Don’t Be Dumb People

Do you ever think back to things you did or said or even generally the way you were—entire swaths of behavior, whole eras of time—five or ten years ago, and the memory makes you want to move to rural Manchuria to avoid contact with anyone from your former life? Me neither. Nothing to be ashamed of over here. Because I never tried any outlandish dance moves or jokes, and didn’t wear a flat top on a long skinny face for a year or two. Nope, I’m good.

Jk, jk. I have plenty of those memories. And many of times I read my scriptures, I am reminded of this past-self embarrassment phenomenon. My current scriptures are the same set I had on my mission. Remember how in seminary you were basically taught that if you weren’t taking notes with seven different colors in your scriptures you might as well just spend your time listening to Metallica and watching Friends, because you sure as heck weren’t learning or retaining anything (I think John Bytheway must have had a significant stake in a Utah colored pencil company)? So I’m always coming across all these notes in the margins and it’s clear I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I was just dutifully writing any deep thing that came to mind. I found one of these earnest, profound thoughts the other day with a line connecting it to a verse about a nation being in trouble when it picks wicked men to lead it. Here’s what the eleven year old note said:

“Like Pres. Clinton”

(This was post-Monica, of course)

I’m learning to accept this former-self loathing as a fact of my life. But I don’t think everyone experiences this. What explains that? Well we all know quite a few people who simply don’t seem very self aware. They might have permanent stank breath or think Wanda Sykes is hilarious but they can’t see the truth, not even ten years later. But then there is another group—probably a larger group—of people who don’t blush at things they did and said and were years ago because there isn’t much to blush about. They are just normal, steady people who aren’t genetically disposed to trying too hard or to seeing this torso staring back at them in the mirror, despite photographic evidence showing it to look more like this (guy on right). These steady types stay pretty close to the mean. There is safety on the balmy banks of the mean.

I don’t care what people think about me in many ways, and I do in others. A good example of the former happened after I had been exclusively dating my girlfriend “Ashley” for a few months. Although I was still a couple months from being ready to propose, I was confident we would end up getting married. But I had heard that the SLC temple was always booked out for many months. So like any normal person I called the temple and reserved a wedding date without telling Ashley or anyone else. Just in case. No harm done. If we got engaged we would have a date thanks to Mr. Anticipator and if we broke up, no one was any the wiser.

Until Ashley got a letter from the SLC temple the next week confirming our temple date. Then she was wiser.

I might have left the church over this. If the little old ladies in the temple reservation office can’t get the simplest thing right, what does that tell me about the big stuff? I broke up with Ashley a month or two later for unrelated reasons. Did I sell my reservation on Ebay to a wealthy, frazzled bride from Federal Heights? Sadly I didn’t know about Ebay back then. So the reservation stayed in my name (Hey, who knew if I would meet Mrs. Right that next month and still be able to use the date. No, the truth is I just forgot to cancel it). Which is why heartbroken Ashley got another call from those nasty old ladies months after we broke up to confirm they were looking forward to her special day next week.

Anyway, that story doesn’t embarrass me. I know you think I’m a freak and that you ladies who consider Davis creepy for saying Schmellisa Schmarrison are judging me in your blackened hearts right now, but I don’t mind. Of course it defied norms and I overlooked the contingency of them notifying the future bride. Twice. But I had a problem and I solved it, however creatively.

Now here’s an example of something that does cause me physical discomfort whenever I’m reminded of it, which Davis ensures is every couple months. When departing missionaries left, there was a plaque hung up on a wall in their home church for the two years they were gone. The plaque had a picture, the mission location and dates, and the favorite scripture of the missionary. Mine hung by ten or so other plaques of young men with scriptures about the Atonement or eternal life or the cause of saving souls. Many hundreds of people saw this plaque during those two years. I don’t remember choosing my particular scripture and don’t remember my motivation. I wasn’t renowned to be a rebel in the neighborhood, although I was never accused of being an angel either. I assume I was taking a parting shot at the network of tattle tale Mormon mother hens in the neighborhood whose existence seemed centered around trying to catch my group of friends in anything compromising and relaying the news on the wire:

plaque (2)

No, this hasn’t been photo-shopped (unlike Davis entire story of prank calling Jeff, which we clearly saw once Jeff commented with his version). That really was the scripture I had put on my plaque.  I don’t recall being that crazy or immature, but apparently I was. Maybe this scripture was meaningful to me for some pure reason I have forgotten (nope). Or maybe the person responsible for making the plaques wanted to get a jump on things and asked me for my scripture when I was 9 (possible). I really don’t know what to tell you.

