You Mormons are some brave *#($*@!

So I’m watching for the first time “Hustle & Flow” tonight while checking my e-mail. My ears perked up when a skinny white boy wearing a white shirt and a tie knocks on the door of the main character, the pimp DJay (played by Terrence Howard), and DJay incredulously barks “You Mormons are some brave *#($*@!” (The young man, it turns out, wasn’t really a Mormon, but the keyboard guy).

I got a kick out of the funny line. But on reflection, there is some truth to it. If you’re a parent, you probably don’t want to think about it, but our missionaries really are some brave *#($*@! They work in poor areas in urban centers, third world countries, just plunging in where angels fear to tread.

Does anyone have any missionary (or general Mormon) bravery stories you would care to share with us?

BTW, I also found the following fun quote from the film’s director, Craig Brewer:

You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen 1,000 Mormons walking out of a Salt Lake City screening singing [as he croons the “Hustle & Flow” theme song], “It’s hard out here for a pimp.”


  1. cj douglass says:

    I lived in an apartment complex with drug trafficking and a few stabbings. The funny part was that the roughest characters in the building were afraid of us. They’d see us coming and literally turn around and run.

  2. I still remember discovering that we had ridden our bikes into drug alley in rural Louisiana long after dark, only to be stopped by a gang of fifteen armed boys. I remember feeling the great clarity of mind we often associate with inspiration and assuming a preacherly confidence which ended in all of us praying together for racial harmony and mutual consideration. I feel sentimental revisiting the experience both because we almost died and because this was a moment of unity mediated by a shared regard for God despite many obstacles to communication. Despite this pleasing memory, we did not seek out the boys again after dark (though we met them at a funeral in their community church for a man who had died).

  3. When I was a zone leader in Tijuan, I was by myself on a dusty hill for over 2 hours. (It’s a long story.)A “cholo” approached me and offerd me a cig. I told him no thanks. He sat down next to me and I knew this couldn’t be good. The guy pulled a screwdriver out and told me to give him his wallet. Without even thiking I grabbed both his wrists firmly, looked him straight in the eye, and asked him,
    “Sabes queien soy yo?”

    “No. Quien eres tu?”

    “Soy un siervo do Jesucristo.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever said something with so much authority in my life. The guy put the screwdriver away, and started appoligzing and asking me for forgivenss. I asked him why he did it, and he said he just need money for the bus. I didn’t have any change, but I gave him a pass along card. I gave him a brief discussion and we left shaking hands.
    Whenever I think about that moment I often experience feelings of panic. I mean, holy crap! That guy could have killed me and no one would have known who did it. Nevertheless, I’m greatful that he recognized Christ’s true authority and that my 20 year old self believed I had it.

  4. I served in Sydney, Australia. One area I was sent to had sisters before us, who were moved out because of a stalker! The guy would ring them 100 times a day, visit them at weird hours, follow them around etc. He even did a bit of damage to the Church building.

    So in I went with my Samoan companion (bodyguard :D). The guy didn’t give up easy, and even tried to break into our flat a few times, but when he worked out the sisters were gone he kinda backed off a little.

    One night around 2am the smoke alarm went off (we lived in a typical 4 story apartment, with everyone’s cars on the lowest level). From the smell we new it was the real deal, so we hurried downstairs and I saw smoke coming out under the door leading to where the cars are parked. So I open the door and see the mission car on fire!! “THAT’S OUR CAR!!!”

    They never found out who decided to burn the car, but lotsa opposition eventually led to many many blessings, and that was a fantastic area to serve.

    Interesting to note, only 1 thing survived in that car, a copy of the Book of Mormon which was sitting on the back seat – with the entire seat burned. I still have the copy, although it does still smell like fire!

  5. We had to deal with a bomb threat against us missionaries in Romania. Otherwise, the worst thing I’ve had to deal with were those stray street dogs that, when grouped together, have the guts to try and bite you. (none bit me). My mission was rather peaceful.

  6. In Amsterdam’s someone pushed a old fridge off the balcony while we were fiddling with our bikes. We were teaching some Ghanans, and the rival gang of Nigerians figured we had joined the gang, I guess.

  7. The most dangerous thing I ever did was a few near-suicidal mad bike sprints through downtown Nagasaki dodging taxi cabs, buses, and pedestrians alike.

    Nothing compared to the other war stories though. Japan is just so darn peaceful, even the bouncers at night clubs we drove past were intimidated by us.

    Everyone likes to talk about how dorky missionaries look. But the thing I remember the most about my fellow missionaries (especially the more experienced ones), and still see in our local elders, was a certain swagger and self-confidence. Different from the wide-eyed bewilderment or dull apathy that characterizes most American youth their age. These missionaries appear almost five times more alive than their peers.

    Weird as it sounds, when you’re an Elder, you “got street cred.”

  8. One evening, after we got back from our work for the day and were getting ready for bed, we noticed that the major road near our house was being closed down by a local protest. The neighborhood across the street from us hadn’t had electric power in more than a week, so they decided to force some attention to the issue by closing down one of the major arteries of the city — a routine practice. My companion and I went to a cinder block factory on the side of the street near the protest and sat down on top of the pile of blocks to watch. After about 20 minutes, a pickup truck began forcing its way through the crowd. As it got closer to the barricade in the middle of the protest, some people began throwing rocks at the truck. This enraged the driver, who jumped out of the vehicle and started shooting a pistol in what seemed to be random directions. The second bullet shattered a block right next to me, so we took cover behind a larger pile of blocks and watched the truck driver singlehandedly scatter the protest and breach the barricade from behind the blocks. The police subsequently came and arrested a random collection of people from the neighborhood. We saw them force one local gentleman to put out a tire fire with his hands.

