Junior Ganymede
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Post Your Story of Mission Peril, or, Millstone City: Manliest Mormon Novel Ever?

September 13th, 2012 by S.P. Bailey

My first novel, Millstone City, was published a few months back. It’s a thriller set in Brazil about Mormon missionaries caught in the cross-fire between some Brazilian cops and gangsters. It’s an odd kind of love letter to the place where I served my mission. And an appreciation of classic pulp/noir greats like Hammet and Chandler. And a meditation on coming of age and manliness from a decidedly Mormon perspective. Not to worry though–the love letter/appreciation/mediation stuff is well-obscured by a fast-moving plot and plenty of violence!

In other words, based on my years of faithful reading and irregular commenting here, I think this book is right up your alley, Jr. Ganymede brothers and sisters!

Millstone City has received some pretty good reviews. Check it out—I aggregated links to them at my home-made author vanity website! Here’s the thing though: despite the book’s general awesomeness—and despite the good reviews—selling books like this is amazingly difficult. People say the market for Mormon fiction is bad. I knew that in a general sense going in. But I have been surprised by how bad it is. By how much I have had to hustle to sell relatively few (so far) copies of this book. And I have an aversion to self promotion. Naturally, I prefer being promoted by other people. But, as a first-time author with a small, independent publisher, I don’t have that luxury yet.

So here’s my attempt to pique Jr. Ganymede’s readers’ interest in Millstone City:

Millstone City portrays Mormon missionaries in peril. In my days, I have heard lots of good stories of missionaries in peril, whether it be from crime, natural disasters, youthful hijinks gone awry, or whatever. Post your best story of missionaries in peril in the comments. I will send a copy of Millstone City, 100% free of charge, to the person who posts the best story. This is supposed to be good fun, so please avoid actually tragic stories where the peril was not averted, etc. This little contest will end unexpectedly and without warning (but at least one week hence). The determination of “best story” will be made on entirely subjective grounds, and possibly through consultation with soothsayers and/or certified public accountants. Finally, I am willing to autograph the prize, but I respect that the winner may elect to forego any modification that may hamper his ability to subsequently sell or gift it. It occurs to me that it would be awesome if I could get another author, someone really impressive, to autograph the prize. But no guarantees. Cheers!

Comments (44)
Filed under: Birkenhead Drill,Deseret Review | Tags: , ,
September 13th, 2012 13:34:44

Adam G.
September 13, 2012

I’m sure my story won’t win, so I just bought my own copy. But anywho, here’s the story:

I was in a tobacco shop buying stamps (that’s where they sell them in Spain). My wallet was out in my right hand, which I was languidly holding up in the air with my hand cocked back in a totally not-gay way, for no good reason that I can recall. Then, snatch! I jerk around and there’s some tubby short guy in a track suit running off with my wallet, I take off after him on instinct. We’re in the old section of Granada, narrow cobblestone streets, cool old buildings looming over them with clotheslines and interested onlookers, a scattering of pedestrians, and before long I hear people shouting ‘the CIA, the CIA!.’ At me they’re shouting, this is *nothing* I’m wanting to get into, crap, crap, crap, but I’m gaining on the guy a little so I keep going.

He ducks around a corner, I duck around a corner, he sprints into a side alley, I sprint into a side alley, its a dead end.

He stops, and it suddently occurs to me that he might have a knife. I stop too and start backing away. But now the mouth of the alley is blocked by a crowd of people, shouting advice to me. One old guy keeps yelling ‘Matale, matale’ (kill him, kill him!). I am scared to death of getting stabbed now, but I don’t have the moral courage to walk back and push my way through the crowd. So I approach the little fat thief instead. He bolts for a wall and tries to scramble up it, I jump on him and pull him down, we tussle on the ground for a bit and then I pin him and pull my wallet from his hand. My cash isn’t in it. I tell him I’ll let him go if he disgorges. He struggles a bit more but finally pulls my dos mil peseta bill out of his pants where he’s stuffed it, and then clambers back over the wall. Seconds later a Policia Nacional comes trotting through the alley with his submachine gun on port. This is about when I realize that I am in this city illegally and have strict instructions not to tangle with tthe law.

The Policia asks me what happened and blanches when he hears my foreign accent (he was from the north, so apparently it wasn’t as obvious to him as it was to everyone else on sight that I was an American). His lips set tight, and they set even tighter when he finds out that I’m a minister for some kind of screwy foreign cult. He waves the crowd off and then lowers his voice. “Listen,” he says, ” you got your money back, eh, no harm done, what say we both walk away and this whole thing never happened.” “De acuerdo,” I say, and I go looking for my companion, who is hovering off trying to keep me in sight while staying far enough away that he too isn’t hauled in for questioning.

September 13, 2012

Hmmmm…. Peril…..

True story: Some missionaries were traveling in an authorized manner, in a little puddle-jumper airplane. There was no co-pilot, so one of the passengers, a missionary, sat in the co-pilot seat. After take-off, the missionary told the pilot-in-command that he too was a pilot.

The pilot let him fly the plane. I forget if he landed it too.

