Have you ever noticed how small the LDS Church world is? It is not uncommon to run into people who know people you know. I’ve had several incidents in my years in the Church, some of which I considered kind of strange, in how and where I encountered Church members and found out we knew people in common.
The first time it happened I was in Geneva, Switzerland on business and because I often drove into France from there, I would see the Geneva Stake Center on the way. Well, on this one particular weekend at the end of May, I stopped in on Saturday to see if I could find out when Sacrament Meeting was held the next day. I encountered two missionaries in the building. As I was talking to them, I asked them where they were from. One was from Utah, and the other from Palos Verdes, California. When I told him I was from San Jose, California, he said that their former next door neighbors, Brother and Sister Davis, now lived in San Jose and did I know them. Well, Brother Davis was serving as the Stake Clerk, so yes, I knew them. By the way, on that Sunday, they were watching a tape of the April
The next time was a little stranger. We were at the airport on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where we had just landed. As my wife took two of our kids to the restroom, I sat on a bench with our youngest, at that time, in his stroller. A guy walks up to me out of the blue and Says,” Are you a Mormon?” Now, mind you, I had jeans and a golf shirt on and not shorts, but we had just arrived from the mainland.
Of course, I said yes and he proceeds to introduce himself to me. He was from Atlanta. Again, I said we were from San Jose. He says, “Oh, we used to live there. Do you know…?” And he rattles off a bunch of names. And yes, I said, “I know every one of those folks.” I never did ask him what made him approach me. I always thought it was kind of weird.
My last example is from a trip my wife and I made to Salt Lake to attend General Conference for the first time. We arrived on Thursday and went to the Tabernacle Choir rehearsal in the Tabernacle. It was already set up for Conference. I mentioned at the conclusion of the rehearsal that it would be neat to be able to stand at the podium.
My wife, being the sometimes bold person that she can be, went up to the stairs and motioned to one of the sisters standing up on the top. She came down and my wife asked if it would be ok if we could see the organ and the podium. The Sister, Jo Foulger, was a Church hostess and Secretary to the Choir. So, she led us up to the podium where I was able to stand where the Prophet and the other General Authorities stood. I thought that was pretty cool. Well, we got to talking and she asked us where were from. We said, again that we were from San Jose. Really, she said, do you happen to know one of my nephews who live there? Do you know Dennis Johnson?
Well, he and his family lived in our Ward! Imagine his surprise when we told him that we met his Aunt Jo. Well, that we the start of a very nice friendship where we subsequently visited her at her office, got to meet Jerald Ottley and were able to get good seats for General Conference the next time we went.
I have a number of other examples like that as well.
Have you had any experiences like that?
Speaking of Geneva, Switzerland, that’s the ward my family attended while living in France. Later, on my mission, my companion turned out to be from that ward (his family moved in much later than we had left.) While we were serving together, my Dad had a business trip to take back to Geneva. You guessed it, My Dad met his parents on Sunday in Geneva amid a ward of mutual acquaintances, all while we were both serving together in Korea.
And to top that, my home ward Bishop and my Mission President are brothers.
I also volunteered to interpret at a local school parent-teacher conference, and the first Korean family that walks in was the Branch President’s family from one of my areas! Apparently they had moved to Utah since I left, and fate brought us back together.
There’s more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Hey Jeff, Do you know *******?
How’s this: I grew up in western Canada. Once, during my first visit to the DC area for a roommate’s wedding, I walked into a random pizza hut in northern Virginia. Before I could order, the girl at the register (who I had never seen before in my life) looked at me oddly and said, “Are you Canadian?” I said yes. “From Calgary?” Yes. “And you’re LDS?” Yes (by this time I was really weirded out). And then she smiled and said, “Wow, do you ever look like your dad!” Turns out that she had grown up in my dad’s parents’ ward and had met my father there during his (relatively rare) visits.
I also accidentally went on a few dates with a 2nd cousin. I thought it was just a funny coincidence that we were both LDS and had the same last name. I don’t make THAT mistake anymore. 🙂
Jared or Justin?
The missionary system as we know it today was specifically designed for these small world encounters, not for proselyting purposes. It’s a common misunderstanding.
I was attending an airshow in rural Wisconsin with some relatives and saw two missionaries on one of the tour buses. I noticed the nametag of one of the elders and noticing the uncommon name, asked him if he had relatives in Southern California. It turns out we came from the same town, and that I had accompanied my dad on home-teaching visits to him and his family when we were both young’uns.
My wife’s stepdad, a solid Lutheran very familiar with Mormonism, was astounded. It reinforces the perception that we are a tribal religion. I like it.
By the way, my uncle and aunt live in Palos Verdes. Is this one of those Kevin Bacon six degrees of separation deals?
Here is a link to the Kevin Bacon Game
******* (Censored at the person’s request) , and his wife ******(not sure the maiden name), are from San Jose. ****** is a custom furniture maker, a short guy, and looks like he was time-warped right from the 50’s. I knew him because he served his mission in Arizona and came back after it was over to start an indie rock band. I knew him from when our bands would play shows together. He made my custom guitar speaker cabinet.