    Later on, I was in the mission office. Early one Saturday morning, I had gotten up to help with an errand. The two of us hopped into one of the mission cars, dressed for the basketball game we would head to after running the errand. We popped in our seat belts and shoved a cassette tape into the tape player, then headed out onto the street. At the first major intersection away from our house, a large utility truck ran a red light at high speed and clipped us — right near the fuel tank — as we passed through the intersection. For a moment, we skidded toward the right. Then the car started to roll. I thought, pedestrianly enough, “So, that’s what a car feels like when it rolls.” As the car skidded and spun upside down across the pavement, I hung from my seat belt waiting to experience death. Eventually, the car stopped moving. My first thought at that point was to notice that the tape was still playing in the car stereo. The other missionary and I then crawled out of a broken window. The gas tank was broken and gas was leaking out, so we had to turn the car over and disconnect the battery to avoid a fire. We asked a few passersby to help us flip the car and disconnect the battery. Then we sat back for a minute or so, after which we called the mission office and began the bureaucratic process of recovering from trauma.

    Also in the mission office, we had an episode of nighttime thefts. Someone was breaking into the building through an empty hole for an air conditioner. He had stolen a lot, including every pair of shoes that I owned. One afternoon, a pair of muddy footprints signaled to us where the thief was finding an entrance. We decided to ambush him there that night. The group of us posted watch in the room, but as the hours wore on, we abandoned our post one by one. Other than an Elder Brown, who stayed hidden in the shadows, holding the rod from a closet as a weapon like a medieval knight’s sword. The thief arrived and began to creep into the room, when Elder Brown roared, “You’re going to die!” The thief jumped back out the window and ran. All of us from the office gave chase. When we finally caught him, he claimed that he was the wrong guy — our guy, he said, was running up a different street. But he was wearing a white shirt with the words “Elder Harman” written in the collar. So we were pretty sure we had our man. We hauled him back to the office, and the neighbors came out and congratulated us for catching a thief. To our amazement, they then suggested that we all tie him up and beat him. We resisted the idea and instead took the thief to the local police station. There, a large cop began slowly filling out paperwork on a manual typewriter, with the criminal in handcuffs behind him. As we watched, the thief slowly walked over to a filing cabinet that had another typewriter on top of it and tried to grab the typewriter in his manacled hands. We alerted the cop, who grabbed the thief by the throat and pinned him — feet off the ground — against the wall, yelling, “You have no respect! You should respect the law! You should respect me, because I am the law! You should respect these Americans, because they’re Mormons!” The police later searched the man’s house and found many of our stolen possessions, which were retained as evidence. So, from the hands of one thief into the hands of another.

    Last but not least, early in my mission, I was bitten by a fever-carrying mosquito while proselytizing. I spent about a week on my back in our apartment, unable to move. Eventually, the fever became so bad that I couldn’t hold onto food or water. As I lay one night in my bed, losing sensation in my arms and legs, I thought back on two blessings I’d received that I would get through my mission safely, trying to use those gifts as a source of comfort. As I did, I felt the clearest and most distinct voice in my mind say, “I promised that you would be safe if you did what I say. Get to a doctor right now.” I had no voice and little ability to move, so I woke my sleeping companion by throwing a book from my bedside table at him. The book didn’t get anywhere close to halfway across the room, but the sound of it hitting the floor awoke him. He ran off to phone the zone leader and tell him about the situation, and the zone leader called the mission doctor. The doctor, who I had spoken to several times over the last week, repeated his advice that I take aspirin and get some sleep. So the good zone leader and his companion came over to our apartment with this news. In an effort at comforting me, he had brought a plate of cookies and a bottle of 7-Up. As he walked into the bedroom and saw me, he dropped both on the floor and immediately excused himself to go speak again to the doctor. This time, the doctor agreed to examine me personally. I was bundled into the back seat of a mission pickup truck and driven down to the doctor’s house. Once there, the doctor took my temperature, which was high enough that I was immediately taken to the hospital. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital on an IV and various medications and blood tests; the doctor told me, when I finally checked out, that I had been near death. It was another two months before I was healthy enough to work for more than a few hours a day, and my immune system has never fully recovered since. The toughest, bravest thing I think I’ve ever done was stay on my mission and keep exposing myself to mosquitos in the wake of that experience.

  9. I was mugged in a train station during transfers on my mission in italy. I was alone, changing trains, and I suppose the miracle is i was not injured. Some crazy guy fired a shotgun several times at my brother and his companion in the Czech Republic. No inspirational stories here, except run like the dickens when the need arises.

  10. Nothing happens in Austria.

  11. Dan,

    I had a friend in college who served in Romania – he used to talk about the dogs. In fact, I think he actually had PTSD because of them.


  12. Julie M. Smith says:

    This thread is breaking the heart of every mother of boys in Mormondon.

  13. DH served in an area of LA where, literally, cops didn’t go. The hispanic gangs run the streets. Right before he got there one of the elders got beaten nearly to death and when he arrived in the (very small) copless neighborhood there was a serial killer running around. Every night two or three people were murdered. In the middle of the barrio there was this park and there were a few resident drunks. One of them decided he didn’t like DH teaching this lady and when DH tried to give her a BOM the dude walked up and grabbed him and put a knife to his throat. Some gangters walked up and told the dude with the knife that if he didn’t let DH go they would kill him and his entire family. The gangters then informed the elders that they had been watching them and that they were being protected and not to worry. Crazy.

  14. What an awesome thread, though! Moms, you should be proud! Brett, your story made me cry and love all the fallen messed up humans in the world.

    I asked one of the missionaries who baptised me if he had ever felt in danger and he told me of a time when they knocked on a door tracting in rural Alabama and heard someone cursing and cocking a shotgun behind the door. They ran like crazy and he shot at them several times and missed as they were running away. Apparently stories like this aren’t so uncommon.

    I used to go on team ups with the sisters into the projects and people were very friendly to us, smiling and waving and saying hello. I never felt we were in danger, though we wouldn’t be there after dark.

  15. My mission was in Orange County California. The most dangerous thing we encountered was waiting in line for Space Mountain at Mormon Night at Disneyland.