S.P. Bailey
September 13, 2012

Thanks for buying a copy, Adam! You are now a member of a very exclusive club. Let me know what you think sometime …

S.P. Bailey
September 13, 2012

As for a story, and this is something completely different from the “peril” in the novel, I had several run-ins with various creeping things in Brazil.

We were teaching a discussion to a family in Caico. The family was crammed together on a small vinyl couch. We were sitting on white plastic lawn chairs with our backs to the front door, which was propped open to permit ventilation. I looked down and saw an enormous tarantula, bigger than my hand, making its way past us toward the family.

They screamed, most of them anyway, and climbed up the back of the couch.

I was on the left. The spider passed on my companion’s right. He got up. He stomped it. It made an unforgettable crunch. He shifted a black Doc Marten back and forth for good measure. More crunching. He lifted up his shoe, and we got down close to examine the hairy, twitching, pancake-sized carcass.

“Don’t touch!” the family screamed. “Get back!”

They explained that this kind of tarantula releases some nasty toxins when killed. Apparently it could have made us very sick. One of them got some kerosine and a book of matches. She doused the spider with the fuel, struck a match, and dropped it. We watched, thoroughly impressed, as it burned.

A little while later, I was in Natal. It was 6:30 a.m. I rolled out of bed and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. I grabbed a glass from the counter, we only had a few of them, and I raised it toward my face to see if it was clean.

There was a tarantula in the bottom of the cup! I admit it: I shrieked like a little girl.

Kent G. Budge
September 14, 2012

So I’m stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the mission office staff, early in December in an unseasonably warm year.

We’re getting up for breakfast and the office district leader mentions that there is a tornado watch in effect. It is, in fact, rather darkly cloudy outside, though this doesn’t much affect us as we drive down to the mission office and do our morning office chores. We are, after all, in an office suite in a reinforced concrete office tower.

When we head home for lunch, it’s getting even darker outside. And, sure enough, just as we’re finishing lunch, the tornado sirens go off.

Our location is not terribly safe, being in a flimsy apartment house sitting just below the crest of a low ridge. The mission office, as already mentioned, is in a reinforced concrete building, which also has a deep basement if needed. We conclude we’d be considerably safer at the office, and give insufficient thought to the fact that getting to the office means driving a couple of miles to get there, and an automobile is far less safe even than our flimsy apartment building.

Our route to the office is east along a low ridge, then south to the office building. It’s about half a mile each leg. As we’re heading east, we notice some very dark clouds to the southwest, with what appears to be debris in the air.

As we make the turn south, the debris materializes into a fairly impressive tornado column. Clouds are whipping around it and there’s considerable lightning. Our district leader, normally a fairly bright fellow, concludes we need to bail out and find a ditch to cower in, and he stops the car — right in the path of the tornado. I admit I was probably squealing like a girl at this point, but, in fairness, I was in the “death seat” of our cheap Detroit compact.

The wind has picked up to where the traffic light in front of us is more or less horizontal, a nearby traffic sign is doing the “wonga-wonga-wonga” vibration you see in news clips of hurricanes, and there is debris everywhere, including sizable pieces of sheet metal blown along like newspapers. My observations kind of ended at this point as I closed my eyes tightly in one of the more fervent prayers I’ve ever offered.

Then it was past. We were, to my mild astonishment, still alive and sitting in a car that was still roadworthy. The surroundings were somewhat rearranged, but no really disastrous damage was visible. This was because the tornado just missed us, passing maybe two hundred yards to our west, judging from news reports that it tore a wing off a nursing home that was very close to where we had stopped.

It took me a long time to calm down after that. In fact, I don’t think my blood pressure really returned to normal until the first snow storm of the year.

I suspect my instinctive response to being sniped at would be to hit the deck rather than rush the sniper. Well, it’s kept me alive, so far.

September 14, 2012

From the Book Description on Amazon:

“The midnight hour is humid and hot. It is February, and carnaval is in full swing. Carson gets up. He goes out alone. He finds a phone and calls his girlfriend back in Utah. Things happen that night–bad things–before Carson can make it back to his apartment. ”

I take it that you’re preaching to future missionaries and their parents, as in “See what happens when you break curfew, and ditch your comp?”

S.P. Bailey
September 14, 2012

Preaching? No. There is no mistaking Millstone City for a missionary program filmstrip on obedience and/or an afterschool special.

But it is probably fair to say that the novel’s inciting incident flows organically from a violation of mission rules.

Adam G.
September 14, 2012

I finished reading it this morning while waiting for my brake job. It’s a hell of a book. John P. Sousa would make a march out of it.

September 14, 2012

Wow, good stuff.

September 14, 2012

It’s not a didactic work by any means, Bookslinger.

I recuse myself from the prize, but here’s a story anyway:

We were waiting at a bus stop in Sector 2 (of Bucharest) for the sisters to arrive. We had taught a first discussion where it turned out that only an adult female was really interested so we were going to turn that investigator over to them.

They were late. So was the bus.

Finally we saw them walking towards us from the street car stop half a block away. The senior companion’s face was drawn tight. They were walking, but at a slightly faster pace than normal.