So yes, kind of embarrassing. But you need to view this thing for what it was; suburban warfare. Were any of those preachy moms able to place a plaque with a belligerent scripture message on my apartment wall for the two years I was in North Carolina? A message I had to look at every Sunday that caused me to feel the deepest sort of shame? No, no they weren’t.

Kook 10, Compton Bench Judgers 0.

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22 Responses to Don’t Be Dumb People

  1. Scew says:

    I’m sorry Chris I’m going to have to call B.S. on your temple reservation story. That’s just too good to be true. You’ll need to submit some evidence or have “Ashley” back up your story.

    I remember you feeling ashamed of that plaque when you returned from your mission. At the time (as someone with zero interest in scriptures) I wondered what the big deal was, seemed like an ok verse of scripture. I see now why that caused you so much discomfort.

    I too have many skeletons in my closet of embarrassing misguided things that I’ve done. I keep waiting for the time when I’m going to grow out of it, but it just keeps happening.

    Imagine if that was what funerals were all about. All your friends and family telling stories of you at your worst and what an idiot you were.

  2. Davis says:

    I have a lot of great memories of the Compton Bench chapel, but at the top of the list are the two year during your mission when I’d walk past that plaque. It made me laugh every time, and it still does.

    I’m surprised, though, that you say, “I don’t remember choosing my particular scripture and don’t remember my motivation.” I always thought you chose that scripture with a very clear message for a very specific audience.

  3. Jeff says:

    Kook that was a sweet prank you pulled on Ashley. Good form. Sometimes when I look back at my bad ideas it almost feels like I am pranking myself. “Did I really do that? What was I thinking?” I feel like I owe apologies to a lot of people but at this point I don’t really know how to do that effectively. One thing is for certain, we need to get our scoundrel brothers back with a good prank that will cause grief and tears.

  4. Troy says:

    Nothing elicits feelings of shame and embarassment of your former self like a journal. If you have the misfortune of having a high school journal, you know exactly what I mean.

  5. Stoy says:

    I don’t know what to say other than wow. Wow.

  6. Danica says:

    Man, my scripture notes are the best – I probably have a Clinton one in the same spot. How about this, though – I was borrowing Zack’s scriptures once when we were dating/first married, and found a note in big letters at the top of a page in 3 Nephi that said, “Jesus in Jerusalem.” Mind you, to his embarrassment he had to drive his huge old blue family van to high school every day, which had a bumper sticker on it that read: Jesus visited the Americas – read about it in the Book of Mormon, yet didn’t quite make the connection that 3 Nephi took place in AMERICA until he was in the MTC. I love thinking about the “aha” moment he must have had in class, all pumped now to share this amazing news with the good people of Cheelay.

    And Troy, my high school journals are so so beyond mortifying. I plan on destroying them so they are not passed down to future generations, who could only also be embarrassed for me.

    Christian, I love your rebel MTC plaque, and the Ashley story is amazing. Zack proposed to me without ever having mentioned the word “marriage” – we hadn’t ever talked about it because he thought it was supposed to be a total surprise. He had signed us up on the waiting list for fancy-shmancy Wymount months before we got engaged. I don’t know how many times I’ve had the same thoughts run through my head of feeling shame/embarrassment for past actions (especially when I think of freshman year at BYU, oh heaven help me), and also of somehow knowing that there were a lot of temperate, “balmy banks of the mean” people out there that didn’t have those same regrets.

  7. Landon says:

    Awesome, I’m going to have to call that the BEST post yet! That’s right, I have an ongoing spreadsheet and every day (now every Mon, Wed, and Fri) I rank that days post. This one just shot up to the top. That scripture brought me to tears of laughter. I wish your missionary picture would have been in a white t-shirt with a leather jacket and slicked back hair (like the James Dean picture posted on another post). that would have gone better with the scripture.

  8. Serene says:

    Oh my heck! (strangely, I’m not from Utah. But I still say that.)
    Poor Ashley. This being said from a girl’s perspective of course. I think I have shown up to your wedding dressed in white, just to get back at you.

    Okay, not really.

    As for the scripture, truley hilarious!

  9. Wade says:

    How did that scripture make it past Greg and Jolynn? That’s either brilliant parenting or gross negligence.

