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In Search of a Bible  June 20, 2005

SeptimusH — June 20 @ 1:55am

The other night I was over at my neighbor Dale’s house listening to him talk about his life again and drinking some more cool-aid. That’s how it usually goes. He talks and I listen. Out of the blue he asked me if I was religious. I told him I like to read scriptures and he said his wife used to love to read the Bible when she was alive. They had this beautiful family bible; he wondered whatever happened to it the way old people do. He said if he still had it he might take to reading it at night the way she did.

I thought about giving him my missionary bible, but it’s underlined and has traveled with me across four continents, so surprisingly it still holds a lot of sentimental value. The brilliant idea occurred to me that I could get the Church to give him a bible for free.

I went to the Church’s web-site and there was a horrifying online form to fill out in order to get the Bible. I don’t know Dale’s last name. I don’t know his home phone number, or even if he has a phone. Even if I did have his number I wouldn’t give it to anyone. If Dale gave my phone number out I’d want to kick the old man in his shins and I don’t even have a phone. The only field I saw that I would feel comfortable filling out was his age, which I would estimate at about 80 plus.

What else can you tell us about your friend, the form asked. I asked myself what do they want me to write there? Uh, his cow recently died and now that he’s vulnerable and asking the big questions it’s a good time to pounce. Then at the end it said, “By submitting this form, you agree that church representatives may use your name when contacting this person.” I don’t think so. What kind of euphemism is “church representatives” anyway? I decided to call the toll-free number at the top and try my luck with a real person.

The next day after buying groceries in town I went to a payphone to dial the number. A young man with the most chipper sounding voice I ever heard answered—the voice was chipper, but I could tell he was reading from a script. I made an immediate decision to knock the poor kid off his lines.

“Is there any way to get a free Bible without getting a visit from the missionaries?” I asked. The kid chuckled politely and then bore his testimony about how the Bible meant a lot to him and reading it made him feel closer to the Savior. After he was done he invited me to have my friend receive a visit from church representatives. I was surprised at how immune to it I was. I ignored the invitation and asked if members can get a free bible. “We really discourage that,” he said, and paused, “Are you a member?” I didn’t answer that question either and instead asked, “What is the least amount of information I can give you and get a bible?” Suddenly, the voice went from sounding chipper to sounding real. The kid explained that they do everything they can not to send free gifts without church representatives, but as long as I promised to give it to a non-member he’d send me a bible.

I really, really didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice—I did it for Dale. I gave him my real address and made up the rest—my name, email address, whatever. He said the bible would be there in two to three weeks. I thanked him.

I felt like he was doing me a favor so I asked him where he was. He said the MTC in Provo. He was going to Honduras in a week. I congratulated him and said a mission could be a really amazing experience. He asked me if I had served a mission and I said yes. I can’t remember exactly what he said after that, something like, “What happened?” I said, “Could you please just send me the bible?” and hung up.

The sweat from my hand was all over the receiver of the payphone. The rest of the day I kept thinking over and over, you gave out your address. What a nightmare. It just goes to show you, when you try to do something nice for someone it’s always more trouble than it’s worth.


  1. Sorry to read about your stress and issues.

    Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 20, 2005 @ 6:12am
  2. Well, Sep, for heaven’s sake, go to a bookstore. They don’t cost very much.

    annegb — June 20, 2005 @ 8:19am
  3. Maybe you could have asked the Gideons? Seems to me you went through a lot of hassle for a bible… now, a BoM is a little more complicated, but bibles are a-plenty in this God-fearin’ land of ours.

    Steve Evans — June 20, 2005 @ 8:53am
  4. And that right there explains why I don’t like to use payphones.

    Susan M — June 20, 2005 @ 10:08am
  5. What kind of kool aid, yo? And what were the four continents? I also didn’t know you guys gave out free stuff. I already have a book of mormon, but I could send a Bible to my dad for Father’s Day…

    Greg Fox — June 20, 2005 @ 12:36pm
  6. The rest of the day I kept thinking over and over, you gave out your address.


    john fowles — June 20, 2005 @ 12:41pm
  7. Next time, go ahead and invite the missionaries to your house, pretending you’re a non-member. It cold be entertaining for a little while, especially if you decide to ham it up. When you’re tired with the game, come clean. Most Elders would appreciate the joke, as well as the break from tracting, and if you give them some lemonade they’ll give you as many bibles as you need.

