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Like A Great Thriller? How About A Free Excerpt From This Week’s Thriller of The Week Gman: A Mormon Spy Story by Jason Jahns – 4.8 Stars With 6 out of 6 Rave Reviews

Just the other day we announced that Gman: A Mormon Spy Story by Jason Jahns is our Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

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Gman: a Mormon spy story

by Jason Jahns

4.8 stars – 6 Reviews
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Nephi Stevensen is deeply compromised. A former Mormon missionary, he is now a student by day and a spy by night. Curious yet obedient, over-achieving Nephi strives to out-Bond James Bond even as his job is tearing him apart. With deep religious convictions and personal safety on the line, Nephi begins to question his commitment to his country. He works to extract himself from a blackmailed existence as a spy, even as he is rubbing shoulders with prime ministers, movie stars, and KGB agents. In Harvard Final Clubs, Mekong Swift Boats, Singaporean hawker centers, classrooms, ancient temples, and his girlfriend’s apartment, Nephi makes choices that bring him step by step closer to his final decision: embrace his inner-murderer or end it all…

Nephi’s story is told through the eyes of his 15-year-old son, Jake, who has never met his father. Jake is learning about Nephi for the first time while sitting in the basement sifting through a carefully arranged, hidden box of correspondence, diaries, and government documents. As son comes to know father, Jake also learns about himself – scared to death he may end up just like his dad.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:


A Mormon Spy Story


Jason Jahns


GMAN. Copyright © 2012 by North Star Books. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For information:

North Star Books, PO Box 55870, Phoenix AZ 85078 USA.



This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, companies, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Jahns, Jason

Gman: a Mormon spy story / Jason Jahns.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9847491-3-3


JaAke’s Blog

JaAke’s Blog

Posted July 7, 2006 at 4:37 pm

I know you guys never met my dad.  Me neither.

But I found a box full of stuff in the basement and he did something bad. Really bad. He’s writing about doing something and afraid that people will find “the body.” You guyz read this and tell me if u think he’s talkin about his own or someone else’s.  I can’t tell. Maybe thatz why I never knew him.

I wouldn’t have found the box if I wasn’t down there snoopin for my birthday prez. Da Momz would kill me for snoopin around.  So no sayin nuthin about this except on this site.  No phone texting. Someone could see ur phone.  No phone calls. Someone could hear u. I got this blog totally secured with passwords.  No writing down the passwords, that’s why I called u both and said it over the phone.  Even if u r tortured, u can NOT tell.  If you do, I will kill u!

Maybe I am JUST like my dad. 🙂

Today only had time to scan one sheet. It was lying on top of the rest. All I got time for. Scanned on Da Momz machine.  Posted it here next.

When u see it, you’ll know why I’m freakin.

Don’t worry, Smas, I made sure to delete the file from Da Momz computer—don’t want any accidents like you had with ur mom

No more time to look in the basement til Da Momz is out of da house on Monday.

If my dad was this kinda guy, what does that make me?



Date: November 19, 1989

I’m going to do it.  I know I’m going to hell.  But I’m going to have to do it.  It is the hardest decision of my life, but now it is made.  I’m a different person today than I was yesterday.  I don’t know who I’ll be tomorrow.

Everyone around me is as miserable as I am.  Maybe this is the way I can make a difference:  take one unhappy person out of the mix. I hope we’ll all be in a happier place tomorrow. Today I can at least stop some of the suffering.

I keep trying to justify this in a million ways. None are probably good enough though.

But at least they can’t bother me after this—none of them.  I’ll be through with them and on to the next stage of existence.

I hope some poor innocent doesn’t find the body—no one needs that trauma. But it’s one part of the plan that I can’t do anything about.  Whoever finds it, finds it.

My “new life” starts tomorrow. God willing, it will be better.


–. — .- -.


[dot-matrix print on yellowed perforated computer paper]

September 26, 1989

To: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)

From: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)

Hello from Singapore!  Finally!  Sorry it took so long to contact you.  Getting set up here took a while, I did find a knock-off PC for US$200, but I haven’t quite got the modem successfully talking to both the CPU and the telephone yet; maybe a translation problem? I’m at a friend’s house tonight (and that’s the story I need to tell you!). Because his PC and modem are already set up, I can reach you immediately.

You’ll see why speed is so important when you hear all that has happened in the last day.  And you, Wade, are the only one I can tell.  I can’t send a letter to my parents, because it would take forever to reach them. And calling would be even worse; they would truly freak out.  Then there is the cost of a long distance call and I am out of money.

I really don’t have anyone here in Singapore who can help, either.  The Rotary Club is a joke!  I’m supposed to have a sponsor, but he hasn’t made the time to talk to me once since I got here.  (I literally sat outside his office for 5 hours one day … he simply wouldn’t come out.  I know he was in there because at one point, I saw takeout food being hauled in by his secretary!!!!)

But I have to tell someone, and who better than an aspiring lawyer and former roommate.  My life kinda hangs in the balance right now.

Okay—brief strokes here because there is WAY too much to tell, but I need you to understand.

I’m renting a room with a Chinese family, the Tings—their daughter went off to college in Australia so they rented her room out!  I pay S$300 (US$150) a month for the room and S$40 (another US$20!) a month for half a shelf of storage space in the refrigerator where I keep bread, peanut butter, and jam  (damn capitalists!).  If I run the air conditioning (one of those tacky window units) for too long, I get a knock on the door. I have to share the bathroom and “shower” (a spigot over the toilet) with the family’s amah (maid)!  She doesn’t like the arrangement, so she often locks herself in the toilet in the morning, leaving me to do my ablutions in a public restroom at the school before class!!!  (Boy did I get off track … all that was to say that I have a room!)

This morning, there was a frantic knocking at the door and high-pitched screeching of my name. Honestly, it sounded like Chinese opera. “NeeeeeeeFahhhhhhhheeeeeee.”  Mrs. Ting made a true diva entrance to tell me I had visitors at the front door.  She was in rare form—even for her … which I suppose is why it’s called rare form.  I just assumed that she didn’t like her renters to have friends … after all, no one had visited me before.  But I was perplexed. I really don’t know anyone in this country yet.  And the few acquaintances I do have, certainly don’t know where I live.  Then there was the time of day: who could possibly be wanting to see me at 7am?

