It’s not easy being wearing green

July 14, 2004 | 29 comments
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Over the the-blog-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, Aaron B. has some interesting observations about the (lack of) righteousness of green-wearing missionaries. Straight from the mouth of his mission president, we have it:

Elders who wore dark pants were “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” [Translator's note: This means "worthy to be representatives of Christ"]. Elders who wore green pants were most definitely NOT “dignos de ser representantes de Cristo.” The moral dividing line between the colors was completely black and white (green). . . . We got treated to a fire and brimstone lecture (I exaggerate, but not by much) meant to inculcate the strongest of taboos regarding the color green. You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that Christ himself was offended at the color.

I’m shocked that I heard this rule as late as I did, and I can’t believe my mission president was so callous as not to tell me this crucial law of heaven. Had I heard this earlier, I might have been saved from a wasted youth of wearing green, khaki, and gray as a missionary. I’m sure that members I baptized will all need rebaptism, if they haven’t all become bank robbers or Jehovah’s Witnesses by now. As for me, I’m probably doomed to degeneracy, apostacy, champerty, and a life of wandering around in the wilderness, muttering incoherently to myself. If only I had known sooner . . .

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29 Responses to It’s not easy being wearing green

  1. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 12:08 pm

    For those who aren’t lawyers…

    Champerty: A sharing in the proceeds of a lawsuit by an outside party who has promoted the litigation.

    That’s from the American Heritage Dictionary. If I had current access to the OED I would have been happy to use it.

  2. Nate Oman on July 14, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    Continuations for the non-lawyers: Champerty is generally against the law and used to be a crime (it might still be for all I know). It is the reason that you can’t buy stock in a lawsuit. Too bad, if you think about it. There is a lot to be said, for example, for the idea of securitizing mass tort litigation or particularlly risky lawsuits.

    BTW, you seem to be able to get around champerty restrictions by creating a litigation trust in bankruptcy. Essentially, you take all of the debtor’s potential lawsuits and put them in a litigation trust. The creditors put some money in the trust. The trust then litigates the claims and the creditors get the proceeds as part of the bankruptcy discharge petition. Hence, in theory, one might be able to securitize lawsuits by making large unsecured loans to the vicitim, who would then go into bankruptcy and assign his claim to the litigation trust that would then pay out the proceeds to the unsecured creditor. The unsecured creditor, in turn, could securitize its unsecured claim against the original victim and presto, you too can buy shares in breast implant litigation. I suspect that this is all a bit too cute, and in any case most potential plaintiffs probably don’t want to go through bankruptcy as a condition of brining suit.

  3. dan on July 14, 2004 at 1:18 pm

    Drat. I used to wear dark green pants on a regular basis. They were given to me by a missionary who was returning home and didn’t need them anymore and I like to think he didn’t know anything about the diabolical nature of the trousers, but now I don’t know.

  4. John H on July 14, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    I thought champerty was just the way the Continental pronounced “Champagne” on Saturday Night Live.

  5. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    Champerty sounded like something dirty, but after Nate’s extended legal explanation of the word I know it’s something downright evil. I dug up my special alternative version of the Book of MOrmon and lo and behold, there it was. :)

    Alma 10:30-32
    30 And it came to pass that the lawyers put it into their hearts that they should remember these things against him.
    31 And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom. Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business (i.e., champerty) to do among the people.
    32 Now the object of these lawyers was to get gain; and they got gain according to their employ.

  6. greenfrog on July 14, 2004 at 2:55 pm

    I’m doomed.

  7. Matt Evans on July 14, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    In 1993, while I was on my mission in southern Spain, I needed a minor surgery. The church wanted me to get the best medical care available, so they sent me out of my mission to Madrid so I be cared for by two American-trained doctors.

    During the three weeks I was in the Spain Madrid mission, the mission president’s wife told all of the missionaries that they could no longer wear green suits or pants. Most missionaries had something that was a shade of olive — it was popular in the early 1990’s. I had two shades of olive pants myself.

    Anyway, the mission president’s wife said the color looked bad on missionaries, detracted from the spirit and diminished our effectiveness.

    To assure us that she spoke as one with authority, and not as the scribes, she started her talk discussing her job as a buyer for Nordstrom.

  8. Geoff B on July 14, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    I knew plenty of missionaries who wore dark green trousers on their missions in Brazil when I lived there recently. Dark green looked fine, IMHO.

    Having said that, I don’t know what is gained by making snarky comments about the decisions of a mission president, who is a volunteer just trying to do what he thinks is best. I’ve posted before on how these types of comments just create contention and negativity. Just my two cents.

  9. Aaron Brown on July 14, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    Geoff — The only “contention” and “negativity” likely to arise from comments like mine is typically created by those who are over-anxious to point out the ever-present potential for contention and negativity.

