It’s a small world afterall, if you’re LDS

The mormon world is very small. We’ve all had experiences of re-meeting someone from an old ward or someone who knows people in your family or who used to know your best friend, etc. This weekend, my mother came to town to see me. We went to my branch on Sunday morning. I left her to be with the adults while I went downstairs to primary. When I came back up to check on my mom between classes I ran into Bro. Richard Bushman. He told me “We’ve just talked to your mother, she used to live in our house in Arlington and we know Stephanie Goodson(my aunt) very well.” “What? really?” I was trying to figure out when my mother lived in Arlington, Va when I found her talking to Claudia. Mom filled me in. Her newlywed sister Stephanie was already living in Boston when mom moved there after graduating from some Utah university. She rented a room in a big house in the Arlington suburb. The people she rented from moved out and the Bushmans moved in with their 5 children. She said they all had to share one bathroom! This was in the late 1960s but Claudia recognized my mother right away.

Recently, at the 15th street chapel, I ran into a brother who was in the bishopric of my ward when I was a teenager in Miami. Neither of us attend church at that building but we were both there for meetings. I knew his family very well and taught their first daughter how to swim.

So, what is your best small world story? Let’s see who has had the craziest, most unlikely re-run with church people?

Jennifer J


  1. DH and I met on the internet. We dated for five months, and were engaged for three. We sent out invitations. I sent one to some friends from the Midwest who had moved to (back) to Provo. He sent one to his best friend. My friends expressed concern to a friend that an old friend from the Midwest was marrying a guy she met on the internet, and they hoped he would turn out OK. His friend said, “What a coincidence, our good friend is marrying a woman he met on the internet.” They compared invitations. They were the same. And both were reassured.

  2. Gues what Steve?

    One of your ancestors was a carpenter who helped build the Nauvoo Temple.

    You also have an ancestor who was a senior military general under Napoleon Bonaparte.

    This in addition to those special folks of yours that were on the Brooklyn.

  3. Jennifer L says:

    Here’s a small world story that makes it even more incredible because it does not involve LDS.
    I used to work for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Ft. Collins, CO. While there, I worked for several people, one of whom was a doctor married to a Spanish woman. Well, for a time he was having his wife’s mail forwarded to work. In Spain, the woman keeps her maiden name when she marries; if I understand tradition correctly.
    Anyway, I was collecting this mail to give to him when I noticed his wife’s maiden name which was familiar to me. The only other Spanish person I ever knew also had this name. It was a foreign exchange student that had lived in our home in Ohio 6 years earlier. So, I asked this doctor if his wife’s last name was a common name or not. He wanted to know why I would ask something like that, and I told him my story. Come to find out, the foreign exchange student who had lived in our home in Ohio all those years back was his wife’s 1st cousin. What are the chances of that?

  4. Jennifer J says:

    Hey Steve,
    I had an ancestor on the Brooklyn, maybe WE’RE related!

    And that’s too bad about your unfortunate re-run at church. You’ll probably win the prize for the most embarassing and uncomfortable one.

  5. I have a friend and former hometeaching companion I met in Israel named Ken. Ken works for Intel and that was what brought him to live/work in Jerusalem. While in Israel we made friends with a fellow member of the church named Sampson Ajeigbe who was from Africa.

    Well, Ken returned from Israel to the United States and then a few years later was sent by Intel to work a stint in Ireland. And there he ran into our friend Sampson Ajeigbe again, who had moved there as well! Both were amazed that they were crossing paths again in a completely different country.

  6. Kristine says:

    I was sitting in Relief Society in Ann Arbor–my first Sunday there. The visitor next to me introduced herself as Christine Seppi, and I had to follow by saying “I’m Kristine Haglund, and I don’t think we’ve ever met, but we’re cousins.”

