Have you ever been a convert’s mission companion? They’re full of fire, and you’re proud of them–even awed–for being willing to follow what they believe, but sadly that doesn’t make them in any way perfect. For example, my first companion in Mississauga.

He was the one who was so messy that I literally (using the literal meaning of that word) divided the apartment in two with a line of masking tape–making him keep his chaos on his side of the line. He “laundered” his clothes by throwing them on the floor around his bed, letting them lie for a week or so, then picking them up and sniffing them. One day while we were visiting a baptism candidate, the candidate sniffed the air and said, “Elder _____, is that you?”

It was his socks, actually.

Elder _____ loved to sing. But song did not love him. The poor boy changed keys every line and embarked on extended safaris into the deep dark sharp and flat areas of the melody. He was always trying to talk me into singing hymns to people at their doors. I did my best to be polite, pleading that I simply couldn’t sing like he could–which was true.

We were just heading into winter, but it was a wimpy winter even by my Utah standards. But Elder ______,  being from Arizona, broke out his Nanook from the North parka the minute the mercury fell below 40 degrees (October). I was happy to keep tracting neighborhoods, but he kept pulling us toward the buildings where it was warm and smelled like pee.

One day he talked me and the companionship that lived around the corner into trying out the MTC exercise routine. The mission president gave an audio tape of it to any missionary who was interested. After a vigorous half-hour workout, I was winded, but Elder ______ collapsed on his bed and didn’t move for three hours afterward. For some reason, the subject of the exercise tape never came up again.

On Christmas we called our respective families. Our apartment was pretty dang tiny and I had no choice but to overhear his conversation. It went something like:

“Hey Dad. Merry Christmas! . . . Of course I celebrate Christmas. . . . No, Dad. That’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m Mormon. . . . No, Dad. We stopped polygamy in 1890.”

And it went downhill from there, each member of his family unrepentantly ignorant of his new religion and giving him crap about it. I was glad that my mom and dad had sent presents for Elder ______ because none were forthcoming from his lot. His family never sent him letters either, incidentally. He was a lonely guy doing hard work on the strength of faith.

So, like I said, the boy was … idiosyncratic, but I had to admire him.