Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Elders

Matt here.

You'll remember that last week the elders came for dinner. They showed up soaked through from the rain. I wished I could have sent them off to a back room to change into dry clothes, but the best I could do was hand them towels. They put on brave faces, but it can't be comfortable to sit in soaked suits.

Somehow the evening had been scheduled such that Mom was practicing a song with one of her RS sisters. For a minute the elders just sort of stood awkwardly behind their chairs in the dining room while Mom sang and ignored them and I got dinner on the table. It clicked in my head that I was supposed to take charge of them, so I pulled them over to help scoop pineapple teriyaki chicken out of the crock pot and into a serving dish and to get bread. (If you ever feel tempted to try a crock pot recipe for pineapple teriyaki chicken, don't do it.) Elder H. got the bread; Elder M. got the chicken. I got the pitcher of water, and by the time we finished setting the table, Mom had finished her song and said goodbye to her friend.

We sat down and made conversation, and also ate the gross pineapple chicken.

Elder H. is the senior companion, now out for about 18 months. He has light brown hair, cut quite short. I would have guessed by his accent that he was from Texas, but he said Utah. We bonded over our affinity for books. Elder M. is a redhead, and everything from his manners to his intonation says "I'm still a teenager." Not in a bad way, just sort of clueless. He was mostly quiet. Both boys are about 5'8".

Eventually we finished the meal, and Elder H. said, "You know, we haven't been getting a lot of appointments lately, so I was wondering if we could teach you a first discussion." I got all sad inside and looked off into the distance while Mom said "Of course!"

So they taught. I didn't want to hear a first discussion, but I also didn't want to be rude by getting up and leaving, so I switched off between staring at nothing in the distance and staring down at my blue hoodie. Mom was a golden investigator, although some of her softball questions were nonetheless interesting because she was role playing as her mom, my grandmother, who was Lutheran before meeting LDS missionaries a long long time ago. The key, for her, was eternal family.

The message of the first vision and the restoration was nothing new, of course, but listening to Elder H. tell it did something for me. Something about his halting, squeaky-drawly voice, or something about our shared and treasured books, or something about how vulnerable and bedraggled he looked touched me. I could feel my impression of him shift from the indistinctness of distant politeness to a definite sense of his honesty and trustworthiness. That this was our second meal together in a handful of days didn't hurt--rarely have I spent so much casual time with a set of missionaries. I enjoyed listening to him, even if I didn't value the words he said.

As they were talking, I was full of questions, and the next morning, I called the elders' cell phone.

"Hey, Elders, what are you up to? Not much huh. Well, do you think you could come over here? Yeah, if now works for you. Yeah, I want to talk about some church stuff with you."


  1. Ha ha ha... Oh my goodness, what a cliffhanger! Or has it happened yet?

  2. It happened. It was very interesting.