As you all have been repeatedly reminded, as in every. single. post. (Almost. I hate people who exaggerate) I work in the natural/complementary/voodoo medicine field. This gives me amazing access to all kinds of borderline creepy, yucky cool stuff at low, low wholesale prices that I can then inflate to take advantage of poor, uninformed desperately ill people. Depending on which side of hopelessly sick you are on, I am either your best friend or the sister of Satan. Perspective is everything, baby. But I digress from today’s Hot Topic.

Today we will be exploring the great Mormon tradition of feeding the missionaries.

Feeding the missionaries at least once a month is an ongoing obligation that hopefully most Mormons have the opportunity to participate in. Our family has waxed and waned in its involvement with the missionary meal calendar. When our kids were old enough to be impressionable we took advantage of the missionary suppers and tried to plant seeds of excitement about future missions in the kid’s hearts. As everyone who has ever parented a child for more than five minutes knows, our expectation of lessons learned didn’t turn out the way we projected.

In fact, I can’t even say with confidence that our kids learned a dang thing from it. But I can say in full faith that Rob and I sure did. Whooo boy, did we ever.

It all started innocently enough with the first set of new missionaries making small talk. We asked where they were from and if they had siblings. They asked us what we did for our jobs. Rob mumbled the usual, “I work to provide for my family, the way the Proclamation on the Family” says I have to.” The missionaries turned to me, not knowing if I was going to launch into a speech about a woman’s right to choose how she magnifies her awesome, God given talents or if I was just going to sigh and say, “Look around boys. Who do you think made this chaos possible?” It could have gone either way.

Instead, I was thwarted by our adorable, blonde-haired blue-eyed eldest child piping up and interjecting, “Our mom is a voodoo witch doctor. She makes up potions.” Yeah….try to come back from that with an explanation that doesn’t put your temple recommend in jeopardy. In the child’s defense, she had no clue what she saying. She was just parroting a running inside joke I had with my husband and clients.

Because the field of alternative health support in the US is a miserable, confusing mess of legislation and ignorance, there is no clear path for finding or judging any practioners competence. The only hope for finding knowledgeable support is through word of mouth recommendation. As people struggled to explain to their beloved relatives and friends exactly what I do and why they should come to see me, they asked me for advice on what to say. Me being the smart aleck I can be, joked, “Just tell them I am a voodoo witch doctor and I make potions.” Thus, the child I suffered the longest for to bring into this world thought it was completely appropriate to introduce me that way to total strangers. (Makes me wonder what she told her teachers at school. No surprise I was never asked to be room mother or on the PTA board.)

After I reassured the sweet innocent missionaries I really was a card- carrying LDS member and did not cast spells, I showed them my office. They were drawn toward the shelves of bottles of supplements. I gave a brief explanation of all the wonderful ways our bodies can heal and we all trooped back to the dinner table. Crisis averted.

Except all the conversations that night kept veering back to my office. The Elders were intrigued. Rob described some of the nasty concoctions I had foisted on my own family, like a disgustingly bright green super green drink that tasted like grass. Or the vitamin C powder that fizzed up and tasted like Alka-Selzter. One of the missionaries asked if he could taste some of these magic concoctions. It wouldn’t hurt him, so I agreed. We lined up samples and he tried each of them. Then he dared his doubting companion to try them too. It was obvious the poor guy didn’t want to but the peer pressure was too great and he swallowed dutifully. That was the beginning of our version of Fear Factor – Mission Style.

Each time there was a missionary transfer, the new unsuspecting Elder would be anxiously drug to our house and subjected to ever increasing obnoxious concoctions all whipped up from the shelves of my office. Gone were the explanations of health benefits, the clearly marked labels or any hints of what nasty ingredients were in the glass. It was just a tall glass of dark green frothiness along with “I dare you to drink this. Everyone else has.” Occasionally there would be slight hesitation and maybe a questioning, “Did Elder so and so drink this, too?” With a hearty agreement that no missionary had ever turned it down, the poor guy would take a big breath and chug.

I would always interject saying, “Now you don’t have to do this” thinking naively that surely some missionary would be smart enough to say, “Are you people crazy? No way in heck am I drinking that nasty looking stuff.” But no one did. Like sheep to slaughter, they all lined up and took their medicine to prove their manhood. I comforted myself each time thinking, “Well, at least they have something to write in their journals about.”

Then came the fateful night that Elder Chandler came for supper. We hadn’t officially met him yet, but we had heard rumors. He was a non-medicated ADD kid, full of energy and the spirit. He was a breath of fresh air in our stale little ward out in the middle of rural nowhere Illinois.

Our town was designated for bicycles and instead of riding a standard mountain bike, he had his folks ship out from home his favorite BMX bike, which required him to pedal like mad to keep up with his 12-speed companions. He also refused to spend $25.00 to buy the required bike helmet. Instead, he went to the local thrift store and bought the only helmet that would fit his large head, a hot pink Barbie helmet. He proudly wore his neon pink helmet and rode his BMX all over town. His reputation preceded him to our house and we could hardly wait for his participation in our homegrown fun.

When he was faced with the usual glass of weird looking yuck, he didn’t hesitate. He tossed it right down and then stuck out his tongue to show it was all gone. He danced with excitement around the kitchen which was a good thing because within 40 seconds he got a funny look on his face and lunged toward the kitchen sink. He began retching in unspeakable ways. The green health drink came out his mouth, out his nose, his eyes sprung tears that ran down his red face as he tried to catch his breath between mouthfuls. It was accompanied by the worst mournful howling you could imagine.

After the vomiting ended and he was sitting on a chair slowly sipping clean water and hiccupping, Rob and I apologized every which way we could. Our remorse was real and Elder Chandler was able to chuckle as we slowly eased him onto his bike for the short ride back to his apartment.

That night Rob had a dream we were in church court trying to explain to the Bishop, the Stake President, the Mission President and the Prophet himself why we ever thought our green drink challenge was a good thing to do with the Lord’s anointed servants.

Thus ended the Young family tradition of Fear Factor – Mission Style. We just don’t have the guts to do it, not even on a double dare.