  16. Ardis Parshall says:

    We met very few threatening strangers in France. The creepiest few minutes, though, occurred in a huge cemetery in Toulouse. We used to cut through the cemetery to get from our apartment block to our tracting area. One evening we entered the cemetery without trouble, but by the time we crossed to the other side (of the cemetery, folks, not of the veil!) closing time had come and the big gates were locked. We couldn’t find an open exit, or a telephone. Finally we went to a place where we knew there were blocks of marble and parts of mausoleums piled up outside the wall where somebody had a monument business. We climbed up on a nearby mausoleum and hoisted our skirted selves over the wall, then down on to the blocks on the outside.

    That’s when we noticed the group of men loitering across the street, watching our progress with astonishment. I made a deep bow, then scrambled down and we ran off, with only our dignity bruised.

  17. Well, first off, I was thinking “how did he know they were all Mormons?” although it was a funny quote and fun to picture.

    It’s only been the last few years since I’ve been blogging and heard some of your stories that I’ve been truly nervous for missionaries. “street cred” is a good term, Seth.

    Ronan, that includes conversions, also,right? I heard it was a hard mission.

    Serenity, I want to know more about the dogs, did he get bitten?

    There was this kid in my English class in college (my year I took) who’d gone to Florida on his mission. He and his companion cut some car on while riding their bikes and the carload of black guys beat the crap out of them.

    His companion was a Native American who played football for BYU and he wouldn’t quit fighting, so they almost killed him. He was in the hospital for three months and then the church sent him to Iowa. My friend was hurt pretty bad also, but he chose to stay in Florida and finish his mission.

    He wrote about it for class and laughed as I gasped in shock while reading his essay about the experience. He laughed. He said, “I kept telling Elder Smith to stay down, but he kept getting back up and trying to fight them.”

  18. JN-S, where did you serve?

    I haven’t served a mission, but I used to live in an inner city gang neighborhood, and I was always impressed when I saw the Elders riding their bikes around. Especially on our corner, which my niece liked to call “Smokeville,” because of all the crack smokers who’d hang out waiting for the drug dealers to pull up in their cars. It was easy to mistake them for cops, since cops often rode bikes in our neighborhood. (They could get in between houses easier that way, and gang members were always hiding in people’s bushes. I mean, our bushes.)

  19. My experiences were pretty tame–I guess my mother’s prayers worked. Had an investigator stabbed seven times and the APs almost driven off the road after leaving our apartment. But I will share not much of a “bravery” story, but still a funny story. A friend served in West Africa and got malaria. He was down for over a month and lost nearly 1/3 of his weight–his watch fit around his elbow. He told his mom that he was “a little sick.” His girlfriend back home got the full story. Unfortunately the two women spoke often, mom found out.

  20. Everyone likes to talk about how dorky missionaries look. But the thing I remember the most about my fellow missionaries (especially the more experienced ones), and still see in our local elders, was a certain swagger and self-confidence.

    There was a way to pull this off — to look like a complete BMF without violating the rules. It was the topic of many conversations around my mission, and in California there was an underground style guide for ‘ghetto’ missionaries circulating.

  21. I’ve got a mission story that I never told my parents because I think my father would have ordered me home right away.
    My companion and I were riding the bus through our area on our way to visit an investigator. (Near Charlotte, NC) Three young boys, probably about 15 or 16, dressed in sagging pants, and general hoodlum attire boarded the bus one stop after we did. I took one look at them and realized that they were bad news, and decided against speaking to them. My companion, however, who was from rural Alaska and had never seen a hoodlum before, said hi to them.
    Well, this was a bad move. The guys began harassing us and making lewd remarks. At first I just ignored them, but the remarks began to be more threatening in their lewdness. My companion looked at me completely baffled, and I had finally had enough.
    I turned to the guys and said, “You should learn some respect. You should not speak to any woman that way, especially not a representative of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
    The guys were stunned into silence. When we got to the bus depot, we got off and purposely lost ourselves in the crowd so that we wouldn’t be seen, and then we boarded a different bus and took the long way to our appointment.

  22. Japan is safe, except on the subway. I got felt up a million times. That’s the only part of Japan I hated.

  23. My mom prayed I wouldn’t go to South America … so I went to Uruguay (a “safer” part of South America). That said, my top three are:
    1. Having a gun pulled out during a first discussion by a wife who was upset that her husband had invited us in (my poor greenie passed me a note scribbled frantically on her discussion “She’s got a gun!”).
    2. Walking every day through a slum where, a month after I left the area, a man was drowned in broad daylight on the street by other men who held his head in a bucket.
    3. Having a rock thrown at our window while we were on the bus coming home at night—the entire window shattered, covering us in glass.
    Good times.

  24. Left Field says:

    My companion and I were tracting in Queens. Suddenly a car screeched to a halt, and a man jumped out, leaving the door open and the engine running. For just a second, I thought the guy must have forgotten something in his house. But then he jumped a fence and disappeared between two houses. Three seconds later, a police car pulled in with lights flashing. Then another came from the other direction. Within 30 seconds, the entire block was filled with police cars and flashing lights.

    I turned to my companion and said, “Elder, I feel inspired that we should finish tracting this street another day.”

  25. Eric Russell says:

    4th of July. The middle of a pretty chilly winter in southern Brazil. I’m beaten and mugged in a dark, narrow alleyway of a really poor slum after dark. Brave isn’t the word that comes to mind here though, rather – just plain stupid.

  26. Nothing scary happened on my mission, but one thing that stand out in my mind. My companion and I were to travel the mission teaching the members how to begin their genealogy. We went to a public library to see what kind of info they had on it. Looking in the card catalogue (yes, many years ago) we couldn’t find the word geneaology, but found a word that was very similiar. We thought it might be related, so we asked a man there what it meant. I can still remember the look on that poor man’s face as he tried to explain to two sister missionaries just what gynecology was.

