Lock Your Hearts

The title for this post comes from an old mission field chestnut; a talk given by Spencer W. Kimball, warning missionaries against falling in love in the mission field. You can read the text of it here — apparently its validity is in dispute. I had little trouble keeping my heart locked during my mission in France; no one really ever tried to bust in, frankly. I can’t say that my companions were so lucky however, with sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic results (mostly hilarious).

A recent comment at the unmentionable blog relating a Dear John incident has inspired me to blog about my own Dear John experiences, and to solicit yours, Dear Reader. First, a couple of gems from the Book of Steve: I’d dated Tracy a few times before going into the MTC, she was a fine, strapping lass from Calgary. As things are wont to do, my image of Tracy became more lustrous the longer I was in the MTC, and by the time I was in France, Tracy was quite the catch. I wrote to lovely Tracy, asking for a small picture of her, perhaps to adorn my dumpy apartment in Sartrouville. Tracy was all too happy to comply, and in a few weeks I had my picture — her engagement photo. Thanks, Tracy *rrrrrip*.

Another from the many, many disappointments: I’d dated Aisha during freshman year in Deseret Towers, and I thought we had a bright and make-out rich future ahead of us. We wrote each other frequently, sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences. *sigh*. About 8 months into the mission, the letters stopped — no explanation, no notes. I was crushed. Was she all right? Had the lamanites taken over her city, Pahoran-style? A few months later, the letters started again. However, amongst the thoughts and feelings being shared were thoughts and feelings about some other guy. Trevor? Mark? Who cares. Thanks for sharing, Aisha *burns letters furiously*.

These are tame experiences, compared to some of the absolute heart-crushers I’ve witnessed with my companions. I’ve seen elders get completely immobilized for days, sobbing uncontrollably. Remember this, O ye who are about to embark on missions — lock your hearts, dear friends. Lock your hearts.


  1. “I got the most poisonous reply you can imagine.”

    What did he say?? Come ON!!!

  2. “t was ok to “have a drink of water before going into the desert” meaning you could get a good juicy kiss at the airport before embarking on the mission. “

    I always thought that meant it was OK to have sex before going on a mission. Ooops!!

    C’mon Greg, give us the details — I live for this stuff. Did you actually give back the T-shirt?

  3. Ah, the fragile state of a missionary’s heart. I remember watching approved movies on P-day with the other missionaries. One week, we watched the Little Mermaid and several elders audibly sighed when Ariel finished singing Part of Your World. How we loved her!

  4. And is it possible that no one has remembered this quote from Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer?”

    Hey, psycho, we’re not going to talk about this. It’s over. Now get out of my Van Halen t-shirt before you jinx the band and they break up.

    (Adam Sandler’s character to his ex-girlfriend Linda)

  5. a random John says:

    Before my brother left he gave all his stuff to his gf because he knew what had happened to my stuff when I left. (BTW, I am over that.) He gets DJ’d with 6 months to go and she told him outright that she was going to keep all his stuff as a “souvenier” of the relationship. This included a VHS copy of Rubin and Ed. We are all still mad at her over the loss of the movie. It would ease the pain if it came out on DVD, but that might never happen.

  6. Greg Call says:

    You date girls who like Van Halen. You marry girls who like Neil Young.

  7. Did you date someone from your mission Steve? My District Leader from the MTC asked me out when I got home, but it was a very uncomfortable date. He was too much like a brother or something.

  8. Does the Missionary Emporium at University Mall in Orem still have the wailing wall?

    Elders from the MTC used to put their letter on the wall, with the good parts highlighted. I remember laughing until my sides hurt.

