“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Packing and Shopping July 18, 2016Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Humor, Responses.
Tags: books, christianity, Evangelists, Mormons, religion
Continuing with the 1968 guidebook for Mormon missionaries:
Chapter 3. What to Buy and Why
This chapter was pretty long and rather of a surprise. Most of it was actual good solid advice about how to pack for a long trip. It talked about which kinds of fabric were better for what kinds of weather, and for laundering, and what things will be useful to bring and what to leave behind. It discussed the possible reasons to buy everything ahead, and when it might be better to shop after arriving. It reminded me of a college packing list, except for the rules on how conservative and boring the clothes needed to be.
It even had good advice on what kind of luggage would work best, and how to deal with customs inspections.
Apparently the boys were expected to wear suits, and the girls modest dresses with nylons, except on their one day off a week. Absolutely no socks in “wild colors” for the boys, and no “flashy jewelry” for the girls. There was a note that the boys might be excused from wearing suit jackets in hotter climates. I guess they’ve either changed that rule, or I live in a “hotter climate” because I’ve never seen any of the missionary pairs in anything but a white shirt and tie, never a full suit.
But even with as practical as this chapter was, there were a few gems that stood out. For instance, one of the reasons given that shopping before leaving is:
“7. In some missions it might prove to be an advantage to look “American” because it impresses the local people with your importance.” (pg 20)
Not “makes you interesting”, it “makes you important”. What a patronizing attitude towards the people they are sending these kids out to preach at.
Then there was this:
“…In many foreign missions you can even have a suit tailor-made from excellent material for less than it would cost to buy an inexpensive ready-made suit in the States. HINT: Many times pants are made button front rather than zippered, so if you think you might have a suit made while on your mission, tuck an American zipper into your suitcase. Local zippers, if available, sometimes break easily. ” (pg 20)
Wait what? I had to go back and read that again. I knew about magic underwear and abstaining from caffeine, but no button-fly pants? I had to go look this up. Turns out that it was attributed to Brigham Young that he once called the newfangled button-fly jeans of his time “fornication pants”! I wonder if they still have this rule.
A reminder of how outdated this book is can be found in the section on hats. If a missionary brings a hat along, it should be a men’s business hat, not a “collegiate-looking porkpie hat”. Porkpie? Nobody in the 1960’s was wearing those.
Also, among the things they recommend as essential is a “pen, plus extra cartridges” Cartridges? Like for a fountain pen that can leak all over your luggage? I looked up when the cheap disposable ballpoint pen became available in the US, and it was about 1959. So this advice was already out of date when it was given. And under “useful non-essentials” our author suggests “Frisbees (These are small plastic discs…” I looked up when Frisbees first became popular, and sales took off in 1964. Why does this author think that she needs to explain what a frisbee is to teenagers? (That’s like thinking you need to explain to a modern teenager what an iPhone is.)
Who is this author giving advice from the 1940’s to teens in 1968? I looked her up:
Somehow this is exactly what I was expecting her to look like. (How did she get her hair to be that tall?) Her birth year makes her about 49 at the publication of this book. I found her obituary, and her bio paints her as the perfect Mormon wife, raising kids, serving on charity boards and teaching etiquette to children. Reading this book feels more like she was writing about the era of her own teenage years than trying to connect to the time these kids were living in.