Okay, I'm kidding about the revenge.
Around the time of our last installment -- way back in October -- I gave the local mishies here in Bordeaux my name and address, and I even took them out for sodas. I knew I was courting certain doom by doing this (in terms of unending harassment), but sometimes I like to live dangerously.
Then the harassment didn't happen. No unwanted phone calls or drop-bys. Only one single incident of spontaneously receiving baked goods (a rather tasty pineapple cake). Not even any calls from random people in the local ward.
This was pretty counterintuitive, so I began to wonder what was up. I thought maybe I'd been blacklisted after all.
I hadn't said anything anti-Mormon to any missionaries, but I thought perhaps the mere fact of an atheist liking to talk to them was suspicious enough to make the local Mission President decide that I was a bad influence on them.
I'd been spotting mishies downtown all the time last fall, but then right after I met with them, mishie spottings suddenly went back down to a trickle. I started to think that maybe the M.P. had told them to focus on tracting out the the suburbs for a while in order to avoid running into friendly apostates and other weirdos one meets downtown.
So after many moons of wondering what in the Sam Hill was going on, my curiosity finally got the best of me and I broke down and invited the missionaries over to my house for juice and croissants. Okay, I'll admit that I was also secretly motivated by the fact that I wanted to give an update in this column about how the local mishies here in Bordeaux are doing. The things I do for you guys! I doubly hope you appreciate this one...
I had to wait until my husband was out of town to do it since he told me in no uncertain terms that he did not want to have to speak to the Mormons himself. He also said he didn't want them talking to our sons, so it was a little bit naughty of me that I had them over while my two-year-old son Leo was with me.
For my husband's sake, I kept a very close eye on the mishies to make sure they weren't surreptitiously teaching Leo to sing "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission". I almost think it would have been kind of funny if they had taught him to sing that, but only because I have a really perverse sense of humor. Of course I wouldn't be laughing so hard anymore seventeen years later when LDS Inc. sends my little Leo to Bolivia or something, so I guess it's just as well that the mishies didn't try to indoctrinate him.
Since it was just me (a woman!) and my little boy alone in the house, the mishies had to bring along another guy -- a local member -- in order to be allowed to come in (their rule, not mine). I guess the theory is that I just might singlehandedly seduce the both of them (in front of my son) and by themselves they'd be powerless to fight me off! But if they bring along a third guy, he'd put a stop to it (instead of just joining in or something). It's probably better not to think too hard about the theory here, but rather just accept the fact that they have lots of elaborate rules and leave it at that.
I was a little curious about the older gentleman they brought with them since I'd never met a French Mormon before. I thought about asking him some questions as to how he came to be Mormon and everything, but Leo occupied him by playing with him the whole time, so I mostly just talked to the mishies myself.
Man were these guys on message! Normally from these young guys I expect a subtle tinge of "I know it's right for me to be here, but obviously this is no fun." Not this batch! I think the senior comp may have been the most sincerely enthusiastic about his mission call of any missionary I have ever met.
My only problem was that normally when I talk to the mishies I like to chat with them about their future plans and about their impressions of France and especially about their impressions of Bordeaux in particular. These guys were basically like "France? What France? All I see is the gospel of Jesus Christ!"
To be honest, I generally prefer conversing with people who are a little more laid-back about the whole Jesus thing. But if the Mission President and/or their moms back in Utah are reading this, I will be happy to confirm to them that their boys are not at all slacking off on their enthusiasm for Jesus.
It turns out that that was exactly the reason the earlier batch never tried to arrange a follow-up meeting with me. It's not that they had been specifically instructed to avoid friendly apostates. These guys explained that it's just that they have important spreading the gospel to do. They don't have time to waste on hanging out and shooting the breeze with random atheists who are never going to be persuaded to believe in Jesus (and really aren't even particularly interested in talking about Jesus).
Still, I think it can be valuable for people with different viewpoints to take some time to try to understand each other every now and then.
Published in the Utah Valley Montior March 23, 2006.