29 July 2017

20 years ago today - MTC Life - The Mission Companion - 29 July 1997

When I first entered the MTC I had an unquenchable fire. I was so excited to be there. Nothing could bring me down. As time wore on, the realities of some things began to set in. For example, at first, my companion was the best. We were so excited to be together. But as time wore on, we realized the differences between us. That we both had very different backgrounds and perspectives on things which caused us to have our differences when it came to some everyday decision making.

One example of this was when I was trying to listen to an emotional recording my Mom had sent me. A little background: She and I hadn't been close or even really spoken to one another for several years before my mission. However, the mission was helping to repair the rift between us. In my youth, she had kicked me out several times. I was a good kid. However, my mom always struggled with psychological issues in life. Another issue was that she hated men. Aside from my father, after their divorce, I was the only male in the home. So I took the brunt of this hatred while I was living with her. When I decided to serve a mission, at first, I wasn't going to include her. However, at the advice of my surrogate Father, Randy Jensen, who was the one who took me in and finished raising me. I made an effort to repair the relationship and to include her in the process. He felt this would help her come closer to the gospel. And looking back, he was very right, it did.

Back to the story, I was trying to listen to this very emotional and sentimental audio recording my Mom had sent me but other missionaries in the room and hallway were being very loud and boisterous. I couldn't hear or focus on what was being said. After asking them if they'd be quiet to no avail, my next remedy was to build myself a fort. I was on the bottom bunk and hung a blanket to give myself a buffer that would hopefully grant me the space I needed to listen to this message from my mother. Despite using headphones, asking them to be quiet and building myself a fort. I could still hear them being rowdy and goofing off, which wrecked my focus. My next solution was against the rules but I needed the space. I went outside by myself and sat under a tree in the quiet summer afternoon in order to listen to my mother's message. I made it nearly all the way through before my companion came outside in a rage that I "had ditched" him. He was a stickler for following every rule to a 'T'. LDS Missionaries have many rules, one of which is that they are to be with their companions at all times. There was no bending the rules with my companion under any circumstance. I defended myself explaining the situation. He still refused to bend on that rule. We got into a yelling match that resulted in some hard feelings towards one another. He stubbornly refused to see the situation from my perspective and I refused to think that his way was the only way. In my mind, the rules are there for a reason. Once understood, they can be bent on occasion. To me, this was one of those occasions. I learned that I was in a minority when it came to my perspective on mission rules. This made me a "bad" missionary in the eyes of many, who in my mind lacked enough real life experience to understand my perspective. This polar difference has followed me not only throughout my mission, but into my everyday life. So many people are judgmental to those who don't follow the rules, as they see them. I try to look at the intent of someone's heart, live and let live. I don't judge them and ignore when I am judged. If I have to, in order to maintain my sanity, I keep them at a distance.

Once it is understood not just what the rules are but why they are there, you can better adapt to situations that can have enormously better outcomes if you can be even a little flexible. Another such example of this came up on my mission, when a very poor investigator had attended church with us on a very hot Sunday afternoon. There was a large group of us standing on a train station platform. We were all waiting for a train in the hot sun, when he decided to buy everyone ice cream out of the kindness of his heart. He disappeared for a few minutes then showed up with enough ice cream for everyone. Knowing how much money he made and how much those ice cream bars cost. This was a great sacrifice, full of kindness and love on his part. But because it was Sunday, everyone in the group declined his ice cream because it was purchased on the sabbath. They then preached to him about that commandment. However, I see things differently. I see the soul of a man who was struggling so much and just wanted to show his gratitude to his new friends in the gospel by doing something kind. He could have never known that would have been their reaction. I mean, we were about to get on a train and there were many people that labor in order to make the trains run on Sunday. In my perspective, this was hypocritical on our part. Having this perspective, I graciously accepted his ice cream. And his response was that he and I were going to have to enjoy all that ice cream by ourselves before it melted. One by one those in the group reluctantly joined us and accepted his kind gift. That man was eventually baptised. I shudder to think of the repercussions on his soul had I not stepped up and joined him with that simple act. If I were in his shoes and that happened, I'd have never come back to such a judgemental group.

Remember the story about the ox and the mire. Keep the bigger perspective in mind. We are all God's children. None of us are better than the next. One person's soul is worth a very minor sin. Why do we even have that rule? Why are we to keep the sabbath day holy?

- So that others may do the same.

Some things just can't shut down on Sunday. Like your kitchen, hospitals, public transportation, emergency personnel like firefighters, paramedics and police. Don't judge someone because they work on Sunday, buy ice cream on Sunday or... ditch their companions. ;-)

Here is my journal entry from those few days:

 29 July 1997
I got a tape from my Mom this week and on it she told me bedtime stories and opened up to me like I've never had her do before. She has been reading the book of mormon and shared the story of the tree of life with me. I felt so good. I was trying to listen in my "fort" (blankets on my bunk bed) But people kept on making noise and bothering me. I was getting frustrated so I decided to go outside and sit under my favorite tree to listen to it. About a half hour later my comp came out throwing a fit because I had left him alone. I told him I was going to finish listening to the tape but he insisted or rather, threw a tantrum because I wasn't coming in. Anyhow, we got into a little argument and the next morning we argued again and he still didn't understand that I had needed some time to listen to that recording. I exploded on him with words of frustration and he still didn't understand. We ended up just agreeing on our differences and being happy and we haven't really said anything about it since.

30 July 1997
On Wednesday, Lyn-z, Daryl, and Wendy brought a pizza for Elder Moulinoux and I. We talked to them for about a half hour. It made me feel good. I talked to them through the fence and joked and made them laugh. It made me feel SOOOOO good inside to talk with people who know me and aren't uptight and high strung. I understand the rules are important but if you walk around in life following every rule, never asking questions, you'll have never learned anything. That's my opinion. I am not like so many of the missionaries here who might as well have a number stamped on their forehead and walk around with a stick up their butt. Prophesying about the rules, (Here in the MTC) The District leader Elder Kerksiek in particular. He just turned old enough to be on a mission here in the MTC. He has probably been protected, loved and cherished his whole life. Not that that is so wrong but he is very inexperienced and doesn't understand much about life. He is very opinionated and I usually disagree with what he says. None of what he says can be backed up by doctrine. We all call him blasphemy boy. Anyhow, thanks for listening to me vent. These are my frustrations and also what has been going on in my life.
Good night,
Hugs and kisses.

Being rowdy with the other missionaries. The obligatory bunk bed roller coaster picture.

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