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Kirby: Cheesy missionary marketing has gotten out of hand
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Monday, the LDS Church announced that it had called its 1 millionth full-time missionary to preach the gospel in some distant and weird land like France or Minnesota.

The church won't reveal the name of the millionth missionary, the idea being that serving the Lord is all the specialness anyone really needs.

Makes sense. It might be cool to brag that you're Missionary No. 1,000,000, but then everyone would want to know their number, and who (besides me) wants it getting around that he or she was No. 666,666?

Besides, in this church you don't get a serial number until you're dead and entered into the Ancestral File.

My parents (No. 996,325 and No. 996,326) left on their mission to Texas in April. In the days before their departure, they rushed to buy all the missionary items they would need. I went with my dad to get a pair of automatic dust shaker missionary shoes.

He had heard about these shoes designed especially for the Mormon missionary. They have a switch that automatically vibrates the shoes and shakes the dust off them for that special damnation rite when people in a community reject the message.

OK, I made that up. There are no automatic missionary dust shaker shoes for sale. It was a joke. Seriously, don't be calling Deseret Book and asking - OK, fine, whatever.

But it isn't much stupider than some of the other missionary stuff they have for sale, most of it with no more real value than the usual tourist crap.

Thirty years ago, the only missionary item available was the standard missionary suit. Mine was so lumpy and durable that it's probably still being used as a haz-mat outfit in the country where I left it.

Today, there are missionary Iron Rod key chains, CTR toe rings, missionary snacks, girlfriend pillows, study aids, countdown temple charts, cookbooks, missionary pens, stickers, temporary tattoos and missionary dolls (including optional non-traditional ethnic version).

Some of it makes certain sense. A missionary cookbook is probably a lifesaver for kids who spent the previous 19 years being waited on by mom and now have to fend for themselves over a stove. "Boil six hours and serve" was all we had in the '70s.

Those handy key-chain-consecrated-oil-vials are nice, but it's only a matter of time before some genius combines this item with a small aerosol vial of dog repellent and markets it as the indispensable "Missionary Bless and Banish."

Groan if you want, but novelty marketing does not improve with age. Bad as it is, even this one is bound to get worse. It won't be long before we start seeing "Return with Honor" shot glasses.

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