Vai's View: Missions and football: Part VII

Published: Saturday, Dec. 18 2010 8:00 a.m. MST

Toward the end of my mission, Sports Illustrated was preparing a cover story for its College Football Preview edition featuring BYU players around the globe serving missions. President Greenwood informed me that Church Public Affairs had cleared the story and though the reporter wouldn't visit South Dakota, a photographer would be dispatched from Denver to shoot me in a "day-in-the-life" of a missionary in the Dakotas. Naturally, I was thrilled. I had stayed in decent shape throughout my mission by running three to four miles nearly every morning, doing pushups, sit-ups and crunches when I awoke and before bed. My boxing training as a boy and two-a-day training camps at BYU had been great preparation for the rigors and regimen of missionary work.

The photographer would spend two days with us with the caveat that one of them would be preparation day, as SI was interested in what I did on my day off to prepare for my return to college football.

About this time, President Greenwood experimented with having us missionaries wear our suits on preparation day when we were out in public places — grocery shopping, errands to the bank, etc. President Greenwood felt we were squandering missionary opportunities whenever we were out publicly without our suits and nametags on p-day. Of course, as missionaries we were constantly debating and re-calibrating what constituted a "public" place — was the laundry mat a public place? The library? 7-Eleven? Post office? Still, we did our best to adhere to the spirit of the law.

The Greenwoods were very active people. They joined the local country club because they were golfers and loved to take us missionaries to the links and loved playing tennis with us on preparation day.

When the appointed day arrived, the SI photographer met us at our apartment to shadow us for a couple days. We wrote letters in the morning, cleaned our apartment and then we were to meet the Greenwoods after lunch to play tennis at a local park. President Greenwood called us to ask if we'd stop at a local sporting goods store by the mission office to buy a can of tennis balls before meeting them. Frankly, I wasn't fond of having to wear our suits to do our grocery shopping and I privately grumbled about the inconvenience of wearing our suits to buy tennis balls, only to return to the apartment to change into shorts and T-shirt to play tennis. But we did it.

National chains like "Dick's" and "Sports Authority" eventually killed local sporting goods stores like "Du-ell's" in Rapid City, which was a "mom and pop" business that serviced the town's two high schools, weekend warriors, golfers, hunters and anglers throughout the Black Hills.

In 1983, Bob Dull was in his late 20s, married with two little girls and running the family business, Du-ell Sporting Goods in Rapid City for his father, when my companion and I strolled in to buy a can of tennis balls for our p-day activity.

As I approached the counter with our purchase, Bob was sitting on a stool behind the cash register. As I placed the can on the counter, he glanced up at us and said, "Never met two guys named 'Elder' before."

I couldn't tell from his tone whether he was teasing or just making a wry observation, but I was already in a bad mood for having to wear a suit on p-day, so I regarded the comment as mocking us.

I shot back, "Yeah? Well if you had any sense, you'd have us to your home so we could tell you why these are titles, not our names."

To my utter amazement, he responded, "I'm free Thursday evening."

Realizing his sincerity, I quickly recovered and said, "These titles allow us to teach the greatest message on earth. What's your name and where do you live?"

The SI photographer missed this exchange at the counter but after we secured the appointment, he asked us to step outside of the store where the lighting was better so he could take a photo of us talking to Bob.

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