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Marissa IL, LDS History, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see a person skilled in their work? They shall stand before royalty; they shall not stand before the obscure.”

Marissa, Illinois is a little town just 30 miles from where I happen to live. To some, the town may be the definition of obscurity. But in the early 1970’s, two different men in Marissa did deeds that made waves around the world.

The first man was Bob Heil, a sound engineer. In 1970, Bob got a call from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. They were in St. Louis for a concert, but their equipment had been confiscated by police in a previous city. They needed Bob to rig them a sound system, and had heard that he had some huge speakers that had been discarded by the Fox Theater. Bob built them a system with those speakers that thrilled the band that night, and which became the industry standard.

Before long, Bob got a personal visit in Marissa from Pete Townshend of The Who (!), who had hear about what Bob could do. Bob upgraded their sound equipment, and ended up creating their quadraphonic system for The Who’s Quadrophenia tour. Bob ended up touring with Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, and Jeff Beck. Along the way, he created the guitar Talk Box that Walsh and Frampton made famous. You can read about more of his claims to fame at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Heil.

In 2007, Bob Heil became the first manufacturer to be invited into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not precisely literal royalty, but Bob’s experience is certainly an example of a skilled person who did not stay hidden under a bushel in Marissa, Illinois.

At about the same time, another resident of Marissa, Illinois stepped onto the world scene. On July 28, 1971, a Presbyterian minister named Wesley Walters unearthed court records from the basement of the Chenango County, New York courthouse. These records were for fines paid by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the LDS church, for the crime of charging money to locate buried treasure by looking into a stone (akin to crystal-ball gazing).

Pastor Walters published his discovery, with a complete exposition of the history surrounding Smith’s 1826 trial, in the Westminster Theological Journal. Today, every Latter Day Saint historian worthy of the title now knows the name Wesley Walters and his discovery. Although God never called him to serve in Utah, Walters wrote numerous other scholarly articles on the subject of Mormonism. I myself once had the privilege of visiting with him at his church in Marissa, Illinois in 1978.

As was the case for Wesley Walters, God has never issued a call for me to relocate to Utah, not yet, at least. My contribution to Christian outreach to the LDS, like his, appears to be a contribution to be made from afar, and possibly one that I have already finished making, although I have a few more posts to make.

We must remember that, as a proverb, Proverbs 22:29 is not intended to be an iron-clad promise or guarantee that comes true 100% of the time. While God has an uncanny way of raising overlooked talent out of obscurity, Proverbs 22:29 is not disproved by the fact that a huge number of talented people will never be known to anyone but God and to possibly a handful of those around them.

God does not distribute talent fairly, or even based on merit. God often gives talent to those who will waste or abuse it, and denies talent to those who would use it responsibly. We see how God operates in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (where the word “talent” means 75 pounds of precious metal, not what we today mean by the English word). We may have been given only so much to work with in this life, but our heavenly King is watching to see what we accomplish with what we have been entrusted.

The secret is to be happy with the knowledge that at the end of our labors, we shall stand before the only King whose opinion really counts. Better than to hear the acclaim of the fickle crowds and The Market, is to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” After all, when all is said and done, we perform for an audience of One.