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“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Money Money Money October 9, 2017

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My continuing series about the 1968 guidebook for Mormon Missionaries.

Chapter 19, Money Care.

So after dealing with the all-important consideration of scrapbooks, she finally gets around to lesser considerations, like budgets and spending.

“The money a missionary receives from home each month has usually already been tithed so that the missionary will not need to budget for tithing.” (pg 173)

If that were talking about taxes, I’d understand.  But here she is addressing tithing as if it’s a mandatory taxation, and not a voluntary gift made to the church.  That’s a lot of control this church has over their members’ finances, do they send bill collectors if you don’t pay up?

But some of the advice she gives is valuable.  Plan a budget.  Shop in less expensive stores.  Think carefully before splurging, but small expenditures on yourself are OK:

“This is not to say that you need feel guilty about the sacrifice someone is making to keep you on a mission if ever you do spend a few more cents than you need to.  If it’s within reason buy what you want, feel better, and then work hard for an extra hour.  Your parents are sacrificing, true, but they also receive many blessings for your service in the Lord’s work as special bonuses.” (pg 174)

I’d sure like to know what these “special blessings” for the parents are, this sounds pretty vague to me.  Bragging rights at church seems to be about all I can think of.

And some other useful advice: avoid borrowing, and especially never borrow from or lend to their companion.  They have enough tension living with a stranger 24/7, adding a debt to the mix couldn’t help matters.

She includes the usual cautions about not carrying much cash (travellers’ checks were the option of choice before the days of credit cards), having a moderate reserve available for initial equipment, and leaving any large amounts safely in the bank at home.

She’s included a lengthy section about how a family can send money to their missionary, most of which is now outdated information about money orders and the like, so I’ll skip it.  The one thing that I would think is still relevant is that the local mission president can assist in money transfers.  But their involvement could also mean that they can hold up money meant for a missionary, which gives them a lot of power.  Also hovering over the missionary:

“Missionaries who receive honorable releases will have their returning transportation paid by the church.”(pg 175)

Which means that a missionary who decides he’s had enough and wants to quit is on his own for paying for his trip back.  He could wind up stranded in a foreign country without the money to get home.  That’s a strong motivation for a missionary who has realized that he no longer believes in what he’s doing to pretend that he still does, at least until he gets home.

And last, our author finally gets around to where the money for the mission is coming from.  Because even though these kids are being sent out to make a two-year recruiting pitch for the church, and even though Mormons are already expected to give 10% of their income to the church, the church isn’t paying for these kids’ expenses.

“Now where does the money come from? Usually it’s the missionary’s parents who pay for the mission with occasional contributions from a brother, uncle, grandmother, or other family member.  Occasionally a mother goes to work to earn the extra money needed to maintain a missionary in the field.”(pg 178)

(Gasp!  A working mother? Clutch my pearls!)

“Once in a while when parents are not financially able to support their missionary, the responsibility is assumed by a priesthood quorum.  Even milkmen have been known to share the burden (and blessings) by contributing free milk to the missionary’s family during his absence.” (pg 178)

The milkman?  There’s those mysterious “blessings” again, I’d like to ask some Mormons what exactly the benefits of these “blessings” are.  And isn’t it nice of the church to fund their salesman when the family can’t?

She suggests that a missionary save up money by working the summer before he leaves, or “…by selling his car or other possessions such as a musical instrument or ham radio set.”(pg 178)  I really think it’s not OK to expect a kid to sell off something that’s a big part of his life and makes him happy, so that he can afford to sacrifice two years of his life as an unpaid salesman.  Leave him at least some of his own individuality please!

And last, she suggests that the missionary fund should be started early:

“Even a child of five or six years old can begin popping pennies into a piggy bank labeled “Money for my Mission” and then when he is old enough to start earning money, the savings can be more substantial.  …  He can’t help but appreciate his mission more when he is helping to pay for it.” (pg 178-9)

That last part is true.  Humans do value things more highly when they have worked hard to achieve them.

“Of course, should unforeseen circumstances arise which prevent him from being called on a mission, such a fund is not wasted: the money can always be used for a college education, for getting set up in a business, for getting married, or as a lifelong emergency fund.” (pg 179)

You know, actually useful things.

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“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Journals October 8, 2017

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(Another installment of the continuing series on the 1968 guidebook for Missionaries I found at a used book sale.)