It turns out that a man had been staring at them on the street car. A man who clearly had been drinking. The junior companion was an outgoing greenie so she engaged with him. Stuck out her hand. Introduced herself, etc. The conversation degraded from there. He followed them off the street car and was yelling rude things.

We place the sisters behind us and just stood there and stared at him. He wanted to know if we wanted to fight. We were silent. The bus finally arrived. We had the sisters get on at the back door and then blocked his way on to the bus. He acted tough but then went to the front.

We boarded. I moved up the aisle as he moved down the aisle and managed to be faster than him and blocked the aisle ahead of where the sisters were seated. My companion was behind me. The man jawed at me. I said nothing. Finally he pushed me. My glasses flew off. I retrieved them and stayed put. He puffed out his chest. The other passengers began to understand what was happening and started yelling at him. He got off at the next stop.

Later my junior companion told me that the dagger that he had bought earlier in the week on p-day (an act that I had highly discouraged but he had insisted upon) was still in his bag because he had forgotten to take it out and stow it in his luggage in our apartment. I was furious. And also relieved. I too was serving in a situation where it was better to not get tangled up with the local authorities.

September 14, 2012

I think the Lord has special affection for children, idiots and mental defectives, and missionaries.

S.P. Bailey
September 14, 2012

Thanks, Adam!

September 14, 2012

I am neither a child, an idiot, nor much of a missionary, but the Lord seems to look out for me anyway.

I suppose that leaves mental defective …

September 14, 2012

I was a zone leader (aka bada$$ missionary) on a split with one of the APs (aka an even badder a$$ missionary) one evening in Machala, Ecuador (the banana capitol of the world). After spending our evening testifying with boldness and power, we boarded one of the least expensive of the buses that led back to our apartment. We sat side by side about halfway back. One of the byproducts of a cheap bus is a crowded bus, and after a few stops every seat was full and the isles were packed like cans of tuna (and smelling eerily similar).

At the next stop a gang of three grown men boarded, standing near the front. When the bus was moving again all three of these men pulled machetes out from somewhere ::insert here in your mental picture the audio of a cold metallic “shiiiinng”:: One trained his machete on the bus driver, while another forced his way to the back of the bus, and the third held court in front, near the door. Women and children were screaming. Men were bristling. And missionaries were sitting in a pool of their own pee. Not so bada$$ now are you? (Just kidding, we knew God would never let anything happen to us. Or did we?). The robbers demanded that everyone hand over their wallets. I would have wished I had a wallet with some outrageously course Jules Winnfield-esque epithet, had I been reprobate enough in those innocent years to even be able to reference such a thing. Alas, I only had a boring, possibly-even-locally-hand-stitched-by-underage-fingers black leather wallet, irredeemably vacant of sucres, much less dollars, but which was nonetheless quickly, perhaps even cowardly, at hand readied for the bad guy.

The robber in the back was gathering wallets and purses working his way to the front as the robber in the front did the same working his way back, and we could see that this scene was quickly leading to its dénouement at the seats in which we sat. My companion then turned to me and said, “It’s going to be all right.” Right when the robbers were one seat away from us a scuffle ensued between one brave and mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore man in the front with the hoodlum trained on the driver. The attention of the hostile near us was diverted, and in the melee the assailant in front brandished a small black pistol and shot the do-gooder in the neck. ::insert here, dear reader, in your mental picture a dramatic crescendo in the audio of the screaming women and children:: The robbers hurriedly pushed their way to the front and jumped off the still moving bus, and the bus driver then punched the gas and hurled the bus full of packed (and in one case, prostrate and severely bleeding) tuna down the dark road at breakneck speed. My AP suggested that we get out of the bus as soon as the bus stops, and got no argument from me. After a long minute of barreling into the night, the bus stopped to flag down a pickup truck in the hopes that it could rush the shot man to the hospital. We rushed towards the front of the bus to help and get off as well, and already volunteers lifted the shot man out of a viscous pool of his own dark blood and off towards the pickup. We then stood shivering and shuddering on the side of the road as both bus and pickup truck drove away.

Later on that night, as the AP and I were going over the events in our heads, I remarked on his comment, “It’s going to be alright.” He said that he had the distinct impression come to his mind, “Be still and know that I am God.” Of such stories is the stuff of mission legend made.

(in all seriousness, though, and despite the tongue-in-cheek embellishment I am still touched by the thought of this Elder and friend receiving this impression amid such chaos. Sadly, he and his young daughter were killed by a drunk driver several years later, and a less blasphemous version of this story was shared at his funeral. It had clearly meant something to him, and still does to me. Much love to you Shawn Marti.)

September 14, 2012

Well, I don’t think anyone is going to top that one but I would still like to tell you about the time my zone leader and I successfully negotiated the return of his stolen scriptures from a gang of teenaged hoodlums in Liverpool, England. 

It was already quite dark on a Saturday evening when we pulled up to a member’s house to drop something off. Since we were only going to be inside for a few minutes my zone leader had left his backpack in the car. When we came back, instead of his backpack on the seat there was a brick. As we assessed the damage a small crowd of neighbors and passers-by started to gather around the crime scene. My zone leader told them about how there wasn’t much in the bag, just some books, pamphlets, and his scriptures that were worthless to most people but had cost him around a hundred pounds sterling. Nothing else was missing so we headed home. In the UK they have these 24-hour autoglass replacement services for just such occasions so after we got back to the flat, we called one up and the car window was fixed within the hour.

