Southwestern States Mission: April Fools’ Day and Other Reasons to Laugh

By April 7, 2013

Since April Fools? Day was this week and General Conference yesterday emphasized the swelling number of missionaries, I thought I?d collect—without analysis—some lighter instances of what happens when young people are sent off into the world. [1] 

I find one explicit reference to April Fools? Day, but it refers to an event before the mission. [2] If the missionaries recorded doing anything out of the ordinary on April 01, I haven’t noticed it. [3]

Brooks: ?That night we enjoyed ourselves splendid joking each other and talking upon the Gospel. Bro. Kendrick said it was a day that would be long remembered. We were going to leave the next morning with the expectations of not seeing the people again.? [4]

Carling: ?After a good night?s rest we were awakened?. Just then Sarah happened to give me a touch on the side and found I was tickelish so she decided to have some sport which she had at my expense. I hopped out of bed Sarah said the quickest she had ever seen me move. Well she just followed me around the room tickeling me and making me squeal (which I could not help doing), and it was quite amusing for her and the people in the adjoining room.? [5]

Cluff: ?Thursday evening some of the Elders bought oranges and bananas and after we had all assembled in the back parlor, we ate our fruit and played games, sang songs and had quite a time until a late hour.  That is the first time I have ever known the missionaries to have so jolly a time. It comes very seldom.? [6]

Folkman: ?At Bro. Old Man Odom’s. All four stayed their all day, singing, laughing and enjoying ourselfs. Elder Norton and I slept togeather.? [7]

Jones: ?We bid the folks goodby and came to Taylor?s. Ate dinner, after which we went down to the cotton field and teased the girls until nearly night.?

Jones: ?There was quite a crowd came out. I preached on the laying on of hands and Elder Morgan on baptism. During the meeting one of the boys would give a great groan, causing the people to laugh a little.?

Jones: ?About 2 p.m. we went a-fishing. I caught 8 fish, then had a nice swim. Came back to the house where I had a sleep. Elder Morgan and Ashby came over and Elder Heward and I had a scuffle with them until bedtime. Had more fun than I had since I left home.? [8]

The ?Southwestern States Mission? series (homepage) examines mission life in (mostly) Texas around 1900.

[1] In future posts I hope to look more closely at the functions of humor and recreation for missionaries. I also hope to look specifically at things like hunting and fishing, singing, the theater, and social gatherings. This post, however, is just a list of jokes and pranks and good times.

[2] ?How well I remember one year ago today in school.  The choir was to sing but not a sound was heard.  Prof. W. said ?Well don’t you know it?? and started off again but still no sound.  He looked up, too astonished for speech, when all burst out laughing and said ?April Fool.?  Then in the afternoon I attended by invitation a secret meeting of the “Idiosyncrasies” and it embarrassed all the [illegible: jokes?] I ever heard.  Oh, those were happy days, and I’d hope we may be able to enjoy them together again—the girls and I at school? (Cluff, 1905 Apr 01 Sat).

[3] I do not think it?s an indirect dig at April Fools?, but Elder Clark went so far as to complain about people not attending his meeting because they were ?Seeking Pleasure more than the word of god? (Clark, 1900 Apr 01 Sun).

[4] Brooks, 1901 Jan 13 Sun; ?While eating breakfast Bro. Anding was joking the schoolteacher [another boarder]. He said that he had overheard the girls talking about me and they were all saying, ?He is my fellow.?? (Jones, 1901 Feb 27 Wed).

[5] Carling, 1901 Nov 28 Thu, p 71-72. Also: ?Sister made the pancakes for breakfast and she made sister Hedges and I eat more than we wanted, but we had a good deal of sport while eating them. At about ten o?clock Elder Judd came walking down the road. Sarah was just unbraiding her hair which she had braided in small braids so as to have it nice and crimpy. I nearly made myself sick laughing at her when we told her Elder Judd was coming. She jumped and danced and squeeled like a little frantic child. Sister hedges and I caught her and held her until he came in. That little joke was the first I had been able to get on her and she is frequently getting jokes on the rest, and especially me.? (Carling, 1901 Dec 05 Thu, p 80-81; see the full entry at ?SWSM: First Snow?).

[6] Cluff, 1905 Mar 22 Wed. ?My forty fifth milestone reached today.  ? One of the Elders, D. C. Clayton, had his birthday also and Sister Martin made us a lovely dinner and a large, beautiful cake.  I cut one side of it and he the other.  There was merry conversation, jests and laughter and all enjoyed the dinner.? (Cluff, 1905 Jan 15 Sun).

[7] Folkman, 1900 Apr 23 Mon.

[8] ?teased the girls,? Jones, 1900 Oct 09 Tue; ?great groan,? Jones, 1900 Mar 10 Sat; ?scuffle? until bedtime,? Jones, 1900 Jun 30 Sat.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Living and working without purse or scrip, those amazing traveling missionaries deserved every minute of fun they managed to find!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 7, 2013 @ 8:39 am

  2. Awesome. Gracias, Edje.

    Comment by Christopher — April 7, 2013 @ 8:44 am

  3. Totally agree, Ardis. Thanks, Edje.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 7, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  4. Oh, that brings back some good mission memories. One of my areas was an infamous “double date” situation, two elders and two sisters in a fairly remote area. It was a great personality mix for the situation (no romance, no strife), and we had a lot of fun. I don’t know how it started, but we kept gifting and regifting a bar of marzipan to each other in various and sundry ways and somehow one week we all solemnly presented the mission president with the marzipan. I can’t imagine what he thought.

    Anyway, I know I’ve said it before, but this is a great series, Edje.

    Comment by Amy T — April 7, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  5. Fabulous.

    Comment by jjohnson — April 7, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  6. Thanks, all.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — April 7, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

  7. This is great. I read the blog of a mission president’s wife in Poland and one of the things I love is that she always captures the lightheartedness as well (like building a giant missionary snowman).

    Comment by Saskia — April 9, 2013 @ 1:26 am


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