Mormon Japan Mission Experiences

gentleben Nov. 2013

I need to post the story, I love telling it. I wonder if any of my former mission are now exmormon and lurking on this site...1994-1996 Kobe Japan anyone? I wonder if they remember the shenanigans that were going on then.

Here you go, it's a long one...
Well, here goes...

It was the last 5 months of my mission (Around May 1996 as I recall), and I was assigned to an area called Sasayama with a Japanese companion (elder S.). It was a new area that had just opened up some months before as I understood it, and I believe I was the third missionary to be stationed there. Well, as it turned out, the new area boundaries intersected an area that I was stationed in about a year earlier and as such, some of our investigator contacts from the previous area now fell into the boundaries of this new area.

One of the investigators (Ms. A.) attended english class (eikaiwa) in my previous area, but was not interested in the lessons, and so we did not push her. In an effort to bolster our english class attendance, I contacted her and told her that we were starting a class in sasayama which was one or two train stops from her house. She was excited and started coming.

A few weeks later, my companion told me we were going to do splits with the missionaries in Miki (my previous area), I was to go with an American elder (who was in my MTC group) and he was going to go with a Japanese guy who was ending his mission the following month. I of course was excited to see elder M. and visit Miki again, and on the day of the split, we headed to Miki.

My day with elder M. went well as I recall, we met up with some people who I hadn't seen for a few months, toured Miki, ate at Osho's probably, and met our counterparts that afternoon. On the way home, I discovered that elder S. had been teaching a lesson to none other than Ms. A. I recall this was on a Thursday or Friday.

I said "Oh? how did it go?"

"Great!" he said "We taught her all the lessons, and she has agreed to be baptized on Tuesday!"

"WTF" I though, but said "Wow, that is amazing! I thought she did not want to hear the lessons!"

"I guess the Miki missionaries were working with her" he replied.

This was odd, because I would expect that in Japan, and investigator willing to hear the lessons would have been a topic of conversation for Elder M. and myself, but I do not recall hearing of it until the belated conversation with elder S.

And it came to pass that the following Tuesday (note, she did not attend church on Sunday). We convened along with a number of members from surrounding areas at a ward house in a different city (I don't recall which one, but I don't think it was Miki). I did not recognize most of the members. There, they performed the baptism on the now sister A. The really odd thing about it was that all the members brought wrapped presents. I don't know that I have ever seen this, and instead of a testimony meeting type thing after, she opened presents ... WTF???

So, she was baptized, and became a member. The following Sunday, she did not show up for church. Knowing my companion had been the one making calls to her, I inquired as to why. He said she had to work at her parent's restaurant on Sunday, and that they were going to have a special meeting for her after the normal church. So that afternoon, we all convened (myself, elder S., the BP, counselors, and several others.) She showed up, and they broke bread, blessed it, and served it. Everybody in attendance partook of a second sacrament that day, except me and Ms. S. very odd indeed.

When the sacrament was presented to her, she looked at me and said "so, I eat this?"

I said "yes, do you understand what it means?"

She said "No"

I said, "Ok we should probably talk about it."

At this point, I was cutoff by the BP, and told that the remaining time should be spent introducing everyone to her. Which we did.

She left that afternoon, and to my knowledge has never set foot in a Mormon church again.

The following week, and given that Ms. A was the ONLY baptism the area had seen in probably 2 years, I was ready for fellowshipping. Wednesday was the day that we were to visit her part of our area, and I was ready to go talk to her again and clear up all the issues that she had. We rode the train to the next town with the plan of visiting her. Somehow though, we kept getting side tracked, and never made it. My comp wanted to stop and try a little sushi restaurant. Wanted to do a little housing, left the actual address at home, all kinds of excuses. In short, we never made it to her house that day.

The following Sunday, she was a no show at church, and when I asked elder S (he had taken over all communication with her) his response was basically "don't worry about her, she's fine"

This whole thing caused me a pretty fair amount of stress, and by the following Wednesday, I was determined to make the appropriate fellowshipping visit. So, we got on the train and headed to her town. Again, he started trying to distract us from our goal, but I was determined and kept pushing toward where I thought her parent's restaurant was (Addressed in Japan can be tricky, especially in older towns). we were in the vicinity of where I thought it was, when as if by the power of the holy ghost, she pulled up to the red light where we were standing! I told her we were coming to visit her, and she said "great! our restaurant is just right up there, follow me!" She then pulled into a small strip mall type area about a half block away.