The next morning before church we decided to head back to see if the thief had ditched the bag in the bushes nearby or anything. As we were searching a beat-up car with a bunch of hoodlums in it pulled up. Two guys and a girl. The driver motioned for us to come over and said he knew the guy who had stolen bag and he would give it back if we paid him money for it. 

As we talked it became clear to us that these kids had stolen the bag, and then had been part of the crowd that gathered at the scene of the crime afterwards. Ballsy! We were told this bag thief was real mean, real tough. He lived nearby and had a bad reputation. But he would give us the bag for… one hundred pounds sterling. All we had to do was just give this kid the money, he said, and then he would bring the bag back to us later. We were skeptical. We didn’t have much money on us and we didn’t even know if they could deliver. We said we’d give them the money we had on us if they could just show us the bag.

So they sent the kid in their backseat (they called him “Rathbone”) to run to “the thief’s house” and get the bag, to show that they could deliver. Less than a minute later he’s back with the bag in hand! 

The zone leader looks at me like he’s saying, what should we do now? A million thoughts go through my head. We could deck him and just take it. Rathbone starts to look a little nervous, now that he’s handling stolen property. I handed what money we had (about fifteen pounds sterling) to the chick and asked if they’d be willing to come down on price. She and Rathbone seem eager to accept the deal, but the kid in the drivers’ seat holds his ground, obviously just trying to save face at this point. My zone leader solves the impasse by asking if we could take the bag now, and then they could pick up the the rest of the money from the member whose house we were standing in front of later. They found this deal acceptable (!) and Rathbone hands over the goods. 

On the car ride to church we realized the genius (inspiration?) of my zone leader’s actions . No one was ever going to show up on the member’s doorstep saying, “I was the one who stole the bag, can I please have my money now?” 

And no one ever did.

The moral of the story? Never tell thieves how much your stolen property is worth to you.

[…] contest is here. The best missionaries-in-peril story wins! Act […]

September 14, 2012

When I was fifteen and lived in a suburb of Houston, I used to go on splits with the sister missionaries all the time. This was back when they called the “splits” instead of “exchanges.”

Tracting is a really good way to find total weirdos. Sometimes we’d also run into kids from my algebra class, many of whom fit into the category. One time, I was out with one Sister Hemsworth. She sticks out in my memory because she always claimed that the sacrifices of serving a mission (specifically, tracting in the rain) would win us cute husbands later in life.

Anyway, just for fun Sister Hemsworth encouraged me to take the lead and do the door approach thing. The door opened and this elderly man in a wifebeater took one look at Sister Hemsworth’s name tag and started spewing forth a string of profanity, calling us names I hadn’t even heard of before – and I went to public school!

Suddenly I noticed that Sister Hemsworth got very tense very quickly. While the guy was still shouting at us, she grabbed my hand and murmured in my ear, “Don’t panic. Back away slowly. Now.” I did as she instructed, but before we had gone two steps, the guy at the door started to choke on his words, like he was going to throw up. His skin turned green, and his head melted away to reveal several large eyes connected to the rest of his body by a series of long stalks, like a snail except larger and more plentiful and not as attractive.

“Run!” Shouted Sister Hemsworth. I eagerly complied, but not before I felt an electric shock all through my body, and I lost consciousness.

When I came to, I found myself strapped to a long, upright table. Sister Hemsworth was in a similar device to my right. She said, “Don’t worry, I have it under control. Just follow me exactly and you’ll be fine.”

She still had a copy of the Book of Mormon in one hand. With deft fingers, she slipped a short blade from between the pages and cut herself free, and then severed my bonds. While she was in the act of releasing my ankles, the being that had attacked us entered the room.

Sister Hemsworth flew into action, and with agility and speed that rivaled Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, she easily dispatched our captor. She took me by the hand and led me quickly out of the labyrinth where we were imprisoned, until we found ourselves on the exterior of the house which we had just tracted.

“You’d be surprised how often stuff like that happens,” she explained to me. “That’s why they teach us Shaolin Kempo at the MTC before they let us come out into the field. Don’t talk about this to anyone else, though, except maybe the Bishop and your parents. It’s one of those sacred things.”

I was too shocked to disagree. In the end, I had to spend some time with a representative from LDS family services to get over the experience, and ultimately I chose not to serve a mission of my own. My husband is really cute, though.

Doug Gibson
September 14, 2012

Chiclayo, Peru, 1983, my senior companion and I are tracting late in the afternoon down a wide dirt street that highlights the split personality of our area, a combination of brick building streets with mud brick home communities stretching out for 100 meters from sides, homes without electricity or running water.

It’s an area that is prone to crime. A generation before it became known as “wilding” in the U.S., gangs of teens would sweep across street upon overmatched adults, brandish knives and take cash. … My companion nudged me and pointed at a group of wilders moving quickly across the street, a dust cloud following them.

