Cognates are words that share an etymological origin. Students of Spanish recognize that there are many cognates between English and Spanish, which allow learners to “estimate” what words in English would sound like in Spanish, and vice versa. However, there are also false cognates in the world, and this can lead to some potentially embarrassing situations.

According to the story, a sister missionary had arrived to a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America and was struggling to learn the language. When the bishop introduced her to the congregation, he asked her to come up and bear her testimony. Flustered by the request, she still dutifully went up and explained to the congregation to please bear with her poor Spanish. She was grateful for the opportunity to bear her testimony, aunque estoy muy embarazada debido a que el obispo. The sister missionary tried to say “even if she is very embarrassed because of the bishop.” Unfortunately, embarazada is a false cognate; it doesn’t mean “embarassed,” it means “pregnant.”

Needless to say, the reaction from both the congregation and bishop was not exactly what she expected.


According to a member who knew one of the bodyguards who protects the Prophet, President Hinckley was a very spry and active man, even into his advanced age. One of the most iconic images of President Hinckley is his cane, which he used more often to wave at crowds than to aid his walking.

The story goes that President Hinckley developed very good-natured and mirthful friendships with all of his bodyguards — that is, except for one bodyguard, who took his job very seriously, much to the annoyance of the Prophet. One day, while joking with this serious bodyguard, who showed no response or emotion, President Hinckley decided to show him who’s boss. He took his cane and gave a good, playful thwack to the bodyguard at the back of the knees, causing them to buckle and the bodyguard to tumble to the floor.

According to the story, some missionaries were teaching a young woman who wanted to get baptized, but faced intense opposition from her family. She told the missionaries she would pray about the matter over the week and then announce her decision on the matter.

During the week, the missionaries decided they wanted to give her a little bit of devotional support, but didn’t want to come across as pushy. They decided to just leave a note on her door that encouraged her to follow what the Spirit told her, and to do what she felt was the right thing. In closing, they wrote, “Remember the words of Nephi!” with a scripture reference.

What the missionaries meant to write was 1 Nephi 3:7, which is a famous verse in the Mormon world about how the Lord always prepares a way:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father, I will go and do the things the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing in which he commandeth them.

Unfortunately, the missionaries got mixed up and wrote down the scripture reference 3 Nephi 3:7, which reads:

Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us — not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.

Needless to say, the out-of-context scripture spooked the poor woman, though the person relating the story reassured me that the missionaries were able to explain their error and she was baptized in the end.

While talking to the missionaries in Seattle, I mentioned that it was time for the Puyallup Fair and that in my days as a missionary in Oklahoma, we had run a booth at the county fair handing out balloons that said “Jesus Loves Me” with decent success. I asked if they ever ran booths at the Puyallup Fair. The missionary told me, very seriously, that they were not allowed to be at the Puyallup Fair anymore.

When I asked why, they said that one time, while running a booth, one of the missionaries saw Ed Decker, an infamous anti-Mormon who made money selling videos and books slandering the Church, “displaying certain things in a very disrespectful manner.” This missionary, indignant, walked over and punched him in the face hard.

And that’s why missionaries can’t go to Puyallup Fair anymore.

The following was posted as a comment on a blog I was reading the other day about Mormon Folklore stories:

“My favorite was doing interviews with fellow students concerning stories they’d heard. From at least 2 people I got the story of the old lady who converted to the church who went to get her patriarchal blessing. In that blessing she was told that she would have joined the church many years earlier if a certian young man had been worthy and gone on his mission. Not two weeks after I turned in my paper our stake president in stake conference told the EXACT same story as a lesson to us and that he knew it was true becuase he knew so and so who knew the so and so, etc…!!!”