    Of course, if you do this more than once, there’s a problem. I had a friend in high school who, for some reason, loved to go to Temple Square and fill out referral cards with fake names but our friends’ phone numbers. He thought it was funny up until the time that we sent the Jehovah’s Witnesses over to visit him on a Sunday afternoon (with his real name, no less).

    Jarom — June 20, 2005 @ 2:32pm
  8. Yeah, we had a similar experience stopping at the Cove Fort historical site, just off the I-15 on the run from Utah to Southern California. We were hoping for a pleasant little walking tour of the place — giving the kids a chance to walk around and maybe we all learn something too. But no, you can’t just walk and look, you must be escorted by a “church representative.” And they give you the whole package. If you’re not a non-Mormon, then the focus of the spiel is to make you a better Mormon. “Brother X, doesn’t seeing the sacrifices of these early pioneers inspire your family to take their callings a little more seriously? Doesn’t their dedication make you feel guilty you ever missed a home teaching visit? Don’t you just feel an overwhelming sense of peace and love here at LDS Cove Fort?” I exaggerate … slightly. The whole missionary program is being swamped by sales force programs and tactics. Not that anyone at the COB is likely to notice (or, if they do, to regard it as a negative development).

    Dave — June 20, 2005 @ 3:19pm
  9. A bible, a bible. We have a bible. We need no more bible.

    Kaimi — June 20, 2005 @ 4:04pm
  10. The missionaries can be a real riot if you know what you’re doing. When I was at BYU in the early 90s, I’d go with a friend to Temple Square several times a year to have fun with the anti-mormons passing out pamphlets just outside the entrance (they are way too into what they’re doing—some of them got so angry that they wanted to fight me!).

    Anyway, after a few hours that would get boring. So we’d go into Temple Square, find some Elders, and press them for information on which of the Sister Missionaries working the grounds at Temple Square had been caught doing hanky-panky with another missionary. It sometimes took a bit of effort, but we never failed to cajole them into giving up one of their own. Once we got the info, we’d go find the Sister they had implicated and give her a hard time. You should see the expression on a Sister Missionary’s face when you walk up to her and say (as a complete stranger), “Sister Sastron, I heard you got caught making out with an AP.” It’s priceless.

    DKL — June 20, 2005 @ 5:33pm
  11. Dave,
    That’s too bad, and not surprising. We’ve had similar experiences at Church sites in the Eastern U.S. I find that the salesman-esque vibe goes way down if you show up near the end of the day.

    I also tend to get it way more from young missionaries than I do from the seniors.

    Best Church-site tour I ever got was from an older gentleman from the Community of Christ at the Kirtland Temple. His devotion for and respect of the site was evident in the excitement and sense of pride with which he explained the architectural, historical, and spiritual history of the building. I’m not sure whether he was working off a script, but it felt very natural to me.

    And you know what? It really did make me want to be a better Mormon! :-)

    Justin H — June 20, 2005 @ 5:56pm
  12. Every time I have the missionaries over to feed them they hit us up for referrels. Now in life you normally would only refer people you know, but that seems wrong. I would hate to expose a friend to an hyper missionary who wants to dunk the world. For one it may just ruin a friendship, “Oh great! There’s Gunner again. Bet he’s going to sick those missionaries on me again” is not how I want a friendship to end.

    i do know of some members who have lost friends when they sent names in as referrels.

    I figure that in life if someone wants to get more knowledge then it is because of your example and how you lead your life, not overly pushy sales lines.

    So I can understand totally the stress you felt when they wanted the info.

    gunner — June 20, 2005 @ 7:05pm
  13. And yet nobody realizes that bibles can be bought very cheaply, and new, at almost any bookstore. I’ll send you the money.

    annegb — June 21, 2005 @ 9:41am
  14. My favorite line about overzealous missionary work comes from Elder Maxwell, who cautioned that we should not approach others “flinging theological thunderbolts,” but rather should approach others with love.

    Daniel — June 21, 2005 @ 10:51am
  15. Now if the bible gets here, I don’t know if I’ll give it to Dale. He took my kitchen chair without asking and broke it–he replaced but I can tell. Some neihbor.

    SeptimusH — June 30, 2005 @ 4:52am

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