I am a terrible member missionary

We’re on summer holiday, but I dropped by the school to check on something. In my mailbox I found a gift from a student. It was the eighth bottle of wine I received this year. Clearly I have failed to make my status as a Mormon known to my students. It’s not their fault: the only clues to my Mormonism are a BYU diploma on the wall and what they perceive as an eccentric interest in herbal teas, neither of which signify any meaning to my international students.

I’m afraid this is not an isolated incident. A few years ago, I had a former student email me, a bit out of the blue. She had graduated about six years before, but I remembered her well. She had been a stage manager when I directed the school play, and we had a fair number of quite serious conversations. In this email, she explained that something had happened to her that she wanted to share with me. As you’ve already guessed, she had joined the LDS church, and she wanted to share her testimony with me. She wrote that the gospel would help me find the answers and (I remember the quotation very well) ‘leave my confusion behind.’ I sheepishly returned her email, explaining that I had been a member of the church when she knew me, although perhaps not very deeply involved with the church at that time.

So: please share your failures as a member missionary. Think of this as the anti-missionary moment.


  1. i always end up drinking with bars with people and find out that we were both raised mormon

  2. Glenn Smith says:

    My wife teaches school in Montana and must be very careful about displaying or saying (in front of students) anything overtly religious, let alone Mormon. The other staff members know she is Mormon, as are some visiting staff (speech therapist, etc). Certainly some students know, but she cannot discuss religion with the students. in a school setting.

  3. Not my own experience, I swear, but when I was visiting a cousin in Georgia, he (then in the bishopric, but once a much wilder sort) told me that in his drinking days he met a girl in a bar and was in the middle of a heavy makeout session in his car and deciding whether to go to her place or his place when they realized that not only were they both LDS, they were first cousins.

  4. I once had a friend who believed I was an atheist. Took them awhile to finally admit I was a baptized member of any church let alone THE church. Oops.

  5. These are awesome stories! I taught high school one year in LA. On the very first day a kid in the back raised her hand and asked “Are you a Mormon?” I was shocked. “Yeah, how did you know?” I asked. “You look like one.” I think I was wearing a missionary suit.

  6. Mark N. says:

    In my freshman high school English class, in which my Bishop’s daughter and her non-LDS friend also attended, our teacher had assigned us to read portions of “Death of a Salesman”, salty language and all (at least it seemed so to me at the time) out loud in class. One day the teacher pointed at me and asked me to read the Willy Loman part. So, there I sat, the “good Mormon” in class, somewhat embarrassedly reading cuss words out loud in front of God, angels and the Bishop’s daughter and her friend. The Bishop’s daughter later told me how surprised her friend was that I would actually say “those words” out loud in front of everybody, and I felt kind of bad about it at the time. Looking back on it now, I think I did the right thing by not trying to make a federal case of it and just go with it, but at the time, I wasn’t so sure.

  7. I was once standing right in front of a temple waiting for a bus, wearing a skirt and a CTR ring and carrying my temple clothes in a messenger bag that said BYU on it when a pair of elders came up to me and asked me if they could share a message with me about Jesus Christ. I said, “Sure, but I’ve probably already heard it.” They said, “Oh, have you met with missionaries from our church before?” I said, “Yeah, a few times. I think there were some in the temple with me just now.” Then they realized where we were standing and what I was wearing and cracked up. :)

  8. Some years ago I was flying back to the US from London and got bumped to business class out of good fortune. My seat mate was the mother of the US TV producer for the Wimbledon tournament that year. After her second martini, she admitted that she was terribly depressed over the recent death of her husband and that although she initially found my persona to be quite sinister(!), she felt she wanted to confide in me. She wanted to know if I had any comfort for her. I told her briefly of my religious views and she asked if there was something I could send her. I mentioned the Book of Mormon and she gave me name and address. From New York she flew to Arizona and I to Utah. I lost the contact info and never pursued it. I get guilt feelings about twice a month.

    And Ardis, jeeze.

  9. In a ward at BYU, there was a fellow named Mike. I didn’t know him well, but was friends with some who did. Mike graduated and found a job somewhere. He wrote back a few months later to one of our mutual friends that he had told his co-workers that Mormons don’t eat meat, and that that led to interesting reactions when he ate roast beef sandwiches for lunch. I asked for assurance that Mike was making up a funny story, but was told that he probably did exactly what he had written.

