According to a article by Pat Bagley in the sltrib (22 Dec 2012):
When [J. Golden Kimball’s] mother asked him to go on a mission when he turned 30 — still footloose and relishing his freedom — he demurrred. But he loved his mother and promised to see LDS Church President John Taylor on his nex visit to Salt Lake City.
Golden had a plan. He would make such a disreputable show that no one would think to send him to represent the church. In cowboy boots, filthy chaps and a stained shirt — Bowie knife and six-shooters stuffed prominently in his belt — he swaggered into the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator’s office.
“Is there someone named “Taylor’ here?” he called.
Taylor jumped up from his desk and pumped the surprised cowboy’s hand.
“I just read your mother’s letter, and I know, just like your father, you will make a great ambassador for the church,” he said.
Bushwacked by his mother and pedigree, Kimball sold his horse and kit to finance a mission to the South.
He probably regretted leaving the six-shooters.
The South in the 1880s was a pressure cooker of bigotry and wounded pride. And guns. Lots of guns. Mostly the guns were trained on newly freed slaves and Northern carpetbaggers, but there were still plenty left over for Mormon missionaries and their improbable religion.
“I spent five years in the Southern States, and filled my first mission in 1883, when they killed elders,” Golden would say.
He was sometimes confronted by armed men, often wearing sheets. “Waste of a good sheet,” he later mused.