Down the stairs from my little room, I found two guys wearing suits and ties just on the other side of the front door bars—all homes in Singapore seem to have locked bars so the air can flow through, but the riff-raff can’t. I thought they might be missionaries. But they were a bit too old … and not sporting the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” plastic name tags.

As I walked up to the bars of the front door, the duo—in a fluid, almost-pre-rehearsed, choreographed motion—removed wallets from their breast pockets, flipped them open, and held them up against the bars.  The bronze badges were shiny … and intimidating. One intoned the words, “We’re from the CID.”

I’ve heard of the British CID—Criminal Investigation Division—so I assumed this must be Singapore’s version.

They asked me to get my passport.  I ran back up the stairs to my room, my heart was pounding. As I rounded the corner, I saw all three Ting children and their mom, the screeching diva, pull their heads back into their rooms.  Downstairs again, I passed my passport through the bars.  The scrawnier of the two started paging through it.  He pointed at one page and said, in a simple, curious tone “What is this?”  He was not holding it close enough to the bars for me to really see, so I opened the latch to step outside and get a closer look. As I peered at the stamp, the second beefier guy stepped quickly behind me and gathered my arms into a bundle.  I can tell you from experience now: handcuffs are not comfortable.

Twenty minutes later, I was in a tiny interrogation room—all white … not clean, freshly painted white … scuffed up white—with originally white metal chairs that have been nicked with use over time.  There was a stocky flat-faced Mongolian looking guy in the room with me … and another guy who might have been Malay—dark skin or just really tan.  (I don’t know. I haven’t been here long enough yet to have all the races sorted out.) So anyway, the big guy started berating me.  His accent was thick and I really didn’t understand at first.  I really thought he was speaking Chinese to me.  But I finally caught a word or two of English and started to piece it together.

Seems I’m illegal in Singapore!  They had no record that the Rotary Club ever sent my papers to Immigration, so I’ve only been on a tourist visa all this time—and that time has now run out.  They found me just three days after it expired!  (Now that is an impressive Immigration enforcement system … but then again, this is a pretty small island.)

Back in the stuffy little room, the big guy kept telling me that I was going to have to leave Singapore.  I kept telling him that I was GLAD to leave, but that the Rotary Club was going to have to buy the ticket (as per my “contract” with the Rotary Fellowship Program).  He kept saying that wasn’t going to happen because “you need to leave immediately.”  I kept telling him that I had no money to leave.  Our disagreement was no different from a lot of the “discussions” you see on the street in Boston. I’m sure our voices were rising. And this discussion was going nowhere.

I don’t remember deciding to stand, or to yell.  It was almost as if my body decided to do those things without consulting with the brain first. In retrospect, my body should not have acted on its own.

Especially the standing up part.

Or screeching, “Then arrest me and deport me already!”

That wasn’t good either.

Did I mention how small the room was? We were all so tightly packed in there that just my starting to rise pushed the little table up and away—toward the Mongol cop. He was slouching in his chair, so the table edge bumped him lightly at about sternum height. But then as I continued to stand…the table naturally continued to lift…and slid up toward his neck. Without meaning to, I was choking a CID officer with his own table.

It was all like slow motion to me.  I saw it happening, but couldn’t stop it. He gasped. The other guy called for help.  Next thing, I’m facedown on the floor with CID guys pouring through the door and onto my back.

The moral of the story: Never yell at a CID officer!

I was dragged into a holding cell.  They even took my belt and shoes.  I was given a phone call, but really didn’t know who to call. I mean, who do I know here????  I didn’t have any phone numbers with me. (Fat chance my land ”lady” would do anything!)  I knew a few people at church, but didn’t have their numbers with me.  Finally, I took a long shot and called the father of one of my newfound friends. My friend, Li Gong, is a student at the university and we got talking in the library at school one day.  He’s a big Stephen King fan.  Later that week, he invited me to dinner at his home.  Turns out, Li Gong’s dad is a Minister in the government, so I figured someone at the CID would have his office number.  Li Gong’s dad’s secretary took a message for the important man’s son, and issued a perfunctory “I will make sure the Minister sees your message.”  With that dismissal, I just knew I was a dead man; I was going to languish away the rest of my life in a Southeast Asian jail.  I asked if I was able to call the US embassy as well.  The still seething Mongolian informed me that I had used my one call.

I was screwed.

Less than half an hour later, both Li Gong and his father walked into my cell.  The Minister got the CID to release me to the Minister’s home for the night—his place is surrounded by surveillance cameras and bodyguards anyway, so it isn’t like I’m going anywhere without a fight.

So that’s where I am tonight, waiting for a hearing tomorrow about both my passport (not a problem; they put me on a plane and I’m out of here!) and the “assaulting an officer” charges (that one has me scared).

Anyway, I’m gonna stop here.  I need to write my parents a letter, just in case, and hope they don’t get it until after this whole thing is cleared up.  But if you don’t hear from me in a few days, contact the embassy here, will you?  Who knows how bad Singaporean prisons can be!!!!


–. — .- -.




[Handwritten on white notepaper with light blue lines]

September 26, 1989

Dear Mom and Dad,

By the time you get this letter, I may already be back in Utah with you.  Or I may still be in Singapore, with everything resolved. But if you haven’t heard from me by the time you get this, you probably need to contact the U.S. Embassy in Singapore to find out where I am. 

It really should be fine—it’s only a problem with paperwork—but just in case, here’s what is happening. Tomorrow I have to go into a hearing about whether I can stay in Singapore.  The Rotary Club never filed the necessary paperwork, so I was invited to talk to the immigration authorities this morning. For some reason they grilled me for hours. 

Fortunately one of my new friends here is the son of a government Minister.  The Minister was nice enough to convince the immigration people to let me stay at his house tonight rather than in detention.   So I have a chance to send this letter just in case.

