Jon And The Mormon Missionaries (or, A Birthday Story for My Brother)

by Mara

It was November 1994 and our family was on a flight from London to Madrid.  We had been split up all over the plane, and my brother Jon had been seated between two Mormon missionaries. At first they paid little attention to him, as they were deeply involved in a conversation in their mission language and Jon had buried himself in a Douglas Adams book. Eventually, though, the missionaries must have realized it was unusual for a thirteen-year-old American boy to be out of school on a weekday, let alone ostensibly flying by himself between two European countries.

“Why are you going to Spain?” one asked. “I’m going to a premiere in Madrid with my family,” Jon said. “My sister’s in a movie.” The missionaries didn’t believe it. “What?! No! No way. You’re lying!”

“No,” Jon said, a little uncomfortable. He was not used to having to defend this fact on his own. “She really is, she was doing publicity for it in London, it’s called Miracle on–” The missionaries would not let him finish. Their reaction had gone from incredulous to indignant: “How can you lie to us like that?” They began to lecture him on the importance of respecting (both literal and titular) elders and the value of truth.

Frustrated, my brother looked for someone else who could back him up. I had been seated with my parents on the opposite side of the plane, and there were no other Wilson siblings in sight. The nearest to him was Scott, a globetrotting, wisecracking Australian who worked for Twentieth Century Fox and had been traveling with us both as a representative of the studio and as a guide. My siblings and I had considered him a welcome addition to because, as my mother put it, he was “twenty-nine going on twelve.” Jon turned to him. “Scott, can you tell them that we’re going to Mara’s premiere in Madrid?”

Scott looked over, and with a straight face–but a gleam in his eye worthy of a trickster god–said, “Jon, are you lying again?”

The missionaries went nuts. One started punching Jon in the arm while the other yelled at him. My brother spent the rest of the mercifully short flight trying to stay out of the way as the two missionaries fought with each other in their mission language about what to do with the lying little heathen.

Happy Birthday, Jon. I love you and am sorry you had to suffer a Mormon beatdown on my behalf. I am also sorry that the rest of our family found the story hilarious and spent the rest of the trip saying “Are you lying again?” at every opportunity.