  27. My cousin was in Detroit on his mission, and there were some teenagers regularly hassling him and his companion near the grocery store. One day the companion decided to confront the guys rather than just walking on. One of them pulled out a gun and my cousin was shot in the leg, and his companion was shot in the belly fat– the spare tire hanging over his belt on the side. My cousin was in the hospital a few days, then back to work. His parents were also on a mission and his siblings decided that they could just keep it a secret from them so they wouldn’t worry. This was 20 years ago, but with the mormon grapevine, it only took about a day for the news to reach the parents that a missionary in his mission had been shot.

  28. Gee, all that ever happened to me was walking to deliver a video to one of the seedier parts of Akron, a decked out Cadillac drove by slowly and the driver pointed a gun at us and pretended to pick us off. We delivered the video, Together Forever to some poor kid who thought it would keep his parents from divorcing. I didn’t sleep very well the rest of the night.

  29. My companion and I were given a very large couch that wouldn’t fit through the door of our 3 floor walkup. In a fit of insanity, we decided to pull it in through the sliding glass doors of the patio. We recruited the spanish missionaries and borrowed some rope from a friendly member in the ward.

    Let’s just say we were lucky there were 4 strong elders there and the police didn’t show up…

    And I laugh every time I think of someone trying to move that behemoth out of the apartment..

  30. I served my mission in suburban Arizona. While tracting my own (safe neighborhood) apartment complex in my first area, we knocked on a door, it opened, and all we saw was a handgun pointed straight at us. I don’t know what I was thinking, except to act as normally as possible (??), and I launched into our usual introductory speech. The guy (now visible) holding the gun simply lowered it and, at the appropriate pause, said he wasn’t interested. We said something like, no problem, thanks, bye, and left.

    I have never told my parents that story.

  31. I went back to visit my mission in So. Amer. a few years ago and was terrified to walk the streets even with my husband. Fortunately, the bishop willingly drove us around so we could visit people. There was something about being a missionary, perhaps, that made me less fearful. I was amazed I had ever walked those streets!

    This area wasn’t serene when I had served there; I remembered people yelling out to us, “You shouldn’t be walking here at night; someone was killed here last week.”

    The most memorable experience I had was walking on a sidewalk and suddenly hearing a pop-pop, seeing a man running with a gun, jumping into a truck and driving away (shooting as he went, if I remember..but maybe the story is simply getting more dramatic over time). It was a block away, so nothing like having a gun in your face, but for a girl from Mormonville, USA, that was close enough for me. I don’t think it helped mom feel any better about me being in S.A., either. (When I had called to read my call to my parents, dad whooped (he was a S.A. missionary, too. Mom was dead silent. She was terrified about it all, I think, but didn’t want to spoil the moment for me.)

  32. Nothing happens in Austria.

    Maybe not to you, but while serving in Wels, Austria, I was walking with my companion to ward council under a railroad overpass (you guessed it, the church was on the wrong side) when a drunk guy and his girlfriend walked by and spit on my comp. I suggested that was inappropriate as he walked away.

    Not one to turn down a challenge, the drunk guy turned around and pulled out a pistol from his jacket. His girlfriend freaked out and started hitting him, knocking the gun to the ground (don’t know if it was real or a pellet gun since the former is hard to get in Austria. Still, it was scary).

    He then came at us swinging. I stepped aside and one of his blows landed square on my comp’s ear, who retaliated with a kick to the chest. They grappled for a few seconds until me and girlfriend were able to seperate them. He finally left vowing never to forget us. But we both lived to tell the tale and sit through ward council.

  33. Pete,
    It was a toy gun. You know it, I know it.

  34. I had been on my mission a few months when, after another long day of tracting, we were invited in. It was my door, and I was scared to death–that had never happened before.

  35. I went to South Africa 1993-1995.

    Couple of quick ones. All from the eastern Cape. Port Elizabeth and East London.

    1. I was once ambushed by a couple of guys with AK 47’s. They opened up on us at 300 yards as we furiously biked away. The rounds went over our heads. We got a car the next day.

    2. A missionary boarding was burned down in a riot. The rioters wanted to “get the malungos” cause they were white. One of the elders had a insurance policy of all of his stuff. He got a check for $5000 the next month. He was quite happy about the whole situation and had the best suits shoes etc.

    3. Lots of ambushes. One convoy of elders and members was coming to a zone conference from King Williams town to East London. The road took them thru a very tough area The 2 elders in the convoy were given automatic rifles by the members and told to trail the convoy by about a half mile. If there was an ambush they were supposed to come up behind and start shooting. When they made it to the zone conference safely they started bragging about how they were armed and “rambo elders”. The elder mentioned in #2 was involved in this.

    4. One day while doing a service project involving shovels and picks at a elementary school in a township a group of 4 elders was confronted by a angry mob carrying tires and gasoline. What happens is the tire is doused with gas put on your head and lit on fire. a “Necklace”

    Confronted by the mob one elder decides to denounce them in the name of Jesus. The other three elders grab him pull him back and take their shovels and get in a circle. Ready to fight to the death. Right as the mob decides to ” Necklace them” a group of police show up in a armoured personal carrier and disperse the mob. The police commander proceeds to lecture the elders about being stupid and to stay out of the area.

