Cougar Joe: Greatest tool is Book of Mormon

"Cougar Joe" is his nickname, but his fame lies not in bagging big cats but in enthusiastically sharing the gospel with hundreds of people.

Joseph C. Judd, 91, is a member of the Virgin Ward, La Verkin Utah Stake. He has spent nearly 40 years energetically sharing the gospel as part of formal Church callings and informally through his friendly, outgoing manner."I never met a missionary with more enthusiasm and desire to do the work than `Cougar Joe' Judd," said Jack Lemmon, his former stake president and a former mission president.

A hunting guide for 14 years - hence the nickname - Cougar Joe remains an avid fisherman and missionary who teaches the gospel to anyone he knows is outside the "gospel net." He often is led by the Spirit in his efforts and has learned to act quickly upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost to find those seeking the truth.

Three hours before his 90th birthday party, Brother Judd was sitting in his living room when he felt prompted to get in his truck and drive to a nearby fishing hole. Thirty minutes later, he was sharing the gospel with two fishermen - in answer to the silent prayers of one of the men.

On other occasions, people are led to Brother Judd.

In 1970, he opened a rock shop in Springdale, Utah - gateway to Zion National Park. After serving in a bishopric for seven years, he was called as a missionary, to work out of his store.

One day a couple from New Hampshire stopped by the store. The woman bought some jewelry, then told Brother Judd that when they had passed his shop moments before, something had told her they needed to go back. As Brother Judd visited with the couple, he found they had lost their only two children. One had died in infancy and the other, 11 years old, was shot and killed in a robbery. The couple's grief was inconsolable.

"I knew they didn't know the plan of salvation," Brother Judd reflected. He introduced them to the restored gospel and to the plan of salvation. He then invited them to park their motor home in his driveway. They stayed a month and were baptized. A year later, Brother Judd stood as proxy as they were sealed to their two sons in the temple.

During the 20 years that Brother Judd owned and operated his shop, he distributed more than 1,000 copies of the Book of Mormon in 12 languages, and was instrumental in bringing more than a score of people and their families into the Church.

"The greatest tool a missionary has is the Book of Mormon," he said. "People who read it sincerely are converted to the truth and tend to remain firm in it."

Cougar Joe's love of missionary work goes back many years. In 1942, he went into ranching. Having a wife and six children to support, he supplemented their income by working in the silver mines in Silver Reef, Utah. There he was called as a missionary by President David O. McKay. He found his first investigators 400 feet underground.

"When it came time for lunch, the men opened their boxes and I opened the Book of Mormon," he recalled. "We talked about the gospel at nearly every meal."

Eight miners and their families were baptized. One of the men later served as a stake president.

The 1950s brought Brother Judd and his family back to his hometown of Washington in southwest Utah. There his ward had 50 adult deacons who had languished spiritually for years. He was called to head the Adult Aaronic Priesthood program and given the task of activation and priesthood advancement for all 50 men and their families.

Under his leadership, seven teachers were called and appointments made for weekly gospel study in members' homes.

"Each man would gather his family once a week, and we would read from the Book of Mormon for an hour and then discuss the gospel. We also held weekly parties, cookouts and dances. If they didn't show up, we went and got them," he said, laughing.

Within three years, all but one of the men had taken their families to the temple.

"At those times the tears flowed, no one was ashamed," Brother Judd remembered. During one sealing session, he and his instructors watched as 25 members of one family were sealed - four generations.

"When I was a hunting guide, I thought I was living the greatest life a man could live," said Brother Judd. "But when I became active in the Church, I knew it wasn't. I enjoy being a missionary more than anything I've ever done."

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