Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Mormon Missionary”: 1965

“I Am the Very Model of a Modern Mormon Missionary”: 1965

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 08, 2012

The Millennial Star offered this affectionate but still pointed impression of “The Perfect Missionary” in 1965:





  1. An oldie but goldie! I’ve seen this before but can’t remember if it was in the original Star or reproduced elsewhere. Thanks for the nostalgia, Ardis. Did J. Hales produce anything else that you know of?

    Comment by Alison — March 8, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  2. Did missionaries still wear hats in 1965? I thought hats had disappeared by then.

    I like the “L” tags on the bicycles! It reminds me of the first time I was on a bike as a missionary–nearly a year and a half after I had last ridden a bicycle as a civilian. Compared to the motorcycle I had ridden that last year before my mission, the bicycle seemed awfully flimsy, and the seat awfully narrow.

    We rode after dark from the train station in Okayama up to the “church”–an old home that had been remodeled but which had rooms in the back where we missionaries lived. I had two large suitcases, and a whole bunch of other junk that the elders in the mission office had given me. So I rode in the dark in the narrow streets of Okayama, with one hand stretched behind me to balance a suitcase on the rack over the rear wheel–my companion had the other suitcase. The most interesting part of the ride was the two-block stretch along a canal–mostly dry in November, so just an 8-foot deep ditch at the side of a narrow roadway, with no fence or guardrail to protect me from falling into it.

    I felt just wobbly enough on that bike that I could have used an “L” tag!

    Comment by Mark B. — March 8, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  3. Alison, I’m not familiar with J. Hales beyond this, but I expect I’ll notice if I ever run across another work like this. And I can just imagine the chuckling of British members as they nod in recognition at these traits of young missionary behavior!

    Mark, I’ll bet that even on your first day as a bike missionary, you didn’t ride on the wrong side of the road oblivious to traffic while you enjoyed the scenery! (I didn’t realize what the “L” meant before your comment — thanks for clearing that up.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 8, 2012 @ 9:46 am

  4. The knuckle crushing greeting reminds of the new elder in our ward. Even his handshakes are firm in the faith.

    Comment by KLC — March 8, 2012 @ 9:57 am

  5. I served in Germany in the late seventies, and many of these images still applied. I bought and then completely wore out a bike in my first area. I wore a hat during the winter (mission rules for health’s sake). And I ruined the lining of most of my suits by carrying too many pamphlets at a time.

    I think my brother wore a hat all year round in the early part of his mission — he had to wear black ties, too — under the direction of his very conservative mission president. The second one loosened up those rules a bit. (He served in the early 70’s in Kentucky.)

    Comment by Paul — March 8, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  6. Brussel sprouts.

    I am aware of at least one mission president in England who warned the elders about falling in love with an English woman while serving a mission. “Stay away from the young women here, elders. If you marry one of them, you will have to eat brussel sprouts for the rest of your life.”

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 8, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  7. In short, in matters ephimeral, bicycle, or scriptural..

    Comment by The Other Clark — March 8, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  8. Mark B. In Germany well into the early 1970s, hats were rquired between October ad April conference.

    Comment by The Other Clark — March 8, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  9. Interesting about hats in Germany–I had no idea. And I like that caution about Brussels sprouts–it was probably the most effective warning the president could give.

    I think the Brits still require new drivers to hang the L tag on the back–to warn the rest of the world that a “Learner” is behind the wheel. They should have hung a Y on the car I rented in Edinburgh a few years back–to let people know that a Yankee was driving.

    When I took all the pamphlets out of my pockets at the end of my mission, I was amazed at how light my suit jacket had become!

    Comment by Mark B. — March 8, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  10. I was the missionary whose scriptures had been barfed on by a colored pencil rainbow.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 8, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  11. “L” plates, as they are known in the UK, are still required until learner car drivers have passed their practical driving test. I learned to ride a bike in my first mission area; no plates required for that, fortunately. And as a born and bred Brit, I have *never* eaten a Brussel sprout in my life – yeuch!

    Comment by Alison — March 8, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  12. How do you know Brussels sprouts are yeuch-y if you’ve never eaten one?? :)

    Comment by Mark B. — March 8, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  13. Yeah, don’t knock the Brussel sprouts. They are the heavenly vegetable; they’re what made the valley of Adam Ondi-Ahman so green.

    //end threadjack

    Comment by David Y. — March 8, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  14. “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Mormon Missionary”

    Very clever title, Ardis, although probably not everyone will understand the reference. So here’s to you, Gilbert and Sullivan, Jesus loves you more than you will know:

    I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
    I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
    I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
    From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical.

    Comment by larryco_ — March 8, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  15. @14: That’s what I was trying to say in #7, but it must have gotten lost.

    Comment by The Other Clark — March 8, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  16. I picked up your subtle allusion, TOClark, in the rhythm of your comment. larryco, your more explicit reference probably helped readers who had that nagging feeling that something was familiar but couldn’t quite place it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 8, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

  17. #7 FTW.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — March 8, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  18. The jacket pamphlet thing is hilarious! The only thing my generation associates that image with are those sketchy fake watch salesmen they’re always showing in the scuzzy part of town in the movies.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — March 8, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  19. TOC: Like Ardis, I caught it and was very amused. My favorite all-time take on the musical was when Chris Berman on SportsCenter called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the The Pirates of Pewter Pants (which really was the color of their uniform).