  36. Re: MCQ #15
    You must have been English speaking, because I was in Anaheim in 91-93. I was there for the Rodney King Riots, a few good earthquakes (one 7.2) and Spanish speaking. I opened Santa Ana for sisters, after I heard that they didn’t send sisters there — too dangerous. I figured I was either expendable or really great. Hum…
    One night we went to Santa Ana (we lived in Tustin) for an appointment to meet the husband of one of our investigators and an old man told us to get back in our car and drive the heck out of there.
    One of our lunch DAs, the Elders had to escort us to, they on bikes and us in our car. Kind of funny, but they wouldn’t allow us in there, without their presence being seen — even for lunch. I think we only ate there once because the bishop found out and cancelled it.
    One door in Orange was opened to us with shotgun in hand. We were more scared of the gang boundaries one block away then of that guy.
    One of our ‘gators was a gang member, who’d been to prison for killing someone, but wanted to repent. Basically the rumor was that SLC told him to go to church and maybe someday he could get baptized. We took him to church in Santa Ana, where our chapel was, and the mission leaders son threw him gang signs and death threats. After that we told him to learn english and go to the English wards, you may get weird looks, but no death threats. We found out later that our friend was in a rival gang, the ML’s son was big into that gang and later went to prison. Wonderful, what an example! That was the same ML who told us how we could get back at the members better.
    Another ‘gator, friend of the first gang member ‘gator would have to be picked up first and then we could come back and get the first, because you could be seen coming west to east with these guys, but not east to west.
    This was several years before the rules of no members or investigators in the car with you. Good rule, I think.
    We went back to those areas of Santa Ana, a couple years ago, and the slum housing is gone, replaced by nice condos. LOL.

  37. OH! Another one! I had opened Santa Ana for sisters, but didn’t stay there very long, just 2 months. I wondered why they moved me so quickly. Later I learned that a certain chola or female gang member was out to get the tall, red headed missionary — me. She had seen me just talking to her steady boyfriend, who we were cold contacting on the street. I guess I had touched his arm, so she meant for me to die. I was gone for 6 months and she had moved by the time I got back. And they closed the sisters’ area a few months after I went home.
    It is kind of scary thinking that my little son will be going in a short 12 years.

  38. cantinflas says:

    Almost all of theses experiences can be chalked up to ignorance rather than bravery. Leaving home and family at 19 to preach the gospel is pretty brave in itself, but ignorance gets us through it.

    I, too, served in areas in the Rio Grande Valley that police would not enter if they didn’t have to. Interestingly, in one area I was pulled over (on bike and car) by Border Patrol, FBI, DEA, local police and Pacific Railroad police. All just wanted to make sure we weren’t up to something illegal.

  39. I served in Santiago-Chile. There were a couple of experiences when afterwards everything went down–I realized that could’ve ended much different than it did.

    Speaking of ignorance, in my district, two elders were jumped and they turned around and jumped the guy and wrestled the gun away from him.

    I knew quite a few missionaries that were robbed by knife point, but I never was. The two most dangerous things in Chile were the microbuses (i saw several fatalities) and the dogs…we had to be careful about single dogs, not just the ones in packs.

  40. I served in Southern California, but it wasn’t in LA. I served in Arcadia, right next to LA, but we did have a small section of LA in our mission. Enough to include Dodger Stadium. It was mostly a bad area and we had no problems there.

    I had two experiences to mention.

    We knocked on a door, and it opened very quickly. A guy swiftly moved through it with both hands extended, nailing both of us in the chest. I had kind of anticipated what was happening so I turned a little bit and his hand glanced off of me. My comp wasn’t so lucky, he was nearly knocked on his butt. He barely kept himself from falling with his hand. He was from a weathy family in Utah so he didn’t do well with this sort of thing. I thought he was going to pee his pants. lol.

    One night we had been on splits with our zone leaders or something and my companion and I headed back to our apartment. It was already after our curfew, but the ZLs approved us being late (since it was their fault). Anyway, about halfway home I get a flat tire. We go and change it then head home again. We hadn’t gotten too far when this car speeds by and a really high speed and we both get nailed really hard with something. I was hit with a full pop bottle it turns out. It hurt pretty bad, but my companion was hit worse it seemed as he was practically thrown off his bike. He had what looked like blood all over him in the dim light. It turns out that it was some kind of fruit. Stupidly, I yelled out something and shook my fists. We started back. A minute or two later, they came back for a second round. This time, they must have stuck something out thei window because the nailed my companions bike seat from behind. It actually bent his seat up it hit so hard. It lifted up the back of his bike and he went over the handle bars and nailed his head on the asphalt. He started bleeding pretty bad.

    So, don’t stay out after cerfew. :-)

  41. In Portugal, my companion and I had a guy pull a knife on us in an attempted robbery. I had to physically restrain my companion or he would have beat the would-be mugger to a pulp.

    We were returning to our apartment at the end of the day when a kid in his early 20’s walked up to me and grabbed my arm. He said something like “Give me some money. I need money for drugs.” I simply pulled my arm away and said “I’m not giving you any money,” and started to walk away. The kid then tried my companion, who similarly refused. Somehow, their exchange became more and more excited and heated. My companion said something to the kid that made him really angry and he pulled out a knife. He said “how would you like this stuck in you?” My companion became quite enraged by this. He got right in the kid’s face, cocked his fist back and said “how would you like my fist in your face? I guarantee it will hurt worse.” At this point, I had to grab my companion and pull him away for fear that he would have followed through on his threat. (For the record, my companion was about 5’11” and about 200 lbs. and a former football player, I was 6’2″ and about 170 lbs.) As I pulled my companion away, I noticed that the knife-wielding would-be mugger was shaking a bit and slowly backing away from us while muttering something like “yeah, well I’d cut you. I really would.” I think the poor kid just about peed himself.

    My brother-in-law has some pretty good stories about serving in Cleveland. He told of one occasion when a local drug dealer (who was quite well known in the neighborhood and who was ALWAYS packing heat) stopped them and said “are you the two kids I saw walking down XYZ street yesterday?” They said “yes.” He told them “don’t you know that street is dangerous? I don’t even go down that street.”

  42. Adam Greenwood says:

    My only incident had nothing to do with the gospel. Just me being dumb.

    A thief grabbed my wallet at a store so I took off after him without thinking. When I had finally cornered him in a dead-end alley I realized how stupid I was being, but by this time a crowd of Spaniards were blocking the other end of the alley and I didn’t have the moral courage to retreat with all them looking at me.

  43. Back to the original topic–Has anyone seen “Black Snake Moan?” I’ve seen Hustle and Flow, and have been curious what people think about “Black Snake Moan.” I’ve read the reviews–and I’m still wondering what people who have seen it say.