    Aaron B

  10. Steve Evans on July 14, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    For that matter, I’m not sure what is to be gained from snarky comments about other people’s snarky comments.

    Wait, I know what is to be gained — a smug sense of satisfaction. Ahh…

  11. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    Ah, contention isn’t always such a horrible thing. Sometimes it takes a little friction to keep our tires on the road.

  12. Geoff B on July 14, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    Aaron and Steve, just a quick question then: when you spend your time making fun of what your mission president has suggested you do — whatever the silly rule may be — does that increase your feeling of the Spirit and your desire to go out and do the work or not? It seems pretty obvious to me that the more time you spend concentrating on how ridiculous your leaders are, the less likely you are to concentrate on your long-term goals. There is only a certain amount of time in the day, and if you spend your time thinking about how silly your mission president is, that is time you have lost that could have been spent thinking about an investigator down the road.

    The exact same principle applies in the office place — in my (pretty varied) experience in the working world, the people who spend their time criticizing the boss are the ones who do the least amount of work and are most likely to detract from a positive atmosphere in the workplace. They are also the ones who tend to be the least happy.

    The purpose of my (not very snarky at all) post was simply to point this out.

  13. Kingsley on July 14, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    “There is only a certain amount of time in the day, and if you spend your time thinking about how silly your mission president is, that is time you have lost that could have been spent thinking about an investigator down the road.”

    That is so true: On my mission one time my companion and I were driving along in our car complaining about this or that aspect of “the Prez,” when suddenly we ran over a potential investigator, ba-bump ba-bump.

  14. Nate Oman on July 14, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    Danithew: Actually, Alma seems to be describing barratry rather than champerty. Barratry is where the attorney stirs up litigation to get money. Champerty is where some third party to the litigation puts in money in order to fund it. An attorney who chases ambulences arguably commits barratry. An investor who puts up the cash in return for part of the recovery in another person’s lawsuit commits champerty.

  15. Steve Evans on July 14, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    Geoff, you’re right that mindless obedience to stupid rules is the path of least resistance, but I wouldn’t necessarily designate it to be the best way to conjure up the Spirit in our lives. Heck, thinking about these silly rules DOES make me want to get out of the apartment and preach, if only to escape the at-times absurd world of mission rules.

    “It seems pretty obvious to me that the more time you spend concentrating on how ridiculous your leaders are, the less likely you are to concentrate on your long-term goals.”

    Au contraire! If you want to be an effective leader yourself, doesn’t it make sense to learn how others lead, and learn from their mistakes, as the case may be? Or would you discourage that type of examination under the pretense that whatever a mission president does must be the best of all possible policies? It seems to me that YOUR strategy of keeping your head down is the most short-term.

    As for your application of this principle to the workplace, I think you’re only correct to a limited extent, because you’re right that people shouldn’t spend ALL their time in criticism. I don’t think anyone’s advocated such an approach. However, criticism (and subsequent change) of poor management is the hallmark of efficient and prosperous organizations. Under your model, you’d sit there and take it while any old Lumbergh-style boss persists with time-wasters and Hawaiian-shirt fridays.

  16. Geoff B on July 14, 2004 at 7:39 pm

    Steve, your post is a serious one and well thought-out and merits a response. I’m sure you know the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. The first rule of constructive criticism (which all good leaders encourage, btw) is that it be done in an environment and manner that will lend itself to resolving the problem.

    In other words, there’s a big difference between sitting down with your boss or a co-worker and saying, “Joe, we’ve got a problem. We need to get revenue up, here are my ideas, and by the way, there is a need for morale to improve in the office, and here are my suggestions” and standing at the water cooler and making fun of Joe and his morale-killing idiocies. Approach A is constructive and approach B is destructive. Approach B does nothing more than provide as an excuse for the office clown or nattering nabob to make himself feel important and smarter than his idiot boss. It certainly doesn’t resolve the problem.

    It would seem to me that in the mission field if a mission president decides that only black or dark blue pants can be worn, it’s a final decision. There may be mission presidents open to approach A, but I doubt it. So, you’re left with two roads — just accept the decision because there’s not much you can do about it or spend your time criticizing the silly rules. I can’t see how anything constructive can come out of approach B.

  17. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    I was a super-strict rule-abider in my mission — or at least I tried to be. I certainly got the impression from others that this was my reputation.

    But one lesson I learned in the mission is that mission presidents are not infallible and that it is important that each missionary maintain their individual conscious and conscience. The first mission president we had was a businessman by trade and he was apparently very very numbers-oriented — to a fault. Some of the things I heard about that were happening seemed so atrocious. And the worst part of it was that I was hearing these practices were supported by the mission president. Of course he wasn’t going to tell you to go out, play soccer with a bunch of kids and then invite them “to go swimming.” But when Elder so-and-so had fifty baptisms in one month and the mission president praised him up and down for it, it was sending out the wrong message.