    Comment by larryco_ — March 9, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  20. What is the meaning of the “L” tags?

    And, those missionaries on bicycles seem to be heading to their deaths as the car in front of them has veered into their lane and they are distracted looking elsewhere… :(

    Comment by Manuel — March 9, 2012 @ 9:03 am

  21. Manuel, earlier comments have noted that the “L tag” identifies a learner — someone to watch out for because they haven’t mastered the technique yet.

    And since the Millennial Star, the source of this drawing, is a British publication, it’s the American missionaries — not the British car driver — who are on the wrong side of the road!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 9, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  22. LOL! I caught the British part (late) but then I thought, is the L to remind them when they take their bikes that they must drive on the “Left” side of the road???

    Comment by Manuel — March 9, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  23. Oh my — the Millennial Star was published until 1970? (Or so says Brother Wikipedia.) I had no idea.

    Comment by David Y. — March 9, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  24. I couldn’t resist. I thought I’d try my hand at a missionary version of the song, and this is what I came up with.

    I am the very model of a modern Mormon Missionary
    I’ve information spiritual, redeeming and perfunctionary
    I know the Restoration Prophets, and I quote the dates historical,
    From Grove to Salt Lake Valley, in order categorical.
    I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters genealogical
    I understand PAF, both the simple and unindexable,
    About the Kolob theorem I’m teeming with the facts,
    With many cheerful tidbits about Priesthood and the blacks
    I’m very good at tracting and leaflet distribution
    I cite Bible names with perfect elocution.
    In short, in matters spiritual, redeeming and perfunctionary,
    I am the very model of a modern Mormon missionary.

    I know our current history, like Jimmer and Mitt Romney
    I answer hard questions like ‘Can you Sing like Donny?
    I quote in perfect order all the Quorum of the Seventy
    Even though tis true, there’s foreign names aplenty
    I can detect undoubted members through kid count and jello
    I sense their CTR rings and give dots like Punchinello,
    When humming ‘Hie to Kolob’ I know my ‘is no ends’
    And whistle all the questions to temple recommends,
    Then I can write my testimony in Babylonic cuneiform,
    And tell you ev’ry detail of Moroni’s uniform:
    In short, in matters spiritual, redeeming and perfunctionary,
    I am the very model of a modern Mormon missionary.

    Gilbert and Sullivan had a third verse in their song, so if you fancy writing another verse please do share. :0

    Comment by peter Fagg — April 12, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

  25. #24 This needs to be a Youtube video!

    Comment by The Other Clark — April 13, 2012 @ 11:29 am

  26. Agreed!

    Comment by Carol — April 13, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

  27. Darn, I was waiting to see what you’re rhyme with “Archuleta”.

    Comment by lindberg — April 13, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  28. Armagedda?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 13, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

  29. I agree — Youtube! Youtube! Youtube!

    Comment by David Y. — April 16, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  30. Just saw this today. I bow to the superior poetic genius of peter Fagg #24.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — April 16, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

  31. And here’s a third verse:

    In fact, when I know what is meant by_”a curelom” and “a cumom”,
    When I can cite offha-and Zenock, Ze-enos, and Ne-eum
    When I follow_ev’ry rule in the mission’ry’s white bi-ible,
    And when in Bible bashing I’m a Ja-ay-Dub’s best ri-ival,
    When in this tropic we-eather my white shirt’s never di-irty,
    When I never arrive at home befo-ore ni-ine-thi-irty—
    In short, when I’ve depleted all the mission’s stock of Bs of M—
    They’ll say a better mission’ry has never got to baptize them.
    For my religious knowledge, though I aced release-time semin’ry,
    I still don’t know why Cath’lics always kneel and pray the Rosary;
    But still, in matters spiritual, redeeming, and perfunction’ry,
    I am the very model of a modern Mormon mission’ry.

    Comment by Michael H. — April 17, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  32. So, I attended a delightful informal musical evening with accompaniment provided by someone who can play piano and guitar by ear and was taking requests. We sang everything from Cat Stevens and John Denver to Les Mis and the Beatles.

    One person challenged another to sing I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General, and after the singers who accepted the challenge got hung up on the square of a hypotenuse, I remembered this version and someone pulled it up on a laptop and a quartet performed the first two verses. I wish I could have filmed it! It would have gone straight onto Youtube. :)

    Comment by Amy T — February 23, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

  33. Ha! I wish I had been there — hilarious!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 23, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

  34. Hi Ardis
    Thanks for the heads up on this.
    I wish they had taken a video. I’d love to see someone with a bit of musical talent singing it.

    This last year I have hardly been able to post new stuff on my blog due to the weight of family/ career / callings. I hope to be back in the saddle soon though. Lots to share, just not enough time to bite into it.
    Keep up your good work.

    Comment by Peter Fagg — February 24, 2013 @ 8:42 am

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