  10. Davis says:


    We have a policy against DDDT bloggers impersonating commenters, and Christian broke that policy when he impersonated “Landon.” Ryan and I are deliberating on how to proceed.



  11. Rebecca Bell says:

    Am I sensing a little jealousy here, Davis? Don’t be sad, your post this week made my sides hurt, but you were making fun of someone else. The beauty of this post, is that it’s unabashedly about himself.
    i’ve also heard this story about the missionary plaque and it never hit me until now how c-r-a-z-y it was to put that scripture on there.
    that story about “ashley” makes me cringe every time i hear it- every time. that is one i definitely would have kept in the skeleton closet a while longer. not that i didn’t have those moments as a freshman at BYU that I “knew” I was going to marry someone (and i even have the journal entries to prove it) but i certainly wasn’t ordering invitations and flowers. ewww. weird.

  12. Ben Pratt says:

    Great stories, Christian. I can tell this scripture verse is important to you still because you didn’t even condemn me for my choice of spouse. It will be counted unto you for righteousness, unlike what you did to Ashley. You’re toast, man.

  13. Landon says:

    Yeah, I guess I got a little carried away.

  14. Braden says:

    OHHHHHHH, Kook. I have a had a really busy stressful week and this is the first time I’ve been able to get to DDDT all week. I’ve been missing it and that what well worth the wait. I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading periodically. When Mere saw I was laughing at the computer, she said, “Are you reading Chris’ post?” She just knew. Top form, bro. Top form.

    Objectively speaking, that really isn’t that weird a choice for the plaque. It’s emotionally charged if you know the background, but otherwise it’s a bit different but not odd–let’s say it’s on the far side of the banks of the mean, but still in that safe zone.

  15. Christian says:

    Scew, true story. But I will admit that the part about the temple calling her a couple months later to confirm the date is a bit fuzzy. The facts are:

    1. I did make the date.
    2. She did get a letter in the mail confirming. I was there when she got it and her mom (who didn’t seem to love me in the first place) almost saw it.
    3. Ryan reminded me the other day that he thought she got a call confirming it a couple months after we broke up. I had forgotten about this but it sounded familiar and Ry has a great memory. I didn’t have contact with her after the break up so the only way I would know that was that the temple people called me to confirm (which I’m pretty sure happened). Either they said they called her first and she told them it was off and they wanted to confirm that with me, or maybe they called me first so I assumed they called her as well. But again, this part of the story is fuzzy.

    Davis, ya that’s the weird thing. I was thinking about this whole thing yesterday after I posted, trying to remember. What I remember is a lady from the tenth ward who was in charge of the plaques requesting my scripture. I remember giving it to her and I don’t remember any feelings of anxiety or malice about the prank I was about to pull. I also remember being at peace with the world and trying hard to be a good guy those last months before the mission. So, while this ruins the story, I honestly think that that scripture might have been the only scripture I really knew. Mom and dad read the scriptures with us every night, I graduated from Seminary, and I even read them on my own sometimes. But ADD will do that to a brain. But you and the fam always said that that was my motivation and I bought into it, because I couldn’t remember. But Scew remembering that I was embarrassed right after the mission is evidence I was taking a parting shot at the judging moms. I hope that version is true, anyway.

    Jeff, agreed. Our brothers have a large prank debt with us. And with the 20 years of interest the debt has accrued, the account is big enough that our pranks of burning down their homes with the dogs in it won’t be going too far. And they won’t be able to say a thing. They’ll just have to fake laugh to not appear to be bad sports.

    Troy, journals are the worst. They are a ploy by those in power to keep us too embarrassed of ourselves to make a play for that power.

    Stoy, you know Ashley. You almost sunk the relationship before it began when I took you to hang with her and friends as wingman. I realized I had forgotten deoderant and did what I thought was a quick, discreet smell check. You saw it and shouted “Oh, nasty, Bell. Odor Check!” Thanks dog.

    Danica, major lolz. I laughed so hard at the Zach having to drive the big family van with the BOM bumper sticker on it. I’m laughing now remember it. And also at his “Jesus visits Jeruselam” note in 3 Nephi.

    Wow, I can’t get over how funny that van thing is. The 3 nephi thing is funny to me too because THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME. Again, ADD. I had heard that the BOM took place in the Americas and that Jesus visited the Americas probably 5300 times growing up, but it was never interesting to me, so it never sunk in. Never registered. Then in the MTC it was interesting and it sunk in.