    My dad is the oldest of 11 well-travelled kids, so I never really go anywhere without meeting someone who knows one of my aunts or uncles. For a while, it seemed as though everyone I met in my college ward had been taught to swim by my Uncle Roger, longtime coach at Salt Lake Swimming and Tennis Club. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that his method for teaching swimming was to throw kids off of the high dive and see if they figured out how to make it to the edge of the pool. So whenever I met anyone from SLC, I’d say “hi, I’m Kristine Haglund, and I’m really sorry if my uncle threw you off the high dive.”

    I have two aunts, Betsy and Grettle, who are just a couple years apart in age, and who (like most of my dad’s siblings) are accomplished organists. Grettle lived in New Orleans for several years and played the organ in her ward. Several years later, Betsy moved to the same ward, and was asked to substitute at the organ on their very first Sunday in the ward. Betsy says she had never thought that she and Grettle looked all that much alike, until she overheard a conversation in the ladies’ room after that meeting: “Can you believe it? Grettle’s back.” “Yeah, she’s lost a lot of weight, and she got a new husband!”

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    I went to Salt Lake City last weekend for a wedding (recall that I blogged about this some time ago, but my wife and I didn’t go for our 5-year anniversary after all). Anyway, I wanted to spend the night with some cousins at BYU, rather than blow money on a hotel, so I took the Trax down to Sandy, followed by a bus trip to Provo. I was misinformed about the bus schedule, and ended up having to sit at the bus stop for almost two hours. I’m sitting there by myself, cursing my plight, when I am approached by a Latino gentleman with a question about the bus. Turns out he was an Argentine mission companion of mine (for a brief two weeks) that I hadn’t seen in 12 years. He’d been living in Utah for the last 4 years. I NEVER would have seen or heard from him again had I not happened to be at that bus stop.

    I really should go to Utah more often so that I can have experiences like this.

    Aaron B

  8. I’ve got so much pioneer/SLC blood in me that I don’t dare show my face in Utah, sometimes…even just reading this board and Times and Seasons, I’ve come across mention of names of my relatives (who don’t, I think, know that I exist…).

    My strangest ‘meeting a Mormon’ story, though? Not so strange or just wacked as some, I’m sure…but I spent a semester in St. Petersburg, Russia, last spring. A few months into my time there, my brother (then on his mission) emailed me to tell me that our cousin had mentioned that we have a second cousin (who I’d met once at a family BBQ years and years ago when we were both maybe 12). There was one particular elder in my branch with whom I’d struck up a bit of a friendship — turns out that he was it. “Elder Cuz” and I have been laughing ever since about how sometimes you have to travel to the other side of the world to discover kin.

    And I thought I was safe by staying out of SLC…

  9. It’s a small Mormon world so be careful whom you gossip about at the salon! An inactive woman overheard me and another woman talking about a ward member’s divorce. Turns out, the inactive woman was at the salon while the soon to be divorced person was watching her kids. We were ratted out in a matter of hours!

  10. It’s an incredibly spooky world out there. I thank my lucky stars that I have no pioneer or SLC blood in me, b/c I treasure each and every degree of separation.

  11. Jennifer J says:

    LOL, Have some sympathy for those of with pioneer and polygamous blood, we’re probably related to every other Utah mormon. (Sometime when I was 10 or so my mom told me one of the little boys at church had a crush on me. Then she said, half joking, that I couldn’t date him because she thought we might be related. His family name was in our family tree a few generations back.)

    Come on Steve, like you’ve never run into someone from your own past at church?

  12. Mine? Yeah, I guess so…. but quite frankly it doesn’t come up very often. I guess I was thinking more of if I had a last name that was more of a Hunter or Hinckley, etc…. Evans is a big Mormon name but I’m unrelated to the big mormon Evanses (probably a good thing!).

  13. D. Fletcher says:

    My story isn’t that peculiar. I chose an apartment at BYU that was pretty close to campus, and I had to room with a stranger. His name was Tom Clark, and we made friends very quickly, and stayed roommates for more than a year.