I’ve decided not to call you on the telephone, because I think everything will work out just fine.  I know how bad Mom’s heart problems are, and I don’t want to stress either one of you unnecessarily.  I’ll never forget that time when I went up flying with my college friend (who just got his pilot’s license and, as you’ll no doubt remember, forgot he had to close his flight plan once he had landed).  That call from the FAA, announcing that I was missing, must have been a huge scare.   I’d never heard so much relief in Mom’s voice as when she called the dorm and I answered.  I never want to frighten you unnecessarily again, so I thought maybe I shouldn’t call you quite yet. 

I’ve notified the American Embassy about my situation and they promised to have someone at the hearing tomorrow. 

If everything goes well tomorrow, September 27th, you will have heard from me long before you get this letter.  If you haven’t heard from me by the time this letter comes, could you please contact Mr. Thompson at the US Embassy in Singapore.  His number is 011-65-55-5555.  I’ll give him your contact information as well.  (Don’t try to contact the Rotary Club, they’re useless!)

I am sure Heavenly Father will be watching over me and what happens here.

I love you both so much and hope you’re well.  You’re the best parents I could ever hope for.

Love, Nephi

–. — .- -.

[Handwritten in pen on cardstock slightly crumpled]

September 27, 1989

Dear Minister and Mrs. Kwai,

I can’t begin to thank you enough for your kindness to a foreign student you had really just met. I wish our second meeting hadn’t involved “house arrest.”  That was terribly embarrassing, but you were so kind and the meal last night was as wonderful as dinner had been a week early under more pleasant circumstances.  I’m not sure how this “hearing” today is going to work out.  But I’ll never forget your kindness and willingfulnes

–. — .- -.

[dot-matrix print on yellowed perforated computer paper]

September 27, 1989


From: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)

Li Gong,

I hope you don’t mind, I’m writing to you from your own computer while you’re off at school this morning.  I didn’t want to disturb you with all this before your test, but I thought that by the time you got back home and checked your email, the test would all be over.

I don’t know how to express my thanks to you. This note is nowhere close to enough, but I’m not sure I’ll ever see you again.  (I know, that sounds melodramatic, and your Dad believes this is all just procedure, but I’m scared to death.)

All these questions keep running through my head.  What if we had never met?  What if your Dad hadn’t been who he is?  What if you hadn’t been kind enough to have me over for dinner already, before all this happened? Li Gong, I feel so very lucky to have become your friend—not only because you and your family helped me out so much, but because you and I have so much in common.

No matter what happens, I’ll always be in debt to you. But I just want to say right here and now, our friendship means much more. If I’m not shipped home or imprisoned, I hope we can get a lot closer.  I’m feeling lots of emotions right now and some of them are probably totally messed up; but if you still want to hang out with a lawless American, just say the word.

I hope your exam went well today.  I’ll call or write—or, who knows, maybe I’ll be under arrest at your house again tonight. (a much more pleasant thought than my Ting family cell … or any other cell)


–. — .- -.


[Transcript of Interrogation on laser printed bond paper]

September 27, 1989

Case number 23985

Present: Nephi Lillywhite Stevensen, US Citizen, interrogatee; Mr. Ronald Thompson, US Embassy Consular Division; Captain Richard Chang and Detective Bo Chang Hwi, interrogators.

Chang: This is an interview of Nephi Lillywhite Stevensen. United States citizen. Passport number B—bravo – 7834509. Case number 23985.  Mr. Ronald Thompson is present as a courtesy to the US government.

Chang:  Mr. Stevensen, for the record what are you doing in Singapore?

Stevensen: We’ve been all through this yesterday. I’m here as a Rotary Scholar, studying Chinese Language at Nanyang Technical Institute.

Chang: And why is it that you do not have a visa?

Stevensen: I thought I did have a valid visa. I filled out all of the paperwork for a visa. I was admitted to the country. Naturally I assumed that my visa had been approved.  I didn’t realize that there was anything else I needed to do.

Chang: Your entry card says that you arrived from Los Angeles?

Stevensen: That’s correct.

Chang: And you flew in on Thai Airways?

Stevensen: Yes.

Chang: So you made stops in Tokyo and Bangkok on the way to Singapore?

Stevensen: I did.

Chang: How much time did you spend on the ground in Thailand?

Stevensen: Exactly what has this got to do with my visa?


Chang: Please answer the question.  How much time in Thailand?

Stevensen: My plane got in late, I had about a six hour layover before my early morning flight to Singapore.

Chang: And what did you do during those six hours?

Stevensen: I was going to sleep in the airport.  But saw an advertisement for a Comfort Inn near the airport, so I called them and found they had a really cheap room for the night.

Chang: So when you wrote on your visa that your last port of call was Los Angeles, that was untrue.  You stopped in Bangkok.

Stevensen: Yes, technically that is true.

Chang: You do have two stamps in your passport from Thailand, both on the 4th of September.  An entry and an exit stamp, on the same day.

Stevensen: So I’m in trouble now because I wrote down the wrong airport that I flew to Singapore from?  How could that possibly matter?  Would you like me to change the immigration card for you?

Chang: Did you interact with anyone while you were in Thailand?

Stevensen: Let’s see, I did say thank you to the Immigration Officer there.

Chang: Are you trying to be funny?

Stevensen: Unsuccessfully, I guess.

Chang: Let’s try this again.  Did you talk to anyone in Thailand?

Stevensen: The hotel clerk and the immigration officer.  That’s all.

Chang: Where has the money been coming from that you’ve been living on?

Stevensen: I only have about 200 US dollars left.  I brought that money with me.

Chang: You live in a pretty nice place.  For the record, I’m referring to his condominium at 46 Carlton Rd in Buona Vista.

Stevensen: I only rent one small bedroom there.

Chang: Still the rent in a place like that must be 300 Sing a month.  Your nest egg will run out soon.  What will you do for money then?

Stevensen:   I’m supposed to be getting US$800 a month in stipend from the Rotary Club, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Chang: How much money did you bring in with you?

