Bobu and the Missionaries

Three Mormon missionaries came to the hermitage of the monk Bobu. They wore clean white shirts and $10.00 ties from Walmart. Each was extremely earnest and exceedingly well scrubbed. Though no more than nineteen or twenty years old, they referred to one another as “Elder.” Amused, Bobu invited them in, and they showed him their Book.

“Ah, yes. I have read this book,” said Bobu.

“You have?” said Elder Wadsworth, incredulous.

“Oh, yes. It is a good book.”

“Well, did it make sense to you? You see, Joseph Smith had a visitation, and this book was dictated to him, and based on that, he set about restoring the true church on Earth. We’d like you to have this copy,” said Elder Perez.

“Thank you. But as I told you, I have this book, and I have read it,” said Bobu. He shook his head and smiled. “There are many books.”

“So you’ve actually read the Book of Mormon?” said Elder Wadsworth.

“I said this,” Bobu replied. “It is a good book. And you seem to be nice young men. But let me tell you a story. May I?”

“Sure,” said Elder Wadsworth.

“Once upon a time, there was an American who saw a picture in National Geographic magazine of a street in Tokyo. That night, he had a dream, and in his dream, everyone in Tokyo was wearing sombreros and wooden shoes. The next day, this American started a Reformed Institute of Japanese Studies. ‘All the stories you have heard about Japan from people who have been there are wrong,’ he taught. In Japan, people wear sombreros and wooden shoes.’ Your Joseph Smith is this man.”

“But you said it was a good book,” said Elder Simpson. “This book was revealed to Joseph Smith, and we believe—I take that back—we know . . . that every word of it is true.”

“When I was a boy,” said Bobu, “my mother revealed to me how sex works. A bee gets pollen from the stamen of flowers on the hairs of his legs. He then carries this pollen to the pistils of flowers and delivers it to the flowers’ stigmata. My mother’s story is true, but when you decide you want to have a child, take my advice and don’t sprinkle pollen on your wife. She might have allergies. Or let me put it this way: The great Scots poet Robert Burns wrote, ‘My love is a red, red rose,’ which was true enough, but it would have been a mistake if he had tried making her into rose petal tea.”

“I have no idea what you are saying,” said Elder Wadsworth.

“There are three possibilities,” said Bobu. “Either your Mr. Smith was mistaken and confused, or he was not being truthful, or he was telling a story about birds and bees. If the latter, it would be a mistake to take the story too literally. I have a suggestion for you.”

“What?” said Elder Wadsworth.

“Now that you’ve been to the Reformed Institute of Japanese Studies,” said Bobu, “try going to Japan.”


About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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