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Dumb Mission Rules. Dumb Missionaries.

Rusty - September 29, 2005

While we’re on the topic of mission rules I thought I’d take this opportunity to have an open thread on:

A) Dumb Mission Rules
B) Missionaries Who Did Dumb Things

I’ll start.

A) Elders are not to talk to women on the phone… ever (this was not in my mission, but that of a friend of mine). No getting together (juntaring) with other elders on p-day.

B) A famous Elder T. (a couple years before I got to my mission) did all of the following: got a girl pregnant in Sipacate, went inactive in Patzún because he played for the city’s soccer team on Sundays, started a for-profit business selling CD’s he had acquired from Mexico (two missions over) to other missionaries, went to Mexico City (a few more than two missions over), and baptized like crazy.

And a story for your pleasure: In 1976 Guatemala had a massive earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people (it happened at 4:00 in the morning and most people in the mountains, where it happened, lived in mud-brick houses. They just crumbled and fell on the people killing them.) Anyway, at this time there were four elders staying that night in the church building in Patzicía. When the earthquake happened one of the beams of the building fell on an elder, paralyzing him from the waste down. He was flown back to the States and was in the hospital when (I believe) Elder Monson visited him and asked him, “do you want to walk again?” To which his reply was an obvious yes. So Elder Monson said, “well get up and walk then.” And he did. A Miracle. Faith. Healing.

It turns out he was out of his area that night with elders of whom he was not supposed to be with. In addition he had a girlfriend in the mission (who he ended up marrying). I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but I always thought it was funny. In fact, this story has been published somewhere (of course without these last two bits of information) but I can’t find it.

Now it’s your turn.


  1. The missionary in the earthquake was Randall Ellsworth. I don’t mean to out him, but he went on to be a successful doctor and then through his charity work, that well-known school in Patzicia was built, which has blessed hundreds if not thousands of lives. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ellsworth and he is an inspiring man–regardless of what may or may not have happened during his mission.

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 29, 2005 @ 4:11 pm

  2. Rusty, it obviously must be YOUR mission, I served in England where all the Elders were obedient and all the rules were just. Well except for the occasional Elder who will remain nameless would disconnect the speedometer cable so some other nameless elders could travel outside the district for P-days.

    Comment by don — September 29, 2005 @ 4:13 pm

  3. I drove a mission vehicle only during time served in the office, and did so without any mileage limits. I don’t understand these limits as it ALWAYS seems like the missionaries in our ward are out of miles by the second week.

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 29, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

  4. Tim,
    I know who it is. I’ve met him as well and I agree with your analysis. He’s a great man who has done incredible things for the people of Guatemala. I guess I told that story in the wake of your post (lack of obedience doesn’t necessarily mean lack of blessings/faith/miracles) because I thought it was interesting. I like the idea that an inspiring story has a story behind it. I like the fact that Dr. Ellsworth still uses that injury as an excuse for his poor golf play. The story was about missionaries and missions, not great things they did after the fact.

    Comment by Rusty — September 29, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

  5. B) I had a companion who smoked, drove to other cities by himself and had hair down to his chin.

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 29, 2005 @ 4:47 pm

  6. I don’t get it. You can lie about smoking. You can lie about travelling to other cities by yourself. But you cannot look your zone leader in the eye and say, “No, elder, I do not have hair down to my chin.”

    Comment by Last Lemming — September 29, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

  7. President Monson has told the story during the October 1976, October 1986, and April 1989 General Conferences. Following several months of physical therapy, the missionary returned to his mission, walking with the assistance of two canes. His mission president told him to set aside his canes and walk.

    Comment by Justin — September 29, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

  8. Yeah, I just found the story here. I guess my details were a little off.

    Comment by Rusty — September 29, 2005 @ 5:05 pm

  9. My mission had a couple of dumb rules. One was that you couldn’t go sight-seeing on p-day. Ever. Except on your very last p-day in the mission. Now, I don’t think you should be out gallavanting every week, but one day out of two years to see Buenos Aires? Silly.

    The other really dumb rule was having district meeting (actually, it was the whole zone, not just the district) on p-day morning. We had geographically spread-out zones so everyone had to travel to get there and back. You were supposed to go out proselyting at 6pm so we never had more than 4 or 5 hours to do our laundry, write letters, etc.