I also have a friend named Stephanie Yegge from somewhere near that area. As well as a guy named Michael Stimpson, who I hear was often called Michael RedHair by friends on account of his, well, red hair.
I came from Sacramento, CA and I have a good friend here in Arizona who moved from Utah, but had lived in Germany when his father was in the Air Force. In one conversation it came out that one of his friends while in Germany was now oddly one of my little brother’s best friends in California. Yeah, small world.
Michael Stimpson I know. I was his family’s Home Teacher and he was in my Deacon’s quorum when I had that calling. His parents moved to Boise some years ago.
A couple years back, the missionaries in our ward had to find some alternative housing and we temporarily put them up in our finished basement. During this time my mother in law came for a visit. The night she arrived, me, the MIL and my wife were sitting in our living room when the missionaries walked in. Before I could introduce my MIL to the Elders, she cut me off and called one of the elders by his first name, to which he replied Aunt Doris?!?!? Turns out, that Elder was my wife’s cousin. Neither the Elder nor my wife had any idea they were so closely related. (Large, spread out extended family) My MIL called her sister, the Elder’s mother, and they had a good laugh. (The missionary declined the invitation to talk to his mother on the phone.) Funny, though, as soon as he was transferred my wife lost contact and would not recognize him today if he came and lived with us again, at least without the intervention of my MIL.
Great post. This happens to me and my wife all the time. She’s from Burley, ID, a town of no more than 10,000. But amazingly, every single Mormon knows someone from Burley. Usually they are an old missionary companion or BYU roommate. In fact, years ago, we visited Church History site in NY and ran into a senior missionary couple from the next town over, Declo. They, of course, knew everyone in Burley.
One of my former Bishops, Kraig Hall, is from Burley.
On this theme, I was surprised when I found out that danithew from MormonMentality was the same Daniel Bartholomew who was one of my best friends in the ward, back when we were 4 and 5 years old, growing up in Westchester County, New York: http://www.mormonmentality.org/archives/author/danithew.
Jeff S. — see what I mean. Those Burley-ites are everywhere!
“Speaking of Geneva, Switzerland” the Swiss Temple president has his daughter come to visit him and bring cheddar cheese from the states from time to time.
I work as a therapist in a nursing home in a large metro area in the East. One day, I had a new male patient. Both he and his wife were nonLDS. As my coworker and I were assessing this man, his wife stood nearby watching.
In a joking manner, I told his wife, I have to tell you, you look so much like this lady in my church congregation. I said, “You don’t happen to have a sister that lives in Blah Blah City?” And then she said, Yes- and told me the name of the exact sister in my ward of whom I was thinking!
Turns out they were sisters! THe similarities in their appearance, style of dress, voice and mannerisms were
Oops- just to finish, my post posted before I was done!
but I meant to say, the similarites between those two sisters was astounding!
This article was so fun to read. That lady that arranged for you to be at the podium in the Conference Center- Jo Foulger is my grandma! It is fun to go and visit her because we get to go places not everyone gets to go. I am so glad you had that opportunity and had a chance to meet her.
While on my mission in Sweden, we did a split with another companionship for the day. The Elder I was with, finding out that I’m from Costa Rica, asked me if I ever met his buddy, who served a mission there. Sure enought, I did. As a brand-new convert, I had done splits with the missionaries in my ward in Costa Rica. I told the Elder: “well, when you see him again you can tell him that you both went on splits with the same guy”.
Jeff, Correction: Kraig Hall is from Rigby, ID, not Burley. (Well, actually he lived in Anis, but Rigby is where he went to high school.)
hey folks/admins, my name is mentioned in one of the above comments, and it really bothers me that google search results of my name bring this page up as one of the 2nd or 3rd hits. I haven’t had anything to do with the church for many years, and am extremely ashamed and frustrated by the association… particularly in the fallout of the church’s recent political action, and because my business shares my name. I have attempted to contact the commenter who referenced my name repeatedly over the last year with no response. If there is a way for a name to be edited from the comments and you know how this can be done, I would greatly appreciate an email to the account linked to my profile. Thanks.
It’s always been a small world, and I’ve definetly had experiences like that. A stake leader and our ward’s young women first counselor found out they were somehow related throught the “Do you happen to know…” phonomenon. Most of my other experiences were more brought about by our uncanny obsession with geneology. Example: We recently found out that my best friend’s family and my family are cousins. Seventh cousins, around three times removed, to be exact. Now, in what other religion would you know that?
I grew up across the river from Burley – – – and interesting place. But that’s another matter entirely. Someday I’ll have to post a story about the BYU Burley Steinbeck story.
My oldest son was at BYU had one particular roommate for about six months before we got it put together that the roommate’s mother and my son’e mother (my wife) were roommates at BYU – and when my son was still a toddler, the roommate babysat him on occasion. Upon learning who her son’s roommate really was, she produced a photograph of the two little boys playing together. Each served as the other’s best man when they mnarried.
Sorry – I need to proofread better . . .