Billy Graham Center

Papers of Robert Dean Carlson - Collection 205

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Robert Dean Carlson

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes


Transcript 1 Transcript includes a link to an audio file of the entire interview

Click to listen to an excerpt from this interview. Click to visit the exhibit Web page featuring this and other excerpts with transcripts, visuals and audio links.

Transcript 2 Transcript includes a link to an audio file of the entire interview

Brief Description.
Two oral history interviews with Carlson in which he discusses his boyhood in China and Tibet, the condition of the Christian church in those countries, social and religious customs, and the Chinese language. The interviews were recorded in February and April 1982. For more information, please see guide.
Vol: 2 Reels of Audio Tape

[May 9, 2000]
Collection 205
Carlson, Robert Dean; 1928-
Interviews; 1982

2 Reels of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Robert Dean Carlson was the son of Christian and Missionary Alliance workers C. Edwin and Carol Hammond Carlson. He was born July 2, 1928, while his parents were home on furlough in Wheaton, Illinois, from their mission station in Gansu Province, China. When he was only a few months old, his family returned to the Far East. Several years of Robert's childhood were spent in the Tebe Valley in Tibet, where his parents were attempting to win converts to Christianity. From the fall of 1934 to the spring of 1936, the family was once again in the United States on furlough. From this time until 1942, Robert and his sister Carol Jean were educated at home because the unstable political situation in China made it seem too dangerous to send them to boarding school. In 1942, he was briefly at the high school run by the United Church of Canada in Chengtu, Szechuan Province, but this school was soon forced to close, whereupon Robert went to India to study at the Woodstock School in Mussoosie. In 1944, he again returned to the United States with his parents for their furlough. The family owned a home in Wheaton, where the two children continued to live when their parents returned to China, since they were almost old enough to go to college.

Robert graduated from high school in 1948 and enrolled in Wheaton College, from which he graduated in 1951. While at Wheaton, he met his future wife, Margaret J. Larson. They were married in 1952 and they had four children: Roberta (1954), Eric (1957), Ted (1959), and Carol (1965). After service in the army, part of which he spent as an interpreter stationed in Taiwan, Robert attended Wheaton Graduate School, from which he graduated in 1957 with an M.A. in biblical literature. From 1956 to 1960, he taught Greek at Wheaton College. In 1960, he, Margaret, and the children traveled to Hong Kong, where Robert taught Greek and Bible courses at the Christian and Missionary Alliance School and Margaret served as school nurse. They remained in Hong Kong until 1968, when they returned to Wheaton and Robert became chief surveyor for a land surveying and civil engineering firm.

Scope and Content

The tapes in this collection are of two interviews recorded between Robert Carlson and Graham Center Director Robert Shuster on February 27 and April 17, 1982. The topics discussed are listed below next to a column containing the time of the interview in minutes and seconds. The interviews were recorded at 3-3/4 speed.

Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)

00:00 Beginning of tape
01:15 Introduction
01:30 Parents' work in Gansu Province
02:45 Other mission boards working with Tibetans
08:15 Primitiveness of communications few large gatherings of missionaries
10:00 Co-workers in Taochow (Lintan)
11:00 First memories of Tibetan villages; Chinese habit of changing place names; family history
15:30 Moslem-Chinese antagonism
16:15 Life among the Tebu tribes; feuding among the Tebu
18:45 Westerners in a Tibetan setting; speaking English at home and Chinese elsewhere
20:45 Childhood playmates
21:45 Rearing children on the mission field
23:50 Education at home; reason for not going to boarding school
27:00 Attendance at United Church of Canada high school in Chengtu in Szechwan Province
28:15 Return to Wheaton in 1944
29:45 Mother's method of teaching at home
31:30 No feeling of isolation on the Tibetan border; difficulty of transportation and communications
33:45 First impressions of America
34:30 Parents' assignments as missionaries in China and Tibet
37:00 Church government in CMA churches
38:15 The place of Christians in Chinese society; tolerance of Chinese, intolerance of Muslims; mixture of Tibetan and Chinese culture; reaction of Tibetans to Christians
41:00 Typical activities at church during the year; few activities at night
45:15 Training of the clergy
46:00 End of tape

