Knock, Knock, Knock

The first thing you need to know about Mormon missionaries is that they do not choose where they go.  The first thing I should say about me is that from birth till age 19, all I wanted to be, was a Mormon missionary.

My father spent two and a half years in Switzerland. My older brother went to Brazil.  I went to Atlanta Georgia.  Looking back I suppose I got the least exotic sounding locale, but at the time I was just so excited to go, that I easily brushed off all those dreams of foreign languages and strange foods.  What I didn’t realize then, but appreciate now, is that by staying domestic I traded in a bunch of stories that could be shared by countless tourists and expatriates, for a whole new set of tales that are above else, uniquely Mormon.  My native culture has a fine tradition of returned missionaries, “RM” in the vernacular, telling stories of their two years spent in God’s service.  I was happy to join this expansive club upon my return and added mine to the stories of my progenitors and contemporaries.  My experience was not all that unique in comparison with childhood friends.  Kirk brought Yerba Mate back from Chile, Jonny returned with an accent from Mexico, and Matt left his hair in Singapore.  We all spent countless hours recounting adventures and missteps to all who would listen, till the one day we realized girls weren’t impressed; then we shut up and got married.

It has recently been brought to my attention that what I thought was a mundane and common part of my past, is actually not.  If I had been paying proper attention I would have realized this earlier.  There were clues all around.  Maybe things like others fascination with my alcohol abstinence, common confusion between my faith and the Amish, or the fact that usually the second question I am asked when making a new acquaintance is, “how many wives do you have?” should have helped me figure this out.  Despite the lack of common knowledge on the tenets and doctrines of my faith, most Americans are familiar with the sight of two young guys in white shirts and ties, sporting black name tags.  I stop at “familiar with the sight” because few are familiar with the young men themselves.  I know this because I was once one of them and watched as my presence struck fear in the hearts of the public, sending them scurrying for a place to hide.

They were not hiding from Americans, Gringos, or the CIA, they were running from Mormons.  They, you, were running from me.  Two years of wearing that uniform, living that life, have quite stocked my quiver.  Shall I share?

Perhaps a small sampling before you answer?  I will start with a story that makes my wife cringe.  Not because it is horrid, but because it is so common; at least to those of us who grew up with these sorts of things.  Maybe you did not.

I arrived in Atlanta full of excitement and energy.  I was assigned a “companion”, a more experienced missionary to show me the ropes, and he began doing so even before I unpacked my bags.  We tossed my two suitcases on the bed and set out knocking on doors.

He went first to show me how it was done.

Knock, knock, knock…

“Hi, I’m Elder (withheld), and this is Elder Brohammas.  We are out sharing a message about Jesus Christ, do you have a moment?”

-“No thanks, I’m already saved.”  SLAM!

That looked easy.  I inquired what would happen if we actually got past “hello” and he told me a few other little things to say before asking to come in and talk.  I asked him to go again, I was still a little nervous.

Knock, knock, knock…

A man answered, waved at us through the screen, shook his head, and closed the door.

OK, still pretty easy.  My companion looked me in the eye and said, “Elder.  It’s your turn.”

It may be cliché’ to say I had waited my whole life for this moment but it was true.  My favorite song as a preschooler was titled “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission”.  They did, and here I was, my first door.

I knocked.

The man that answered must have been six feet five inches tall and not a pound under 350.  He wore a tight white tank top, a blonde goatee, and had a toothpick pointing out from the corner of his mouth.

I smiled naturally and said, “Hi!  I’m Elder Brohammas and this is Elder (withheld), we are out sharing a message about Jesus Christ.  Do you have a moment?”

The man scowled, said, “I thought I told ya’ll Mormons to git,” and raised up his hand to show he was holding a Colt .45.  Not a Colt as in a malt beverage, but as in a blue steel revolver.

The words I spoke were expected, “Uh…. Sorry.  I didn’t know.  We’ll leave you alone.” But the words I thought surprised me not just in their content but in quickness.  I remember the words I thought exactly.

“Freaking Awesome!  My first day!  The guys are gonna love this!”

I turned to walk away only to be stopped by my companion.  He pushed me back and spoke over my shoulder.  “Are you sure sir? It will only take a moment.”

The man at the door cocked the gun.  I don’t recall having any thoughts at this point.

The idiot standing behind me kept on.  “Please, it’s very important.  It will only take a minute.”

Seriously?  I could not believe what was happening.  All we had to do was walk away and we would soon be rejoicing in our shared tale of adventure and persecution for the word’s sake.  In stead this overzealous fool may just get us shot.

The man, looking even angrier, began moving forward out onto the porch and my companion began moving forward to meet him.  This was it.

Then they both doubled over laughing.  The giant reached out his right hand and said, “Hi.  I’m Billy Wilson.  I’m a Mormon.”

And so it began.

Shall I go on?

9 thoughts on “Knock, Knock, Knock

  1. Planks, that question is where all the stories come from, guess I’ll have to go on.
    John, you would love Billy, he may like you as long as words like Baaahston or anything else “Yankee” ever comes out of your mouth.

  2. I had a run in with a few mormon fellas a few weeks ago. I try not to be rude to them, I’m not particularly religious anymore but I respect the fact that young men still feel the call of service in the name of faith. We had a similar tradition in my family but I suspect that it will have ended with me.
    Nice guys. The two things I remember :
    – one of them was black and in my head I was like “wow. a black mormon. on a bike.”
    – they were both riding bicycles after dark with no lights, in a relatively traffic dense part of town. totally unsafe but they weren’t sweating it when I brought it up.

  3. The local stake always sends new missionaries to my house.
    They eat and drink (Sprite or Roor Beer) and get to rest and watch the TV in the background (I keep it on Sportscenter so they can keep up with the scores.)
    Most stop by until they are tranfered somewhere else and then they always ask the next new group if they’d been by to meet me yet.
    I explain that their mission will end up teaching them more than they will end up teaching others.
    I often get kids who’d never seen an all-Black middle class enclave and most are suprised that they are treated well by the neighbors.

    A mission?
    Never went, never had the desire.
    My life seems to be a mission.

  4. Dalyn—laughed my head off. Love the stories that come back post mission–Brandon just recently admitted to 4 hospital stays (up from the 2 he’d told me about)..somehow after 12 years I just don’t care anymore. I mean, I care, but shoot, what could I have done? It’s a miracle that any of you guys survive.

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