As we approached the restaurant that her family owned, elder S. stopped me and said "you need to take of your nametag" (now lest you think me a great missionary, I had no problem removing my tag on P-Day to go play video games, sing karaoke, etc. but I had never done so while on the job.) I asked why, and was told that the Mission President had told him that we were not to visit her or her family, because her family was "anti" and if we did visit them, we were to represent ourselves as volunteers who taught English, and not as missionaries. I was of course taken aback by this, but went along with it, because that's what the MP had said. I found that nothing could have been further from the truth, I even told her mother that we were volunteers from the LDS church, and asked if she had ever heard of our organization. She said "No". In fact upon finding out that we were volunteers, she made us free konomiyaki, and sent us on our way with a 10 lb. bag of their konomi mix, and sauce so we could make our own at home!

The following Wednesday (and bear in mind that the stress of all of this was really building, and my relationship with elder S. was not a healthy one. We probably said no more that 5 words to each other on a given day.) we lit out for Ms. A's town again, things finally reached a boiling point, and it ended with me ditching elder S., and riding my bike up into the mountains. I didn't really think it through, and ended up a fair ways away, as night was falling. I cooled down, turned around and started heading home. I was still really pissed, and as I approached our apartment (maybe 1/4 mile away) a car slowed down behind me. I pulled off the road, and the headlights followed me. I started riding again, and the headlights again accelerated and followed me. I pulled off, threw my bike down, and got ready to tie ass with whoever was in the car...It was the Mission President, and both the APs. Now, mind you that this area was about 2 hour drive from the mission home with tolls. They followed me home, I was too pissed off at this point to worry about why they were there, or what sort of punishment would be levied upon me. Oddly enough, I don't recall the MP saying anything to me, he took elder S. and the Japanese AP into one room. I and elder G. the other AP went into another.

I told elder G. everything that had happened up to that point, and how confused I was as to the orders from the MP, or whether the orders really did come from the MP. He confirmed that they had, and that there was a perfectly valid reason for what was happening.

It turns out that Japan is a very difficult mission, and many missionaries go home without having a baptism. This is typically fine for American missionaries, but for Japanese missionaries there is a fairly large stigma attached with not having baptized anyone upon completion of the mission. Because of this the MP decided that when a missionary was ending his mission without a baptism, he would have the missionary submit several investigators who had been to eikaiwa a fair amount of time. He would then call the investigator directly, and representing himself as the President of the Mission that was providing the eikaiwa service (titles hold a lot of weight in japan, especially to 18 year old girls). He would apparently make some sort of commitment with them that they needed to go through an initiation process if they wanted to continue to attend eikaiwa, and that they basically owed it to us because of all the engrish they had learned. Of course, in most cases the victim would agree. They were also told that they should not tell their families because as an 18 year old adult, they had no responsibility to do so. The following week, two Japanese missionaries would skim through the lessons, the baptism date would be set, the victim would be baptized, and bada bing, a successful mission!

I recall being in tears upon hearing this, and being a party to it. Especially the lying to family hit me really hard. I don't think I left that room, and I didn't talk to the MP, or other AP that night. The rest of my time in Sasayama is a blur, the next transfer maybe a couple days, or a week later saw me transferred to the mission home where my companion had -just days before- broken his arm. When transferring out, Ms. A's mother came by the apartment, and gave me a care basket that had food, some t-shirts, and other items (hardly the raging anti's I was led to believe they were, and incidentally, when they found out about the baptism, apparently they involved the police, and lawyers. Luckily I was gone by then. I probably couldn't have handled that very well.)

My new companion's cast precluded him from riding a bike, and as anyone knows a transfer to the mission home without an office job is basically to be baby sat. While there however, I was determined to be useful -oh brainwashed idiot I was-, I wrote a program on the office PC to help the finance guy with his job. I had a bunk in a room with 5 other elders who were all Japanese, but I couldn't stand being around them because they all acted like elder S. so I setup a futon on the floor in the American's room (weird segregation going on there). After a few weeks in the mission home, and after a lot of soul searching on my part, I came to the realization that I was not a good missionary, and that I was just going to finish out my time, and go home. I recall I told another missionary about this.