  44. I got pickpocketed twice in Kiev. A couple of elders got beat up androbbed, but nothing scary ever happened to me.

  45. S.P. Bailey says:

    In my first weeks in Brazil, a woman we were teaching gave us the following advice regarding street crime: eventually you will get robbed. When it happens you have three choices: (1) get the police, (2) kill the thug, or (3) do nothing. If you get the police, the thug will come after you. And he might kill you. If you kill him first, problem solved. You won’t get in trouble for killing a thief. Most people just do nothing. Hold still. Let them take your stuff. Don’t make eye contact.

    I never actually got to put that into practice. But I was ready. It was common then for little punks to steal watches on buses by slashing at watchbands with razor blades. I learned to tell time by looking at the sun. I also kept my watch in my pocket.

    A few things did happen: we were standing in a nearly empty bus on the way home one night in Natal. A thug on the street threw a rock at us. We watched it enter an open window, narrowly miss, and shatter a window on the other side on its way out. Both of us had been out for a while. We shrugged our shoulders in unison.

    Also, once a crazy dude (gibberish talking/mouth foaming variety) came at us with a steel pipe while we were waiting for a bus in Recife. Say what you will about American medicine, but there are markedly less mentally ill people with steel pipes hanging around bus stops in my city. A guy also chased us out of his yard once swinging a 2×4. I don’t think he was crazy. Just mean.

    Also, once I was travelling alone to our mission office, which was next to a large hospital. I had just got off a bus, and I had about ten blocks to walk. A woman approached me. She asked if she could walk with me. I hesitated. She pointed down the street. Not far behind us was a group of thugs. She explained that she was going to visit her sister in the hospital. And that these thugs had been following her (and getting closer and closer) for several blocks. She was horrified. I walked with her. I have no idea what would have happened. She thought she was about to get raped.

    Other people in my mission had better stories:

    (1) One guy got the crap beat out of him during Carnival. I don’t think they robbed him. It was just part of the celebration. This story was famous in my mission because the victim’s companion ran away and did not come back or get help.

    (2) A companionship held at gunpoint had nothing of value (to the thugs) on them. They offered the thugs a copy of the Book of Mormon. Apparently these elders saw the thugs around their area all the time after that. The thugs apparently waved at them, etc.–and spread the word that they had no money.

    (3) One of my companions saw a man decapitated on a public bus (head out window, narrow corner, street lamp, etc.)

    (4) A companionship got robbed naked. Once again, these elders were smart enough not be carrying money. So the thugs took their clothes. All of them. Luckily, it was dark and the elders were only a few blocks from their apartment.

    (5) Elders in my district watched a unit of federal police jump out of a minivan (semiautomatic rifles firing) to make a raid on drug dealers in their area’s favela. Stray bullets were apparently a problem in such places.

    (6) A sister in my zone got her bag grabbed by a thug. The sisters saw him later and pointed him out to some cops. The police proceeded to beat the guy silly right there in front of the sisters. They told me they had mixed feelings about the experience.

  46. shakleford says:

    Been lurking for awhile but I felt like sharing some tales of “bravery” or lack thereof…I served in Caracas about 10 years ago and had numerous brushes w/danger. Looking back, those experiences, more than almost anything else, have strengthened my testimony over the years so I’ll share just a few. These are above and beyond the relatively routine robberies, gunfights witnessed in the barrios, muggings at bus stops, etc.

    In my second area, my companion and I had a large butcher knife thrown at us from the deck of the 2nd story of an apt. building (bloque). It stuck in the side of a fence just as we began to walk past it. Other things were thrown at us as we ran away but we didn’t look back to see what they were.

    One morning as my comp. and I made breakfast, we heard our neighbor’s dog barking hysterically and some screaming. We raced outside to see a man, about 1/2 block away, beating a woman. My comp. immediately began yelling and running towards him and I ran inside to call for help. About 30 secs. later, I ran back to the scene as my comp. chased this man around the back of a house. She lay on the ground with small blood marks all over her chest. We thought the man was just hitting her with a big rock or something but he was actually stabbing her with a small kitchen knife. It lay on the ground beside her. Several small children were yelling hysterically in the doorway looking out onto the yard. I yelled at one of them to get me a rag or towel to put on her. They gave me one and I started to apply pressure to her chest and wounds. She gasped for air a few times, her eyes rolled back, and she died within a minute. In the meantime, my comp. had lost the attacker and an ambulance soon arrived. We later heard that he was her ex-husband and was angry b/c she had moved out to live with relatives (our neighbors). The man just drove himself to the police station (this was on the island of Bonaire) b/c he knew he could not get away.

    Also on Bonaire, my comp. and I baptized a native woman who was VERY superstitious/afraid of the water/ocean. It took quite a while to get her ready b/c we did it in the Caribbean (no font). Anyway, we held her baptism at a small beach with a 7-10 ft. high ridge where everyone stood/sat to watch. The only way to the beach area was by a small set of stairs leading down to the water. The ridge extended for several miles in each direction so this was really the only way to get to the water in this area. After going down in the water, my comp. and this sister walked out into the ocean. We were doing the baptism in the late afternoon and the tide was coming in rather quickly. At full-tide, there was no beach as the water came right up on the ridge for several feet. Anyway, she was very reluctant to get in the water at all and he kept trying to help her into deep enough to baptize her. I was saying silent prayers for her to be strong. After a few minutes, she got deep enough and appeared ready. Her back was facing us (the spectators) and my comp’s back was to the ocean as he began the prayer. The first time, her foot came out and we had to try again. Right before the second attempt, several of the children watching began screeaming excitedly that they saw a shark. We told them to be quiet so as not to frighten my comp. and Elena but we looked out and, indeed, there was a shark swimming toward them from behind. I have never been more scared in my life, before or since. It was about 6-8 feet in length, I would guess. The children began grabbing rocks to throw but we told them to wait. The shark got to within 3-4 feet of my companion who was still oblivious and trying to baptize Elena. Suddenly, it swerved to the left and swam towards the shoreline and the stairs leading up from the beach. At that point, he baptized her and they began to hug and start to walk out of the water. We didn’t know whether to tell them about the shark at this point or not. It was just circling around the area where the stairs entered the water. Luckily, by the time they reached the stairs, it had swam back out into deeper water. After they were up w/us, we told them what had happened. I still don’t know if my comp. actually believed me…Later, one of the members who was present had identified it as a reef shark…

