“Taxi Talk,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 68–69
“I create opportunities for missionary work,” states Bill Cortelyou, who has been a cab driver in a Boston suburb for 22 years. During the past 15 years Brother Cortelyou has given away more than 6,000 copies of the Book of Mormon and 10,000 pamphlets of The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony to his passengers and other people he meets.
Brother Cortelyou files the material alphabetically by language and keeps them in a box in his cab or in an athletic bag that he carries when he uses public transportation. “Then when I meet an Ethiopian, for example, and ask if he speaks Amharic, I can quickly hand him the appropriate copy,” says Brother Cortelyou. “I usually have something with me to give away. Otherwise, it is a lost opportunity.”
Because Boston is a center for medicine, technology, finance, and education, people from all over the world gather there. Since Brother Cortelyou’s route includes Logan International Airport, he transports visitors from places such as India, Nigeria, Japan, Bolivia, and Italy. Among his passengers have been scientists, doctors, Nobel Prize winners, priests, rabbis, and government officials from many nations. He has given away copies of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith pamphlets in more than 35 languages, including Polish, Thai, Greek, Swahili, and Vietnamese. “Rarely do I encounter somebody who speaks a language that I don’t have something for,” he says.
On an average day Bill makes 20 trips in his cab. He typically gives Joseph Smith pamphlets or copies of the Book of Mormon to four or five of his passengers. “People don’t often turn down my offer, because the Spirit helps me,” he says. “They’re usually very kind and receptive. Sometimes my offer leads to a discussion about the Church.
“I know of one person who has been baptized from my giving her a Book of Mormon. And once I sent two copies of the Croatian Book of Mormon to a doctor in Zagreb who had been my passenger. He wrote me a nice note of appreciation. I would love to know about others, but when we give service we do not always know the outcome. My missionary work is to create opportunities for someone to make the choice about learning the truth of the gospel.”
Brother Cortelyou grew up in Oceanside on Long Island, New York, and joined the Church while in his 30s. Though he did not have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission, missionary work now fills much of his life.
He serves as a counselor in the presidency of the Revere Second Branch, Boston Massachusetts Stake.—Janet Peterson, Sandy, Utah