Stevensen: I cashed a check for US$600 at a Citibank branch right after I arrived.  That’s what I’ve been living on.

Chang: If the Rotary Scholarship money never came through, what would you do?

Stevensen: Go home, I guess.

Chang: How would you buy a ticket with only US$200?

Stevensen: I’d get my dad to wire some money.

Chang: You don’t have any other contingency plans?

Stevensen: No.  Not really. (long pause)  Are you trying to harass me here?  Is this because I accidentally knocked the table into the officer yesterday?

Chang:  That really is the least of your troubles.  Do you make a habit of attaching your personal belongings to the underside of desk drawers, Mr. Stevensen?

Stevensen: Huh? What desk drawer?

Chang: The one in your room at the Ting residence.

Stevensen: You’ve been in my room?

Chang: This was taped to the underside of a drawer on your desk. (placing a plastic bag on the table)

Stevensen: It looks like a piece of paper that was tossed in the garbage.  I certainly didn’t tape anything to the bottom of my desk drawer. How could that be important?

Chang: You know exactly what it is.   Let me take it out for you so you can see it better. (removing the paper from the bag with gloves)

Stevensen: Okay.  I see it now. But I’ve never seen it before now. Maybe it belongs to the Tings? To the Ting daughter who was in the room before me.

Chang: Why would the Ting daughter have a printed list of Thai escorts? Is this how you were planning to stay employed in Singapore?

Stevensen: Me? Escorts? I’m Mormon!

Chang: I should inform you that, in the Republic of Singapore, human trafficking is a capital offense.

Thompson: I need to advise Mr. Stevensen at this point that he should avail himself of the services of a lawyer.

Stevensen:  I don’t want a lawyer.  I’ve done nothing wrong.

Thompson: Mr. Stevensen, as this accusation is a serious offense in Singapore—at least a deportable one and possibly worse—I suggest that you be quiet at this point.  I can get you a list of legal professionals who help American citizens accused of criminal violations here.  I need to excuse myself now. I thought I was here for an immigration violation.  I will make arrangements with the proper staff members at the US Embassy to contact you.

Chang: Do you have anything more to say, Mr. Stevensen?

Stevensen: I guess not. But either I was set up or this is the Ting’s daughter’s list.  I think you’ve gone after me because I yelled at the officers yesterday.

Thompson: Mr. Stevensen….

Stevensen: Nothing more to say.

Nephi L. Stevensen was escorted from the room to a detention cell.

–. — .- -.



TO: Willard Stevensen

FROM: Nephi Stevensen

DATE: 9-27-89

Dad, please disregard my letter sent last week.  Everything fine.  Visa issues cleared.  Will call soon.  Love to you and Mom.  Nephi

–. — .- -.

September 27, 1989

To: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)

From: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)


I’m a free man!  Well, I’m still in Singapore so I’m not totally free, but not in prison, either.  I was returned to my little room at the Ting’s house this afternoon. Have spent most of the time since getting email to work on this cheap PC clone.  The Tings seem to be going out of their way to keep their distance. As you can imagine that’s fine by me.

The CID had searched my room while I was away, so there was quite a mess that I had to clean up. Good thing I haven’t been here long enough to accumulate much stuff for them to go through.

It was a close call.  But the US Embassy people here helped me out a lot.  I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for the US government.  Wow… if you thought I was a patriot before, watch out.  As our hockey-playing friends would eloquently put it: they saved my ass!

Do you remember Charles Dow from school at all?  I guess he’s in Asia now.  I just happened to run into him today.  It was weird to see him here in Singapore—it all seemed very out of context.

I just wanted to let you know that you can disregard the email from yesterday since everything is solved.  Please write back so that I know you got this.  I’m sorry if I scared you—and grateful you were there for me to rely on.  Speaking of scared: I sent a TELEX to my parents from the embassy to let them know everything is okay.  But I think I’d better bite the bullet and call them later too.

I’ll look for your email soon.


–. — .- -.




Date: September 27, 1989

Subject: Enlistment meeting report, subject Nephi Stevensen

Approached subject at HQ Singapore CID.  Assured him of our ability to extract him from current situation.  Reminded him of his particular interests.  Noted how useful those can be to us in South East Asia.  Conveyed our understanding of need for discretion.  Standard employment contract signed.  New asset to receive bulk of salary in offshore bank account at XXXXXXX Bank.  Small monthly portion will be routed through Rotary Club account in Singapore.  Cleared communication to be via email; specified computers USIA Singapore.  Secure communication face-to-face.  Training ad hoc.




Date: September 26, 1989

Subject: Re: Enlistment meeting report, subject Nephi Stevensen

Assess and report Asset’s strengths and weaknesses.  Particularly weaknesses.  Cannot afford surprises on this assignment.




Date: September 27, 1989

Subject: Asset Weaknesses and Strengths

Direct observation over several years consistently revealed Asset’s core strength: remarkable ability to ignore opposing forces and views.  Singapore CID transcripts show this trait still present.  Asset very strongly assured of his view. Deeply believes there is only right and wrong, and that his side is always right. Tendency enables Asset to stay on task despite high risks and formidable resistance.

This ability key to success of current mission.

Same self-assurance potentially a weakness—can lead to unrealistic plans and compromising positions. Yet current situation demonstrates this weakness can also be used to manage Asset.

–. — .- -.

[On dot-matrix printer paper—hand-ripped on top and bottom]

September 27, 1989

To: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)

From: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)


WHAT HAPPENED?  You’ve been the talk of everyone we know.  We were ready to set up a defense fund.  But you’re out and safe and that is all that really matters.

I must admit, I’m glad I don’t have to call your parents.  They are wonderful, I’m sure, but that would be one uncomfortable call.

I do remember Charles Dow.  He was always a bit mysterious to me.  I remember he wore bow ties to Biology…puzzling. And then there was that accent, constantly fluctuating from Maine to the Midwest.  But you always said that he looked out for you at the Club.  So he can’t be all bad.  Small world, that you’d run into him in Singapore of all places.

