Danny Wong, also known as Buddha, would be Brig’s third companion. The concept of preaching in pairs is as much for the missionary’s safety as it is to encourage and enforce cooperation with the many rules that missionaries are expected to obey. Being ordained ministers of God and highly visible representatives of the Church, Mormon missionaries are held up to a much a higher standard than are regular members. Mormon missionaries are easy to recognize with their close-cropped hair, white shirts, conservative ties, and black name tags.
Three of the most important missionary rules are abstinence from alcohol, drugs, and the opposite sex. Any missionary caught breaking any one of those rules would be issued a one-way ticket home, where he or she would likely be excommunicated from the church. Most of Brig’s fellow missionaries were sincere, devout Mormons that more or less operated within the code of conduct expected of a church missionary. Typically, when one “good” missionary was paired with a “bad” missionary, the result was general obedience amongst the pair. However, when two non-conforming, “bad” missionaries were put together, rules broke.
Such was the case when Elder Young, in his sixth month of service, was assigned to work with Elder Wong, who was in his twenty-first month of service. Standing five-foot-eight-inches tall and weighing in at two hundred and twenty pounds, it was easy to see why Danny’s nickname was the Buddha. Someone, either the Mission President himself or one of his assistants, had thought it would be clever to put the two of them together – Batman and Robin, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Buddha and the Prophet.
Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, the Prophet and the Buddha became immediate friends. The Buddha had a reputation for working hard and playing harder. Mission President Woodley had occasionally needed to reprimand Elder Wong, usually for some minor infraction, but most considered Buddha an outstanding missionary with a warm heart. If the number of baptisms measured success, Danny was the Tom Brady of the Hong Kong mission. Few Hong Kong missionaries reached even half as many baptisms as Elder Wong.
The long-standing Hong Kong baptism record was 112, held by a Filipino Sister named Magbuana who had served in the seventies. Sister missionaries were only asked to serve eighteen months, making her achievement that much more impressive. It was rumored that the Mission President at the time, eager to break the previous record, had directed many unearned and questionable baptisms towards the Sister. Hong Kong missionaries also believed that Filipino women, for whatever reason, were easier to convert, and at the time tens of thousands Filipino women worked in Hong Kong as domestic helpers.
Mission Presidents the world over have the challenge of keeping experienced missionaries with little time left motivated. They become what missionaries call “trunky.” In other words, they become eager to pack their bags and return home. Missionaries start counting their remaining time in weeks, then days, then hours, and taunting new missionaries by boasting they had fewer days than the other had months! President Woodley hoped to keep Elder Wong motivated by giving him the lofty goal of beating Sister Magbuana’s record, promoting him to District Leader, and assigning him with a promising new companion. When President Woodley conferred those blessings on Elder Wong, the Buddha responded in his typical style, laughing deeply and confirming with pure confidence, “I can do it!”
He wouldn’t come close.