    Saying that green pants are “evil” or that you can’t properly represent the Lord if your pants are green, is ridiculous. If it’s a rule and the mission president wants the elders to be strict in maintaining that rule … that is fine. But the rhetoric behind the rule should not be taken to such an extreme. It’s not wrong to mock it … well, at least not post-mission. :)

  18. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    Nate,

    Thank you for sharing the info about the difference between barratry and champerty. These are words I had never heard before today but (in all seriousness) I’m glad to be acquainted with them. Hope none of the lawyers were offended by my Book of Mormon jest. :)

  19. Randy on July 14, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    Sounds to me like someone needs to take a lesson from the Daughters of Zelophehad! (I’m not sure who, though.)

  20. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 8:16 pm

    it is important that each missionary maintain their individual conscious and conscience …

    I meant to write “compass and conscience” …

  21. Ben Huff on July 14, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    Hm. Can we think about this in parallel terms to godly sorrow and the sorrow of the damned (Mormon 2:10-13), only regarding someone else’s frailties?

    Scenario A) I am chagrined by some action of a leader, rightly or wrongly. I care a lot about the job he is overseeing, so it upsets me to see him taking a wrong turn. But I’m not sure how to address the problem directly at the moment. So I blow off steam by making jokes about it at the water-cooler. This is a way of coping with the tension between my high hopes for the project and the human realities, helping me stay committed despite periodic disappointment.

    Scenario B) A leader says something that I have am sure is wrong. I am shocked because church leaders are supposed to be infallible. I conclude this person is not really a divinely appointed leader after all. I salve my embarrassment at having followed him in the past by making fun of him.

    I’m pretty sure this is more like scenario A. After all, I’m under the impression that Aaron B, whose post at the unmentionable blog got this going, is a ward mission leader. Lacking contextual clues, though, one could be forgiven for another interpretation.

  22. danithew on July 14, 2004 at 8:46 pm

    I never worked at Nordstroms, but I’m willing to concede that green pants might not be the coolest.

    What’s really wrong and evil is that none of you guys ever visit me at the Wump Blog and leave comments. (Sniff). I mean, has Kaimi, Ben Huff, Steve Evans, Randy, Doug, Geoff B., Jim F., Silus Grok, Kingsley, Aaron Brown, D. Fletcher, Kristine, Julie Smith or Angela Wentz Faulconer ever come by to visit and chat with me? No! I can’t even site-ban Lyle because he’s one of the few who occasionally stops by. I’m feeling SO sad, like the leftover throwaway sacrament scraps. It’s probably time for me to bear my testimony again.

    p.s. Did I leave anyone out? I know I’m asking for trouble. My blog isn’t nearly as interesting as Times and Seasons. But come over anyways. Rip me to shreds if need be. Help me to elevate the intellectual level of my posts. D. Fletcher, you might not like one of my recent write-ups, but I’d be happy to hear your disagreement. I once had a (slightly unplanned) double-date years ago where my girlfriend and I went out to dinner with two guys who were boyfriends. So I can’t be all that bad.

  23. john fowles on July 14, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    AaronB. The only “contention” and “negativity” likely to arise from comments like mine is typically created by those who are over-anxious to point out the ever-present potential for contention and negativity. I’m not so sure I agree with this. I think that Geoff has a good point in that it doesn’t seem productive to criticize every leader who has some idiosyncratic belief or practice (in your opinion). Every one is an individual, including the leaders who make those silly rules. And although it seems natural for someone interested in promoting “individualism” to push against any such rule, even that person has their own idiosyncratic ways that others will ridicule.

    I am not claiming that the mission president’s rule for not wearing green pants actually made sense, but I don’t see the point in all the sarcasm, which can only serve to tear down (I’m not aware of any constructive sarcasm). I mean, as was pointed out already, give him a break–he’s been called on the mission away from his other activities, whether they be a career, extended family, or just a peaceful retirement. Now he is in charge of a bunch of youth preaching the Gospel, and he genuinely wants to see results (because of their faith in the Gospel, not because of some sordid fixation with numbers), and so he makes rules that he thinks make sense in order to achieve it. . . . Then he get ridiculed for decades (behind his back) by missionaries who felt threatened in their individuality by rules that seemed to cramp their style too much. If the missionaries just keep things in their proper perspective (think, this too shall pass), then they won’t even notice those inane things and just concentrate on the work–albeit none of them wearing green pants while the rule is in force.

