The expression “opportunity knocks” has special meaning for Dan Harrington.

Harrington, an Augusta-based writer, got the idea for his new book from a knock on his door. Literally.

“Who’s at the Door? A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries” tells of Harrington’s efforts to get to know missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Maine in 2007 and 2008. The focus is on two Mormon missionaries, but a total of 12 working in the area are mentioned in the book.

Harrington, 32, has written for several Maine-based magazines and newspapers, including ones owned by MaineToday Media, owners of the Maine Sunday Telegram. He first wrote a newspaper story about the missionaries before turning the idea into a book.

Q: How did you get to know the missionaries?

A: I’m always looking for a story idea, and one day they just came to my door. My first thought was I wanted to do a story on them, so I invited them in. After the story, I continued to see them. I felt fortunate that they felt comfortable with me and would talk to me about what they were doing.

Q: What sorts of things did you do with them?

A: A lot of it was spending time at my house, and I sort of became their unofficial feeder. So some of it was going out to eat with them, to a pizza place or something. When they go on a mission, they do it on their own money, and it costs them $10,000 for a two-year mission. They’re taught to save up for that when they’re young. So once in a while I’d buy them a loaf of bread or take them out to eat, to help them out.

I also wanted to see what it was like for them to go knocking on doors, so I did that with them too.

Q: What prompted you to want to make a book out of this?

A: I had studied religion at (the University of Southern Maine), and I write a lot about different churches. There aren’t a lot of young reporters covering religious news, unless it’s bad. I’m Catholic, but I’ve written about a lot of other churches. The Latter-day Saints are the first church I studied that I thought at all about converting to. It’s easier to disagree with (a religion) when they’re strangers, but harder to disagree when you know them.

Q: What impressed you so much about the church?

A: I spent a lot of time with Elder Dowling (the missionaries don’t use their first names), who was a full-time missionary from Texas, a convert. He was just so different. He had been a Marine, an Iraq veteran, and at first I thought he was real mean; he had this real strict persona. He told me that if he was able to serve time for his country, he wanted to serve time for God, too.

He was in chronic pain from a motorcycle accident, but I never heard him complain. I saw people slam doors in his face, being mean to him, and he never complained. Some of the missionaries had garbage thrown at them.

Their church is a minority, and they are taught that they should go on a mission to spread the truth that they know. I was impressed to meet people who are so caring in what they do.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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