    Finally, w/only a few weeks left in my mission, my comp. and I were out walking very early one morning. The city was very quiet b/c it was a Sunday and during a holiday weekend where everyone, almost literally, had abandoned the city for the beaches or to visit relatives. As we walked under an overpass entering a new barrio, a man approached us from behind. He was a callejero (street walker) who was dirty and wore tattered clothes. He called out to us but, for some reason, I told my comp. to keep walking. We walked faster but soon he caught up to us. As my comp. turned around to speak w/him, he pulled a gun that was wrapped in a bag of cans he was carrying over his shoulder. He told us to give him all our money. We didn’t really have any and I told him no. He pointed the gun at me and said nothing for about 5 seconds or so. Then I grabbed my comps shirt and we turned and walked away.

    There were other times also but those are the main ones that stick in my mind quite clearly. Thanks for the patience and sorry for the long post. I hope I’m not breaking some sort of blogging word limit or anything.

  47. shakleford says:

    #45 (3) reminded me of another…once in a bus a man jumped on and sat down in front carrying a very bloody rag. after a block or so we got stuck in traffic and heard some sirens. the man jumped out and ran away. as we sat there, the cops came by carrying a man on a stretcher with his hand wrapped and screaming. someone outside the bus said he was robbed of his jewelry by a man with a machete. i don’t know if the victim lost his whole hand or some fingers or what…

  48. Craig W. says:

    After collecting a package from home (cookies, etc.) from the mission office, a couple of kids tried to rob us in an isolated tunnel in the Metro. (Barcelona Spain.) They pushed us against the wall while sticking us in the stomach with a sharp object. When I realized the sharp object was just a fountain pen, I grabbed the kid and wrestled him to the ground, totally taking him by surprise. I think the kid wet his pants. They immediately took off running.

    On a funnier note, one hot summer day while knocking doors, we were greeting by a mostly naked girl at the door. My companion was so stunned that all he could was grunt. We laughed about that one for weeks.

  49. I know my mom reads BCC: so I’m not saying anything. …

    Actually, I don’t really have any stories of bravery — like Dan, I served in Romania. I ran in to the dogs a couple of times, but was never in any real danger. Most of my experiences were more surreal or weird than scary.

  50. I didn’t serve, but I knew a fellow who served in Russia. He and his comp were robbed with a knife. He ended up getting stabbed in the stomach and his comp died. I believe it was in the early to mid 90s. Very sad. (His scar was cool though)

  51. My comp and I were mistaken for FBI agents by a real FBI agent.

    There had been a recent kidnapping and the area was flooded with FBI and other Law enforcment types searching for the little girl. We naturally avoided the immediate area where she lived, but still had appointments in the area. As we were walking to an appointment a car pulls up and an FBI agent gets out and asks us if we were the agents from the Pittsburgh Office. We laughed, flashed our badges and identified ourselves. He laughed and told us to be careful as we were in a dangerous part of town.

    We already knew we were but we didn’t worry, primarily because the two meanest and most vicious men in those projects were married to members. All we had to do was mention their names and nobody gave us any problems.

    And actually they were really nice guys, unless somebody made them mad, then watch out.

  52. The first few weeks my friend Elder Shumway was in the D.C. area, he would write home about the bags of crack he and his companion would find on the sidewalks of their neighborhood. We all naturally chewed him out for picking the bags up to examine, and eventually he stopped writing about them–I’m not sure, though, if he actually left the bags alone or just decided to stop writing us about it.

    I’ve always wondered if his mom knows about the drug drops he’s intercepted…

  53. Sam MB may have been around during my mission. I remember on my mission in Louisiana when someone tried to torch the pad with the BYU mural painted on the wall. It may have been the guy who was stalking the missionaries on the phone. Very creepy. And who was the young WML in New Orleans, that one who kept getting in the way?

  54. The first few weeks my friend Elder Shumway was in the D.C. area, he would write home about the bags of crack he and his companion would find on the sidewalks of their neighborhood.

    That might have happened to him once if at all. Who would leave valuable drugs lying around? It’s like throwing away twenty bucks. The only reason to drop them is to dispose of evidence before getting arrested.

    I have canvassed all sorts of neighborhoods in greater DC and haven’t encountered crack once. It’s not something that happens to us regularly in these parts.

    On the other hand, I do know Austrian alcoholics with real guns.

  55. Gosh, this has got me thinking about how the local members often fail to appreciate the protection that missionaries have. In New Orleans, our Mission placed two sister missionaries into an area that was opening a new branch. The new apartment was central to the boundaries and close to the street car that would take them to the place where they had Sunday meetings. It was also near the area where most of the newest converts had lived. The apartment was approved by the Zone Leaders and Mission President who prayed for a location and felt inspired. The building even had a locked gate but that wasn’t enough for the white members. They refused to return the missionaries to their apartment and failed to respect the Mission President’s inspiration or the protection that the sister missionaries could have through faith and prayer. Eventually, the Sisters were relocated and Elders were placed in the apartment. Even that didn’t satisfy the members who insisted on having the apartment closed. During the short stay in that neighborhood, we baptized a couple people and no missionaries were mugged or raped or any of those things that the members suggested could happen. What a blessing. It was sad to close the apartment and not have as many missionaries in the branch.

  56. Hey Zoobie,

    I think that situations like you mention can go both ways. Having local input on safety issues can be of value

    In post 35 I mentioned a boarding that got burned down in a riot. The background is that a American Misson president had decided to put the usually white elders into boardings in the large black townships of Sout Africa. This was done over the objections of the local members both black and white who were concerned about the safety of the elders.