I turned toward the youths, trying to think of what to say. I turned to my companion. He was, perhaps wisely, 25 yards down the street, in full flight. The leader of the pack, as we met, leaned back dramatically and brandished a knife inches from my throat. His eyes, oddly, appeared mischievous rather than deadly. Petrified, I stared at him, let my palms go upward and mumbled, “No tengo plata.” (I don’t have money).

With a crowd of a dozen or more criminal associates, my attacker, smiled at me, dropped his arm, and theatrically yelled, “Dejanlos. Son evangelicos,” (Leave them alone. They are evangelicals.)

And, as quickly as they had emerged, they were gone.

September 15, 2012

As a missionary in Orange County California in 1984, I, along with the other missionaries in the Anaheim mission, was anticipating the Los Angeles Olympics with great relish. Some of the events were to be held in our mission, Orange County, which is located just south of LA, and it was generally thought that we might see some of the events take place as were were engaging in our missionary duties around the area.

That hope proved to be ill-founded for the most part, and worse, our evening teaching appointments dried up almost completely during the olympic games, as people were all watching the events unfold on TV every night.

We still had plenty of dinner appointments with members, but nowhere to go afterwards. So when one of these member families asked us to stay after dinner and have dessert while watching the olympics with them, it was pretty hard to come up with a good reason not to do it. As APs, we were reluctant to set a bad example, but with nothing else to do, and the family insisting, we decided to stay.

We had just started watching the one of the events scheduled that night when a the camera panned the crowd and briefly focused on a pair of Mormon missionaries in the the stands. One of the members of the family we were with remarked with surprise how wonderful it was that those missionaries were able to attend this olympic event. As for my companion and I, we instantly recognized the pair of missionaries on the screen. The event we were watching was not one of the ones scheduled to take place in our mission, but was at a large venue located in LA, well outside our mission boundaries. The missionaries were a companionship that we had been having a lot of trouble with recently and I saw my companion’s face turn bright red as he stood up and announced we had to leave.

After saying our goodbyes we walked to the car and I noticed my red-faced companion had begun muttering under his breath. I knew he had a bit of a temper and I tried to calm him down by saying that we should just get to bed early and talk to that companionship tomorrow and find out their story.

“Their story?” asked my companion sarcastically, really getting heated now, “Their story is that they left the mission to attend a sporting event and will not be back in their apartment until well after midnight. That’s their story, and we are going to catch them red-handed!” I wondered what he could possibly mean by that, but I knew better than to argue when he was in this kind of mood, so I just got in the car and held on while he drove rather over-briskly to the renegade companionship’s apartment, which was located in a run-down section of Santa Ana. We parked and walked to the door and knocked, but of course there was no answer. I suggested again that we head home and deal with the situation in the morning but my comp would have none of it. He settled down in the car out in front of the apartment and declared that we would wait until the missing missionaries returned. I tried to argue, but got nothing but angry glares in response, so I settled in for a long wait.

I must have fallen asleep, and perhaps my companion did for a while too, but I was shaken from slumber by the sound of screaming and unmistakable curses and threats being yelled in Spanish and English. We could hear the ruckus but couldn’t see much, so we got out of the car to see what was going on. I was again in favor of just leaving, but my companion was already walking towards the noise, so I reluctantly followed.

The scene we found upon rounding the apartment building was surprising in the extreme. Two tatooed men who were obviously gang members with guns were yelling at our two missing missionaries while two women screamed in spanish. The missionaries had just removed the screen from their apartment window and were in the act of climbing in. The situation was very volatile, but through some fast talking, we were able to calm down the two gang members and reassure everyone that the two miscreants were the residents of the apartment and were not out to rob anyone or violate any women. The two gang members eventually reluctantly backed off, but not before issuing some pointed multilingual warnings in very colorful language.

After everyone’s pulse returned to normal we helped the missionaries replace their window screen and walked around to the front of the building for a more conventional entrance into their apartment. It turned out of course that they had returned from their olympic adventure and recognized us in our car parked in front of their building so they decided that an alternative means of entering the apartment would be advisable.

The two missionaries looked extremely tired and traumatized and at least one of them may actually have peed himself during the drama at the window. They repeatedly and loudly demanded to know how we knew that they had left the mission to watch the olympics and how we happened to be waiting for them at their apartment. My companion and I looked at each other and my companion turned back to them and said, with perfect seriousness, “The Spirit, of course, Elders. Did you think the Spirit wasn’t aware of where you are and what you are doing at all times?” We pointed out to them the many rules violations that they had engaged in that night and, after a stern lecture from my companion, we left.

On the ride home, we decided not to inform the mission president of the night’s events, and after that night we noticed a remarkable change in those missionaries, with a much greater effort at obedience that was very faith-promoting to witness. It just goes to show you what the Spirit (and the threat of being shot) can do to help missionaries stay on the straight and narrow.

September 15, 2012

A few weeks later, our Mission President remarked that these two missionaries were really doing well and were a particularly good companionship for the tough area they were working in.

“A good companionship like that is hard to find,” I agreed.

“They are a good companionship,” my companion nodded thoughtfully, “as long as somebody’s there to shoot them every minute of their mission.”