    Oh yeah, the dumbest rule by far was no drinking mate (a traditional South American drink), period. I thought we were going to lose some Uruguayo missionaries over that one.

    Comment by NFlanders — September 29, 2005 @ 5:06 pm

  10. I agree with you Ned–one day to see Buenos Aires is absurd, as was the rule banning mate. I assume mate cocido was OK, but I’ve heard of some missions that banned that as well.

    Comment by Capt Jack — September 29, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

  11. In my mission, we were not allowed to drink Coke. Ever.

    [Perhaps common in Japanese missions since somehow the Japanese D&C includes it in the WoW]

    Comment by ESO — September 29, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  12. ESO,
    What do you mean “somehow the Japanese D&C includes it in the WoW”? Do you mean it’s somehow included in the wording of the D&C?

    I drank more Coke in my mission than my whole life before. In fact, the mission president before mine told the missionaries (this is passed down from my trainer) that if they had to choose between drinking a Gallo (the national beer) and tap water to drink the Gallo. We felt strongly that Coke did a good work for our stomachs after questionable meals/drinks.

    Comment by Rusty — September 29, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  13. NO sunbathing without a shirt.

    Comment by Bryce I — September 29, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

  14. Yeah, mate cocido was fine, which just heightened the absurdity. I understand not drinking it for hours and hours with members, but not even in the privacy of your apartment? Who knows, it might have helped keep me awake during study time.

    Comment by NFlanders — September 29, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

  15. Rules: Have to wear your whites on p-day except to do sports. Have to wear garments for everything, including sports (this didn’t bother me, but others griped a lot about it)
    Missionaries: Wholly crap there are a LOT in my mission. To name a few:
    Companionship that saved up miles and went to St. George for the day. Two sets of elders that went to San Diego (two went home two days before going home honorably). Elders that went 3 missions over to snowboard. One elder by himself on the beach drinking wine coolers. Elder getting engaged to a sister in his district (last two was my comp) Elder getting a “massage” and then some. Numerous others that went to strip clubs. Oh, and one companionship that played b-ball on a work day with nonmembers who then got beat up by the people they were playing.

    Comment by Bret — September 29, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

  16. Geez Bret, where were you, Compton? Inglewood?

    Comment by Rusty — September 29, 2005 @ 9:04 pm

  17. Comps: Rumor has it that one companionship in my mission (a member of which was the son of an Apostle) flew several hundred miles out of the mission and back one p-day. The city they went to was opened several months later.

    Comment by John C. — September 29, 2005 @ 9:51 pm

  18. Ned, were you in the Rosario mission by any chance?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 29, 2005 @ 9:58 pm

  19. Yeah, the Coke/Pepsi thing always made me wonder. My MP came with us one night on a dinner appointment, and like every other dinner in Guat., Pepsi was the beverage of coice. The member served the MP some before asking. He just looked at the glass a little bit, smiled, and then gladly partook. I think he knew he would hear about this later. He said later on during a ZL meeting, that while caffeine is still “against the rules” he understands us breaking it in order to not offend a member.
    Pepsi is also the first thing you are served at any member’s house in Guat. I always take a little (just a little) pleasure watching a greenie squirm in his seat trying to decide whether or not he should drink.

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 29, 2005 @ 10:12 pm

  20. Sorry for the confussion: no, Coke is not mentioned in the Japanese D&C text, but Japanese members tend to be very strict about avoiding it. I even had a Japanese companion who taught it in the WoW lesson (there is always clarification needed on which teas are acceptable, so as my companion listed the things not to drink, coke appeared).

    We were not allowed to drink it because if a member saw us doing it, they might get upset.

    We were also not allowed to buy music or electronics.

    Comment by ESO — September 29, 2005 @ 10:29 pm

  21. Nope, RT. I was in B.A.

    Speaking of Coke, I remember at the Mission Christmas party several Elders were concerned that only Coke was served.

    Comment by NFlanders — September 29, 2005 @ 10:33 pm

  22. Oh Tim, I only wished Pepsi was the first thing the Guats would serve. I too often got the café (de trigo). Nothing like a nice hot cup of coffee and boiling caldo soup on a blazing hot Guatemalen afternoon.