Chapter 18, Journal Care

“First let’s jump several years into your future.  Your mission, “the greatest experience of my life,” is now buried deep beneath diploma, job, bills, and babies.  Was it all a dream?” (pg  163)

If going on this mission was a greater life experience than having children, you’re doing it wrong, and probably should not be having children.  But on to her topic this chapter, which is about documenting every moment of this two-year recruiting project.

I think that if our author were around today, she would be into scrapbooking.  Really into scrapbooking.  Because in this section on journals, instead of just saying something like “It’s a good idea, do it if you have the time, later you’ll be glad you did,” she goes into excruciating detail about this.  She goes over all the excuses not to, and pooh-poohs those.  She looks at things like how often to write in it, or what form it should be in, and lays out the pros and cons of every single option.

Should the missionary write daily, or weekly?  Should he include the entries in his letters home, or bring loose-leaf paper with him that will become the journal pages, or tape record his thoughts to transcribe later?  He could send clippings and photos home to his girlfriend for her to compile for him, but what if they break up?  She lays out carefully detailed lists of advantages and disadvantages for each option for timing and format. Oh, dear, this is so complicated!

She has twelve quotes from past missionaries about how their journals came up short, and what they wish they had done differently, and several lengthy examples of writing from actual journals, with examples of insufficient and good entries.

And of course she suggests making a scrapbook, but finally there is some acknowledgement that these kids are already too overworked to have time for that:

“While the missionary himself will not have time to make the actual scrapbook, he must constantly be alert for appropriate materials which he can send home to whoever will be doing the compiling” (pg 170-171)

Of course there’s no consideration given to the idea that the missionary might want to do their own compiling after they get home, because maybe it’s possible that a 20-year-old male might actually enjoy that!

“HINT: If you want to play it absolutely safe, ask your mother or sister to make your scrapbook for you.  While it gives a girl friend or fiancé something to do and helps her to feel useful and participating, you do run the risk of not gaining possession of your scrapbook should you break up either during your mission or afterwards.  Or you might possibly share the fate of one elder who was presented his scrapbook on his return, but every place where there had been a picture of his girl friend, now there appeared only a gaping hole.” (pg 172)

And continuing with the obsessive detail of this chapter she has a numbered list of thirty-three items from one missionaries scrapbook, as an example.

I will say that, back before the internet and Facebook, keeping a journal while on a big trip was an excellent idea.  I went on a month-long tour of Europe with my choir when I was in college, and I kept a journal of the trip, a spiral notebook that I wrote in, mostly during the endless bus rides.  When I got home, I was of course exhausted and ready to sleep for about two days solid.  But people immediately wanted to know “How was your trip?”  So I could hand them my journal, say “Read this” and go off to sleep.  I wish I still had that journal, but it disappeared about a week after I got back.  A shame, because I had been sitting next to cartoonist Ned Riddle on the plane, who had drawn his “Mr Tweedy” character on one page for me.

So is this missionary scrapbooking still a thing now?  You’d think what with Facebook and Pinterest and such that it might have declined.  But remember, missionaries aren’t allowed to use the internet, or even have a computer with them.  So no Facebook, no tweeting, no real-time updates for friends and family.  A quick google brought up a ton of websites offering scrapbook materials for missionaries, so it looks like this is still a big thing for them.  I even found a Mormon Wiki page where they take credit for the whole modern scrapbooking industry.

Next up, money!

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“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Don’t forget to write! September 22, 2017

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Continuing my occasional series on the 1968 guidebook for Mormon Missionaries.

Chapter 17, Letter Care

So as I’ve mentioned before, these missionaries are thrown into a strange place, cut off from family and friends, and expected to sell religion door-to-door for many hours a week, and also expected to study, practice their presentations, go to church, and maintain perfect clothes and grooming, clean quarters, impeccable table manners, do all their own shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry, as well as possibly needing to learn a foreign language on top of that.  And the added stress of being assigned to spend 24 hours a day with a stranger.

You’d think that would be enough to expect from these kids.  Oh no, we have to dump another expectation on top of the already impossible standards they are expected to meet.  They have to write home.  Every single week, on their one day off, the day when they are supposed to do all their shopping and laundry and any other errands, they need to add this too.

