Missionary Moments

I was out on the streets of San Francisco at lunchtime, when who should appear in the motley crowd of crosswalk pedestrians but two young LDS missionaries, with their signature short-sleeve white shirts, backpacks, nametags, and aura. I didn’t quite stop dead in my tracks, but I did furtively watch them cross Mission on the opposite side of the street and saunter on into the main bus terminal. Granted, there are more than a few folks in that neighborhood who could use the gospel—after they finally make it through detox, get back on their medication, and set things right with their probation officer. It was an odd, unexpected place to find LDS missionaries, but certainly not the only time I’ve had that reaction. What is your most memorable missionary moment?


  1. Capt Jack says:

    Driving through a very bad neighborhood in Bogotá Colombia in 1999. The situation was so bad we were instructed not to stop at red lights. I was in a Blazer that had a reinforced chassis, bulletproof glass, and run-flat tires. I had on body armor, a 9mm pistol and the Colombian with me had the same.

    We came around a corner and there was a Mormon church with not two but four missionaries standing out in the street in front of the Church. They were very, very American looking and didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

  2. Bumping into missionaries on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Young men should not be required to serve missions on Mediterranean islands. It’s cruel. But they were wonderfully cheerful.

  3. Walking around the Duomo in Florence, Four luckless Anzianos and two Sorellas. I took great pity upon them, for they were street contacting where there were nothing but tourists.

  4. Having my picture taken by companion while I was on the toilet.

  5. john fowles says:

    Seeing Elders riding their bikes in a suburb of Salt Lake City (particularly Sugarhouse or the East Bench, etc.). It’s wierd, and besides, I can’t begin to express my pity for them.

    Or one time as a teenager bumming around Holland with my friends when I saw the missionaries, clean-cut as ever, ride through the sqaure in Enschede. I felt an embarassed pride, looking long and hard at them staring straight ahead as they rode to their destination, completely ignoring the jeers and stares of the crowded street. Secretly hoping that my friends hadn’t seen them, I was eternally grateful that I had.

  6. a random John says:

    I assume you are asking for favorite moments bumping into missionaries, since that is how everyone seems to be responding.

    I was wandering around Florence while on a trip to Europe. I was alone and was looking to grab some food before hopping on a train. I ran into two Elders and offered to buy them dinner in exchange for their company. They seemed eager for a meal and I was anxious for someone to talk to. We got pizza and sat at an outdoor cafe. Apparently there were still stories floating around the mission six years later about a cousin of mine that had served there.

    Since then I’ve done similar things occasionally while traveling. Nothing seems to shock and please missionaries so much as an offer of a nice meal out of the blue.

  7. Jonathan Green says:

    Three years after I had been in Bonn as a missionary, I went back as a student. The whole year had its trippy moments, but one of our favorites was hanging around a streetcar stop on the way to stake conference. There was a bunch of missionaries a short ways away, and one of them walked up to us, clearly upset that an elder and sister had left their companions and were getting way too friendly with each other. He scanned us for nametags, found none, scowled, and walked off.

  8. Last weekend my daughters had a dance competition (actually a charity event, but everyone gets a trophy that says “1st” on it). My older daughter had to change from her ballet costume to her tap costume and the dressing room was packed. I took her to the car and let her change in the back seat. It was a hot day, and I rolled down the windows. Sequins were flashing, clouds of glitter flying through the air, and some missionaries walked by. Right by. Close enough that my half-naked 7-year-old in stage makeup screamed.

    That was pretty memorable.

  9. Steve S says:

    From the other side of the experience: As an elder in Guatemala about thirty years ago, I was walking down the street on the way to shop for supplies for a missionary project. I was surprised to hear someone ask, in English, “Elders, aren’t you outside your area?” I said, “No, this side of the street is in the area, and other other side of the street is out,” and he replied, “Isn’t that splitting hairs?”

  10. It seems like I see missionaries walking or riding around quite a bit, especially true when we lived in a suburb of Seattle.

    But the most memorable was seeing two missionaries riding their bikes around at an intersection in downtown Tacoma. It was an intersection I lived at, in the ghetto, where gang members and drug addicts would hang out, waiting for drug dealers to drive up and sell them drugs. There were often cops parked on the side streets. When I first saw the missionaries, I assumed they were cops on bikes (bikes are handy for cops when they have to chase gang members between houses, we sometimes had people hiding in our bushes), but then I noticed they weren’t wearing shorts. I really thought they were crazy when I realized they were Elders.

  11. Driving down Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas near UNLV….some elders on bikes preparing to cross the street as I stopped at the red light. I lightly honked my horn and waved in support. They crossed the street, and in passing in front of my car, one elder turned and made a very cartoon like face, mouth and eyes wide open, hands in the air. Actually scared me half to death and left me laughing for several minutes.

    And then as a missionary, there was the night my companion and waited for a bus in a deserted bus shelter in Toronto, hiding from the snow. A toothless man approached us/cornered us in the shelter and began speaking of doing pretty unspeakable things to women, including cutting them up into little pieces. We somehow managed to wriggle our way out of his presence. Scary, but very memorable. Is that what you were looking for?

  12. Here in our university town, very few people even seem to want to talk to the Elders. So, the Elders in out Ward seem to have taken to frequenting the local SRO hotel, the main homeless shelter, and the Main bus station downtown. So, on sundays, we do get to see some interesting folks ‘visiting” at Sacrament Metings. usually most of the men and women who come are either drunk, or high as a kite, so they tend to say interesting but inappropriate things.

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