Everything here is just the same.  Law school is a real grind. And this is only the first week!  It is nice to still be in Cambridge though.  The poor 1Ls who haven’t lived here before are dealing with new place anxiety, law school overload, and the whole “can I make it at Harvard?” thing all at once.

I still see lots of familiar faces around town.  Amazing how many people from the College stick around for graduate torture!

Tell me more when you can.

Your man in Cambridge,


–. — .- -.

[On an off-white card with a simple “I’m Sorry” in silver ink cursive script on the front]

September 30th


Thank you so much for the kind note.  It is nice to have a “friend so far from home.”  And I am sorry that I didn’t contact you during the ordeal last week.  As you said, I am very lucky to have Li Gong as a friend.  But really I called him because I hoped that his father might be able to help out. After he did, and I got out of that holding cell, I just wanted to be left alone… but you’re right, I should have called you. 

Anna, I just want to say how important your friendship is to me already.  It feels like we’ve known each other more than just a couple of weeks. And I look forward to getting to know you even better during this coming year. Here we are, two American Mormons, from pretty unusual colleges, both spending a year in Singapore.  Who knows where this could all go! 

Yours, Nephi

–. — .- -.

[On corporate letterhead]

October 2, 1989

Dear Mr. Stevensen,

I hope you will allow me to apologize profusely for the missteps by the Rotary Club in Singapore.  I am deeply sorry for the mistakes that we made resulting in your difficulties last week.  We have now resolved the visa issues as well as the stipend issues.  Expect a monthly deposit to your account at United Overseas Bank.

As a graduate student, I was treated very kindly by the people of Boulder, Colorado and by the Rotary Club there.  Even after all these years, I have not forgotten their kindness. While I can never repay them, I do hope that in some small way, I shall be able to make your graduate experience in Singapore and with Singaporeans as positive as mine was in the USA and with Americans.

I will contact you by phone shortly to arrange a time for a luncheon with you.  It will be my pleasure to meet you monthly, if possible, and make sure that you are well accommodated and happy during your sojourn in our Republic.

Humbly yours,

Rajeed Venkatesan, Ph.D.


Scandar Holdings

–. — .- -.

[On dot-matrix printout]

October 3rd

Mother and Father,

I hope that you’re doing well.  I got your letter the other day.  I’m really concerned about Sister Taylor!  Does it look like she’s going to be okay?  Please let me know what is going on in your next letter.

Forgive me for typing this, but it is so much easier for me and, I’m sure, easier for you to read as well.

On my side, it is a relief to be back in school after the mess with the Rotary Club and the immigration department.  It feels like my life is returning to normal now.  But because I missed two days of classes last week, I’m a bit behind on vocabulary.  Some of my classmates have helped me out, though.

I’ve never told you much about the makeup of my class, but it is really interesting (and strange).   There is only one other American in my class; a guy named Loren.  I don’t know his last name. We all go by first names right now, usually Chinese-ified somehow.  My name is Nifa and sounds pretty close to Nephi, but some of the other students have translations of their names that make it hard to know what the original name was.

Most of my class is young guys from the Soviet Union. They all work for various government agencies. I guess under Communism, everyone does. They are studying Chinese in Singapore because no other Mandarin-speaking nation will take Russians in their programs.  They don’t seem to be evil. But I have very little to do with them.  They arrive in minivans—Soviets in a Dodge!—every day from their apartment building and they leave immediately after class is over.  A couple of our teachers have suggested that it would be good for their language study if they stayed around the school until lunch is over and practiced their Chinese a little bit.  They don’t speak English and noone else in the class speaks Russian, so they’d have to practice their Chinese to talk to any of us over lunch.  (My guess is that as soon as they get into the Dodge, they only speak in Russian and so aren’t getting as much Mandarin practice as the rest of us.)

But I was thinking soon after I arrived here and met my classmates that maybe my coming to Singapore and being given no alternative but to enter this program was part of some larger Plan from our Heavenly Father.  I don’t think it is often that younger Russians get to travel abroad and they certainly don’t get the chance to interact with Mormons.  In one of the first classes, my teacher asked me in Chinese what kind of beer I like.  I told him I didn’t drink because of my religion.  I realized that I didn’t even know the Chinese word for “Mormon,” but the teacher seemed to know a little about the church and taught me the Chinese word for Mormon in front of the whole class.  I explained in really simple Chinese that what is most important in our religion is not our doctrine on drinking, but rather our focus on love.  Raising children in loving families who learn how to communicate that love throughout the world is what matters.  I think everyone in the class appreciated that.  Even the Soviets looked pretty sympathetic. We have a section of the textbook later in the semester that is supposed to be on religion, which will mostly be Buddhist terms, but I’m sure the issue will come up again.  It would be such a blessing to help others learn about the Gospel.

So I believe that the Rotary Club sending me to Singapore to learn Chinese was probably pre-designed.  I’m hoping that nothing but good will come from this whole experience.

There are some very nice people in the Branch here as well.  I’ll tell you more about them as I get to know them better.

Say hi to everyone in the Stevensen clan. I need to write more letters to everyone else.  But when you talk to them, please let them know that they are all in my prayers.

Love, Nephi

–. — .- -.

[Small card with “Get Well Soon” in script on the first front]

October 3rd


I hope you get better soon.  I couldn’t find a decent card.  This is about all they had there—I hope it helps you to feel a little bit better!

Are you getting over your cold?  I was really sorry to hear that you’ve been sniffly (sp?) all week.  I really look forward to seeing you this weekend; Li Gong told me about a great restaurant that just opened near Orchard Road, so if you’re up for dinner and a movie, I’d love that as well.

Sincerely, Nephi

–. — .- -.

JaAke’s Blog

Posted July 11, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Samantha, thanx 4 telling me about encryption software.  Hadn’t thought about that or keystroke detectors on my computer.  Spent yesterday reading and installing freeware.  I actually found an old spy program on my PC.  Log said it hadn’t run for a long time, so I think da silly Momz put it on there and forgot about it.  I think everything is safe now.  Ready to report.