Tape T1 - side 2

00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Lack of awareness of conflict between missionaries
02:15 Government of the mission; isolation from the home board; visitors from the home board; election of an executive committee and the duties of its chairman
06:45 Remoteness of many mission stations
07:45 Meetings of the executive committee
08:15 Duties of the executive committee and its chairman
10:15 Goals of the mission in China
12:00 Split between Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Assemblies of God
14:15 A Chinese church service; sermon context
15:45 Relations between church leaders and missionaries
16:45 Daily activities of Carlson's father
19:00 Activities of Carlson's mother
23:00 Admission of new converts
25:00 Financial support for missionaries; average missionary salary; cost of living rate in China; food sources; survival skills
31:15 Bibles; scarcity of printing facilities; William Ruhl
33:15 Gradual conversion to Christianity
37:15 Characteristics of the Chinese language; difficulty of forming new words for expressing new ideas; Romanization; simplification of characters
47:45 End of tape

Tape T2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)

00:00 Beginning of tape
00:15 Introduction
00:45 Memories of Tibet
02:30 Feelings of Chinese and Tibetans toward each other
03:30 Relations between Muslims and Tibetans
04:15 Banditry in Tibet; missionaries traveling armed; the Drangwa tribe; the Tebu tribe; control of robbery in the kingdom of Ngawa; reasons for banditry; extortion of tolls
10:45 Attitudes among missionaries about carrying arms; White Wolf and the attack on the mission station at Lupa; armed travel parties
16:30 Missions active in Tibet; James Vigna
17:00 Will Simpson; Botanists Joseph Roc's travels through China and his articles in the National Geographic. The Sacred Mountain Amne Machin (A'nyemagen Shan)
25:00 Evangelizing methods in Tibet; discussion of religion; the funny- looking foreigners
29:15 Christianity and Tibetan religion; the place of sin in Tibetan religion; adaptation of Christian beliefs to Tibet
35:00 Attitudes of Tibetans toward a Tibetan Christian; opposition to Christianity by the Lamasery
37:30 Discouragement; small number of Christians; conversion of the Drangwa tribe
40:15 Dominance of the Lamasery in Tibetan life
45:30 Relations between the Lamasery and the king of Ngawa; the Dali Lama; relationship of religious and secular authorities
46:30 Acquaintance with the Lamas; attitudes of Lamas to Christianity
47:00 End of side 1

Tape T2 - side 2

00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Continuation of attitudes of Lamas to Christianity
01:30 Theological and ethical content of Tibetan religion; attitude toward killing; value of a life; atonement money
09:30 C&MA's strategy for evangelism in Tibet; location of Christian believers in Tibet
12:15 Social classes in Tibet
13:00 Economic bases of the economy; agricultural life; nomadic tribes; land ownership
16:30 Tibetan language
17:30 Literacy rate
18:45 "Survival of the fittest"; health of Tibetan peoples; common types of medical problems
21:00 Status of women among Tibetans and among Chinese; duties of women; women and religion
24:15 Monks and Lamas
25:15 Varying attitudes in Tibet toward westerners; Tibetan views of the world; Russians in Tibet
30:00 Traders and trading routes; items of trade
33:00 Availability of the Bible
34:45 Relationship between Christian missions working among Tibetans; Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Assemblies of God
36:45 Other Americans in Tibet
37:45 Music and art; dances
40:15 Caution: "I am acquainted only with this one area of Tibet."
41:00 End of tape

These tapes were given to the Center by Robert Carlson in February and April, 1982.

Accession #82-31, 82-50

October 14, 1982
Robert Shuster
J. Nasgowitz

Accession: 82-31, 82-50
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 92 minutes, one side only. Oral history interview with Robert Carlson by Robert Shuster recorded on February 27, 1982.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 90 minutes, one side only. Oral history interview with Carlson by Robert Shuster recorded on April 17, 1982.

Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 10/26/01
Expiration: indefinite