  10. Peter LLC says:

    One day after work I was walking home past an outdoor cafe when a seated patron hollered “Jehova’s Witness!” in my direction. I marched over and asked him what he thought JWs looked like–“no, seriously, what does one look like!?” The seated patron got all bent out of shape and told me to relax, but I persevered, poking him in the chest with a meaty finger, prodding him to reveal his prejudices (it was a white shirt/black suit day).

    We ended up having a drink together (mine alcohol-free, natch), but I never did tell him I was a Mormon (which would have been all the same to him anyway–those American cultists all look alike).

  11. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    In University once I took this test to see what religion you were, the prof. had sent the link. I got LDS and something like heretical Jew! The prof. asked who had taken the test and I said I had, he asked what I got, in front of like 30 people and I said I got LDS. Then he asked me jokingly oh are you LDS and I said no…I was petrified! I still feel guilty for that

  12. Norbert,

    Out of curiosity, what do you do with the wine?

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    I wish I had a story like these! But everyone knows I’m Mormon. Norbert, I actually think it’s a good thing for your students not to know you’re LDS. You’re there to be their teacher; it’s not a missionary opportunity.

  14. CS Eric says:

    Not my experience, but one from a girl I home taught at BYU. Her introduction to the Church was a make out session with a missionary at a high school party. When she told me that story, I was kind of surprised that it didn’t bother her, even now that she knew what the mission rules probably were.
    But to be fair, this was all in Alberta, Canada.

  15. “what do you do with the wine?”

    Boeuf bourguignon!

  16. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:

    oh! Alberta, Alberta which createth an over-abundance of Mormon weirdness and seduceth those that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

  17. Norbert says:

    “what do you do with the wine?”

    We’ll cook with it and regift it.

    Kevin, that’s my feeling as well.

  18. Steve Evans says:

    I like this Whizzbang fellow.

  19. Whizzbang from Winnipeg says:


  20. My worst missionary moments were when I was a relatively young, overly-aggressive RN. Those are the moments I regret the most – when I pushed beyond the point when I should have stopped.

    Ardis, my first thought was that it must not have been much of a make-out session if they were able to figure out they were first cousins in the middle of it. Then I realized that it probably dawned on them when they were trying to decide which house would be better.

    “Let’s go to my place. My Uncle Nephi and Aunt Mary are having dinner with my parents and shouldn’t be back for a while.”
    “No, let’s go to my place. My parents are out with my Uncle Moroni and Aunt Esther and shouldn’t be back for a while.”
    “Hey, wait a minute . . .”

  21. I have never been an RN, but I was an RM. Changes the image a bit, I’m sure, especially given the next sentence.

  22. Ray, FTW!

  23. When I was a teenager and on the high school swim team, I dyed 2 black racing stripes on either side of my chlorine-bleached hair. I expected to shave it at a meet the weekend before a temple open house. However, my coach decided to save my hair for two more weeks. So my mom and I tried to get my hair all one color by bleaching it – but my blonde hair turned white and my black hair turned orange. Needless to say, once I exited the temple, the missionaries bee-lined for me. I don’t think they believed me when I said I was already Mormon.

  24. A while back a new guy was hired at work. I knew from my first encounter with him that he is Mormon: he was listening to general conference talks in the staff area without headphones. He even left for an hour and just kept conference playing. I found out from people I know in his ward that this is his way of doing missionary work. Thinking this practice was very strange and really annoying, I did not identify myself as a fellow member. I commented to my husband that it’s because of people like him that other people think we’re weirdies. (He could just as easily say the same thing about me, I’m sure.) About six months later he found out I am Mormon and approached me in the hall. He was all excited and said, “Hey, I’m Mormon too!” Something on my face must have given him a clue that I knew that already. He said, “Oh did you already know?” “Um, yes . . . ” I just left the implied “why didn’t you say anything?” question unanswered. Awkward!

  25. KaralynZ says:

    When new neighbors moved in across the street I trotted over to say hi and introduce myself. Chatted with them some, found we have a lot in common. We were throwing a casual “hang out in the back yard for the 1 year old’s birthday” party and invited them over. They came over and brought me a 6 pack of very expensive bottled beer. I looked in the fridge and was all, “Why is there beer in my fridge??” after they left.

    FYI I sent the beer home with my sister who is no longer a member and she was very happy to take it.

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