Robert Kirby: Companions for what only seems like eternity

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been instructed to shelter in place in areas seriously affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead of knocking on doors, these companions stay at home, try to teach potential converts via Skype or Zoom, study the scriptures and the languages of the countries they are in, and steadfastly seek counsel from the Lord in how to avoid beating each other half to death.

I added that last bit because being temporarily confined happened to me. The country was in the middle of a bloody revolution, and one day we were directed by the mission president to stay indoors for a mere 72 hours.

My companion at the time was Elder Borg. The other two elders in the apartment were Mac and Loose. They had all been serving longer and presumed to know much more about the world, even though I was older.

Note: This is not to say that I had trouble with all my companions. Some were fabulous, including Elder Rick Barlow, from Moultrie, Ga., who just recently died. R.I.P., Grit.

Where was I? Oh, right, servants of the Lord not killing one another.

In my experience, there are few places where different personalities are more likely to clash than when a bunch of adolescent males with a divine mandate are forced to be together for prolonged periods.

If it was just me, I could understand. But the mission underground kept tabs on who was not getting along. Explanations, therefore, were short if someone were suddenly transferred or showed up at a conference with a fat lip.

So I know what some missionaries are now going through. Somewhere in Africa, Europe or Rock Springs, Wyo., there are those called to serve who are thinking that serving time might be a viable alternative.

Although there are those moments when you can’t stand some people the moment you lay eyes on them, the commandment to love one another requires a certain amount of time for actual loathing to take hold.

It creeps up on you. But then it’s there. Suddenly, you can’t stand the way Elder Borg chews his food, how he mindlessly hums when he studies, constantly picks his nose or unctuously prays.

You wish he would shut up about his spiritual intuitiveness and how LaDawnette is faithfully waiting for him to return with honor so they can marry for all eternity.

Since you already know what an eternity with Borg is like, things start becoming highly unspiritual.

Thoughts about sending LaDawnette an anonymous letter regarding him cheating on her with local girls start creeping in. So, too, does the temptation to use his toothbrush on parts of yourself in the shower.

Everything comes to a head one sullen afternoon, when you can’t agree on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 23:1. Trapped together, the debate rages out of control…and someone gets hurt. Best-case scenario: It’s Borg.

There are ways to limit this possibility, the first of which is to tell the mission president that your companionship needs a divorce. After all, not everyone is cut out to be best friends.

The president might counsel you to exercise greater faith, but if you can convince him that exercising Borg’s neck is far more likely — and might just make the local news — he may receive a sudden burst of inspiration.

But if you’re like me, you can make it your personal mission to see that Elder Borg goes home with a facial tic.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.