|In Search of a Bible||June 20, 2005|
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.