Okay, so my Dad’s name was Nephi. I think maybe I’ve told u guyz that before but I’ve only even heard the name a few times in my whole life.   The stuff in the box is from a time he was in Singapore and did something wrong and was arrested for human trafficking!!!!!!  How wild is that? But then got free!!!!!!  But being free worries him.  Which is strange, but there’s some government documents with words blacked out, just like in the movies.  Pretty KUUUL, huh? Is that why he killed someone or got killed?

That’s as far as I got today.


Smasma (7-11-06 3:25pm): OMG!!!!  For so long, you didn’t have a dad at all.  Now you find out that your dad was a really bad guy.  I’m so sorry, Jake. :’-(  He was selling people?  :-@ More detail please?? How does this make u feel?  :-#  Maybe I can come over sometime when no one is there—I gotta see this.

Jaake (3:28pm): Not a chance.  You know you’ll never get over here when da Momz b away.  I’d b so massacred. But I’ll keep u both in touch. And I’m ok with it all.  Don’t know my dad anyway.  If he was bad, that’s him not me.

Mattz (4:14pm): Lipz R Zipd – human traffik! diz iz RADCOOL!  Jaake, I like u bettr now

Mattz (4:15pm): did he kill doz peeps he wuz selling?  r those da “bodies” he talked about in dat first scan?

Jaake: (4:18pm) Dunno.  He only talked about 1 body.  And that scan was from months later – read the dates at the top or u’ll be totally lost, Mattz.

Smasma (5:24pm): Can you scan what you’re reading? I want to read too! *\o/* (new emoticon I found: cheerleader!) 🙂

Jaake (5:43pm): Too much stuff. Our scanner is Dark Agez. But I can scan the best stuff.

–. — .- -.

[Laser printer print out]

October 5, 1989 (Thursday)

To: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)

From: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)


Sorry!  It took me forever to write back.  Actually, I wrote some of this a couple of days ago, but my landlord family is very jittery about me using their telephone line.  Imagine—ever since armed men ransacked my room in their house, they’re strangely uncomfortable with me using their part of the house. To get a phone line to my room (and to the modem on my computer) I have to string a cord from their living room down the hall to my room.  I find it is easier on all of us to do this when no one is home—which isn’t often.  But you’ll know when they’re away because you’ll get my emails—maybe a stack of them all at once.

You know I was supposed to be in a Master’s program in Asian Studies at the university here, but when I arrived they informed me that I couldn’t be admitted to that program, because I was missing a prerequisite. (I don’t believe I am, but they would not budge on their decision.)  Turns out that the only program available for my year in Singapore was Chinese language.  I was planning to take courses in Mandarin while here anyway, but now that has become my whole focus.  I’m a Chinese-learning fool.

I started writing a short description of my class at school, but because it took so long to get online, the description has kinda ballooned.  It is REALLY long now, so read it if you like… if not skim through it.  (Sounds like as busy as you are, you may not get a chance to read much until Winter Break!!!)

So on Monday I went to Hao Lao Shi’s course on Chinese Economics.  This class is only one of the four that I have each week, but it is the only class I really remember.  Partly because Hao has a personality bigger than life, but mostly because he can be such a buffoon.  Hao is his family name and Lao Shi means “old man”—but in Chinese that connotes “teacher” and is a term of great respect.  Still, it’s hard not to smile when I realize I’m literally saying to him “I don’t know the answer, Old Man!”  Might be handy in those Socratic-method classes at the law school….

Hao only speaks to us in Mandarin, but he’s got such a Singaporean twang to his Chinese, it is very hard for me to understand.  Beijing Mandarin truly sounds beautiful, at least to me.  What they do to Mandarin here in Singapore, by contrast, is a bit of a crime. Still, it’s not nearly the felony committed by anyone speaking Cantonese, where even a heartfelt “I love you” sounds like a threat of prolonged and painful torture.

The title of our text book for Hao’s class is—I swear this is a direct and clinically accurate translation—Our Work is for the Benefit of Socialism and the Party.  Everything in the book is “comrade” this or “commune” that.  Remember, this is a course on Economics.  There is no “supply and demand,” no “money supply.”  We’ve been at this for three weeks and haven’t learned the word for “profit” yet.  I doubt that Hao Lao Shi even knows these words in Chinese; I am quite sure he isn’t interested in discussing these capitalistic concepts in class.  But we did learn all about the Triumph of the Farmers and Labor Rights.  And even though Hao Lao Shi fled mainland China with his family as a school boy, he loves the ideals of the Communist Party.

The only other American in the class is Wu Li Ren.  That’s what he goes by at school; I think his English first name is Loren.  He is one of the oldest students, yet has learned nothing past rudimentary Chinese greetings. He simply has no ear for Chinese. A fellow American from another class told me that Loren’s overbearing mom has moved him from school to school and told him that if he fails out of this program, the jig is up.

Li Ren may be literally tone deaf.  Not good for learning a tonal language like Chinese.  He continues to use intonation for emphasis—just as any “gud re’blooded ‘merucan” would.   So when he wants to emphasize a word, he says it a pitch or two higher than the words in the sentence surrounding it.  Early this semester, he wanted to say:  I like to ride horses—and he emphasized the word “horses.”  But that emphasis changed the meaning of the word, so that his sentence was: “I like to ride mother.” Wrong, in so many ways.

So back to this Monday’s class.  Loren got the tones wrong and screwed up the word “benefit.”  Hao winces a lot when Wu Li Ren is talking.  The rest of us may not even notice the errors much, but I guess a real professor type can only wince so many times before he has to stop Wu Li Ren to point out the blunders.  None of us knew the meaning of the word that Li Ren managed to substitute for “benefit,” Old Man Hao was trying to explain it, mostly through mime.  He kept putting a pencil on Wu Li Ren’s desk…then he’d walk away…then seconds later he’d turn, lunge forward, and grab the pencil.  (This elicited gasps from the Japanese women every time; Hao may be an Old man, but he is not a Small one.) I heard someone say “grab or pull” in Japanese, then in English.  That seemed reasonable, but Teacher Hao shook his head.  Then he tried a different strategy.  He gave Wu Li Ren the pencil this time.  Then he asked for it.  Loren gave up the pencil gladly.  One of the Russians announced (because they never ask a question, they only announce) in Chinese “Means ‘to ask’!”

