This post first appeared, in slightly modified form, at the now-defunct Sons of Mosiah blog on July 2, 2004.
There comes a time in every missionary’s Mission Training Center (“MTC”) experience when he or she would prefer to be struck by lightning than spend another day cooped up in the “missionary gulag” (Or was it just me?). You spend 8 whole weeks doing “SYL”, attending class 27 hours a day, and eating the same soggy brussel sprouts over and over again. Oh, to finally get out into the real mission field! But in the meantime, you’re stuck “on campus” and you’ve got to find some way to keep yourself entertained.
I entered the MTC in late 1991, where I was assigned to a triple companionship with Elder “D” and Elder “K”. We were truly a threesome made in Heaven (or Hell). If you’ve ever doubted the inspiration behind mission companionship selection, you need only to have met the three of us to know there is a God. We got along famously, possessed nearly identical senses of sarcasm and cynicism (both in short supply in the MTC), and we had very compatible senses of humor. This was a recipe for all sorts of inappropriate fun and games.
Our trio was adept at creating new and inventive diversions to pass the time. Shaving cream fights, posing as MTC staff out front for newly-arriving missionaries, phony “debates” in public places about preposterous “doctrinal” ideas to scare other elders, you name it. But by week 6, we had become desperate for some new sources of entertainment. The rest of our district couldn’t take much more of us, what with my propensity to drone on and on about this or that controversy, Elder D’s self-inflicted mohawk (which strangely, he was never ordered to remove), and Elder K’s choreographing and performing yet another dance routine set to Mormon hymns (think “We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet” meets “Vogue”). As usual, Elder K came up with a plan to save us all from the crushing boredom.
The setting was the MTC Bookstore. The heart of the MTC in many ways, the Bookstore contained almost everything a missionary could ever need to buy. It was also, curiously, staffed by the most innocent-looking and prudish-acting BYU co-eds you could possibly imagine. One day, while walking down the pharmaceutical aisle, we made an interesting discovery: There, among the toothpaste tubes, sticks of deodorant and shampoo, sat a handful of 99-cent, Fleet-brand “enema kits.” So Elder K’s idea of fun quickly became this: to pick the most uptight-looking of the cashiers, and then attempt to purchase an enema kit from her. But of course, he couldn’t just buy it as one of several miscellaneous items he was picking up; he had to make it his sole purchase, so as to ensure that any conversation during the transaction would necessarily revolve around it. Elder K would non-chalantly make his purchase, initiate some casual banter about his enema, and inevitably create horrible awkwardness for the cashier. (If you had listened closely, you would have heard some interminable giggling from a group of elders around the corner).
After a couple of sales, this routine became tiresome, so Elder K proceeded to buy 4 or 5 kits at one time, thereby raising even more disturbing questions for the cashier, as well as for any potential onlookers. Eventually, Elder K graduated to very blunt conversations concerning his purchases: “Excuse me, Ma’am, but if these don’t work, can I come back for a refund?” “Can you please explain to me how to work this? There are instructions here on the box, but I’m not sure I understand what these drawings mean…” Meanwhile, the cackling of elders around the corner proceeded unabated. (Horribly immature, to be sure, but we were 19, so give us a break).
This was all a big barrel of laughs, of course, but at the end of the week, we had grown tired of the antics, and we now owned an impressive collection of 17 enema kits, each of which lay prominently but uselessly on the window sill in our room. One can build an enema-kit pyramid in one’s dormitory only so many times. What was a group of elders to do with 17 enemas? (I thought you’d never ask).
Yours truly came up with the idea. I took a piece of paper and a pen, and in my best penmanship, proceeded to write the following letter:
Dear Elder _____:
Due to the primitive conditions that you may experience in your mission, it may become necessary from time to time to administer an enema to yourself in the event of severe constipation or other intestinal complications. A small percentage of elders have been known to experience mild allergic reactions to the enema solution, and for this reason, it is important that you administer the enclosed enema to yourself in order to determine your own reaction to the fluid. Please make note of any uncomfortable reaction to the enema solution that you experience, and promptly report your findings to the MTC medical staff.
Dr. Richard Johnson
(forged signature featured prominently here)
We took my letter to the copy center and had it shrunk down a bit, so as to make it resemble an “official” mass flyer. We then asked for 17 copies. (The copy center employee realized what we were up to, but he thought it was funny, so he obliged us). We then taped one flyer to each enema kit, and the following morning, we headed for the MTC Bookstore.
If you’re an RM, you may recall that every Wednesday, a new crop of elders arrives at the MTC. After their initial orientation and good-byes to family, they line up to pick up their “bluebags” filled with teaching and study materials along the far wall of the Bookstore. The three of us entered the Bookstore, positioned ourselves stragetically at various locations, and initiated Operation Stuff-a-Bag. As two of us served as look-outs, closely monitoring the wandering eyes of the Bookstore cashiers, the third would innocently walk up to a blue bag, open it, and quickly stuff an enema kit (with note) inside. With such a high chance of getting caught, this was no easy feat, and it took a couple hours to complete. But we stuck to our guns, and complete it we finally did.
We then fled the Bookstore, cackling with glee, and imagining the inevitable fallout.
Alas, we were never able to follow up with most of the 17 elders to see whether they’d fallen for the gag. In one case, we did follow up (since Elder K and I knew the elder from BYU), but he was a pretty bright guy and he didn’t take the bait. Nevertheless, we look back on the experience fondly and take comfort in knowing that given the number of enemas deposited, it is likely that at least a handful of elders chose to “be obedient,” only to realize later they’d been conned. And who knows … maybe some are still wondering why they, but not their fellow companions, were singled out by that enigmatic “Dr. Johnson.” If any of you dear readers out there remember being on the receiving end of this gag, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!