    Some weeks before we each moved to different apartments, we discovered that we are both descendants of Heber J. Grant. He’s my great-grandfather, and Tom’s great-great-grandfather. So, we are second cousins, or something.

  14. Randy B., I think Randy will probably not be around too often. You can probably keep your single name, and skip the initial.

  15. Steve, what about your ancestors that sailed on the Brooklyn? I think those might be called pioneers.

  16. Randy B. says:

    This whole Bloggernacle thing has finally gotten too big (at least for me). Now that there is another Randy, looks like I will have to follow the example of Steve E., Jennifer L., and others. I’m going to have to start all over trying to rack up my number of comments over at T&S–just when I was about to go into triple digits. Drats!

  17. Two mormon network stories:

    1) My first mission companion in Puerto Rico got a letter saying that his cousin Julie was getting married. Next day I got a letter saying MY cousin Julie was getting married. My aunt and his mom were sisters.

    2) There was this one family–I’ll call them the Johnsons–with several daughters that my brothers and I went to high school with, and ever since then people in my family and circle of friends run into people all over the world that know one of these sisters. Somebody in Hong Kong: “Oh, you’re American? Do you know so-and-so Johnson?” Somebody in Europe: “Utah, huh? I know a so-and-so Johnson from Utah.” It was honestly happening so frequently that it became an in-joke: meeting the Pope? Tell him the Johnsons said hi. Hiking Everest? Ask the Sherpa if he knows the Johnsons.

    Then, shortly after I moved 2000 miles from home to go to grad school, I was perusing the family pictures on the wall of one of my ward member’s homes when, lo and behold, I saw a picture of one of the Johnson sisters. I was in the home of her in-laws.

  18. Jennifer L says:

    Well, actually I have a few stories, although most are my mother’s, but here are a few.

    1. When my grandfather died a few years back, we went to St. George for the funeral. Before the funeral began at the funeral home, my mother ran into her best friend from college who also happened to be there for a different funeral. She hadn’t seen this friend in years, and neither of them live in St. George.

    2. After my mother married my father, they eventually settled in Ohio. When they moved in to the branch there, my mother recognized a woman she had been friends with at BYU. They have been friends ever since these 30+ years.

    3. My best guy friend from school at BYU happened to attend the open house for the Nauvoo temple. While there, he ran into his old girlfriend from BYU who married before she left Utah and who he still laments breaking up with. Of course, now she has like 3 or 4 children. Her husband was not happy to see him there.

  19. Well, I live way out in the mission field, and I haven’t been to church in so long that I wouldn’t know most ward members if they bonked me over the head with a hardcover Quad. However, I was reading a Mormon-related bulletin board one day, and one of the posters seemed to be describing my Bishop, who may be unique in all Mormondom. I e-mailed the poster and it turns out that we live in the same ward.

  20. Whoops. The guy who served under Napoleon was only a lieutenant colonel.

    And gues its obvious that I have no spell checker

  21. Yes, indeed I have run into some people from my dark and geeky past, to my great, great shame. I could share tales from my horrible past, but not on this thread. Tales of my teenage years make grown men cry and cause women to faint. But just for you, here’s one little appetizer to chew on, from recent years:

    One day a new couple moves into the ward, and I realize with horror that I dated the wife at BYU. How awkward, I thought — this will be difficult, and the husband will no doubt hate me. But I wanted to get the awkwardness over with. So, I sidled up to the poor thing nonchalantly, and said, “hi, how are you?”

    Blank stare. “Umm… hi. Do I know you?”

    “Yes — I’m Steve Evans! We dated at BYU!”

    (looks at floor uncomfortably) “We did?? Well, uh, great, nice to meet — I mean see you. Gotta go.” *cue audible “shpsssssst” sound as my ego deflates.

    Needless to say we did not go out on the town on couple dates all that much. Fortunately, she soon was knocked up with several children, and my depression was replaced with secret glee at her discomfort.

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