Baxter Black: Mormon Boys

That they would find each other would have been as unlikely to predict as the fall of communism or the good sheep market. She was old and a lifelong Southern Baptist. They were young and on a mission for the Mormon Church.

A requirement of good ‘Mormonism’ for young men is to serve as a missionary for the church for two years. They are expected to go door to door wherever they are sent and spread the gospel of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), also called Mormons.

Now if you think that’s easy, put yourself in their place. You are eighteen years old, often from a rural background, no car, in a strange place, wearing a dark suit and tie, riding a bicycle and knocking on a stranger’s door. As you know, many who open that door and find out you are ‘peddling religion’ are not friendly.

They knocked on her door one day and explained their purpose. She said, “Well, I’m teachin’ our home Bible class.” They excused themselves and left. Later she said to her husband, “I’ll never turn those boys away again.”

Eventually they came back down her street and she said what she says to everybody that’s ever knocked on her door, “Have ya eaten yet?” Well, for two boys a thousand miles from home and batchin’, nothin’ sounded sweeter.

For the next eight or ten years, the boys “stationed” in her little Oklahoma town beat a steady path to her door. They overlapped each other every few months and each new missionary was taken to meet Uncle Leonard and Aunt Effie.

Many of these boys were country raised and homesick, I’m sure. They are not allowed to call home except Mother’s Day. Effie and Leonard were retired farmers, both in their 80’s and sure knew how to cook for hungry boys. They played Skip Bo, ate fried chicken and peach cobbler, helped her with her garden when Leonard became unable, sang while she played on the piano and found an oasis from the pressure.

Uncle Leonard passed away, and when Aunt Effie was havin’ health problems, I visited her in the hospital. She talked about her Mormon boys. Her face lit up. It was obvious how much they meant to her. Some were still writing to her and the new ones were still coming by checkin’ on her.

I’m sure they discussed religion, but as Aunt Effie told ‘em, “Yer out walkin’ the streets for your Jesus, He’s my Jesus, too, and that’s more than most religious folks do. I’m proud of you.”

She saw their need and filled it the only way she knew how. She offered them kindness. And if you ever questioned that passage, “It is more blessed to give than receive,” you should have seen her face when she talked about her Mormon boys.

I don’t know if they’re better Mormons or she’s a better Baptist for knowin’ each other. And I don’t know if the leaders of the Southern Baptist convention and the Elders of the church of the Latter Day Saints would approve. But I do know that the human race is a little better species because these two took the time to appreciate one another as people.