BCC Zeitcast 63: Tuesdays With Berto

In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Aaron Brown tells a story from his mission that probably should have stayed in his mission.


Links for your convenience:

1. Aaron B, pooping his pants and barfing on a nun
2. Aaron B, purchasing enema kits in the MTC
3. Aaron B, shooting a machine gun

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If you have problems with the audio player, then you can download this episode here here. Subscribe to the BCC Zeitcast in iTunes or through our dedicated podcast RSS feed. (And don’t forget to leave a review in iTunes!)


  1. There’s really no occasion that isn’t a good occasion to play that intro song.

  2. Trudat, SB2.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    This podcast is an abomination. You should call your bishop to make an appointment to repent before you even listen to it.

  4. Mark, we don’t believe in pre-repentance in this religion. Take that false doctrine elsewhere, buddy.

    Bring on Berto!

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for memorializing this for all time and eternity. It is indeed the greatest mission story ever told.

  6. Scott, you really are quite the excellent host. And let me go on record as stating that I don’t believe that Aaron Brown exists; this, despite having met with and broken bread with him.

  7. Oh my.

  8. Mark Brown says:

    I just did a load of laundry and noticed that the Clorox bottle is almost empty. I hope that is still enough to wash my ears out.

  9. Mark,
    You’re doing a good job of convincing me that you’re actually offended here. Fortunately, I have the memory of you turning purple from laughter when you heard this story in SLC with me…

  10. Wow.

  11. Scott,

    All is well on the iTunes front. Thanks for your work.

  12. Mark Brown says:

    Scott, if memory serves, I was giggling like Beavis and Butthead…………

  13. So what I got out of this zeitcast is how utterly clueless men are about the regular and often gross advances sisters encounter as missionaries. Seriously, that was nothing.

  14. Okay mmiles, I’ll bite: how many investigators of the same gender did you have who constantly grabbed your knee and licked their lips during every discussion?

  15. Regardless, mmiles–I think you might have missed the point: the star of the show wasn’t Berto–it was Elder Jones.

  16. Why does it matter if they are the same gender? Elder Jones was a star.

  17. mmiles…I thought the same thing…wearing a wedding ring (as per our MP’s suggestion) did cut down on some problems. Althoguh I avoided the groping, I’ve had the lip licking,..my companion thgouth I was clueless until I suddenly changed the scripture we were reading to the corianton chapters. then cut that short as well.

  18. holy migrating “g”s..many pardons

  19. Steve Evans says:

    I feel dirty just hosting this podcast on our site.

  20. Cynthia L. says:

    Oh I’m glad someone else said it. I didn’t find the overall setup very funny. Not in the offensive/non-PC sense, but just in the banal sense. The number of times I’ve had to try to conduct business that I was very serious about, whilst dealing with someone who, I later found out, had no interest in my serious business, is literally more than I can count. Guys trying to negotiate “just really fast,” “just let me see/touch,” and other patently absurd propositions were a not unusual (if not totally normal either) feature of my high school and early college years.

    Granted Elder Jones’ total cluelessness provides the amusement. But the fact that men find these circumstances wildly madcap and incredible is what I find entertaining–in a turnabout sociology experiment kind of way.

  21. Yeah, that story was weak. Just another Tuesday afternoon for us SoCal missionaries.

  22. MCQ,
    I see a few people saying things like that, but I’m not seeing any proof. Either bust out your story telling chops, or I’m going to call BS.

  23. Scott,
    The thing is, in all my many, many stories–I don’t find them funny. Some are really gross and uncomfortable-and R rated.

    I venture that this is funny to you because it was a guy. If it was an attractive woman it wouldn’t be funny–but ucnomfortable in another way. If it was an unattractive or older woman, you would lean toward more gross and uncomfortable. To women who experience these things all too frequently by men that make them uncomfortable, it’s just not funny. Frankly, it just makes me feel vulnerable and exposed-and makes me want to run the other way.

  24. MCQ, I don’t believe you. I’ve known tons of SoCal missionaries (I’m from SoCal), and I’ve never met one who had an experience comparable to this. Not saying it’s never happened, but it’s quite rare.

    I suspect that gay investigators crushing on elders is not uncommon. But a pair of elders sticking this out for 3 discussions despite all the “signals” they’re getting? I suspect most would never have let it get this far. And even if they had, the ending would surely not have played out quite like this did.

  25. I just read the greatest blog:

    The Newest Upgrade for your D.A.D. 2000 Parental Unit

    It was really funny but it also got me to seriously start thinking about reading my kids.

  26. It’s a lot easier to find being propositioned funny if you’re physically big and powerful enough not to ever feel actually threatened.

  27. Kristine, I guess I will never know (sniff!)

  28. Mark Brown says:

    Yeah, it took me about six months to figure out that the women who came up to me while we were street contacting and asked if I had a light for their cigarettes were actually prostitutes, but I never felt threatened by them.

  29. This story is funny — in my admittedly biased opinion — because we were male, because Berto was a gay male, and because Mormonism is often a cluelessly homophobic culture that produces naive attitudes like that of Elder Jones’. Change the gender of the missionaries or the investigator in the story, and it is no longer funny. Obviously.

    In related news, the sky is blue.

  30. mmiles,
    What Aaron said, basically. I would find each and every one of the alternate scenarios you suggested (old woman, attractive woman) hilarious if they were swapped for this one because that simply isn’t the funny part of the story. The funny part is, as Aaron mentioned and as demonstrated by our laughter on the podcast, the completely oblivious nature of Elder Jones, despite the obviousness of the situation.

    That is what is funny–Elder Jones’ refusal to see what was in front of his face, and then to make that classic remark at the end about raising his fist.

