(The second in a series of uplifting emails Stephen has sent to his missionary sister in Spain.)
A month or so before my mission, mom, dad, and I went to ZCMI to get my missionary suits.
A dignified older man, impeccably dressed and bearded, measured more parts of my body than I knew I possessed and then started dragging out suits for me to try on. One of the first he presented was charcoal gray and double-breasted. (I’m not sure why they call these suits double-breasted. I’ve never found twice as many pockets or twice as many lapels on them, though I have found twice as many buttons. I’m still confused, though. Why would they call buttons breasts? This is perhaps a topic for another letter.) Being a very conservative dresser (loyal to my ensemble of black T-shirts, black pants, black socks, and black shoes), I was shocked by the flamboyance of the suit’s color. This sudden foray toward the other end of the light spectrum was almost more than I could withstand. However, at Mom and Dad’s encouragement, I let the clerk slip it over my shoulders.
I gasped. The man in the mirror was suave, debonair, a candidate for the more-clothed Calvin Klein ads. They were going to let me wear this on my mission? The girls would be falling down all around me. I’d need an extra companion working full time to move their unconscious bodies from the sidewalks. (As I learned later, twitterpation, though almost never acknowledged as a conversion technique, is an effective one. We’ll have to move back toward polygamy, however, if we ever want to use it as a retention technique as well. At least two of the women I helped baptize were initially drawn to the Church because they wanted those cute missionaries to keep coming ’round.)
The clerk asked me if I wanted the pant legs cuffed or straight. Again, I gasped at the audacity of his thinking that a humble missionary such as me would be as worldly as to wear cuffed pants. Mom and Dad thought it was a good idea, and, being an obedient son, I relented and thus spent my mission at the height of pant-ly fashion, though I managed to retain my humility.
We tried on a few more suits, and the one I finally chose as my second was dark navy blue with cordovan and blue pin stripes. Looking back, I cannot remember why I chose this suit. Perhaps I felt that God might also have a mission for a guy who looked like a hot dog salesman. I instructed the clerk to cuff one pair of pants, but not the other.
In the mission field, I quickly learned that one of these suits was not like the other. In my charcoal grey, double-buttoned babe slayer, I regularly moved mountains. But in my candystriped suit, I spent all my time worrying that someone would think I had escaped from the circus. Thus, I spent my mission in charcoal gray. I loved that suit, and mourned when it finally disintegrated after my mission. I don’t blame it for giving up the ghost; I wore it probably 700 days of my mission, and I only remember dry cleaning it once—though I probably threw the pants in the washer a time or two.
The candystriped suit, on the other hand, was given with no remorse to an unlucky cousin, who was probably frequently mistaken for one of Santa’s elves.