Our author says:

…it is up to you whether letter writing becomes a joy or a chore.  It becomes a chore when you don’t realize what your folks want to hear…” (pg 151)

Because you should be telling them what they want to hear instead of what you want to say.  and that makes it not a chore.  Right.

She first provides an example of a reasonable short, moderately newsy letter, which looks like it might be about one page longhand, but she says that is only “..fine as far as it goes…”  Then she gives an example of what she considers a really good letter home.  I won’t copy it here, because it’s in excruciating detail and takes up a full page of the book, single spaced.  Given that very few of these missionaries would have been able to type these letters in 1968, this would have been many many pages of longhand.

She does have some good pieces of practical advice.  Since they already are expected to write their parents every week, trying to write to all their friends too is really too much.  She suggests setting up a round robin to circulate letters among a group of friends, and that seems like a good solution in pre-e-mail days, since the missionaries aren’t allowed personal phone calls.  She discusses business letters, which she wisely recommends as being typed, and brief but clear.  Some other good resources she provides are some model notes for times when they have to write, like thank you notes, congratulatory notes, or sympathy cards.  Those are always difficult, so having a model to work from can help.  Well except for this one:

Dear Brother and Sister Brown,

I am so sad about Steve.  All the years we were growing up together I loved him as though her were my own brothers so I think I can guess what you are going through.  How very wonderful, though, that he left you such happy memories.

My mission is all that I expected it to be and more. The work is hard, but the rewards are unbelievable.  I shall be released soon, and once I get home I’ll be right over to see you.

Until then, may your faith sustain you in your sorrow and give you courage and strength to meet each new tomorrow,

Affectionately, (pg 158)

Well then.  Somehow this sympathy note turned into “Enough about your loss, lets talk about ME!”.  And then finished with a rhyming platitude.  Gee, I feel comforted.  This is what she gives as a model for a sympathy card?  Really?

Of course, she has to discuss love letters.  In the previous chapter about girls, her main advice was not to get involved at all.  So, if a missionary leaves a girl at home without breaking off the relationship for the duration of the mission, and since no phone calls are allowed, our author realizes that a missionary is going to want to write to his girl.  What to do about this?

“…you should have a frank discussion about the letters you will write to each other before you leave.  If your relationship is really serious, it sill be extremely difficult to turn love letters into friendly ones, for no one can say, “I love you” for two years in casual friendly letters.” (pg 154)

Because heaven forfend the letters are anything but casual and friendly!  Here’s as far as she’s willing to go on the non-casual love letter:

One elder and his fiancee solved this problem by agreeing that they’d keep their weekly letters newsy and friendly, using the word “love” only as a complimentary close but permitting themselves a little more freedom on holidays.  In this way, these occasions became even more special.  For instance, on Thanksgiving he sent her a card with a picture of a turkey on the front cover which said ‘Whenever I think of a turkey I want a drumstick.’  Inside the card it read, ‘And whenever I think of you I wanta neck!’ and then the elder had penciled in, ‘But not till next June’ (which was his release date).” (pg 154)

GASP!  Is this a slightly off-color joke?  I must clutch my pearls before I faint from the shock. She also addresses “Dear John” letters, and here the creepy cult brainwashing is showing again:

“It has been said that an elder is not a full-fledged missionary until he has had fleas, the missionary itch (a skin allergy which comes with a change in food and climate), and a Dear John.

Of the three the Dear John, surprisingly enough, is the most welcome to the majority of missionaries.  This is not to imply that all missionaries are eagerly and obviously waiting for such a letter with open arms and broad smiles, nor does it mean that a missionary ever receives one without being visibly shaken.  What it does signify is that most elders lose interest in writing to a girl as they become more intensely involved in their missionary work.  They forget what a girl looks like after being out for a year, after eighteen months, they don’t care that they’ve forgotten.” (pg 155)

Wow.  Are these young men really so engulfed by this “mission” that they lose interest in sex?  Or is that just the ultimate goal of the organization, that they are pretending is actually the case?  Now I want to talk with some ex-missionaries to see which is true.

