The Convert Companion

By: Stephen Carter
August 21, 2011

Have you ever been a convert’s mission companion? They’re full of fire, and you’re proud of them–even awed–for being willing to follow what they believe, but sadly that doesn’t make them in any way perfect. For example, my first companion in Mississauga.

He was the one who was so messy that I literally (using the literal meaning of that word) divided the apartment in two with a line of masking tape–making him keep his chaos on his side of the line. He “laundered” his clothes by throwing them on the floor around his bed, letting them lie for a week or so, then picking them up and sniffing them. One day while we were visiting a baptism candidate, the candidate sniffed the air and said, “Elder _____, is that you?”

It was his socks, actually.

Elder _____ loved to sing. But song did not love him. The poor boy changed keys every line and embarked on extended safaris into the deep dark sharp and flat areas of the melody. He was always trying to talk me into singing hymns to people at their doors. I did my best to be polite, pleading that I simply couldn’t sing like he could–which was true.

We were just heading into winter, but it was a wimpy winter even by my Utah standards. But Elder ______,  being from Arizona, broke out his Nanook from the North parka the minute the mercury fell below 40 degrees (October). I was happy to keep tracting neighborhoods, but he kept pulling us toward the buildings where it was warm and smelled like pee.

One day he talked me and the companionship that lived around the corner into trying out the MTC exercise routine. The mission president gave an audio tape of it to any missionary who was interested. After a vigorous half-hour workout, I was winded, but Elder ______ collapsed on his bed and didn’t move for three hours afterward. For some reason, the subject of the exercise tape never came up again.

On Christmas we called our respective families. Our apartment was pretty dang tiny and I had no choice but to overhear his conversation. It went something like:

“Hey Dad. Merry Christmas! . . . Of course I celebrate Christmas. . . . No, Dad. That’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m Mormon. . . . No, Dad. We stopped polygamy in 1890.”

And it went downhill from there, each member of his family unrepentantly ignorant of his new religion and giving him crap about it. I was glad that my mom and dad had sent presents for Elder ______ because none were forthcoming from his lot. His family never sent him letters either, incidentally. He was a lonely guy doing hard work on the strength of faith.

So, like I said, the boy was … idiosyncratic, but I had to admire him.

6 Responses to The Convert Companion

  1. prometheus on August 21, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    “He was a lonely guy doing hard work on the strength of faith.”

    Just goes to show we never really know what lies underneath. I admire this elder too – it takes a lot of courage to do that.

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  2. Mormon Heretic on August 21, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    I can see the comments going 2 ways. On the one hand, convert companions always had some fire for conversion, and they were generally pretty cool.

    But if we’re talking about messy companions, wow. I got transferred into a new area. My companion’s clothes covered the floor, and there was only a small path to my bed to walk without stepping on his clothes. He hated to iron, so he just bought more shirts, causing more dirty laundry.

    The kitchen was a mess. I didn’t dirty any of the dishes because I wasn’t even there. The dishes sat for a few weeks until I got fed up and cleaned them. Meanwhile, he had decided to start eating off paper plates.

    I had a different companion that had a serious problem with stinky feet. He could take off his shoes in the bedroom, and I could smell it in kitchen. I advised him to put baking soda on his feet every time he put his shoes on and off. That helped. I’ve never smelled anything so bad in all my life.

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  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 21, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Bless his heart, I hope things worked out well for him.

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  4. annegb on August 22, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Do you still keep in touch with him? If so, how is he doing?

    Heretic, why were you gone and your companion there? How did he afford that?

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  5. Paul on August 22, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    I remembered a particular apartment-mate (but not my companion) as I read your account.

    I’m not sure I had any convert companions (I guess I was the convert companion); even my native companion was born in the church.

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  6. Douglas on August 22, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    I was also a “Convert Companion” (been a member about a year when I went). AFAIK, I didn’t have any “weirdness”, in fact, since I’d lived on my own for two years prior, I was more used to a succession of roomies and frat buddies. I had more of a struggle adjusting to “Yew-Tah” Mormons (including those from eastern Idaho), especially those that shot their big yaps off about how messed up things were from the great state of “Californicate” (including its then 550,000 members). By the end of my mission, I knew full well WHY Joseph Smith’s saying about the Church must be true, else the elders would have destroyed it…(hoping that I didn’t add to that saying my own flavour!).

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