Teacher Hao boomed “Not right” in English and wrote the characters for the offending pronunciation on the board.  And because Chinese and Japanese characters have all the same meanings, immediately the Japanese students nodded in understanding and the one who speaks the best English turned to Loren and said, “It means to ‘take back’ or ‘retract.’”

Wu Li Ren looked back at the sentence in the book to try to figure out why Hao had been so offended by his mis-intonation of this particular sentence.  Finally his face showed a glimmer of understanding.  He had not said “We work for the benefit of Socialism and the Party.”  He had said “We work to take away (or retract) Socialism and the Party.”  This obviously did not sit well with the Old Man.

We had just gotten through all that; it looked like peace was finally at hand. Then Loren, in an ill-fated attempt to make restitution, blurted: “Wo zuo ai mousey dung.”

Everyone in the class has different recollections of the moment.  Without really hearing the first words of the sentence (in fact I was still trying to work out the ‘benefit’ versus ‘retract’ conundrum), I did perk up at the end of the sentence to notice that Li Ren had said something about mouse poop.

A male Japanese student sucked air through his teeth.  The Soviets with good Chinese skills fell into nervous, almost silent red-faced laughter—one literally threw his head back so hard that his butt dislodged from the seat. He ultimately slid halfway to the ground with his chest wedged between his chair and the attached writing table.

But it was the Old Man’s reaction that was most impressive.  He turned on point like an oversized ballerina and launched himself into the air, eventually landing (quite delicately, I might add) in front of Li Ren.  He took one step toward Loren and drew his arm back for a roundhouse, or maybe an open-handed slap.  But instead of striking, Hao made a graceful 90-degree turn (closely resembling those dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia) and then practically skipped out of the classroom.

There was total silence.  We were all so shocked, even the quiet Russian sniggering ended. No one moved.

Poor Loren looked completely confused.  As the only other American, I thought I should try to help.  I twisted in my desk-chair to face Wu Li Ren and ask the obvious question: “What WERE you trying to say?”

“I have the greatest love for Maow Sey Dung,” he said.

“Do you mean the founder of Chinese communism?”

Loren nodded like “Who else?”

“Then it is pronounced Mao Zedong.” As I said this (with what I thought was the proper Chinese pronunciation) two Japanese women finally understood what he was trying to say; they gasped, then started to giggle, their hands covering their mouths.  Another Russian snorted and turned red in the face—finally fully understanding what Loren had said.   Loren was still lost.

Since I hadn’t heard the whole sentence, all I knew was that he had said something about Chairman Mao.  “So what exactly did you say in Chinese?”

“Wo zuo ai,” he paused to set up the correct intonation, “Mao Zedong.”

I gasped inadvertently. “Loren, you just said you make love to Chairman Mao!”

Loren’s expression didn’t change.

“’’Make love’ as in ‘have sex with’…” I explained.

Loren’s face fell.  “I…I…. I….” he stammered. “I was just trying to say ‘have the most love’ or ‘have a lot of’ like zuo xihuan. ‘I like a lot’”

I said, “you mean ‘zui xihuan.’”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

“No, Loren, you didn’t said that!”

We all finally got it. He hadn’t missed the tone this time.  He’d said an entirely wrong word: “zuo” instead of “zui”…thus saying “make” instead of “the most”…thus telling our giant Chinese communist instructor, in effect, “I screw Chairman Mao!”

By the end, when I looked around the room, everyone was laughing—except one Russian student, SaXia.  He was looking at Loren with the softest look in his eyes.  If his eyes could talk, they would have been saying: “I’m so sorry that happened to you.  That is really too bad.”  I didn’t expect that from a Soviet. I guess there are anomalies in any culture.

Okay—that story took WAY too long.  I’m going to hit send now.  I look forward to more news of autumnal bliss in New England.  I could use a crisp, cool Cambridge breeze here right about now, but I know that will never be coming.

I’ll write again soon when I get the phone line to my room.


–. — .- -.

October 5, 1989

To: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)

From: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)

Great story—loved it.  You have Soviets in your class?  What are they doing there?

–. — .- -.

October 5, 1989

To: 59302,40021@compuserve.com (Wade Baker)

From: 10930,10278@compuserve.com (Nephi Stevensen)

There are 15 Russians at the school.  Six of them are in my classroom. Five are in their late twenties; the sixth is obviously not a real student. He is older and seems to be their baby-sitter. He literally never speaks; we don’t even know his name. We’ve gone to just calling him Karl.  (I think Loren started this—cleverest thing he’s come up with—the poor Russian really does have Karl Malden’s nose.)

We’re pretty sure they are all KGB.  They’ve graduated from the best universities in the Soviet Union and been assigned to various government ministries.  Every morning, they arrive in two minivans from their apartments on the other side of the island.  It is like 15 drably dressed circus clowns pouring out of vehicles way too small for that many people of that size. None of the other students has ever been invited to see their apartments. The Russkies don’t even fraternize at school.  And they are never assigned to a classroom alone, always three or more at a time.

I told you about SaXia—the Soviet who wasn’t laughing at Loren.  He’s relatively young—maybe a little older than us—and much more Western than the other Russians.  His name is actually Sasha, but written SaXia in Chinese. He has light brown, nearly blond, hair that is almost crew cut, a bit too long to be called that, but a similar effect.  His hair seems to grow vertically out of his head and keep going straight up much farther than it should without bending back over to his scalp.  SaXia has native-sounding Chinese skills.  And he can repeat back anything that anyone says to him almost immediately.  So on the rapid-fire exercises, SaXia is very good.  The Japanese women in the class giggle and swoon every day when SaXia walks into the room.   One goes pink as soon as she sees him and it doesn’t wear off for minutes.  I’m sure they’re impressed by SaXia’s Chinese abilities, but that’s not the main cause of their swooning—SaXia could easily be a Hollywood star

.–. — .- -.

