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The Ugly Mantle

By Courtney Kendrick

When first I was called to serve I had but two goals in mind:

1.) Get baptisms.

2.) Don’t gain weight.

And the Lord sent me to Canada to first reside in a suburb of the uber-euro town

which is Quebec City.

And the Lord sent me a first companion who was

(warning! hyperbole rampage!)

the cutest,



beloved-est sister

in the whole-wide mission.


And the Lord gave us a twenty-something investigator named Denis.

(Except in French you pronounce it “Denny”)

(which happened to be my family’s nickname for special body parts.)

(I’d blush a little when we’d go over to teach the discussions.)

On one very hot day,

outside his very hot apartment,

Denis accepted our invitation to be baptized.

And as we walked home,

I encountered my first run-in with public nudity,

(or shall I say I saw an un-welcomed denny?)


But that Sunday at church Denis shyly handed my companion a letter,

(which had a picture of faded red roses in the background)

rolled up with ribbon.

On the car ride home,

she had me sl-ow-ly translate.

Denis could no longer continue the discussions with us.

Because he was in love.

(With me.)


So it was that we “passed-off” our Denis to the Elders.

And consoled ourselves in an ice cream shop (called “Bunny.”)

Which is when I decided that it would be ok to gain weight.

I let the Lord make me over.

Less blushy, more serious.

(Maybe my first goal was possible . . .

. . . if I let go of the second.)

So it was that I put on the Ugly Mantle.

And stopped sending pictures home.

Because of this: “Are you feeling okay? You look . . . sick? Should I call your Mission President?”


I was transfered.

Transfered again.


Another time.

A year passed and I found myself back in Quebec City.

Where I ran into Denis

(with newly bleach-tipped hair.)

He didn’t really recognize me.

(I was heavy with mission.)

And he was baptized.

The only one I ever taught.

About Courtney Kendrick


51 thoughts on “The Ugly Mantle”

  1. I agree completely, Emily. But, was it a good sacrifice for you, Cjane? I love the line "heavy with mission." I think that could apply to so many things…"heavy with school," "heavy with children," "heavy with life." I get the feeling that "heavy with mission" meant more than just adding a few extra pounds, yes?

  2. Oh yes Mara, heavy with emotion too (and French pastries.) Was it a good sacrifice? I think so, besides, I felt beautiful again after my return.

    Of course, it took me 18 months to recover, fully.

    Emily, I love your comment. You feel me.

  3. Wow, my weight gain wasn't so premeditated, though I did hope it would have similar side effects. Unfortunately, in El Salvador a little cushion just made more of me to love. And the sneaky backside pinches on the bus became just that much easier.

  4. Wow! That heavy with mission line was worth a million bucks–on every level. (Sometimes, when I am waxing nostalgic, I am still heavy with mission.)

    Emily–love your comment, too. Thank you.

    As far as missions go, I remember how the sisters got special lessons about how to dress and provide special attention to hair and makeup and hygiene (hello? as if hygiene came naturally to the elders?).

    By about two weeks in to my time in Belgium and France we learned if one dressed down (little or no makeup, hair in pony tail, baggy clothes) one could cut down on the cat calls and pick-up lines by about half. One sister made a goal of not shaving during her entire mission (when in Europe).

    Some day, when I can tell you in person, bring up with me the word: mini-tranfers. And I already told you the story about the frite vendor who had a thing for my eyes.

    While I was reading the previous post I looked back and thought about the time in my life when I was the thinnest. It was during my mission. I was in an emotionally charged companionship (more also for a private conversation) and was suffereing from anxiety. I couldn't eat. I lost 10 pounds in one weekend. I looked great. But I felt terrible. I could not for the life of me find or be myself.

    Would I trade the now for the then? No way.

    Anyhow, great post. I love how you handle such weighty issues.

  5. I didn't gain weight, but the mission in eastern Canada made me (physically) over in many other ways.
    My hair is almost black but the mission turned it a dingy shade of olive green, and I didn't change it. Initially, I was fashion conscious, but this soon gave way to very unbecoming jumpers with Peter rabbit embroidered on the breast. I stopped fixing my naturally curly/frizzy hair and let the humidity turn it into an entity all it's own which was close to the size of Prince Edward Island.
    The funny thing is, all the while, I felt beautiful. I look at mission pictures now and say, "the spirit tricked me into feeling pretty".

  6. we were also taught in the MTC that we must look good at all times, however once I got into the mission field I was surprised at how plain most of the sisters looked. Later on I came to understand why: after a few elders "fell" in love with my beautiful companion who happened to have a thing for large amounts of lip gloss, she was asked not to wear makeup…she was devastated and then I understood why the other sisters looked as they did. I'm not saying I agreed(that's a whole other issue), but at least I understood.

