Posted by: nflanders | May 5, 2008

Kleptomaniacal pinhead: Weekly mission excerpt

Yeah, I’m a little behind this week, but I had to go out of town for work, and plus I enjoy watching my sitemeter stat go down to zero. Just kidding.

In this week’s excerpt I’ll talk a bit more about Ford, he of the sobbing companionship prayers and the bath towel on the brownies. In many ways, he was my mission nemesis. We were in the same group in the MTC until he complained about my companion and got us split up and reassigned to different districts. He was a real St. George weirdo. No offense to any St. Georgians in the audience, but you know what I mean. During class at the MTC, he’d go off on weird tangents talking about what a sinner he had been, how he had “taken girls down like a piece of meat.” We were all a little freaked out. As these things inevitably go, the guy I hated most in the world got transferred to my tiny apartment, and I had to do splits with him all the time.

Explanatory notes: We were in a town outside Buenos Aires named Luján, which is famous throughout Argentina as the home of the patron saint of the country, the Virgin of Luján. According to Wikipedia, six million people make the pilgrimage from Buenos Aires (on foot!) each year. As the mecca of Argentine Catholicism, there were hundreds of vendors selling innumerable Virgin tchotchkes outside the cathedral, which I refer to as “idols.” As if our Del Parsons Jesus and replica Christus statues weren’t the same basic thing. 

Anyway, Luján is a nice, quiet little town, so of course we were assigned to an area of unpaved streets in the marginal neighborhoods that had sprung up on the periphery of the city. Also, I should point out that in Spanish, when you say people “son muy fuertes” it actually means you find them very attractive, not that they are very strong. It’s a minor error, but one that’s unusual for a missionary with as much time as Ford to make.

19 December 1997

Splits with Ford. Yet again. First we talked to Amanda, who was actually really cool. She was cutting flowers in her yard; she sells idols at the Cathedral so she can only go to church (ours) when it rains. She can’t read either, but she reacted very well to the discussion. I asked her to get baptized and she said, “Why not?” I was happy. We also gave a discussion I most certainly did not want to give to some semi-cognizant old man in a lingerie/fabric store while the owner (completely uninterested) sat by antsily.

We helped a soda delivery truck out of a ditch of mud it had slipped into. I scraped my arm a bit and barely contributed to the effort. Afterwards Ford informed me that those men “son muy fuertes.” I told him if he liked them, that was his business. The butchering of a perfectly innocent language continues. “Yo llamó.” He showed a tenuous grasp of Spanish the last time we did splits when Claudia Perez said she had to go to a mandato (an errand) and he thought we were having mondongo (intestines).

… the discussion got off to a rocky start when Ford in the Prophets section used a slightly questionable example. “If I’m a prophet and God wants me to speak out on, let’s say, the law of chastity, he’ll tell me, ‘All these fornications have to stop’ and then I’ll tell the people.” I was thinking, what the crap is he doing? But the investigators weren’t fazed and the spirit came back.

We also visited Monica, who gave us cookies and soda. We talked pleasantly with her and her mom, but Ford needed to be beaten with a blunt object for saying things like, “Well, when’s Monica getting married?” and “Your knight in shining armor will come” and finally “Have you prayed and fasted for a husband?” “You just need to look harder.” What a meathead. I felt sorry for her as her mom and Dumber tag-teamed up on her. She’s definitely got some problems, but she’s really nice. She asked us if they checked in our religion if the girl was a virgin before marriage. That sparked an over-long explanation by Ford about fornication and the repentance process and how a fornicator could go to the temple after a year and repentance. Ford also started going off on one of his idiotic tangents and no one followed him there. It was just like the MTC. He started talking about Glocks for some inexplicable reason to a 60-year-old woman and her 40-year-old daughter. “My dad has a Glock and you can throw it around and pound on it with a hammer and throw it under a truck and it will still fire muy, muy acu-ra-te.” I almost felt sorry for the sheer fooliness of the whole thing. He told Monica to go to the ward activity because “your knight will be there.” What a jerk…

An average day. As always, I dread tomorrow.

In the next excerpt, a week later, I am talking to a sister missionary (Andrea) about the “spiritual thought” I shared in District Meeting. I hated doing the spiritual thought, so I had two scriptures that I would always read. One was D&C 136:28:

If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
I then advocated that we as missionaries should show our devotion to the Lord by going to dance clubs. I know, it sounds weak, but as missionaries we thought it was hilarious. My second go-to scripture was Luke 19:11-24. This is just a version of the parable of the talents, but our Spanish Bible translated talents or pounds (in the KJV) as “minas,” which is Argentine slang for young women or more colloquially, “chicks.” Thus, Luke 19:20 becomes, “Lord, here is your chick, whom I have hidden in a handkerchief” and Luke 19:24 reads, “Take the chick from him and give her to him who has ten chicks.” I usually closed my spiritual thought with, “Let us be faithful to the Lord, so he does not take our minas and give them to others.” Again, for missionaries, it was the height of hilarity. At this point I had shared both scriptures as a spiritual thought, and I was concerned that I didn’t have any more material if I was called on again. I suppose I probably didn’t have to worry about that happening.

27 December 1997

…Oh, Andrea liked the part in the Doctrine and Covenants about dancing. “You read the scriptures?” she asked doubtfully. “No, someone told me where it was.” I got a laugh. “The sad thing is that it’s true,” I said. Bigger laugh. She also marked Luke 19:11-24, the parable of the minas and put my name next to it to remember. Now I don’t know what I’ll do if I actually get assigned the spiritual thought.