Enter the MP worthiness interview. I was called one afternoon into a personal interview with the MP. By this time, I think I had worked up a fair amount of animosity toward him, but of course my brain washing really precluded me from having any conscious malice toward him. I think I turned it all on myself. I remember very clearly the feelings of worthlessness I had walking into the meeting. He had a huge desk, and a nice office. He was sitting across from me and had his hands clasped with his fingers intertwined and elbows resting on the desktop. I sat down, and the first thing he said was "So, I understand that you don't want to be a missionary anymore". He was native Japanese, but he spoke English to me, as he was a translator for the LDS church, and I think that because I had stopped speaking to Japanese missionaries rumor spread that I could not speak the language.

I said "No",

He said "Well we can't have missionaries who don't want to be here, I'll fill out this form, and we will discharge you" (or something like that) I looked at him, and he had a twinkle in his eye. He didn't seem sad at all, and that really hurt. I think I started to tear up at that point too.

He placed a form on his desk, and started filling it out, all the while humming a tune to himself, and smiling. I was thinking about how disappointed my parents, and friends would be that I could not complete an honorable mission. How embarrassing it was going to be to face the ward, etc. I kept my mouth shut as he spent the next 5 or 10 minutes filling out various parts of the form (I never saw the form myself, so I don't know if he had to write an essay about why he was sending me home, or if he was just filling out biographical info, but it took an excruciating amount of time for me). I was determined to keep my mouth shut, get through this, and head home. Suddenly, he stopped, looked up at me and said "there is a part here where it requires a description from you as to the nature of your leaving. What would you like me to put?" he said this last bit with a smirk, a sneer, maybe a chuckle, I don't know what it was, but in an instant in my mind he went from a respectable leader to a deceitful scumbag, and my temper flared up with such a heat that I was surprised with what started spewing out of my mouth.

"Write because my mission president is god damn liar! Tell them that I want to leave because I came on a mission thinking that I was going to do some good in the world, and instead I allowed myself to be turned into a liar. I may not be the best missionary, and I may break the rules but I certainly never lied about who I was or why I was here until you told me to. And now I am as big a liar as you, and I am not going to do it any more!" I think I was switching between English and Japanese, and I had a spattering of swear words in there too. (In Japan, no one can understand colloquialisms -or so missionaries believed-, so many missionaries develop a salty dialect to camouflage conversations in public).

His face turned a shade paler when he heard this, the smirk was now gone, he opened his top drawer, deposited the form inside, and said "Maybe we should call your parents, and talk to them about this before you make any rash decisions."

I said "ok" and a few seconds later I was talking to my dad, which anyone who has served a foreign mission knows is incredible, he just used his phone on his desk! we had to buy phone cards, find a pay phone that allowed international calling, and wait for mothers day, or xmas!

I told my dad the story of what was going on, and how I didn't want to be a part of it, I recall blubbering a lot, and he said "Well, we already paid ahead for your mission, you still have 4 months left. I don't care if you don't want to do any work, but you may as well stay there."

We talked for about 5 minutes, and I calmed down and regained my composure, all the while the MP sat silently at his desk. My dad asked me to hand the phone back to the MP, and I heard one site of the conversation. It went something like this: "No, yes, yes, yes sir, yes sir, yes sir. Thank you, good bye" he hung up the phone.

I said "I want to be transferred to xxxxx with elder xxx as my companion" got up and left.

The next week, I was in xxxxx with elder xxx as my companion. He ended his time 2 months later, and I got saddled with a green bean for my last month. I don't know what the inspiration there was, I told the greenie that we were not going to be doing any work, but that I would do my best to "train" him so he didn't blame me for his failed mission. I think we taught one discussion, toured the mission, and I left a month later. I didn't have an exit interview with the MP, the SP at home got notice that I had served an honorable mission, and I went home never hearing anything else about it. I told a fair amount of this story in Japanese in sacrament meeting at my home coming, and was told by several people who "spoke Japanese" how although they didn't understand much of what I said, they totally felt the spirit...sheesh!