    Also, awesome and funny about him getting on the infamously long Wymount list months before you got engaged. I would have done the same. And I bet 85% of people on that list weren’t engaged yet. Provo. Funny place. One of the funniest comments ever on this blog, Danica.

    Landon, coincidentally, I think you’re comment is the best that has ever been posted on dddt. Not just because of what you said about my post, but other reasons. The insight you show, the presentation, etc. Also, lol about the james dean picture. I would have if those serious susan’s in charge of the plaques wouldn’t have taken their job so seriously.

    Reba, you knew you were going to marry me the second you saw me under the neon lights of Club Tan, so who do you think you’re kidding?

    Ben, lol. I’m glad you got the joke. I just love so much the stigma that used to exist (does it still?) on the mission about marrying someone from your mission. Even if you didn’t meet until after. Just the thought of telling people and knowing they were thinking dark thoughts about someone not “locking their heart” was enough to send chills down a young elder’s spine.

    “So what about you two, how did you meet?”

    “Well, I served my mission in Kansas and Nancy is from Kansas and we made that connection at BYU one day where we were in the same ward.”

    “ohhh, right. So you were both excommunicated, then you got married after?”

    “uh, no.”

    “Oh, ok. Well whatever. No one’s perfect. I snore in my sleep, so we all have some skeleton, right?”

    Landon, no you didn’t. Don’t let that big guy bully you. You’re a big guy too.

    Bird, you think? I hope it wasn’t obviously weird to everyone who saw it. Although I suspect it was. Especially since I gave a loving tribute to my dog in my farewell speech (I’m blushing about that too right now).

  16. Christian says:

    Danica, I’m still laughing about Zach having to drive the van with that bumpers sticker on it around as a teenager. That is the funniest trick a parent can pull on an teenager. It has inspired my policy (effective immediately) that I will buy my teens any car they want, but for every 5k I spend they have to have one of those bumper stickers on it. Want a seventy thousand dollar porsche? No problem. But it comes with 14 large bumpers stickers that say “Jesus visited the Americas – read about it in the Book of Mormon!”

  17. Charlotte says:

    The part of the story I don’t get is how you still dated after she got the letter? Um, I think I would have been a little teeny bit freaked out if I found out someone had made a temple date for me.

    I had a friend use this as his scripture on his plaque: Zech 5:1 “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. ” Your scripture seems totally normal to me. At least you didn’t pick Proverbs 5:19 (which I will kindly not quote here).

  18. Zack says:

    Ha ha, we’re all having a great time here! Well I’m not Ted!! Seriously, I think I might have had the most embarrassing childhood of all. Family vehicles growing up consisted of: 1)1985 Dodge Ram Van which I drove to high school (class of ’99), 2)Upgraded to a Ford Econoline whose fan belt always squeaked and my mom honked when she came to pick me up because she knew I was embarrassed, 3) Pontiac TransSport (quite possibly the ugliest car ever made) – we called it Star Tours, 4)an old Cadillac El Dorado because my parents began to feel a little ritzy, 5) a purple Chevy Lumina, 6)Geo Prizm….the list goes on and on. I like the idea of a bumper sticker for every $5K spent. Man, I’m glad you were as dumb as me Christian. I don’t think I ever told any other missionaries about that in the MTC – they probably all thought, “what’s this guy all excited about?” Luckily, this enthusiasm inspired me to work hard and I was named the church’s best missionary of South America from 2000 – 2002.

  19. Andrea W. says:

    Thank goodness there are some of us willing to go down big, makes for some great entertainment, right? Anyway, as I recall the “Ashley” story, it was for sure after you broke up that she got a letter or phone call and then her Mom called our Mom to have you please cancel the date. Oh so terrible. Anyway, great post!

  20. Christian says:

    Zach, funny stuff. Those are some sweet cars. That was good form for your mom to honk. I was voted Best Missionary of Earth for the 1999-2001 period, so I know it’s a big deal you got South America.

    Andrea, that’s it. That’s the story. That’s it. Her mom had to call Jolynn. Dis. I’m convinced I’m going to do a few years in Spirit Prison for that whole episode. Ashley was the sweetest, coolest girl too. Dumb Kook.

  21. Christian says:

    Charlotte, I remember that flying roll scripture being a big hit in seminary. It was used a few times during the morning devotional by students asked to share a scriptures.

    That Proverbs scripture is straight out of Gilgamesh. Sheesh. How’d that one make it past King James’ scribes?

  22. Best Missionary of Earth, I’m dyin. Fun post man.

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