I busted out laughing while my Mission President looked at us like we were crazy.

Adam G.
September 15, 2012

Such a dull story, Beth. I wonder you found it worth relating.

September 15, 2012

Beth, did you copy/paste that from “Monsters and Mormons”?


Actually sounds like the cover story. 🙂

September 15, 2012


What misfits, you and your companion!

Well done. 🙂

Dave Combe
September 15, 2012

Well, I was in the southern and central Philippines in the mid 1970s when the islands were under martial law under the US backed dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. At the old Misson Home, the elders and sisters going to the Philippines were cautioned by Elder Packer about the political and security issues there; he stressed that spies and informants were everywhere and that it was urgent that we express no opinions ever on such issues. The island of Negros was and is an important producer of sugar cane and at one point the workers at the sugar central where sugar is refined from cane went on strike. The government issued an order to return to work or else. At the appointed time, the strikers remained in front of the sugar central. Helicopters appeared and the demonstrators were mowed down with machine guns from the air. Work resumed immediately. No one seemed to care that that there were witneses

September 15, 2012

“The government issued an order to return to work or else. At the appointed time, the strikers remained in front of the sugar central. Helicopters appeared and the demonstrators were mowed down with machine guns from the air.”

I shared this story with His Majesty, since it seemed like the kind of story he would find interesting. He simply snarked that it’s unwise to find out what “or else” means when confronting a totalitarian government.

I think he missed the point that the strikers may well have been willing to risk death to stand up to a dictator. He’s never really understood that kind of thing.

September 15, 2012

Well, it’s not as dramatic as some of these, but it does add an “I really saw some Mormon folklore” element. One evening in the mid-90s my companion and I were tracting in a relatively nice middle class neighborhood in London’s East End. Not a place you’re likely to have much luck in, but when you’re going methodically through the areas tracted in the past couple years hoping to not over-tract the area, you do what needs to be done.

So, I was terrified of dogs, ever since my childhood. My companion on the other hand was a snake-eating (really) cowboy type from northern Utah. We open the gate to a house where we see this massive German Shepherd in the front bay window, eyeing us suspiciously. Thankfully, my companion decides to stand in the narrow entrance way giving me some shielding. He rings the doorbell, totally oblivious to the man eater that has me on the verge of leaving behind a puddle (does that have the same effect as dusting one’s feet?).

Sure enough, as a nice enough lady answers, she leaves just enough of a gap for a large dog to squeeze by. The dog sees his opportunity, jumps up from the window barking and running at full speed past the owner and right up to my companion. At this point I’m tripping over my own feet seeing how fast I can back up and make it to the gate. My companion is easing himself back more carefully as the dog is barking and preparing to pounce. Then it happens, the dog takes a step forward and CHOMP, right into his thigh! The owner at this point has finally gotten a hold on the dog and shuffles it back inside. She asks what we wanted, my companion totally unfazed still has the wits to explain – I imagine he’s spent half his life blowing off horse and wolf bites on some ranch. She says no thanks and sorry about the dog, and we all happily retreat to our corners.

We take a look at his leg and there are two huge tooth marks on his thigh that ripped straight through his suit pants. I ask if he’s bleeding, is he ok? But no blood. A second look, and his garments are totally unaffected, not so much as a loose string.

True story.

September 15, 2012


Perhaps not “copied from,” so much as “inspired by.” Since reading the anthology, I can’t think of the words “Missionaries” and “Peril” without also thinking “Alien Monsters.”

Besides which, I’ll be darned if I can’t come up with an exciting story just because I didn’t actually serve a mission.

September 15, 2012

Beth: (I haven’t actually read that book.) A tip-o’-the-hat to you for spinning a good yarn!

Kent Douglass
September 15, 2012

Year: 1972
Location: Argentina
I was on splits with my district leader Elder Phil Sherwood, a great man who, unfortunately for those of us still in this life, has since passed on. I was 19, and a member of the Army National Guard. I had attended basic training not many months before my mission began, and although I hated to fight, I felt confident in my ability to defend myself. Trouble was, I had never put that skill to much use in the real world. I may not have been as adept as I thought I was.

Elder Sherwood and I came upon an older man, probably in his 70s, who I will call Mr. Gomez. Mr. Gomez invited Elder Sherwood and me into his house and gave us permission to present a first discussion. No sooner had the discussion begun than a man, who had obviously been drinking something stronger than strawberry soda, walked into the house unannounced. Although his odor was foul, his mood more than matched it.
The intruder, Mr. Gomez’s next-door neighbor, identified himself as a police officer. Aside from the time that my companion and I unwittingly walked into the middle of a university student riot and had to make our way out again without becoming floor mats for unruly students, or being tear gassed by the cops, my experience with the police of Argentina was limited—somewhat limited at any rate. I had seen them walking around carrying machine guns in their hands and handguns on their hips, ordering everyone on public buses to display their identification. But I had already learned how to deal with that. I discovered that we could send such cops packing by offering them Books of Mormon instead of our identification.

At the house of Mr. Gomez, the drunken neighbor demanded to know what Elder Sherwood and I were doing there. I pointed out, “We were invited here by Mr. Gomez because he wants to learn more about the savior Jesus Christ. Would you like to stay and listen?”