  7. I wish I had a mission to blame my years of unattractiveness on. I'll just chalk it up to early puberty and lack of guidance in that department, and the fact that I had braces until I was 20.

    Grand post c jane. just grand.

  8. My thyroid decided to become hyper-active on my mission, therefore, I lost weight. Oh, to have a hyper-active thyroid again…

    Ugly c jane? Is that possible? I don't believe it. I'ma have to see some photographic evidence.

    I LOVE Québec City. It's a lovely, lovely place. When I was walking down the stairs in Old City last year, I noticed some graffiti on the wall that said, "LE PAPE PUE!" Poor Pape and his apparent lack of hygiene. Europeans, man…

    Did I mention that I love Québec? The whole province?

  9. In your modest about modesty post awhile back there were some comments akin to this post. While you might have felt ugly I am sure there were some that found you most beautiful in your ugly mantle. Beauty is a relative thing, and what some view as objectionable others may find ravishing.

    Heavy with mission I expect expresses your devotion rather than your appearance and is a sacrifice worthy of a lifetime of blessings. Thanks again for another thought provoking post. (And I must say that picture on your cjane blog is most repulsive – in my opinion.)

  10. I went to Switzerland, where a daily regimen of chocolate and cheese makes the phrase 'heavy with mission' apropos for my experience as well. (And yet I still managed to get proposed to regularly – crazy how that stopped once I got home).

  11. Whatever! I spent months with you after you supposedly "let yourself go" and remember numerous, yes NUMEROUS!, men hitting on you.

    What can I say, you are beautiful even when you're trying not to be.

    It must be a curse. I wouldn't know, but I'd like to.

  12. marriage has seemed to have the same "heavy" effect on me…and I haven't come out anymore spiritual for it. i will say, however, flashing denny's become less alarming when you see them every morning as a part of the shower dance ritual.

  13. I didn't want to serve a mission. One of the main reasons? I didn't want to gain weight. When the time came to make that decision, I imagined myself at the judgment bar, saying, "But Lord, I didn't want to get fat."

    I suppose it should go without saying that I turned in my papers shortly thereafter.

    I, too, love 'heavy with mission.'

  14. Don't listen to Julie. She knows what it's like. I had to endure an entire cruise of men kissing and/or propositioning her in some way. She has the curse.

    One time an Elder on my mission asked me if all the sisters were as frumpy at home as they are on their missions. I said no. After the mish, he also whined to me about BYU girls and how they dress like pioneers. This was while we were at The Pie near the U of U campus. I had no response to that.

  15. My mission slogan was "Fat for Jesus."

    Kiki, I have had hyperthyroidism (Grave's Disease) in recent years and I wouldn't wish it on anyone — it may initially make you thin, but it burns away muscle and makes you weak, makes your heart race dangerously, gives you diarrhea, makes you feel hot all the time, and in many cases it eventually makes your body go into starvation mode and conserve fat, so you end up with less muscle and more fat. (Also, in many cases the thyroid eventually burns itself out and you end up hypothyroid, which doesn't help the muscle-to-fat ratio out, either.) I think a *normal* metabolism is a wonderful thing.

  16. I lost at least thirty pounds on my mission, a combination of walking ten miles a day and persistent parasites. It was fabulous. I want to be resurrected with my post-mission body (see Justine's previous post). By "post-mission body" I mean immediately post-mission, because after the parasites died the pounds came back. I keep my favorite mission dress in my "skinny clothes" closet, and fantasize about wearing it again. Okay, this is getting pathetic. I'm done now.

  17. It disturbs me that we're talking about uglifying ourselves to get men not to "fall in love" with us. And is gaining weight, not wearing lipstick, wearing jumpers the solution to the problem? If being ugly makes the dennys of the world not fall in love with me than (no matter if my mantle is missionary or wife), I don't think it's worth it.

  18. I had a similar experience in Quebec on my mission with a Denis as well. We taught him and he winked at me through every discussion and told me he was in love with me. I actually thought he was so cute too and I asked to be transfered. We were in St. Bruno though.

  19. My makeover had nothing to do with men. My transformation was more the result of dwindling vanity as I left 'Martha' behind and became more 'Sister Wright'.

  20. I never felt as ugly as I did on my mission. I put on about 10 – 15 lbs which makes a big difference with my naturally "chipmunk" cheeks. I also broke out with horrible complexion problems. My hairdryer broke my first week in France. So I walked around for 18 months frumpy, zitty, frizzy and in white tights. (The white tights were just a poor fashion choice popular in my mission at the time!)

    In France, people let you know if you are not looking great. On my first day in my second area several ward members pulled me aside to ask me what was wrong with my face!! One sister "lovingly" called me "Boutons" (pimples) the seven months I was in the area. A brother in the ward warned me I better do something about my skin or my parents whould be scared of me when I came home.