JaAke’s Blog

Posted July 12, 2006 at 4:21 pm

This just gets better.  Nephi’s in classes with KGB agents—the Russian CIA.  They’re all taking Chinese together. Having spies would make class way more interesting! There’s one Russian who just sits there and watches the rest all day long—he’s not there to learn at all, just keepin the others in line. Cash 4 grades seems like a stupid motivation system compared to a KGB agent. Matt, you need someone like that in ur classes with a gun to ur head. You might learn something!


Mattz (7-12-06 4:25pm): every1 knowz what da KGB is idiot!  Im not da only 1 whod do bettr w KGB treatmnt – I knw 2 otherz who need it 2 – I won’t name namez

Smasma (4:51pm): Paying attention at school is not my problem. Quite the opposite. 🙁  If a KGB dude in the class could help me 2 relax, my mom might hire me one.  But reading this history of your long-lost father must be so weird for you, Jake. :~(

Jaake (7:52pm): Just feels like a fiction story now.  But, since I’m finally learning about my dad, I’m sure a lot more interested than I’d normally be.


–. — .- -.

[Three ring binder paper, thin-blue lines, red margin line, multiple fold lines as if it had been folded over and over again into a small square]

October 8, 1989 – Sunday

I’ve been warned not to write any of this down.  But I can’t quit. I’ve been putting my deepest feelings on paper since my Mission. Most missionaries ended up spending an inordinate amount of time getting lost in their journals.  We were all away from family and lifelong friends for the first time. None of us could talk about what we were really
feeling—especially the negative thoughts. So journals bore the brunt; hours of brunt.  After confiding to a notebook for months, you find yourself hooked.  My writing habit stayed with me all through college.  When I left Boston for this adventure, I had a stack of notebooks no one had ever seen besides me.  The night before I got on the plane, I burned the whole lot.

I never started a journal when I first got to Singapore—I was too busy and stressed.  And then, with the whole “visa problem,” I was afraid to start.  But I find myself in the middle of a class composing a journal passage in my head and know that I just have to do this—even if it gets me in a lot of trouble.  I’ll try to be discreet, but I’ve just got to write.  In freshman sociology, we read a book called Asylums.  The author pointed out that everyone needs to have his privacy.  In prisons, asylums, and other lock ups internees are always creating little “stashes” for themselves so that they can preserve some iota of privacy.  I guess that is what this is for me.  I need it, even if I get into a jam because of it.

That may even be a reason to write it down—I’m worried.  I’m not sure that any of this is what they say it is.  I have no proof of anything.  This may get me in trouble, but it may save me some day too.  All I know is that at church they are constantly telling us to write journals and diaries.  There must be something good about it—I’ll accept that on faith.

My whole life I’ve had an issue that I could share only with my journal.  But now I have more than one secret to protect; I have a whole new life to keep hidden.  This isn’t just about concealing things from friends and family. This is total deception, about everything. Sure, parts of it I can write to Charles now.  But most of it—my fears, my mistakes, my misgivings, and even most of my actions—I can only tell my journal.  I completely understand why the Prophet Spencer Kimball was so insistent that a journal should be an integral part of everyone’s life. 

It takes a lot of effort to keep everything consistent.  I’m having to come up with excuses to cover my excuses.  During the first weeks I was in Singapore, it wouldn’t have been any trouble at all, but now that I’m getting closer with Anna, I have to bow out on her at kinda weird moments.  My guess is that she just thinks I’m a bit eccentric right now.  I wish she didn’t have to think that.  She seems so put together and I’m just acting odd half the time… sheesh!

But we spent a really nice afternoon together after church meetings today.  The speaker was from the High Council, an Indian guy and really hard to understand—the parts I did understand were boring.  Anna and I kept catching each other’s eyes (not literally, of course, although that doesn’t sound so crazy now that I’ve started living the life of a spy in Singapore—jolly good entertainment, Bond might say, flogging and eye-catching!). Then the perplexed look on each others’ faces would just crack us up.  The one word that he really slowed down to say was “purgatory.”  It is not a word we usually hear a lot in Mormon meetings in the US, so it was strange that he seemed to use it every few sentences.  I guess that the fear of Purgatory is his own personal reason for continuing to pay tithing!  For me, ten percent of my income is the least of my worries.

Anna and I had a laugh today about Funny Underwear, too.  Most of the Saints in Singapore don’t wear them, because most here have never been through the Temple.  The closest Temple is in the Philippines.  But you can tell which ones in the congregation are wearing the Garment—not only by the telltale neckline under their shirt or blouse, but also by the use of the photocopied meeting program as a fan.  Anna and I did a little survey together; sure enough, those fanning themselves are almost all Garment wearers.  I’m sure that extra layer drives up your body temperature by at least a degree or two.

When Heavenly Father told early Church leaders to wear the Garment, He was talking to a bunch of Northern Europeans in a fairly cool climate.   Yeah, summers in Utah can get toasty, but not humid.  How do Members in the rest of the world cope?

I know that the Garment, when worn next to the skin, is supposed to protect.  There are great faith-promoting-rumors about people scraped, cut or burned all over their bodies except where the Garment protected the body.  The Garment protection would be a bit superfluous, though, if you were in a real conflagration, as it doesn’t cover the head or limbs.  Nice to a have torso unscathed, but nicer to have your head, perhaps? Maybe Mormons should have adopted those scarves, like Muslim women.  

I have my first trip next weekend.  I have to lie to everyone about it.  No one who I love or care for will know where I am or why I’m there.  I’m going somewhere that Americans aren’t supposed to go.  This is just too weird for me.  But I can’t get out of it. Can I?

I don’t dare stash this in my room.  I’m going to have to find another place… until then, I guess I’ll just keep it folded up in my pocket.  (Is that safe though?)

[At the bottom of the page in a different color pen, but same handwriting]

I guess it was!



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