  31. Aaron,
    I disagree, actually (I should have read your whole comment before responding to mmiles). If you keep Elder Jones as oblivious as he is, and make it a female investigator, the story is still funny.

  32. But only because it is not threatening because you are men. If you were a small woman, it would not be funny, because it would be threatening.

  33. mmiles,
    Let me see if I understand:
    If we change all the non-threatening, funny circumstances of the story into different, threatening, unfunny circumstances, then the story isn’t funny.

    Is that correct?

  34. Scott,
    I had high expectations after it was talked up. It’s just so common place to a woman to have this kind of stuff happen that it was a let down. I wasn’t offended. I just didn’t think it was that extraordinary.

  35. “I had high expectations after it was talked up.”

    That is, sadly, what she said.

  36. Again, mmiles–the difficulty seems to be that you think we are saying that being hit on is funny. That’s not what was being talked up, because that alone isn’t funny. The funny thing was Elder Jones’ cluelessness in the face of being hit on in a very blatant fashion.

    Unless you are trying to say that women being completely clueless about being hit on in a very blatant fashion is “commonplace,” then I don’t understand. And if that is what you’re saying, then I really don’t understand.

  37. Sure, I get it. But being clueless when hit on ends badly for women. And that too, happens often. Once I had a clueless companion I was training. She put us in serious danger when she ignored my warnings about a man and continued to engage him. Luckily, we got his foot out of the elevator door amidst her frantic screams before he could trap us in it limbo.

    But really, Aaron told the story, as he always does, brilliantly.

  38. #35: Ok, that was perfect.

  39. “But really, Aaron told the story, as he always does, brilliantly.”

    Too late!

  40. I had a similar (although not nearly as bad) experience. I was riding a bus with my companion. He was one of those guys who bullied 1/3 of the people on the mission and kissed up to everyone above him. Let’s just say I didn’t like him and keep it at that. He also considered himself a bit of a lady’s man.

    He started talking to some guy on the bus, and my first thought was, “that guy’s attracted to my companion.” My companion was clueless. I kind of sat back and watched their discussion, until, just before we got off the bus, the man asked, “So what’s your church’s take on homosexuals?” My companion finally realized what was going on.

    Once we got off the bus, my companion freaked out. I think he still has nightmares about that incident, more than ten years after the fact.

  41. All I can think is: I bet this thread didn’t go down the way Scott and Aaron thought it would.

  42. Perhaps, but having told this story scores of times over the years, I can assure you that this has been the lone exception to the general rule.

    (Now, I will confess that perhaps Scott or myself talking this up before it even began in the way we did may have been a blunder, for the same reason that gushing about a film to your friends raises their expectations unrealistically and leads to an inevitable letdown. Oh well.)

  43. Sunny, you are correct.

  44. You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.

  45. B.Russ,
    Quiet. This thread is no place for jokes.

  46. Brad Hawkins says:

    And in the end, Elder Jones showed much more compassion and openness than our chortling story teller. I was actually quite touched that Elder Jones would be most concerned about having raised a fist against Berto rather than retreating behind humorous anecdotes intended at someone’s expense so as to relieve the discomfort of having to inventory one’s own sexuality.

    I was hit on during my mission, in a country where homosexuality was at that time a felony (Romania) and have been hit on by guys before that and many times since. I rather view it as a feather in my cap since men are much more visually discriminating than women. However, I sure did take things personally when I was in high school since those were much more formative years and I was at that point, “Mr. Music”. Treacherous!

    That said, I’ve heard about Berto before and still laughed along with Aaron as he retold it. By the way to Aaron, if you haven’t seen Black Swan yet, I’ll go with you.

  47. Brad Hawkins says:

    And mostly I want to see Black Swan with you because it would tie your dream up so nicely. Why did you even consider asking Steve first?

  48. Aaron Brown says:

    Brad, even if you take Elder Jones’ stated motivations at face value (and I’m not sure that you should), I don’t think his comments constituted “compassion and openness” toward Berto so much as sexual naivete exacerbated by a strand of homophobia that prevented him from imagining that an icky gay person might be sitting in front of him. (This wouldn’t be the first time a Mormon failed to see a homosexual right in front of him/her due to the ick-factor, rather than due to some admirably caring or non-judgmental stance). And to be clear, yours truly wasn’t lacking in the “openness” department; I was quite happy to continue teaching Berto. I just thought we should do so with our eyes wide open if this was to be our gameplan. As for “compassion,” sure — I lacked it here. I might have been able to muster up some had I not been so distracted by all the weird mannerisms and the subsequent sexual assault.

    Incidentally, I realize there are multiple ways one could interpret this story. Heck, there are multiple ways to tell it. I’m embarrassed to admit that about 15 years ago, I told a version of it to a group of LDS friends that played up the homosexuals-are-so-gross angle and downplayed the Elder-Jones-is-so-naive angle. One listener later privately objected to my pandering to homophobic impulses of the group, and I very much regretted my behavior. I’ve tried to tell the story slightly differently (but just as accurately) since then, with Jones’ behavior rather than Berto’s as the humorous center. I hope I’m successful in that regard, but maybe I’m not.

    Your point about male vs. female visual discrimination is well-taken, and I confess I’ve never thought of this before. I’m imagining all the potential conversations where I might be able to inject the insight. Fun!

    Sorry, but I saw Black Swan right after recording the podcast with Scott. Very well done, though there’s a certain scene that, um, well, you know …. :)


  49. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, he considered asking me because I probably would have gone with him more readily than yourself!

  50. Brad Hawkins says:

    Are we getting into a competition over availability, willingness, interest, or track record?


    I like how the story changes (you’ve changed) it’s narrative emphasis over time. Perhaps we have the makings of a modern day parable? Might it be that trenchant? I think so.

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