    Elder Bunker would bet the tienda guys an un litro of Coke that he could down it in one chug. He got a lot of free Cokes. Good times.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 12:13 am

  23. We had a mission doctor (Guat. City Central) get up at a multi-zone conference and tell us that “the drinking Coke would help after eating something questionable” was a myth, and that we shouldn’t be drinking it. That was the biggest load of crap I’d ever heard. Thank goodness for Coke, as I know it saved me from several BU attacks. This may not be the craziest of stories, but there were two Elders who went to a waterpark on a workday to get Wendys. My MTC companion left to his mission a day after I did, which gave him the perfect opportunity to play a round golf and have a nice dinner with his girlfriend.

    Comment by Rob — September 30, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

  24. I didn’t like the rule that didn’t allow you to do splits with non-district leaders in neighboring districts. I did, however, like that Rusty and I somehow got around that.

    Comment by Rob — September 30, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  25. Did anyone ever take a Pepsi-Bismal?

    Comment by Tim Jacob — September 30, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  26. Ah yes, the Split (capital “S”). Don’t forget Hermana Cindy. And the climbing of the bomba.

    “I think Elder Clifton should go to Tiquisate.” “Um, President, he should be in Monte Maria.” “Okay.”

    Good times.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 1:45 pm

  27. “Pepsi is also the first thing you are served at any member’s house in Guat. I always take a little (just a little) pleasure watching a greenie squirm in his seat trying to decide whether or not he should drink.”

    Weird. Granted we have two WofW’s, Section 89 and the no coffee, tea, booze or tobacco modern (bogus in my opinion) interpretation. Although two versions is confusing, neither version mentions avoiding caffeine or cola drinks. You couldn’t make up a culture this bizarre.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 30, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

  28. Rusty, I don’t know whether Bret was in Compton & Inglewood, but I was, and his list of dumb things sounds about right.

    My favorite, though, and the one which I think most riled my MP, happened as part of a community-building initiative put on by the LA Times:

    On “Show Us Your Sign” day, religious, community, and other groups were invited to create signs that expressed their attitudes about the city and its denizens. The paper photographed and printed many entries, among which were all sorts of great, loving, caring and ecumenical signs. Stuff like “We heart LA”, “We are LA”, “In Diversity is Strength,” etc.

    Then there were the two LDS missionaries, standing proudly by the road proclaiming with their sign, “We’ve Never Seen So Many Weird People.”

    Comment by Justin H — September 30, 2005 @ 6:10 pm

  29. Justin,
    Dude, that’s awesome. Oh, and Bret (my brother) actually was in Compton and Inglewood, I was just being dumb.

    Comment by Rusty — September 30, 2005 @ 9:04 pm

  30. On my mission, we weren’t allowed to back the car unless someone was outside, giving guidance.

    It wasn’t a bad idea, exactly, but I didn’t much appreciate it when I was actually hit by my companion as he was backing the car up.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 30, 2005 @ 11:13 pm

  31. I haven’t gone on a mission, but I think more or less all the “numbers” rules are pretty silly — you can’t drive more than X number of miles in a week, you can’t stay more than X number of minutes in a member’s home, etc. I also think some of the rules are downright detrimental; my mother and sisters and I can’t have a elder companionship over to dinner unless my stepfather (who works out of state) is home. There are four of us and two of them; how exactly does that constitute “being alone” and therefore at risk of committing sin? I remember how annoying that one is each and every time I pass the dinner signup sheet on to the next teacher in Primary.

    (I guess some of these rules are put in place because 19 year old men are generally foolish and/or irresponsible — but I don’t see how giving them a checklist like that is going to turn them into responsible adults, either)

    Comment by Sarah — September 30, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

  32. Rusty: Ah, now I see! :-)

    I should note that while I was not involved at all in the photo snafu I mention above, I did plenty of dumb things as a missionary. (Hopefully nothing too damaging!)

    Comment by Justin H — October 1, 2005 @ 12:23 am

  33. Justin,
    When did you serve? I never heard that story when I was their, though it doesn’t surprise me.
    Oh yes! That was one of the most annoying/worthless rules considering barely anybody followed it and I never heard of any accidents in our mission relating to backing up. (and we were the number one accident mission in the world, according to our president and considering we were driving in LA)

    Comment by Bret — October 1, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  34. Bret: 94-96, Span-Am, under Pres. Farnsworth for most of it. (When were you there?)