    Though I was sometimes overwhelmed with self-esteem problems I managed to pull through. I was known as the "fun" sister. Cedric, in our ward, managed to see my "sweet spirit" and get a crush on me. More importantly I was able to make lots of friends and see a couple people enter the waters of baptism.

    3 years after my mission, my husband and I went back to France and we went to church in my second area. One sister remarked how "different" I looked. She said I looked beautiful! I took it as a compliment. I was just glad I got to go back and set the record straight!!

  21. Zina, I'm very aware. You left out the part where you get super moody and yell/scream/cry hysterically at your mom for throwing away your favorite sweatshirt, OMG my world ended! My thyroid has been nuked.

  22. It's interesting to note that all of us enlightened, feminist, educated women, are still focused on our weight and our bodies and still subconsciously agree that fat or over weight equals ugly.

    Things that make you go, "hmmmm".

  23. Ana,
    I don't consider myself enlightened or a feminist with any sort of education to brag about, so I suppose that "ugly" can still be as shallow as I need it to be.

    But can always hope to move up in the ranks . . .

  24. how hilarious is "fat for jesus"? like the other ladies who got sent down south, i didn't get fat. i got diarrhea. i'm also positive that i never looked worse nor got hit on more. what gives? the ugly mantle is right, cjane. can you please move to northern idaho and be my neighbor?

  25. Dulce de leche, empanadas, milanesa, gnocchi, and alfajores also make being “heavy with mission” worth it too.

    Guess what I got for my bday today? Dulce!!!! YUM!!!! Hola fellow So. Amer. missionary! 🙂

  26. cjane–frankly, I was talking more about the comments than your original post. But, are you saying that gaining weight or not wearing lipstick more effectively attracts the pure in heart? Confused…

  27. i just wanted to tell you how nice it was to meet you, and feel of your loving and kind (and ~beautiful~ ) spirit.
    how happy i am that brooke has you.

  28. Mara,
    For me, the ugly mantle referred to the time in my mission when I let go of vanity in order to have more energy to teach the gospel. Because looking good was such a priority before, letting go of that made me feel quite ugly. But there was honor in the ugliness because it made me humble and as we know, the humble can find the pure in heart.
    I have no stance on lipstick, but gaining weight was really hard to allow, but for me, also necessary.
    Ugly was how I felt, but became somehow ok because it had a purpose.
    Does that make sense?
    It sounds like other RMs know what I am talking about (thank heavens I wasn't alone.)

  29. Hi Darlene! I came over here from a link at MormonMommyWars (someone told me about the "Adventures in Arizona" thread there and I had to read all 1 million comments in that thread — then got looking for more entertainment) and I remembered you telling me about Segullah and wondered if I might run into you here. Thanks for the (embarrassing) compliment! 🙂

  30. cjane (#40) I whole-heartedly agree with you. I saw it as truly "losing myself in the service of Christ" when I gained weight, got pimples, grew out my 80's bangs and perm and stopped primping obsessively to serve a mission. It was a unique time to truly forget myself and my vanity and concentrate on serving the Lord and bringing people to Christ. I learned that I was able to shower in about 10 minutes and get myself ready in 5. It was kind of liberating, in a way.

    Strangely, my last area had tons of hills and we did a lot of walking, so I lost a lot of the weight that I gained with that yummy Chilean bread.

  31. Ok…got it Cjane. I can understand that you needed to let go of vanity to make yourself a better missionary. I just think that letting go of vanity and letting yourself get ugly are two different things and should be treated as such. And I'm sure that I may have understood that implication sooner if I had indeed served a mission.

  32. The only time I ever saw my mission president mad was when I was frustrated with guys, and I had mentioned that I might stop wearing lipstick. Basically, he said that I should do no such thing. He said that I should be able to look as nice as I wanted without fear of male sexual harrassment. It was their problem and not mine.

    I am pro-lipstick.

  33. Ditto Wendy's comment. That's so much more evolved than a certain leader who told my cousin not to go on a mission because she was so cute all she would do was serve as a distraction for the elders.

    I'm not making this stuff up!

  34. Having been your final companion I can testify that you were never ugly! Though you may have felt that way, and I can't argue with your feelings, you were a gem, as now!

    I do understand the makeover though. The concern we pay to those we love, those we are searching for, those we are teaching. It does often replace our self-concern. When I came home it took ten people to convince me that it wouldn't be overly self-indulgent to color my hair again.

  35. I guess it's a really good thing that Heavenly Father loves us even if we are ugly. And that Jesus doesn't care if we are fat or skinny….He'll take us either way.

  36. It is usually fun and flattering to be found attractive, but man, when you are trying to do God's work, it is so maddening and distracting.


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