But the most difficult requirements that she lays down on correspondence are not on the missionary, but on the people writing to the missionary.  She has instructions for girlfriends, and for parents.  For girlfriends, they mustn’t write too often, or be too “gooey” or talk about how much they miss  their boyfriend, because that might increase his homesickness and make him less effective.  Likewise with parents, they need to talk about what is going on, but not talk about all the good stuff their son is missing:

“A parent creates a homesick missionary if he writes to say, ‘we had all your cousins to dinner today and I fixed stuffed pork chops – the way you like them – with mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed green beans, hot rolls, fruit, homemade ice cream and chocolate cake.” (pg 162)

(Just a few questions about this quote – our author says “if he writes” and then talks about this huge meal.  Is she implying that Dad cooked all this?  Or was that a typo?  And that was certainly a huge amount of work to go into one meal, I hope that was only for a special occasion and not the normal amount of effort Mom was expected to put into cooking every day.)

And parents, no fretting over your kid’s health in your letters, no saying you miss him, no talking about how glad you will be to see him again, nothing to make him the least bit homesick.  But be sure you write every week, but absolutely don’t tell your kid how you actually feel. (As the musical The Book of Mormon says “Turn it off!)  About the only personal topic she seems to allow is how proud the parents are of the work the missionary is doing.  It’s got to be really hard to produce an interesting letter every week when you are restricted to local news that would not make the missionary homesick, and “we’re so proud of you.”

And lastly she has this to offer parents:

“HINT: If your missionary has an investigating family he’s particularly interested in, offer to write them a letter….” (pg 162)

Oh yes, if I’m someone listening to a missionary, and considering changing religions, somehow I can’t imagine that a letter from his parents would be very likely to sway me.  I’m not sure if what this kid says is true, but if this kid’s MOM says so, well then it must be right!  I don’t think so.

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Business Turkey! August 21, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Brain Glitches, Humor.
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A story, and a look at the ways each of our brains are working differently, even when we think we are talking about the same thing.

A little while back my spouse, UbiDubiKid#1 and UbiDubiKid#2 were meeting me at my office, and then we were going to go somewhere for lunch.  I got a call on my office phone from my spouse: “Hi, we’re here. Do you want to meet us outside at the car?”  But then there was a voice in the background on the phone, one of the UbiDubiKids calling out “BUSINESS TURKEY!!!!”  And then my spouse said “Oh, wait, never mind, we’ll come in.”

Wut?

Once they came in, I got the explanation.  They had stopped at Costco on the way to my office, and had bought a 3-pack of sliced turkey.  They needed to leave it in the fridge at my office while we were at lunch, instead of leaving it in the hot car.  How to remember to do this?  UbiDubiKid#1 had suggested imagining a “business turkey” as a mnemonic, to help remember to do this.

As we were headed to lunch, over much laughter, we talked about what just happened.  As we talked, we realized that each of us had a different conception in their heads of what a “business turkey” was.  UbiDubiKid#1 had imagined a live turkey wearing a business suit.  UbiDubiKid#2 had envisioned a dead frozen turkey, wearing the suit.  I had also imagined a dead turkey, but roasted and stuffed and ready to eat, in a business suit.  And my spouse had imagined the package of sliced turkey itself  in the suit.

Now this made the whole thing even funnier, and it’s been a running joke in the family ever since.  We can say the same thing, but the thoughts going on behind it are totally different.  Brains are weird.

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Communicating August 9, 2017

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Continuing with my chapter-by-chapter review of the 1968 guidebook for prospective Mormon missionaries.  I’ve been away from this series for a long time, let’s get back to it.  Chapter 16: Conversation Care.

So far, there has been a lot of bad advice in this book, a lot of condescension, and quite a few amusingly outdated attitudes.  But finally we’ve come to a chapter where our author actually has mostly good advice for these kids!  Apparently she has enough experience with talking to people that she knows her stuff here.  Mostly.

Her advice includes:

  • Paying attention to first impressions.
  • Avoiding bad grammar,  slang, and pretentious vocabulary.
  • Maintaining a tone of voice that is not harsh, loud, or monotonous.
  • Avoiding profanity.
  • Listening more than you talk, and not monopolizing a conversation.
  • Avoiding off-color stories, and long boring personal stories.
  • Avoiding gossiping or bragging.
  • Avoiding responding to insults to your home country in kind.
  • Not fidgeting or chewing gum.
  • Looking to the people around you for cues as to appropriate formality in speech.
  • Not embarrassing someone for not remembering your name.

This is all good stuff, and should be observed by anyone who is trying to persuade people through conversation.

