The missionaries were on their way to a dinner appointment when they noticed the spacecraft.
In fairness, though, it was hard not to notice the spacecraft. It landed on the highway right in front of them. At first, the roving spotlights and downward gust of desert air led Elder Mulholland to believe that it might be a helicopter. His instinct was to leave his bike and run out into the New Mexico desert, crouching down amongst the sagebrush with his head tucked between his knees and his hands over his neck. But Elder Caldwell was the senior companion, and he just stood in the middle of the road, watching the dome-shaped ship hover over them. So Elder Mulholland did the same. He’d only left the MTC three weeks ago, and for all he knew this was a common experience for the residents of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The ship lowered itself carefully to the ground, tipping a little to the left, then to the right, before touching down on the road right in front of the two missionaries. Whatever engine was powering the machine cut out and left the two Elders standing in the hot silence of dusk in north-eastern Carlsbad.
Finally, Elder Mulholland spoke.
“Caldwell? What’s going on?”
Elder Caldwell adjusted his belt. “Not really sure, Elder. Looks like a spaceship of some kind, don’t you think?”
Mulholland looked at the spaceship, then back to his companion. “Yeah. I’d say so.” He paused. “Does the mission president have any guidelines for what to do in this situation?”
“Not that I’ve been informed of.”
Mulholland nodded. “Right. So this is new then. Never seen anything like this before?”
Caldwell shook his head slowly.
Mulholland took a sharp breath. “Caldwell, I think we should leave. Now.”
“Hold on, now.” Caldwell pulled a worn handkerchief out of his back pocket and used it to wipe the sweat from his brow. “Weren’t we just praying this morning for guidance as we knocked doors today? For the spirit to lead us to those homes and hearts that were open to the gospel?”
Mulholland felt his jaw drop. “You’re not going to—”
But Caldwell was already walking towards the ship. He looked back and opened his arms wide. “Ask and ye shall receive, Elder! We asked and the Lord delivered the door to us!” He slapped his chest triumphantly. “We can’t say no to this!”
“We can, though.” Mulholland started to jog to his companion, ready to physically drag Caldwell away from the ship. “We can say no!” But before Mulholland could reach him, Caldwell was already knocking on the panel of the ship that he assumed to be the door.
There was a loud click, and the panel began to slide open. As the doorway grew, the missionaries caught their first glimpse of their new investigator. He was lit from behind, and the gloom of dusk obscured the details of his features, but his form looked eerily human, and his bright, gum-drop-shaped eyes stood out from his face in what seemed to be in a state of perpetual amusement.
Caldwell extended his hand. “Hello!” The investigator took a step backwards, and Caldwell raised his hands to show that he meant no offense. He clasped them together respectfully and started again. “Hello. We’re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Do you have a moment for us to share a message?”
The investigator blinked and tilted his head. Mulholland grabbed his companion by the sleeve and started to pull him away from the door. “Elder, we need to go!” he whispered urgently.
Caldwell smiled at the investigator. “Please, excuse us for just a moment.” Then he turned and scowled at Mulholland. “What is wrong with you? We have an opportunity here!”
“This is not an opportunity, Caldwell. This is an emergency.”
Caldwell rolled his eyes. “You’re too green, Elder. We were called to share the gospel to everyone on this earth.”
“Everyone on this Earth, Caldwell! All the humans! This is not a human. There’s nothing in the handbook about this. Nothing in Preach my Gospel.”
“Elder, this is straight-out-of-the-bible stuff! John 10:16. Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. It’s our duty to find those sheep and bring them to Christ!”
“It’s not even a sheep.”
“You’re overreacting, Elder. Now, please, join me as we talk to this nice gentleman.”
“Not a man.” Mulholland shook his head. “Not a person!”
But Caldwell was already facing the investigator again. “Do you have a family, sir?”
The investigator just stared, with what Mulholland believed was a look of confusion.
Then Caldwell began to teach the investigator about eternal families, pantomiming the words he was saying with the hope of bridging the language gap. He crouched low for some words and reached up high for others, translating his message into the language of movement. He became an interpretive dancer cloaked in the ethereal glow of the spirit. Mulholland watched with awe, touched by this great work of Caldwell’s faith—a testimony borne without words.
When he had finished, both missionaries looked up at the investigator, Caldwell breathing heavily from the effort and Mulholland breathless in anticipation. The investigator turned back to the interior of the ship and uttered a few sounds in some guttural, clicking language. The engine started back up again.
“Wait!” Caldwell called, reaching into his backpack. He pulled out a Book of Mormon and placed it in the investigator’s hand-like-appendage. “Please, just read it.”
Then the door closed, and the ship was gone.
In the silence the crickets began to chirp again, and Mulholland turned to his companion. “Why did you give him a Book of Mormon? He doesn’t speak English.”
Caldwell’s face shone with giddy exhilaration. He smiled knowingly. “The spirit knows no such boundaries.” Then he picked up his bike and deftly lifted his leg over the frame. “Hop on, Elder. We’re on God’s time, and we’re already late for dinner.”