  9. DT – despite Diamond dave being an “idiot” as you put it ( and I happen to agree, though he is fun), Diamond dave brought a lot more energy to VH, and really made VH what they became Without Diamond dave, VH would have remained a good band from California, like a hundred others, but they wouldnt have become the superstar band with the world-wide following they have now.
    Sorry for hijacking the thread, but Bro Bartholomew made me do it!!!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    From his comments at the last General Conference, unlocking his heart might have been what saved Elder Groberg’s life. Unless it was his mom he was refering to when he said, “As I was going down for what could have been the last time, the Lord infused into my mind and heart a deep feeling of love for a very special person. It was as though I could see and hear her. Even though she was 8,000 miles away, the power of that love came rushing across those miles and, penetrating time and space, reached down and pulled me up—lifted me from the depths of darkness, despair, and death and brought me up to light and life and hope. With a sudden burst of energy I made it to shore, where I found my shipmates. Never underestimate the power of true love, for it knows no barriers.”


  11. Greg,

    That is the saddest story I’ve ever heard — especially since it’s a pre-Hagar Van Halen t-shirt. I’m still trying to convince my wife to let me wear a Van Halen t-shirt. I’m not sure what losing a girlfriend who appreciated Van Halen would have done to me. :)

    I’m trying to think of what kind of revenge would be suitable in such a situation. This is the kind of thing that requires some form of retaliation.

  12. Greg, at least it wasn’t the prized DLR Tee. But you can’t spare more details?

  13. Hmm… Maybe this isn’t a good time to mention that I met my wife on my mission. At the time, she had no interest in the discussions. I later met her again after she made her way to my town as a member of the Church this time.

  14. Tom Manney says:

    I didn’t get a dear John. I did get a “I’m going on a mission three months before you come home, so I guess you’ll be waiting for me now.” And I was a basket case for days. My newbie companion had to tell me to shape up and get my head back in the mission, which is its own kind of humiliation.

    Anyway, I did wait for her when I got home, and we married two months after she returned from her mission.

    As for the whole lock your heart thing … I’m not sure that it means you can’t have a special someone waiting at home. It just means you shouldn’t be looking for a special someone on your mission. At any rate, even my patriarchal blessing mocked my plight, saying that my mission would be hard because my heart strings would be tugged. Understatement of my life.

  15. I don’t know if the Missionary Emporium still has that wall but it was truly a classic. I remember reading some of the letters there and having a good laugh.

    Besides the “lock your hearts” concept I also remember a counsel that it was ok to “have a drink of water before going into the desert” meaning you could get a good juicy kiss at the airport before embarking on the mission.

    I didn’t get a Dear John because I locked my heart before the mission. But I did observe a fine companion of mine crumple up a Dear John letter at the beginning of a sacrament meeting and stomp out of the room. That was a truly priceless and unforgettable moment.

  16. I had a companion who had sold his vintage mustang to his girlfriend prior to his missinon to raise some money. He sold it to her real cheap. She sent him an invitation to her wedding about 8 months later, to his best friend, who beat him home from his mission by a year.
    He was a real outdoorsman, loved to bow hunt. He used to tell me of dreams he had of stringing his friend up in the woods and shooting arrows at him. Needless to say, I slept with one eye open after that.

  17. I had a roommate at BYU (now married to my cousin) who had a girlfriend that was supposedly waiting for him. Her family absolutely adored him and couldn’t wait for them to get married. Contrary to their desires, she dated and then married another guy.

    When my roommate returned from his mission, her family still liked him so much they gifted him a used car of theirs. At some later point she (the former girlfriend) confided in him that she and her husband would have liked to have received that car.

    He’d get a funny grin on his face when relating this tale.

  18. I hate to derail this blog a little into a discussion about Roth vs. Hagar … but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m simply not sure when the Bloggernacle will provide another opportunity. (What chutzpah!)

    David Lee Roth is a better frontman. Surprise surprise. But Hagar is much more likeable. I used to mock Hagar all the time but then I saw a show that dealt with the two personalities in-depth … contributing greatly to my conclusion that as far as personality goes, David Lee Roth is a complete idiot (and that Hagar is a pretty cool guy).