    The boardings started getting burned down in riots after a political assasination and a new local mission president was called. He refused to reopen the boardings for safety reasons and considered the departing MP as ignorant to the realities of the local conditions.

  57. Chuck McKinnon says:

    I served in the Bordeaux mission and didn’t get into much trouble. There were some “quartiers sensibles” — a polite euphemism for rough neighborhoods — but my companions and I knew enough to avoid those after a certain time of day.

    One Elder I served with, a big British rugby player (6’4″, ~285lbs) had a 14-year-old try to hold him and his companion up at knifepoint once. My friend laughed and told the kid to take a hike before he got his arm broken. When the kid threatened to bring his brothers, the bellowed retort was “Bring your whole family!!” The kid ran off, and my friend started to hustle his companion towards the train station. When his comp asked what the problem was, my friend replied “he’s gone to get his whole family; time to get out of here.”

    One time we had a blitz in Bordeaux proper — we brought in a bunch of missionaries and spent most of the day contacting along a huge pedestrian mall, the rue St. Catherine. Two Elders I knew contacted this one guy and without a word he slugged one of the missionaries in the face, breaking his nose. It later emerged that the guy had been contacted three streets in a row by different missionaries, twice said he wasn’t interested, and had finally had enough.

    Only once did I have to speak with the kind of authority others have mentioned, and that wasn’t in a context of bravery. I’ll add my witness, though, that when it happens it’s an unforgettable event — the more so for its rarity.

  58. bbell, all due respect, the situation I wrote about was all about the bad attitudes of local members versus the inspiration of the mission president and zone leaders. The members really had no feel for how to go about following inspired counsel. I couldn’t begin to tell you how wack that branch was. It was like Sunstone and Dialogue had put up a freak flag in the middle of New Orleans. I was glad to be out of there.

  59. LAGirrrl says:

    Kevin, Your “fun” quote about Mormons leaving the theatre singing “it’s hard out here to be a pimp.” is a terrifying new trend in which thug/pimp life is being normalized and thus normalizing and glamourizing prostitution. I’ll be writing a guest blog on in at FMH in April but just wanted to make a note of the harm such cultural pictures conjure up from a societal point of view.

    Service Announcement Over.

  60. J. Hernandez says:

    I do believe in the inspiration of mission presidents. I also believe that sometimes missionaries walk into situations that they should have avoided. 28 years ago in Duran, Ecuador my companions and I sat in a little tienda to enjoy a cold soft drink and to make plans for the rest of the day. There was a little table at the store and I sat next to the open window.
    All at once I felt someone grab my hair firmly and they began to bang my head against the window frame. I tried to loose myself but I could feel hairs pulling out so I grabbed his hand so he couldn’t bang my head anymore and I tried to pull him into the tienda. By that time one of my companions had ran outside and was pulling him the other way and began to beat the snot out of him. He was drunk and posessed and began swearing at us in Spanish and English. The “beating” brought out the entire neighborhood and they were ready to attack the three of us. Soon the store owner came out and told them that the drunk deserved what he got and they all walked away dissapointed.

    We had armed federales threaten us a time or two because we weren’t carrying the papers they wanted to see and because we didn’t have any money in our wallets that they could steal (I always carried a small amount of effectivo in my socks)

    Other than that, the Lord protected the missionaries in our mission.

  61. Nothing too crazy happened to me. We did have some Elders that called us a few nights in a row threatening us. We didn’t know it was them until later. We had the usual stuff, some threatenings, one gun. In one of my areas in our apartment complex, it was very close to an affluent side of town. I served in Vegas. A few months before I got to this particular areaa resident of the complex was shot and killed over a drug deal gone bad. While I was there, the apratment complex right behind us, ( the apratmetn itself was probably a couple of hundred feet away there was a stabbing that resulted in death during a home invasion. Lots of little things.

  62. Please excuse the typing, I am tired.

  63. Not really a bravery story, but some Elders in my district were shopping on preparation day, in a big mall, when two young fellas approached them. Thinking it was a chance to teach, the Elders stopped, but the two guys grabbed their badges and ran off! The Elders chashed by couldnt catch them.

    The rest of the district thought this was pretty funny. When we had district meetings in other areas, we would do it to other missionaries as a role play ;)

  64. On my mission in Louisiana, we were told by cops and residents of certain neighborhoods that we “must be lost,” “need to turn around,” or “don’t belong here.” Those people, I am sure, were just trying to be helpful. I frequently bicycled to a notorious housing project several times, did a little teaching, and helped out with basketball games in the community center there. Once, a gentleman approached us to say that a gang fight was about to happen and that we really should leave. I’ve always thought that gentleman was inspired to warn us to safety. We got away just fine; if we had listened to the members, we would never have had the experience of taking the gospel to that neighborhood.

  65. while serving in the ghetto parts of melbourne we had overstayed our time at a members home after he told us a story about moroni in new zealand. we only had 30 mins to catch the train back which was a long ride home for us. we peddled as fast as we could and could see the train leaving from a distance and the next one wasnt till 10:30. I felt I had let my Heavenly Father down and wasnt looking forward to calling the zoneleaders that night which I got rebuked but advised to get back quickly. As soon as it hit 9:30 and passed on the other side of the track it seemed as if the gates of hell had poured its whole spirit for all the people on the other side at the same time started cussing and persecuting us and pointing the two fingers. One aussie decided to cross the tracks and come over to our side and our whole district of six just stood there. At that moment I felt the temptation soo strong to knock him out,I apologize I’ts my samoan bad side in me. so I I took off my badge and put it in my pocket and this dude was going to receive the beating of his life, like the scripture says”better to give than to receive.” as he approaches me he says” who is moroni?”” he is a prophet of god” I said.And like that he backs off and stares at me like something hit him and he walked back to other side an sat back down quietly.