Returned Mormon missionaries recall the most stomach-turning, barf-inducing meals they ate in the quest for converts

There are few experiences that will make missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints drop to their knees.

Prayer is surely one. The sight or smell of roasted squirrel or boiled sheepskin is often another. And plop a pig heart or cow stomach on their plates and watch these proselytizers not only fall on all fours but also keel over on their sides, reeling, retching and puking their guts out — though, hopefully, not in front of their hosts.

These foods — considered delicacies in other cultures — are served where cooks are adept at preparing not only all types of animals but also every part of the creature, from livers to kidneys to brains.

These offerings can turn otherwise confident and eager Mormon elders and sisters into squeamish mounds of mush who gag, vomit or worse.

When eating in private homes, missionaries are told to be gracious, even if they encounter a food they don’t particularly like. They are, after all, representatives of their church, and how they act reflects on the faith. Besides, bad-mouthing a meal is no recipe for wooing potential converts.

Sometimes, though, no matter their good intentions, missionaries just can’t stomach the food.

Savvy proselytizers learn quickly to say “no thank you” or strategically place the offending food in a paper napkin, a plastic bag or even a backpack to make it appear as if they are cleaning their plates.

Former missionaries shared their interesting, funny and slightly disgusting dining experiences with The Salt Lake Tribune via Facebook. Their responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Squirreled away • I served in the Cincinnati, Ohio, mission. One investigator made squirrel for us. He prepared it by first boiling it and then skinning it. The problem with this procedure was that much of the hair ended up in the meat. The meat itself reminded me of liver; hairy, hairy liver. — Hales Swift, Naperville, Ill.

Rice, rice, baby • While in Scotland, some Kurdish refugees served me rice balls wrapped in boiled sheep’s skin. It was repulsive. Such a shame as they were the nicest people, and it was so generous of them to feed us as they had nothing. — Chris Mace, Huddersfield, United Kingdom

Have a heart • I felt like I won the lottery serving a mission in Italy, and I still dream about the food I had there. However, one time we were invited to dinner and the main dish was pig heart. I really tried to eat it so I wouldn’t offend our host. I even cut it into tiny pieces and tried mixing it with the other things on my plate in an attempt to choke it down, but at some point I realized it would be worse for me to vomit all over the table and told her I just couldn’t eat another bite. I felt so bad, but the chewy texture and the bland, gamy taste were just too much for me.

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