    I’ve also come to wonder whether Eddie Van Halen was a much better guitarist when he was drunk. Yes precision is a good thing (I don’t think the instrumental Spanish Fly was composed by an inebriated mind) but there’s this sort of wallowing in-the-depths-of-hell guitar riff thing he used to have that I don’t really hear anymore.

    OK. Thank you for putting up with this total thread hijack. I feel much better now for having vented my feelings about Van Halen.

  19. Greg Call says:

    I have a tear jerker, but I’ll just give you this bit. In the Dear John letter, she laid the news of her engagement on me and then said, “the only thing I want back is the Van Halen t-shirt.” I don’t know which hurt worse.

  20. I married a sister missionary from my mission, and so did Nathan at Tachyon City. In fact, we served in the same mission (to be clear, I am not married to Nathan).

    If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. No one gets bored telling old mission stories, and you can get the dish on what the sister missionaries really thought of your more annoying companions.

  21. I never dear-Johned a missionary – I never dated too many LDS men in my singles days, they weren’t really my type – although I did do a dear John on a (non-LDS) boyfriend who had moved to another city. I met my husband and well …
    But my brother got dear-Johned on his mission, his girlfriend then got engaged to another man, which was the last we heard until he got off his mission and they got engaged to each other six days later (which was seven years and two kids ago).

  22. I WROTE: “I got the most poisonous reply you can imagine.”

    STEVE ASKED; What did he say?? Come ON!!!

    I wish I could remember and tell you all the juice, but it’s been ten long years. Something like . . .

    “You’re a cruel lying Jesabel. I trusted you. I loved you. How could you do this to me? I’ll never love a woman again.” I didn’t keep the letter, it didn’t seem like a good thing to do, I’m sure he regreted sending it.

    I can tell you this. I had neglected to tell my (future) husband that I was writing this missionary a DJ, so when the poison pen letter came, I was reading it and he showed up,

    “What’s wrong?” he asked.

    “Oh this old boyfriend of mine just wrote me this really nasty letter in reply to our engagement,” I told him.

    “What old boyfriend?!”

    It was not a good moment. The dh was mad that I hadn’t shown him my DJ letter to the missionary before I sent it. He also suspected that I wasn’t telling him the whole truth, and the truth was I just really didn’t think there was anything to tell.

    Luckily we had a really strong faith in each other and it blew over fast, but it’s easy to see how things like this can blow up and become huge ugly things.

  23. It was pre-Sammy Hagar, too, which I imagine only adds to the sting.

  24. Man, that’s cold. Which Van Halen t-shirt was it?

  25. Marta

    My companion did eventually find his family. Greedily, while he wallowed in self-pity and disbelief, I commandeered the phone and called my family (for like 2 hours). He finally got through to another friend of the family who knew where his parents had gone.

    The saddest part was that not only did his gf get married and his fmaily ditch him, the only thing he got for Christmas was a little felt stocking with some Tootsie Rolls and a $5 bill that my mom sent him. Apparently in thier haste to move, his own family had neglected to send him so much as a card.

  26. My companion and I were both passing our first Christmas in the mission field, and were extremely excited to call home.

    We didn’t have a phone, so we went to a member’s home to use theirs. It was a one-room home, so there wasn’t much privacy so I heard everything he said.

    My companion called his home to discover his line disconnected. He called his bishop and found that his family had moved. He was getting a little concerned at this point. We discussed briefly whether it would be appropriate to contact his girlfriend, since she was a close friend of the family and would likely know how to contact his family. We decided it would be okay, so he called her home. She answered and he said “hello” and then got a very worried/concerned look on his face, then asked, somewhat incredulously, “You got married? To whom?” Needless to say, the call didn’t go on much after that, and, oddly, she had no idea where his family had moved.