For my final excerpt, I’m going forward in time again to a few months after this. Harrison (or Harris, I accidentally changed his pseudonym at some point in these entries) has just left, and I’m trying to adjust to his replacement, Elder Day. Elder Day is a million times better than Harrison, but I felt he was being holier-than-thou in his dealings with me. Whether he actually was or not is certainly up for debate. What is certain is that he had an annoying habit of speaking Spanish in a completely different voice than he spoke English. I don’t know why, but some Elders (Ford did it, too) thought that speaking in high, syrupy voice somehow conducted the “spirit” and would convert people on the spot. I blame years of General Conference watching.

Also, I should explain that although it is different in every mission, in our mission, Zone Leaders were invariably assigned to companions that needed help. Usually, these were guys who had trouble getting along with others, or were a little off, or who just couldn’t adjust to missionary life. I know, I should have been the first to be assigned to a ZL, but somehow I never was. I should point out that Ford, in the first excerpt, was the comp of a ZL, and he was the poster child for being a little off.

22 April 2008

It’s only been a week and already I’m ready to kill him. Only three weeks to go before I’m transferred. It seems an eternity. The guy is completely clueless and his “spirit” act is wearing a bit thin. It scares me that this guy thinks he is a good missionary. He should be with a Zone Leader. Apparently everyone should be with a Zone Leader but me but it’s really true. He may speak Spanish great but he chooses to say incredibly stupid things gramatically correct and I hate his “sweet Spanish voice.”

At the internet place, he was putting his headphones away and I noticed they were United Airlines headphones and I called him on it. “Did you steal those?” I asked. He began to try to justify it, saying that headphones and silverware are included in the price of the plane ticket. This was ludicrous and we began arguing and it turns out he has 3 sets of silverware from his flight down. What a thief. I wouldn’t care but for the fact he claims to be spirit boy and then tries to justify stealing everything but the life-vest under the seat. And he probably has that in his suitcase. No wonder his bags are so heavy.



  1. Thanks for posting that, Ned. Lujan was one of the worst places to be exiled back when BA North controled the western mission. I never went there, either as an assignment or for fun.

    I did walk about a mile with the crowd one September; it was in Padua, where my house was at, but my assigned area was Villa Amelia.

  2. Wow, stealing airline headphones – they’re so high quality too.

    The part I liked the best was when Ford drove away the Spirit when talking about “Fornications” but then it came back. That’s really the funniest (and dumbest) analogy to why we need prophets I’ve ever heard.

    So, Elder Day was the kleptomaniac? That was a little unclear.

  3. Capt. Jack– I actually really liked Lujan. Not quite as nice as Mercedes, but that’s where the sisters were. Of course, the West mission can’t compete with BA North, now or especially then. I never thought it was fair that the North had every decent place within a hundred miles. But we thanked God every day that we weren’t in BA South with those miserable bastards.

    Actually, I was there during the procession, but we were in bed by the time people came streaming through the city. That’s a hell of a walk.

    Craig– Sorry, yes, Elder Day was the kleptomaniac, not Elder Ford. I should just focus on one time to lessen the confusion of jumping back and forth.

    I generally don’t have a problem with people stealing airline headphones, even though you really should give them back if they ask, but stealing their metal silverware is just bizarre to me. I mean, how much does silverware cost that you need to swipe it? He was probably one of those people who palm the extra water glasses at restaurants.

    I think Ford had fornication on the mind. I mean, it was one day of splits and he kept bringing it up out of nowhere. And why would you bring it up in the first discussion? There was a reason we waited until the 4th discussion to bring up chastity: we wanted people to continue to let us in!

    I don’t think I’ll ever get over the image of Ford talking about his dad’s pistol with two middle-aged Argentine women. I’m sure they had no clue what the hell he was going on about.

  4. I had many, many discussions where a companion brought up some topic that caused me to want to whack him upside the head: Heavenly Mother, Becoming God (in the 1st Discussion), Blacks and the Priesthood, American politics, etc. The best was when the German members would start railing on America in Sunday School or Priesthood. My companions would get so offended and then say something which would offend the members.

    Good times.

  5. ….she reacted very well to the discussion. I asked her to get baptized and she said “Why not?” I was happy. Hilarious.

    I like reading your entries because they turn the mission experience on its head for me. Most mission accounts I got were long, tearful homecoming speeches with lots of “the spirit was with me”….and so on and so forth. These exclamations of awe were a bit thin when it came to the realities of hitting the streets day to day, of pain in the ass companions or food budget issues.

    I feel like I’m getting the truth, finally, after all of this time. Mine eyes have been opened.

  6. Craig– Nice list of bad topics to bring up in a discussion. Maybe your companions were trying to be subtly subversive by exposing the investigators to the real church, instead of the cardboard version we offer in the discussions. Either that, or they were clueless 19-year-olds.

    I love the image of German church meetings disintegrating into arguments about American foreign policy. It’s funny, because to be open to a new religion, especially in Europe, you are probably the very opposite of conservative, let alone Utah conservative. On one of my first Sundays in Europe, the local Mormon church turned the entire Sunday School time over to a representative from Amnesty International. I knew I wasn’t in Utah anymore…

    Jane– It’s sad but that kind of throwaway commitment was greeted as a sign of great success. The poor woman just wanted to finish cutting her damn flowers!

  7. Traiteur Rabat Regal; Traiteur de ronome au Maroc

    Traiteur Rabat Regal au Maroc

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