Evil Among Us
by Ken Driggs
[p.32] The Fischers returned to Milwaukee sick with grief.
On Sunday, November 17, Cathy Fischer stood before a deeply saddened open-microphone ward sacrament meeting to speak briefly of her son. She read a favorite verse from the Book of Mormon that spoke to her beloved Mark: “For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God” (Alma 60:13).
A memorial service was held in the Milwaukee Stake Center for their dead son on November 23, 1974. Elder Vaughn Featherstone, second counselor in the church’s Presiding Bishopric and a past president of the Texas San Antonio Mission, flew to Milwaukee to speak at the service. The Fischer family asked that, rather than flowers, contributions be made to their ward missionary fund.
The Milwaukee Stake Center was filled to overflowing with Mormons, family friends, and supporters. It was a solemn occasion, where the deep religious conviction of the Fischers and their friends was the dominant emotion.
Keyte Hanson, Mark’s former bishop and a member of the stake presidency, began the meeting by praying “that we might be comforted with the realization and knowledge of Mark’s life, purpose, faith, and belief.”
“May we remember, Father,” Hanson continued, paraphrasing Maxwell Anderson’s play Joan of Lorraine,
that every man and woman gives his life for what he or she believes. Sometimes some give their lives to little or nothing because of little or [p.33] nothing to believe in. We have but one life to live on this earth and then it is gone. May we learn to live that we will believe in those things that are everlasting, that we will so live our lives that it will not be wasted. And may memory of this occasion serve to help us live our lives better in the realization that Elders Fischer and Darley had great faith and belief in what they lived for.
Two other men who as bishops had known Mark spoke movingly of what a good young man he was, how devoted he was to his family, and of his commitment to his faith. “He was the kind of young man you hoped and prayed some day your sons would be,” Bishop Vogl, himself the father of seven children, said of Mark. Former bishop and now stake patriarch Hans E. Kindt added, “Mark firmly believed that to be of service to Jesus Christ meant to go and proclaim the gospel, to leave comfort and security behind, to go forward.”
Throughout the service, a choir, which called itself “the singing mothers of the Milwaukee Ward,” and the congregation sang hymns Mark had most loved. The final hymn was a Mormon standard, “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” sung to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith by a disciple just before his 1844 murder by an Illinois mob. It had been Mark’s favorite.
The tearful Fischer family sat in the front of the congregation listening to their son being eulogized but not speaking themselves. Because his body had not been recovered, they were not—and never would be—allowed to say good-bye.
In Utah Spencer W. Kimball, the leader of the Mormon church, was deeply moved by the murders. The night after he had been informed, he was so distressed that a physician was summoned to his home. Kimball was seventy-nine years old at the time. The doctor observed him to be visibly disturbed but could not find anything physically wrong with him. He asked Kimball, who explained that he had just received the news of the slaying of two “fine young missionaries” by a man who was a “lunatic.” The doctor recalled “his concern for those missionaries and their families had made him literally ill.”
Later in November David and Jill Darley were in Utah for the Thanksgiving holiday, visiting children who lived in the Salt Lake [p.34] Valley. On Friday afternoon, the 29th, President Kimball met with the Darley parents privately in his office for two hours. David Darley was surprised to notice a letter on Kimball’s desk written by the wife of a friend in California. The letter described the Darleys’ agony over the death of their son and urged Kimball to reach out to them. Afterwards, Kimball, a very small man, pulled from a high bookshelf a religious book he had written and inscribed it to the couple.
Their oldest son, Kelle, waited in the hallway chatting with Kimball’s wife Camilla during the meeting. He was attending Brig- ham Young University in Provo at the time. After his parents came out, the Mormon prophet put his arm around Kelle and ushered him into the office for a few more private moments. He urged Kelle to look out for his parents and to comfort them through their difficulties.