The man said something to the effect of, “I’m ordering you out of here right now. I am a police officer and if you don’t leave right now, I’m going to go get my gun and I’ll throw you out.”

I said, “This isn’t your house. Mr. Gomez invited us here and you have no right to order us out of someone else’s house. But if you’d like to stay and listen, I’m sure you will enjoy our message.”

The drunken police officer said, “I’m going to go get my gun and you’d better be gone by the time I get back.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so Elder Sherwood and I continued the discussion. However, a minute or two later, the drunk returned and sure enough, he had a revolver in the front of his pants. Only the grips were visible above his belt. As I said, I had full confidence in my ability to disarm the cop, assuming he really was one, as he had shown us no I.D. card or badge. Although I was sitting, the cop was standing no more than five feet from me. My eyes were concentrated on his hands. I had already determined that the second either hand made a move for that handgun, that I was going to disarm the man. As drunk as he was, I did not believe him capable of putting up a decent defense. However, as he never made any move toward the gun, Elder Sherwood and I began packing up our flannel board and other things, although I continued to stand close enough to the cop to overpower him if it became necessary. Fortunately, I never had to make that decision, because the cop never drew the gun.

After we made our way outside, I actually felt more vulnerable, because now I was standing 15 or 20 feet from the cop. It would have been much more difficult to disarm him from that distance. I talked Elder Sherwood into going to the police station with me to make a complaint about the drunk. On the way there, Elder Sherwood told me, “I was pretty nervous because I had no idea what you were going to do.”

At the police station, the other police officers got a kick out of our story, as they all began laughing. They did nothing—and never intended to do anything about the actions of their colleague. That was the first time I realized how fortunate people are in the United States to have, aside from the occasional bad apple, honorable and just police officers.

September 15, 2012

My grandson served in Des Moines, Iowa. They had a box of Books of Mormon in their car trunk. The books were victims of cross fire and became embedded with bullets.

JD Dancer
September 15, 2012

@Lesmblake – I was at Shawn Marti’s funeral with my wife, who was a good friend of his in high school. I just read her your story and it caused some tears to run down her cheeks. Thank you for sharing this story and for recalling to mind such a wonderful, special man.

September 16, 2012

lesmblake, I was so hoping someone would say that. You win, my friend.

everything is free
September 16, 2012

When I was in Manila there was a bridge over the river that my comp and I would walk over every night to get back to our apartment. To get to the stairs you would walk out of an alley and then walk underneath part of the bridge itself. The spot was a common place for drug deals and the like.

One night as my comp and I turned the corner out of the alley, we heard a bang. We turned and looked and there was a guy about 20 feet away from us. About half of his face had been blown off, much of the top part of his skull was hanging off, and he was falling over backwards. Several guys nearby were like trying to prop him up or grab him, or something. They started yelling at us.

I do not know if they were yelling for help or trying to stop a pair of murder witnesses from fleeing the scene. It looked like one of them was waving a gun at us, but I cannot be sure. My comp and I both took off running up the stairs and across the bridge.

The Jack-Booted Thug
September 17, 2012

This has been much too delightful a thread to permit an anonymous killjoy troll to spoil it. Who has ears to hear, let him hear.

September 17, 2012

It wasn’t a so much a perilous situation, but to go alone with one of the memes, I did scream like a girl when, climbing the stairs to our apartment, we encountered a rat the size of a cat.

September 17, 2012

My own missions have generally involved a different form of persuasion, but I quite enjoy hearing these LDS mission stories.

Someone I’m close to shared a number of less spectacular, but nonetheless interesting, tales of serving as a missionary a long time ago in a country far, far away. To be precise, South Africa, which he liked to point out was the mission closest to the antipodes of Provo, Utah.

Most of his tracting was done in middle to upper class white neighborhoods, where everyone had a pool and everyone had a large dog.

So he’s with a green companion, and the companion is lugging the heavy film projecter. (Like I said, a long time ago.) They come to yet another house with a large dog in the yard.

The thing with dogs is that they are somewhat unpredictable.

This one looked fairly harmless, but just as my acquaintance was knocking on the door, the dog abruptly lunged at his green companion. Acting on instinct, the companion did a roundhouse on the dog with the heavy film projector. More or less knocked the dog senseless.

Just then the lady answers the door. My acquaintance kind of clears his throat, then gives up on the usual door approach: “Ma’am, terribly sorry, but your dog attacked my companion and he was forced to defend himself, see?” Yes: I believe my acquaintance had watched The Dirty Dozen. Why do you ask?

The two of them quietly made off while the woman was making hysterical sounds over her dog, which was lying very still on the lawn.

Half an hour later my acquaintance and his companion came back down the other side of the street. They were relieved to see that the dog had regained consciousness and was not visibly harmed. They were even more relieved to see that the dog was giving them a very wide berth.

Um, so why did I mention the popularity of swimming pools? The urban legend in the mission had it that one unfortunate missionary had a pit bull latch onto his leg, and he dragged himself into a nearby pool in an effort to get the beast to let go. According to legend, the beast drowned rather than let go. They had to pry the cadaverous jaws off his leg with a crowbar.