This event pretty much convinced me to the fraud of the church, and although I went to church a few times, some members from Japan visited and I went to church with them. I was pretty much out. It took a few more years and the internet to completely destroy any misconceptions I may have had regarding the truthfulness of the church, and the impending birth of my first child for me to finally resign in 2005.

That's my story, since then, my career path has been in software development, and I now live in Utah. I have ironically done a fair amount of work for the LDS church as a contractor and everything I have seen in regards to the organization is consistent with it being untrue to it's outward claims. I think I heard the MP died a few years later, I haven't kept up with anybody from Japan -probably from embarrassment- I keep in touch with one of my companions, but that's about it.

Thanks for reading this, I realize that I am a software engineer, and not a writer so hopefully it wasn't too boring and fraught with error :-)

Re: Calling gentleben Japan Mission

Wow! Just Wow! I was in Tokyo North in 85-86 but I didn't have to deal with such nonsense. The mission was the end for me as well. I only attended sporatically after returning home and then gave it up for the fraud it was.

Since you were so gracious as to provide such a detailed and interesting story, let me tell you one of my own. It is actually similar to yours but not as deceitful.

The highest leadership position I attained on my mission was a lowly branch leader but, as such, I was required to do baptismal interviews for neighboring branch leaders. It seems that after the slam era these interviews were strengthened slightly (with emphasis on the slightly) to ensure that a person was actually ready to be baptized.

Well, guess what, my second interview was with the wife part of a husband/wife set that was scheduled for baptism and, she had no interest in the church or learning about the church. She refused to even pray.

Well, what could I do? I said no to the baptism. At my next personal interview with the MP, he said "sometimes we have to let people grow into the church." Up to this point in my mission I had only partially believed all the stories about the slam era but here was the beginnings of the next one, right in front of me. By the way, I never did another baptism interview. I wonder why?

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
Holy @#$%& that's an amazing story, and I had a brother in Tokyo-South!

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
I was in Fukuoka, wound up in software too, but never had something like that happen. Of course, I had American MPs so that may have had an impact (them being less concerned with saving face of those coming home without a baptism).

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
Gentlemen - was you MP Matsushita?

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
That is a plainly unbeleiveable story, and for you to stay with your integrity through it is amazing. What a sham of a mission!

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
I have a friend who served in (I think) Okinawa 89-91. He wanted to come home many times and certainly had a difficult time. This sounds somewhat similar to things he's told me. Needless to say - he is no longer a member.

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
Indeed he was.

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
In all fairness, I did not maintain my integrity through it. I gave up, gave in, and ultimately suffered a great deal of guilt because of it. Just a kid trying to navigate the intrigues of a giant organization that I knew little about.

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
He was my MP for half the time I was in the Kobe mission. For some reason, your story doesn't surprise me very much.

Re: Calling gentleben
I did two baptism interviews on my mission (Kobe) neither of them had even attended church services once. I was surprised that missionaries would even think these people were ready to take the plunge, but I guess you take whatever converts you can get in Japan.

Charles not logged in
Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
Wow ramonglyde i dont think amyone can top the craziness of your JP mission. Im sitting here in a Tokyo train reading, nay devouring your story. Had to pause at the concourse to finish it. I know a little bit about insane Japanesw MPs and administration, our school owners are nucling futs!

Not a mission prez, but a supervisor missionary in the field
I knew and worked with him. He exhibited at least bi-sexual if not gay tendencies. Not saying that's bad. But for example, he would strike up conversations with strangers in the red light district as we rode our bikes through it late at night. He was the senior comp and decided the route home. Also toward other male missionaries. I think it made him potentially vulnerable to blackmail if anyone had been inclined to extort him. I never went to the mission prez about it but if me or others had reported him, I think it could have posed a real problem for him.
The missionary was native Japanese 

Re: Calling gentleben-Stories of inspiration from Japan
Credit for the most excellent story goes to Gentleben. He only hinted at the incident in a previous post and I couldn't wait to get it out of him.

"Recovery from Mormonism -"