptized.” However, he recommended that the baptism take place in Jakarta as “an example to his people.”  Walandouw agreed. Hardy then noted that he could “find no ulterior motives involved in his attitude toward the Church” and that he felt “confident that he is a man prepared of the Lord to assist in furthering the work” in Indonesia.
At the conclusion of his report, Hardy writes: “As I left Indonesia I left with a different impression tha[n] I came with. I came with enthusiastic intentions, those intentions being that as soon as possible we should send missionaries to that country. As I left I felt that perhaps the time was not immediately at hand when the missionaries should be sent there. Primarily because of the lack of missionaries at this time throughout the Church generally.”[18] He then explained that missionary numbers should first be bolstered in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand and that once that was done, then some of those missionaries could be transferred to Indonesia. This would give an additional year or so for “the conditions in Indonesia to stabilize.” He then recommended “that we proceed with whatever steps which need to be taken legally to establish the Church in Indonesia and get official recognition….I feel this great nation will, in the not too distant future, provide a great source of strength to the Church. It will be a great opportunity for expansion of the Kingdom to one more nation in fulfillment of the charge given by the Savior to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.”[19]
President Hardy returned to Indonesia again in August 1969 for a three day visit. He had been told that sometime in the fall some of the general authorities of the Church might visit Indonesia with the intent of dedicating it for missionary work.  It had been six months since his previous visit and already Hardy was “impressed at the amount of progress that had been made in Jakarta” and that he felt “much better about having missionaries sent here.” [20]
Hardy spent August 6th visiting with the Jakarta members of the Church and with Jan Walandouw who had even found a few possible places where the hoped for missionaries could live. In a later addition to his journal entry from that day, Hardy tells how around midnight he was awakened with a call telling him that Walandouw was down in the lobby hopping to visit some more.  Hardy invited Jan up to his room. They exchanged the normal niceties and then Walandouw got to the point of his visit. He told of all the post-coup political prisoners still being detained in Indonesia. He knew that for many of them, their only guilt was having been a card carrying member of the communist party—which Walandouw confessed they probably did so that they could get jobs or not be harassed by the government. Walandouw expressed empathy for these prisoners, numbering about 10,000, but was also concerned about whether or not they should be released back into society. He was troubled about what the government should do. Hardy then relates that a thought popped into his head. He asked how many islands there were in Indonesia and if any of them were uninhabited. He then explained that Walandouw should have the government “take the prisoners, their families and building materials, agricultural equipment, seeds, and food stuffs and ‘drop them off’ on one of the islands.” Walandouw “received the suggestion with some enthusiasm” and thought that the idea might solve their problems. A few weeks later, Hardy picked up an U.S. news magazine on one of his fights where he read an article describing a new policy in Indonesia in which political prisoners would be resettled on the uninhabited island of Buru in the Maluku islands. Hardy describes this episode as his “brush with history.”[21]
On his final day in Jakarta, Walandouw asked if President Hardy was having any troubles getting visas to enter Indonesia. Hardy said it was a ”big problem” and so Walandouw took a piece of stationary from the Hotel Indonesia and on it wrote a note to a Miss Betsy Londong who worked in the Indonesian embassy in Bangkok. It stated: “Carrier this is our member. Give him visas for all his visits to Jakarta.” On his journey home, Hardy visited Bangkok where he added a stop to the Indonesian embassy to his itinerary. There Miss Betsy stamped his passport with a permanent visa. Hardy was happy to have friends in high places, but he also noted that it would not be smart “to gain entrance or recognition in a country based on the ‘good old boys’ influence” because as “history has so often proven the good old boys frequently become the bad old boys and your status become[s] tenuous to say the least.” In another later addendum to his journal, Hardy concludes: “While we were euphoric about the reception we were receiving and the promises of support still cooler wiser heads provided cautious counsel. The legal offices of the church, Brother Kirton who was on site, took advantage of our contacts but were thorough in their evaluations.”[22]

[1] Maxine Tate Grimm interviews, February 28, 2007, October 26, 2007.
[2] Maxine Grimm Journal, 1968.
[4] Peter Dale Scott. The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965-1967,  Pacific Affairs, 58, Summer 1985, p. 252.
[5] Masashi Nishihara. The Japanese and Sukarno’s Indonesia: Tokyo-Jakarta Relations, 1951-1966. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1976. 193-195, notes 28, 41.
[6] Nishihara, p. 202
[7] Maxine Grimm Journal September 1, 1966
[8] Maxine Grimm November 1, 1966 journal entry
[9] Brent Hardy July 13, 1968 journal entry
[10] Maxine Grimm September 29, 1968 journal entry
[11] Britsch, Lanier R. From the East: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996. Deseret Book. 1998, p. 480.
[12] Brent Hardy, December 22, 1968, January 1 & 6 1969 journal entries.
[13] Brent Hardy January 13, 1969 journal entry
[14] Brent Hardy January 14-16, 1969 journal entries
[15] Brent Hardy February 6, 1969 journal entry
[16] Brent Hardy January 14-16, 1969 journal entries
[17] Brent Hardy January 16, 1969 journal entry
[18] The drafting of U. S. soldiers to serve in Vietnam resulted in restrictions on the number of missionaries that could be sent out each year.
[19] Letter from Brent Hardy to Ezra Taft Benson included in Hardy’s Journal of the Southern Far East Mission
[20] Brent Hardy August 5, 1969 journal entry
[21] Brent Hardy August 6, 1969 journal entry with additional notes added when he compiled his journal.
[22] Brent Hardy August 7, 1969 journal entry with additional notes added when he compiled his journal.

1 comment:

  1. That is an amazing story about the early Mormons in Indonesia.