However, sometimes her good advice comes crashing back down into preachiness:

“Keep an open mind and never be afraid to listen to another version of truth.  Learn to say, “I think” or “It seems to me” except, of course, when it comes to talking about the gospel and bearing your testimony; then you always say “I know.” (pg 147)

And she concludes with a complicated discussion about making introductions, and whose name you should mention first.  I remember seeing similar sets of rules for this when I was a child, and I don’t remember ever having occasion to use them.    Here’s her rules:

“Rule I: Introduce the younger person to the older.  This means you say the older person’s name first…

Rule II: Introduce the male to the female. This means you say the female’s name first…

Rule III: Introduce the less important person to the more important. This means you say the more important person’s name first.” (pg 149)

And then this:

“Unfortunately there will be a few times when these rules will have to be broken.  Perhaps you’ll need to introduce an elderly man to an important man, or an important man to a woman.  In such cases, rule breaking is based on respect.  The very old person’s name is said first to show respect for old age, and the person holding an important church or civic position is mentioned first to show respect for a man of his stature and office.” (pg 150)

I’m still confused.  What if you need to introduce a fairly important person to a rather old person?  Or an important woman to an elderly man?  (Oh, silly me!  This is Mormonism, there is no such thing as an important woman!)

But my real problem with these rules is that it forces the person making the introductions to make value judgments about people, and letting them know how you judged them.  You have to evaluate whether a person is more important than the other person is old, or whether someone’s importance or age places them ahead of women in introductions.  I hate this whole thing!  By the simple act of helping people get to know each other, you might inadvertently offend somebody!  And you sometimes have to make these snap judgement on the spot, too.  And there are things that you might have wanted to consider, such as which person you know better, or which person you arrived with, or who you are currently talking to, and none of these are allowed to be considered in this artificial system.  Let’s just have nametags and be done with it.

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Not So Smart Cookies July 4, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Brain Glitches, Humor.
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I may have mentioned that one of my favorite podcasts is called “You Are Not So Smart”.  It’s a wonderful “celebration” of the human capacity for self-delusion.  It started out as a blog, and then shifted over to a podcast.  Each episode focuses on some particular way our brains don’t work, usually with one or more guests that are experts in the field.  It’s pretty much the podcast I would make if I were going to do a podcast, except I don’t have to because it already exists.

At the end of most episodes, the host, David McRaney, samples and comments on cookies baked from a cookie recipe sent in by a listener. A few months back I had sent in a recipe for one of our favorites,  Caramel Apple Cider Cookies, but then hadn’t given it any further thought.  I had gotten a little behind on listening, so I was very surprised when my spouse called me to say that this book had shown up on our doorstep…

 which is the thank you gift if he uses your recipe on the show!  Yay!  His review is at the end of this episode.

Thank you David, and I promise to get caught up on the latest episodes as soon as I finish getting caught up on Oh No Ross and Carrie.  (They are doing a summer devoted to UFO craziness.  Can’t miss that.)

Big Game Leftovers February 7, 2017

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Continuing the quest to cheer myself up, I continue my tribute to that most wonderful of websites: CakeWrecks.

Today I walked to the local grocery to pick up a salad for lunch, and as usual I checked the marked down bakery shelf to see if there was anything not too stale for a reasonable price.  I’m so glad I did.  It was full of sad, lonely Superbowl Big Game cakes, that had not sold for what will be obvious reasons. I didn’t have my phone with me to snap photos, so I had to bring the two worst offenders home with me.  Not that they cost much, they were 75% off.

pair-of-cakes

These deserve their own closeups:

go-folcons

Sad color, a mysterious yellow icing blob on one side, and “Go Folcons”?  Or is that “Go Folcone”?

And then:

super-something

Well alrighty then.  This is a bit brighter, and might be spelled correctly.  Once again, there’s a mysterious yellow icing blob on one side.   At first I thought that rectangle might have been meant to be a sportsball field, but then I realized that it says “LI” on a white background smudged in red, with red, white and blue sprinkles, leaving it barely legible.  And the rest of the cake has star shaped sprinkles.  Because everything is better with sprinkles!

They may be sad, but we’re still going to eat them!

Friday the 13th drug overdose January 13, 2017

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We had a perfect confluence of luck happen today, appropriate for Friday the 13th.  Not for us, though.  For our black cat.