    Comment by Justin H — October 1, 2005 @ 10:26 pm

  35. RT:

    I was in Rosario; were you?

    Comment by Davis Bell — October 2, 2005 @ 4:05 am

  36. Justin,
    00′-02′ ebonics speaking. What areas were you in?
    I did Compton/Carson, Gardena, Inglewood, Torrance, Lomita, and Palos Verdes

    Comment by Bret — October 2, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

  37. Bret,
    LOL. See if I can remember. Koreatown, Cerritos/Downey, Huntington Park/South Gate/Compton/Watts, west South Central (Crenshaw/Jefferson Park/Hyde Park), and Long Beach.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 2, 2005 @ 7:26 pm

  38. How is the mileage limit a dumb rule? The main focus is so that the cost of running the cars is kept down (higher resale, less maintainence and fuel), and they certainly aren’t inflexible about miles. As an added bonus it requires you to plan efficiently and not use the car as much, which gets you 1) more efficient use of the time and more work done and 2) less time in the car. at about 4:30-5:00 after several hours of tracting, it sure sounded nice to go check on an appointment on the other side of your area in the air conditioned car listening to a little music!

    As far as the mission rules about not going into homes of the opposite sex, its generally a good idea 1) prevents temptation 2) prevents false accusation and 3) keeps silly 19 year olds focused (even the most righteous can falter). Sure it was annoying, but most of the time we got around it by bringing a local ward member (which is usually better for long term activity).

    The dumbest thing I ever heard in our mission was the rumor about the elders and sisters “hot tubbing” in the stake center. Apparently this was why, 9 years later, only the zone leaders had a key to the building, and it was chained to a huge license plate like key tag.

    Comment by Jay S — October 3, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  39. at about 4:30-5:00 after several hours of tracting, it sure sounded nice to go check on an appointment on the other side of your area in the air conditioned car listening to a little music!

    We were not supposed to use the A/C (supposedly to save gas) and they ripped the radios right out of the dashboard, covering the gaping hole with some sort of slogan about safety I’ve long since forgotten.

    Still, it was nice to have a car.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 4, 2005 @ 8:56 am

  40. My first mission president had 3 pages of additional rules. We weren’t allowed to wear green pants (I still don’t know why), drink mate con bombilla (but cocido was fine), and we couldn’t take showers with a blow dryer in hand.

    Comment by Hyrum — October 4, 2005 @ 12:39 pm

  41. back to Coke/pepsi.

    I do not believe its against the WOW. Once I was at a ward BBQ in South Africa on my mission and I was drinking a one liter bottle. The bishops 10 year old daughter about had a heart attack!! He then called me over and said that lots of the ward members were opposed to Coke so to avoid controversy could I please not drink it???

    Reluctantly I threw the bottle away.

    Comment by bell — October 12, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

  42. The sad thing about all those Guatemalans is that they had wandered into forbidden paths and chose Pepsi over Coke. What a shame!

    Comment by Mark B. — October 14, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  43. there are too many weird rules from my mission to mention. there were months at a time when the entire mission wouldn’t have p-days, we’d wake up at 5:30 for extra study, and never eat dinner (only the occasional snack at panaderias and what not). my favorite however was never being able to speak in english, unless you were training, which i did twice, but was so out of practice with english that i had a realy hard time with it. i think that rule stemed from that worry of the mexican elders that we would all be talking about them, and they wouldn’t be able to join in the conversation. all in all, i usually understood the reason for the rules.

    there are a couple of instances that caused a lot of commotion in the mission. the best however was when one of the secretaries stole the ap’s computer, about $500 dollars in cash, and then ran off with a gay guy to tijuana. it was of couse, instantly discussed throughout the mission, we were in veracruz, and tijuana is far away, and the elder was an american, and why would you run off to tijuana… there are so many other more acceptable places to go in mexico if you are just trying to avoid responsability, and i imagine better places to meet men.

    Comment by stephen b — October 17, 2005 @ 5:40 pm

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