The Weird People Business

By: Stephen Carter
July 31, 2011

Dear Sister Carter,

I got into the weird people business very early in my mission.

In my first area we did weekly service at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, famous because it had been one of the filming locations for Strange Brew. Sometimes I could swear I saw Rick Moranis’s tuque disappearing around the corner. We worked in the second-hand store the patients shopped at once a week. We picked up some referrals from our time there and even a baptism or two, but I don’t think they were the kind of baptisms bishops appreciate.

But the strangest guy I knew on my mission (aside from most of my companions) lived in an unheated townhouse. It was full of huge, dark, heavy furniture–so much of it that you had to sidle in order to make your way through the living room. He was a tall man with piercing eyes and thick, half-smiling lips. Long gray hair fell to the small of his back. The missionary I was on splits with had baptized him a few weeks ago, and we had arrived to teach him a new member lesson.

I was trying to pull my coat and gloves back on nonchalantly when he trained his huge eyes on me. “Do you know why it’s so cold in here?” he asked leaning over a massive coffee table between us. “I feel I can tell you this because you are servants of the Lord. I must keep this house cold because it is the gateway to hell. I am its guardian.”

He was at church the next Sunday for testimony meeting. He walked to the stand, but another person was already at the podium, so he sat down next to the bishop and, smiling, whispered a few things to him. The bishop’s eyes got really wide and he grabbed the guy by the arm, pulling him toward the stairs. But the Guardian of the Gates of Hell struggled mightily toward the podium. One of the bishop’s counselors grabbed the other arm and they succeeded in dragging him all the way out of the chapel.

We ran out behind them and found our buddy weeping in the foyer. “I came to reclaim my church,” he cried. “See these hands?” He showed them to us. “Pierced for the sins of the world. Each drop of blood to save a soul. And my own church rejects me!”

He left and didn’t come back.

The interesting thing is, I don’t remember this guy with derision. He wasn’t just plain nuts. He was earnest, compelling, dedicated nuts–the kind of nuts that might have passed for prophetic a few hundred years ago. The kind of nuts that I would totally trust to guard the gates of hell. I’m glad he has the job.

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7 Responses to The Weird People Business

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on July 31, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    That is an interesting observation.

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  2. Mike S on July 31, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    On my mission, we had a wireless headset that English-speaking people could use. As missionaries, we would listen to Sacrament meeting over a headset and translate in real-time into English.

    One day, a member of the ward got up who gave “interesting” testimonies on a regular basis. She said that she was having some problems in her life, and that Joseph Smith appeared to her and walked with her a while and told her what to do. We translated it as “I have a testimony of Joseph Smith…”

    In retrospect, maybe she really DID walk and talk with Joseph Smith.

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  3. gibson on August 1, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    One of my first members to home-teach was an elderly man who lived in an enclosed garage and kept several cats that relieved themselves wherever they pleased. I and the missionaries with me would speed through our visit/lesson.

    He was friendly enough and occasionally attended but eventually drafted a letter stating that he was converting to DRUIDISM.

    I’m wondering if the convert did his required two attendances before baptism and how he acted.

    After we joined our bishop said that many converts, after their baptism, never attend again; which to me is nuts.

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  4. Paul on August 1, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    Mike S, I always wondered what kind of translation we were getting from missionaries in our ward in Hiroshima… (My favorite was, “This is a really confusing story and I can’t quite understand it; I’m sorry. )

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  5. John on August 1, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Mike:

    We translated it as “I have a testimony of Joseph Smith…”

    So, in essence, you were doing the same thing that many here complain about: editing a “true” [but not necessarily useful] version for a sanitized, faith promoting one.

    Well done.

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  6. Jeff Spector on August 1, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    I home taught a lady who had been tracted out and converted by three of the Seventies in my Quorum, as I was a newly called Ward Mission Leader and Seventies President.

    I went to visit her at noon time because she ran a care hone and it was the only time she had. She knew less tan zero about the Gospel but knew she was baptized a member of the Church.

    I determined to teach her about the Church. I was teaching her about our Pre-mortal Earth life and I asked her if she knew she lived before she was born.

    She answered me, “Yes, I think I was a tree.”

    I knew I was in trouble. She always let me come over, never set foot in Church and continued to know nothing about the Gospel in spite of what I thought were my best efforts Home Teaching her.

    I was always a bit suspicious of who those seventies brought to Church each week. I was usually right more often than not.

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  7. hawkgrrrl on August 2, 2011 at 3:52 AM

    I encountered many strange people as well, some we baptized and some we didn’t. There wasn’t always that big a difference between the existing active members and a few of the more mainstream crazies. One I walked away from was a guy who had studied with the Testigos (JWs) but left because they didn’t agree with one of his beliefs. He said he had written a book about his belief, and if I would read his (free copy) he would read mine. His book was (IIRC) about vegetarian cats who came to planet earth. At first I thought it might be allegorical like Le Petit Prince, but no, he was literally saying this had happened. The book wasn’t exactly a bestseller.

    I did also find that there were some who wanted the experience of baptism (washing away sins), but didn’t want to become members. They just felt guilty and wanted a quick solution. You really didn’t know until after though. That’s how I interpret their behavior anyway.

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