    My second mission president had a rule that we could not keep anything on the floor of our apartments. He owned a hotel chain in his real life and was sensitive about the state of missionaries’ apartments and sincerely believed that a clean and orderly apartment would be conducive to productive missionary work. He was ridiculed immensely behind his back. I also thought it was a silly regulation, but I just felt a little sorry for him (for putting such importance in a silly little thing) and tried my best to keep the apartment tidy (especially if we got wind that he was going to be making an inspection, which he did frequently). Aside from that foible, he had an amazing ability to expound on the Gospel and to promote the Spirit in meetings with love and respect, even despite his totalitarianism with respect to clutter on apartment floors.

  24. Steve Evans on July 14, 2004 at 10:21 pm

    “I’m not aware of any constructive sarcasm”

    You just haven’t tried hard enough. There’s plenty of it out there.

  25. Jim F. on July 14, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    And Steve Evans should know, being an expert at it.

    It seems to me that Ben Huff’s interpretation of this kind of sarcasm as blowing off steam makes sense. If the persons at whom the sarcasm is aimed aren’t readily identifiable, the butt of the sarcasm is probably the event or habit more than the person.

    And in most cases, these posts don’t seem sarcastic to me. Funny, yes, but not sarcastic. The tone of such remarks can be arrogant, but most of these seem to be more of the “look how weird we sometimes are” variety. We could use some humor directed at ourselves.

  26. Aaron Brown on July 15, 2004 at 2:25 am

    John said:
    “… I’m not so sure I agree with this.“

    I overstated my comment a bit, just to be snarky. No, I don’t deny that stories like mine, in certain contexts, could potentially veer into inappropriate negativity. It takes two to create “contention,” however, and I have noticed over time that those who complain about the imminent arrival of contention are often the ones most likely to be causing it.

    Two points regarding the rest of your comments:

    (1) You misread my post by thinking it’s about “individualism” or adolescent preoccupation with “threats to individuality.” Many arguments in the Church about beards, earrings, and the BYU Dress Code often take this form, but they don’t do so inevitably. My concerns have nothing to do with individuality. (Personally, I didn’t even have green pants.) They have to do with the type of rhetoric we use to enforce rules and norms, and the effects of that rhetoric on the perceived credibility of those in authority.

    (2) I am not claiming to capture the full complexity of my mission president’s identity in my post. I’m not claiming to do this with any character in any of my stories. I am just presenting a small slice of a character sufficient to serve the point of my story. I would think this should go without saying. Also, you will note that the individuals in my posts are largely anonymous. I keep them so for a reason. I am certainly not saying that President B’s entire persona is reducible to his comments about pants. As I think Jim F. sees, my posts are not intended to malign specific individuals, but to raise larger questions that arise out of what I think are absurd situations.

    Aaron B

    P.S. For another example of a mission president making inappropriate statements (in my opinion… you can decide for yourself), see my next post at Sons of Mosiah, to be posted shortly! :)

  27. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 15, 2004 at 9:23 am

    it is important that each missionary maintain their individual conscious and conscience …

    I meant to write “compass and conscience” …

    And there I was thinking you meant that it was important for missionaries to stay awake. Was when I was on a mission … :)

  28. Randy on July 15, 2004 at 11:09 am

    All these stories from Aaron B. and others have given me an idea. (Actually, I’ve just stolen an idea from elsewhere.) As I suspect some of you know, this week the blog de novo (http://www.blogdenovo.org/) is featuring Survivor: Blogosphere! Here’s how de novo describes it:

    “TEN (or perhaps fewer, if some of them have bailed on us) brave men and women have declared themselves up to the challenge of outwitting, outposting, and outlasting the competition to become De Novo’s first Survivor and get the chance at fame and fortune, or at least as much fame and fortune as we can provide by letting them post with us for the rest of the summer — and perhaps longer, depending on how it works out. We’ve developed a series of bold and unusual challenges, including the challenge of coming up with some bold and unusual challenges. They will begin tomorrow, and continue until the contestant pool has shrunk to just two. Those two will then compete in an ultimate Survivor: Blogosphere final competition that will truly determine who is the real Survivor.”

    Perhaps it’s time for Survivor: Bloggernacle! (This would give, for exampe, Aaron–the Bloggernacle’s equivalent of WingsandVodka on de novo–and Kingsley a chance to settle their score.) Anyone game?

  29. Hellmut Lotz on July 15, 2004 at 11:33 am

    The problem is that stupid rules cheapen claims of inspiration. If we are socialized two years and go home we are likely to recover. But if you are living in the mission field being exposed to one mission president after another who invokes inspiration then there might be a problem. Especially if the organization develops a culture where adherence to rules trumps reflection on purpose and principles.

    Dang, I wish I could have said something witty . . .