My spouse called me at work: “The catnip wasn’t sealed!  I just knocked it over!”  About 1/4 cup had spilled onto the floor.  He got most of it up, but not before our Regulus had discovered that a massive overdose of his favorite drug was right in a perfect spot to roll in it.

regulus-and-the-catnip-spill

See how his eyes look like they are vibrating?  He’s stoned out of his mind here.  Some cats don’t care for nip, but our kitty is a nip fiend.

When he gets a noseful of the stuff, he forgets how gravity works.  He’s fine now, as far as we can tell.

Thanksgiving…urm…tradition November 24, 2016

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I’m going to try to lighten up, and at least act like I’m feeling better.  (Even if I’m not.)

So I’m going to give my personal hat tip to one of my favorite websites, that always makes Thanksgiving more memorable.  That website, of course, is Cake Wrecks.  Because somehow, one of the things that can lift my spirits is a really ineptly decorated cake.

And every year at this time, Cake Wrecks posts bakeries’ attempts to create turkey cakes.  But, since they always use brown icing, the head and neck of the turkey usually come out looking like poo.  But sometimes they make it extra special, and they give us –

The traditional thanksgiving poo-wang.  Please visit Cake Wrecks today for a splendid selection of these.

Well, a couple of days ago, I was at a Giant Food supermarket near my office, and I decided to check out the bakery, and was not disappointed.

While not as spectacular as the ones on Cake Wrecks, I certainly got a smile out of what I found, so I snapped a couple of photos of the good ones.

turkey-poo-wang-2

Like winky here.

 

turkey-poo-wang-1

Or this.  I’m not sure what is happening here.  I like the Cookie Monster eyes, but I’m having trouble figuring out what is going on with the beak.  It seems to be dribbling down his chin.

Hope everybody ate pie today!

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Missionaries Behaving Badly October 20, 2016

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Continuing with my chapter-by-chapter review of the 1968 guidebook for prospective missionaries:

Chapter 15.  Skeletons in Missionary Closets

(Content advisory: animal cruelty)

A whole chapter on misbehavior!  Let’s see where this goes.

“While fulfilling a mission is a great privilege, it is also a great responsibility.  Everything you say or do is being recorded in somebody’s mind for good or ill.” (pg 136)

So we start right out with setting an impossible standard that 19-year-old boys really can’t be expected to live up to. And then?

“A tactful missionary will not step over his bounds; he will respect other people’s beliefs rather than argue with them; he will not laugh at quaint or unusual mannerisms or customs but will view them so sympathetically as to adopt them as his own, at least during his mission; he will not criticize the people, the bus system, the food, the toilet tissue which might bear a strong resemblance to either wax paper or sandpaper, nor the beds which he suspects were invented for medieval torture chambers.  Rather, he will admire what these people do have, realizing that all persons are entitled to hold good opinions of themselves and their country, and that they are happy the way they live and are proud of their backgrounds and country just as we are of ours.” (pp 136-137)

Right.  Respect their beliefs, then tell them that they are completely wrong about everything they think about religion and have to change to what you think.  Good plan.

So, as this author usually does, she harps on manners.  She gives us a couple of examples on the necessity of thanking people.  The first story I think really shows how outdated this book has become: A missionary had to be hospitalized, and of course didn’t have the money to pay for it.  A local Mormon paid for his treatment, and the missionary never bothered to thank him.  The author says about the Mormon: “She told herself to forget it since it wasn’t a matter of great consequence…”  Nowadays, there’s no way that a hospital bill could be considered a matter of no consequence, it would be a huge financial outlay and a really big deal.

The second story also includes somebody being extremely rude, but I don’t think I agree with the author as to who the rude people were.