September 17, 2012

One slow mid-afternoon in Denmark, my companion and I were tracting a large apartment building. Since nearly nobody was home, we’d pass the time chatting — which is why I got caught with my back turned when a door actually opened. I spun around to give my pitch when my eyes were met by a very large, very angry-looking woman in the doorway. Judging from her eyes, she’d been drinking. Judging from her appearance, she was naked. The only clothing I saw was an open little vest-thingy that must have been some sort of lingerie. I don’t remember panties, but I certainly wasn’t going to look down there, and she was heavy enough I might not have seen them anyway. I managed to blink once before she grabbed my arm, pulled me into the apartment, and slammed the door.

I really, really wasn’t expecting that. Before I could make any sense of what was happening, she’d hauled me across the room, pushed me sprawling onto a sofa, and stood over me, a naked mass of malevolence with one fist raised over me. I thought for sure that if she was going to jump on me. “Rape! Rape!” a ridiculous part of my brain started screaming hysterically, but since the rational part insisted the whole thing couldn’t be happening, I simply lay there helplessly. Please, please don’t jump on me, I pleaded silently. It wasn’t that I was truly worried about rape (simply too weird to take seriously), but being suffocated in the attempt? That could happen. I heard urgent knocking at the door. My companion was locked out, I assumed. No help there.

She teetered but didn’t fall on me. Instead, she started talking loudly and drunkenly, using her whole arm to shake her index finger at me. I couldn’t understand her at first – I just remember that every violent shake of her finger sent jiggles through her body that made her vest flap around.

Finally, I began to understand what she was saying. “You want to tell me about God, do you?! Do you?!!” she demanded. “Uh…not right now…” I stammered. She plopped herself down on a chair facing the sofa. “Well, I don’t want to hear about God. If you want to tell me about God, then have Him pay these!” She pointed at the coffee table. What? I wasn’t sure I even understood the words, let alone the meaning. BAM, BAM, BAM. My companion was frantically knocking at the door again. “I don’t understand…” I said meekly. “I said,” she repeated, “tell your God to pay these!” She lurched back up, grabbed a pile of envelopes off the coffee table and shook them at me forcefully enough to send everything flapping again. Oh. Bills. I started saying something wise, like “but that’s not how God works”, but she didn’t let me finish. She reached over and started whapping me about the head with the envelopes.

Just as I raised my arms in a pathetic attempt to protect my face, my companion flung open the door and stood hyperventilating in the threshold, eyes wide. Either he was as stunned as I was and hadn’t thought to try the door handle, or he’d finally decided that the impropriety of what was happening in the room exceeded the impropriety of entering uninvited. Either way, he managed to rescue me simply by standing there looking alarmed. She quit whapping me, pointed at the door with the envelopes, and glared menacingly. “Out!” she ordered. “I don’t want to hear about God, you hear! Out! Out! Don’t come back!”

We fled.

September 17, 2012

On the outskirts of Brownsville, TX, my companion and I were riding our bicycles on the somewhat quiet road back to our apartment. I was riding about 20 yards in front of my companion.

A blue Crown Victoria pulled up beside me and began edging towards the sidewalk, in a clear attempt to cut me off. I slowed, he slowed, and was clearly laughing. I could have abandoned my bike, but figured he would call off the joke before he hit me, but he didn’t.

The driver brushed his car against me, “pinched” my bike to the curb until we were both stopped, and laughed and left. I suspected he was drunk. Luckily I got a license plate number. After consulting with the mission president, who at least didn’t discourage me from calling the police, I called in the battery. The police instructed me that afternoon that they found the car and would have it towed, since nobody would answer the door at the address.

Two days later the same man in the same car flagged us down. He was the owner of a small taco stand near our apartment called Taco Chino. He was apologetic and offered me and my companion free Taco Chino for life if I would not pursue the matter with police.

I ate at the taco shop a couple times, but my reluctance to eat at a place called “The Dirty Taco” was not lessened by the removal of a price barrier.

September 18, 2012

SPB: As of Sep 18, 2012, your ranking book is ranked 302,986 on Amazon. Which is good for a small publisher.

September 18, 2012

Martin, I would think you could have at least alluded to the Church welfare program. That was a potential golden contact!

S.P. Bailey
September 25, 2012

Contest over!

lesmblake wins!

Thanks to everybody who pitched in with a story.

Check out Millstone City!

September 26, 2012

lesmbake: I was in Ecuador in the mid 80’s. When were you there?

Machala and parts of Guay had a reputation for being wild and wooly.

September 26, 2012

S.P. Bailey,

::fistpump:: Thank you! I enjoyed reading all these stories.

Bookslinger, I was there from 97-99. I was only in Machala for one month, and in addition to the story I shared I had one other instance of being robbed at gunpoint while in that area.

There were a few areas of southern Guayaquil that were considerably more dangerous than my Machala area, but the missionaries passed without incident for the most part.

Where did you serve?

September 26, 2012

lesm: I was in Bucay, Guasmo, Pradera, Cuenca, and Pasaje. They started construction of the Pasaje chapel when I was there.

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