  27. My ex-girlfriend has my Rubin and Ed t-shirt.

    We had been together for 4 years before my mission. She DJ”d me because I wouldn’t get engaged to her while I was on mission. We stopped writing for a few months. On March 3 I had an epiphany that I needed to either ask her to marry me or dump her for good. My comps tried to console me, but I was totally torn on this issue. On March 5 I recieved her wedding invitation. She had had an open house for her wedding on March 3.
    She ended up marrying my best friend’s companion. They had started writing while he was still on his mission. They were engaged 2 weeks after he got home and married 3.5 months later.

  28. Oh, Grog! You didn’t tell us whether your companion ever found his family. We moved twice while my brother was on his mission; from Denver to Boston, and then to D.C., but he found us anyway.

  29. On the other end, I once sent a Dear John. Only in my defense I didn’t know it was a Dear John when I sent it. I hadn’t dated the guy for two years *before* he left on his mission. It was a nice relationship, and I had fond memories of it, so when he asked me to write him on his mission I thought, why not?

    Then I started dating my husband, and it just got weird to write the missionary, even though there was no relationship. My husband and I dated for more than a year (an eternity by Mo standards) before we got engaged. And I wasn’t writing the missionary very often, because like I said it was weird, and I didn’t mention my relationship with my (future) husband because that would have been weirder.

    I don’t know, maybe I did lead him on. I never thought of it that way. I hadn’t though of him as my missionary or my boyfriend in years.

    When I did get engaged and sent the “Dear John”, OH MAN, I got the most poisonous reply you can imagine. I felt like I’d lied to him, promised to wait, stomped on his poor little heart then ate it for breakfast. I felt horrid.

    I’m over it now.

  30. Ouch, Taylor, that’s bad. I guess your epiphany proved a little more prophetic than you intended. Did you write back or say anything to her once you found out?

  31. Really? Man, I’d love to see that. CB, you have a cruelty after my own heart.

  32. Greg Call says:

    Sorry to disappoint, but this was a circa-1992 tour t-shirt, so no Diamond Dave. It was the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge era, I think. I did send back the t-shirt. But did I get back my early-Banana-Republic jean jacket? Nope.

  33. Tom Manney says:


    We’re still married, and just had our third kid. In fact, we just passed our 10-year anniversary of when we first met.

    There wasn’t any NCMO on my part, though there was plenty of NCF AND NCL (flirting and lusting) on my part. And I trust my wife that she didn’t have any. She did shave her head completely bald to make boys stop looking at her. She’s lucky she wasn’t kicked out of BYU.

  34. There’s at least one couple in our ward who first met as missionaries.

    I dated a girl once who had a brother who was told in his patriarchal blessing that he would meet his wife when he was on his mission. At least that’s what she told me. Whether that meant he’d end up marrying a fellow missionary, a ward member he’d run into or a convert … I don’t know.

  35. Wow Tom — you’re one of the few for whom it seems to have all worked out (unless you’re no longer married to her….)

    Nice of her to turn the tables on you for waiting. Now did both of you really wait, or did you “wait” the same way Sumer’s roommate did, by having NCMO relationships all the time?

  36. Yeah, I dated a girl from my mission. She was really cool, and was a great sister missionary. So, we did a dinner-and-a-movie thing, which all sounds great, except that the movie was Schindler’s List, so that killed the night (and the relationship). I mean really, what are you supposed to do when you see Schindler’s List on a date? “Hey, who’s up for ice cream at Carousel?”

  37. Yes, but would they have made “Far Side of Heaven” (or whatever that movie was) if, subsequent to this experience, Elder Groberg had gotten DJ’ed?

  38. You know, as bad as it felt to get snubbed by girls in the field (not to avoid discussing VH), it was worse not to receive any mail at all from people my own age. Letters from the folks were nice, but I felt awfully out of touch and very lonely. Getting dumped at least meant that I had a link to the real world in some respects.

    This reminds me of something equally awful about missions and relationships: dating people from your mission once you’re home. Has anybody out there dated someone from their mission where it wasn’t a disaster?

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