“One mission president and his wife decided to surprise their missionaries with a big Christmas dinner.  Turkey was scarce in this distant land…. His wife worked in the kitchen for days making all the trimmings to go with the turkey, but they both felt rewarded just anticipating the eyes that would sparkle and the mouths that would water as the door of the dining room was opened at the climactic moment to show the festive table.  On Christmas morning the missionaries all arrived for a brief meeting following which the mission president happily announced that they were all to stay for dinner.  Just as he was opening the door into the beautifully decorated dining room, two elders blurted out “Do we have to stay? We were going to hit a flick.” (Go to a show.) With spirits somewhat dampened the mission president said “I think maybe you’ll want to stay when you see what we have planned for you.” Without so much as a single word of thanks, these same two elders complained to their mission president the following day that they got cheated out of their day off…and they had to go over to his house and eat that Christmas dinner!” (pp 137-8)

Somebody was rude here, but it wasn’t the missionaries.  This mission president didn’t think that any of the 180 missionaries in attendance would have already made plans for christmas Day.  Perhaps they were already invited to eat with local friends, perhaps that was the one day in the whole year that they allowed themselves the luxury of a movie and already had tickets, perhaps they had spent the previous week being invited to christmas dinners at other houses, and stuffing themselves each night.  This mission president just assumed that his idea of what a perfect christmas dinner should be would take precedence over the plans of all these other people, and that they should just drop everything they had on their schedule to stay for his dinner.  It’s pretty clear that while these youngsters are expected to take on the responsibilities of an adult, in no other way is the hierarchy treating them like adults.

Now we come to a long section on “don’ts”, and bad examples.

“For instance, two elders in a playful manner placed a rubber band around a dog’s mouth, but they inadvertently forgot to take the elastic off when they went into the house for supper.  For five days the poodle wouldn’t eat and the landlady couldn’t imagine what was wrong (the rubber band had worked down into the fur and couldn’t be seen). Finally she took the dog to a veterinarian who had to perform a minor operation in order to cut the elastic which had become embedded in the animal’s flesh.” (pg 138)

Playful manner? Really?

“In one of the foreign missions, a group of elders found some old American Remington and Winchester rifles.  So great was their excitement at this unexpected discovery that it blurred their judgment and consideration for others: they climbed on top of the church and began shooting at stray cats.  People throughout the neighborhood began saying “What’s the matter with those Mormons?”  Then they began referring to the elders as ‘Latter-day Cat Haters.’ “(pg 138)

So remember, missionaries, don’t be cruel to animals because it makes Mormons look bad.

One lovely member lady actually said to a mission president’s wife “Please don’t send us any more missionaries – wait a few years until the town can forget the last two!’ ” (pg 138-9)

“An elder or sister who is living up to the ideals of missionary work will never do any of the following…”

15. Feel that just because a method works it is right.  For instance, one elder resorted to many different tactics to gain entrance to people’s homes.  When a lady opened her door, he would throw his hat in and then have to go in to get it.  Or, he’d walk in without making any comment and then say, “I’ll get the table ready while you get your Bible.” …

18.  Be impatient with those not ready to accept baptism.  One elder actually pounded the table and said to an investigator, “You are ungrateful.  You should be thankful that you have been called.   You must join now when the call is upon you.”  The woman was offended and has not joined to this day.” (pp 139-40)

So at least there are limits on sneakiness in getting your foot in the door to preach at people.  Bait and switch is OK (as seen in a prior chapter), and cornering your seatmate on a plane, but not overt rudeness.

Next section is back to basics on manners, this time regarding relations with the landlord.  Don’t be noisy, don’t leave a mess when you move out, pay your bills, etc.  All really good advice.

And finally a long section on relations with Mormons who live in the area the missionary is working in.  Mostly it boils down to “yes visit them, but remember to behave like a guest, and don’t take advantage of their hospitality.”  I also think this section is more of a cautionary tale for Mormons living in areas where there are missionaries active.

“On her arrival, one mission president’s wife who sincerely wanted to be like a mother to all the missionaries living in the mission home made the statement ‘I want you to know that this is now your home,’ but it wasn’t long before she had to put little signs all over the house such as the one on the refrigerator which said “Keep out.  For family use only.” (pp 142-3)

That was her mistake.  If you tell a bunch of 19-year-olds to “make themselves at home”, then you should not be surprised if they put their feet on the furniture, eat all the food in in the fridge, leave dirty dishes in the sink, and borrow your stuff without asking.

messy-kitchen

I found this chapter somewhat refreshing.  All through this book there’s been this impossibly high standard set for the missionaries, that they have to be perfect every moment, always smiling, always polite, and must never slack off or relax too much, or stop thinking about pushing their religion on everybody.  Do the missionaries actually live up to this expectation?  From reading all of the “don’t let this happen” examples in this chapter, it’s pretty clear that a lot of them don’t.

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