Posted by: Elder and Sister Hambelton | December 1, 2012

Another Milestone: The Defeat of the UK Monster

There is a monster in the UK and it is not the Loch Ness Monster. It terrifies every senior missionary who comes here. It looms over us like a smothering black cloud that never leaves. Anxiety about it has given some senior missionaries shingles, some have been sick, others have sought a transfer to Ireland to escape the monster. Still others limit themselves to a small, comfortable known area and do not venture far from their flats.

Everyone who faces the monster spends hours and hours in preparation and many spend hundreds of dollars. Nearly every non-UK senior missionary knows they must face the monster or leave for Ireland or stay close to home. When you reach one year in your mission, you must study for and pass the hardest driving exam in Europe, maybe the world. This is the monster that looms over senior missionaries from the day they arrive in the country and are given a car to drive. The stress of both learning to drive all over again the British way, and preparing for the monster is a principle discussion topic at every meeting of senior missionaries. Everyone fears the monster and few are successful without vast investments of time and effort and worry.

The UK monster test consists of 3 rounds each administered separately: the theory test, which is a comprehensive test of the Highway Code (the laws). The second round is called the Hazard Perception test and it consists of 15 video clips taken from the perspective of a driver of a vehicle driving in various driving situations, that contain at least one driving hazard that you must identify within the proper “window” of time in order to score the necessary points on the clip. The third and final ordeal is the “practical test” where you  drive for 40 minutes with an examiner who scores you on your driving. You must not only drive legally and safely but you must perform certain driving procedures and maneuvers correctly or you fail. They only pass 50-60% of those seeking a license.

We have had to face the monster. Our calling requires us to travel and we cannot finish our mission without a license. Sister Hambelton is chief navigator and I try to not hit anything or be hit, nor go the wrong way on the roundabouts. Together we have managed to drive safely over 12,000 miles and navigate ourselves to locations in every major city in Scotland and Belfast, Dublin and Limerick in Ireland. Our one-year mark finds us perhaps the most experienced and travelled senior missionary couple in the mission.

After hours and hours of study, practice, a few driving lessons, and fasting and prayers for Grandpa Ben, we faced the monster. We won round one, I passed the theory test with a perfect score. In round two, the monster rallied but I prevailed and passed the Hazard Perception test. In the third match with the monster, he doubled his intensity and though I seemed to survive relying on our experience, in fact the monster won, I failed the “practical” exam. No license, no car, no travel, our mission hung in the balance.

We scheduled a rematch and prepared with zeal and dedication. More prayers, fasting, a Priesthood blessing, and more lessons and practice and more confidence. With no more time remaining for a third rematch, we returned to face the monster. This time the monster retreated; this time preparation and faith vanquished the monster. The examiner concluded, “I seldom get a clean ride with no faults, especially from an older driver and never from an American. You obviously have taken on board your instructions and executed them; well done and keep up the good work.” The impact of that began to dawn on me – I had passed without a single minor fault. The Lord had bestowed a tender mercy, indeed. Pat was ecstatic, and was so happy and relieved. She was grateful that I would not have any more stress from the monster and that we would not have to deal with trying to fulfill our mission without a car. I am now the proud but knackered (Scottish for worn out) owner of a UK license – good until I die. All this for 6 more months of roundabouts, slip roads, one track lanes, dual carriage motorways and the completion of our mission. The monster has been faced.



  1. Well done Ben!!! I wish Utah drivers had to go through the kind of testing required in the UK. They don’t follow any rules in the handbook here. This has been a big adjustment for me.

  2. Congrats Elder Hambelton (and Sister Patty… we know where the real faith resides)… back in 1966-67 I owned and drove a 1963 Opel Kadet (correct spelling) right hand drive with a four speed transmission. Shifting with my left hand was the challenge; after a period of about 2-3 weeks if I remember correctly, I got the hang of it. I’m still alive so that’s a testimony in and of itself, eh. Love you guys… hurry home.

    By the way, the remodeled Boise Temple is absolutely fantastic… and we still blame you for our temple experience. Also, it is the consensus that the Meridian Temple is still some two years to groundbreaking; apparently there are some issues with the city of Meridian that have yet to be rectified.

  3. Congratulations for some reason when we lived in Scotland we were able to get a pass on having to take the British test and were able to drive on our American License for two years or maybe just the rules changed. Keith

  4. Great success story Hambeltons. Looks like you two may as well extend your mission or request a second mission to take advantage of the Lord’s Tender Mercies in your behalf :>) After all, we wouldn’t want all that energy, practice and anxiety to go to waste after only six months.

  5. Great post! Way to go!

  6. That was my thought. Though I want to see you both, you’d better just extend to rub it in the monster’s face! So glad this “monkey’s off your back”!!

  7. Congratulations Ben!
    Wow am I glad I served there 37 years ago! I obtained a license before I had been out four months, although I did take 9 lessons before I was ready for the test. I just loved driving in Scotland, especially out in the hilly countryside. Thanks so much for sharing your mission with us. I especially enjoy all the pictures. They bring back such precious memories. We love you two. As ever, you continue to bless our lives, even from afar.

    Garry and Cindy

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