My 8 month mission experience new

pathist Aug 2013

I've been meaning to post this for a while now as a resource for anyone who is thinking about or is already on an LDS mission.

I am BIC and have been a member my whole life. I went to seminary, stayed active in church,

blah blah blah. I wasn't perfect though. My understanding of the gospel was still pretty ignorant, mostly due to my own laziness when it came to personal scripture study. I was at that age where friends started leaving on missions and I would soon have to make the decision of whether or not to go. Truth be told, I didn't know if I really wanted to serve a mission. I graduated from high school and gave no thought to going to college or moving out because I was supposed to serve a mission. That's what you did unless you were some sort of horrible person (or so I believed). My whole life up to that point I had been groomed to become a missionary. I was given no other information on any other routes I could take. You graduated, you worked, then you served a mission. College, becoming independent, getting married etc. all came afterward. So I got a job and started saving for a mission.

At this point I had yet to receive a patriarchal blessing, mainly because it was something I was unsure of. I admit I was dragging my feet about getting all this mission prerequisite stuff done because I was flat out unsure of what I wanted to do. My mom pretty much made all the arrangements for me to have this done. I just went along because again, I didnt know any better. Patriarchal blessing.....check. A few weeks later, I come home from church and im sitting in my room. Mom walks in and tosses some mission papers in my lap and tells me to fill them out. Now, Im sure you already know this, but Im going to say it anyways. Things like patriarchal blessings and missions are very personal affairs. Many meetings between the bishop and the individual in question usually precede the actual event itself. Here, my mom had essentially made the decisions for me. I didnt want to disappoint her or dishonor my family somehow. I was supposed to go serve a mission as a "tithe" for the first 20 years of my life according to Gordon B Hinckley. I hadnt even read the Book of Mormon or the Bible in their entirety at this point and my testimony was in question. No one seemed to care though. Not my mom, or my bishop, or the stake president. I just felt like I fell through a bunch of cracks or was being moved along some sort of an assembly line without anyone giving any significant consideration for how I felt about the situation. Before I knew it, I found myself in Durban, South Africa with no idea why I was there.

Funny tidbit here. When I opened my mission call and read "South Africa" I began to cry. At the time I didnt know if it was because I was "overwhelmed by the Spirit" or because I was being sent to Africa. Ten years later, I lean to the latter.

In the MTC, I got a letter from my mom that included one of her journal entries from when I was born. In it she spoke about how much she wanted for me to grow up to become a missionary. Forget finding a cure for cancer, or inventing the next rocketship to Mars, or just being an all around decent guy in a world full of buttholes. She wanted me to be a missionary and didnt give one thought for what I wanted to be.

While in the MTC we had what was then called "The Referral Center". You know those commercials you see on TV or hear on the radio by the LDS church? Learn more about the Book of Mormon or how families can be together forever, call this number. People who call that number are then caught up in a system that is seemingly inescapable. The first day wasnt so bad, we took incoming calls. People who wanted to know more about what they saw on TV. Id take down shipping info and have a video or BoM shipped to them. The week after that was absolute hell. We cold called people who had previously called up to either send them another church video, or set them up with the missionaries. I lost track of how many people I called that were absolutely pissed that I was calling them. Often they would yell and scream about how they had repeatedly asked to be taken off our calling list. For such people, I clicked the "Do not contact" button on my computer but im convinced it didnt do anything and just cycled them through the system again. This experience further soured my mission. I felt like a telemarketer, not a missionary, and that really made me uncomfortable.

After 3 weeks in the MTC (my mission was english speaking at the time. They had yet to fully translate a BoM into Zulu and didnt have any language training programs put together) I am then shipped off to South Africa. For 4 months I tried my best to be a good missionary. I was in my first area, my trainer was a self righteous (yet also lazy) native who loved to watch wrestling. Unbeknownst to me at the time, we would regularly wind up at a members house when wrestling just happened to be on. I usually spent this time catching up on my reading of the Book of Mormon but will admit that I got pretty acquainted with the WWF. My trainer was kind of a strange guy. On the surface he was a very strict missionary, but he bent all sorts of rules when it came to things he wanted to do. I remember asking if we could go see Treasure Planet (Disney movie in theaters at the time) and he flipped out citing some quote in the missionary handbook about watching "unauthorized videos". Our mission also like to play the stats game. Each time we had a zone conference, we would all sit in the chapel of a church building and looked at stats from all areas of the mission. It even went so far as to break it down to specific companionships so everyone in your zone knew either how awesome you were, or how much of a failure you were as a missionary. Proselyting hours, lessons taught, contacts made, people baptized. These were the numbers that some missionaries seemed to get off on. If your numbers were low, you were called upon and asked how you were going to do better. It wasnt about humanitarian work, or service, or presenting people with the "true gospel of Jesus Christ" it was all numbers. It didnt help that I was in one of the crappiest parts of the mission as far as missionary work went. I was a door to door salesman, I was selling religion, and I was being reprimanded because sales were down.

After 4 months trying to make it work, I have a mental breakdown, and become suicidal, and tell my mission pres that I want to go home. He convinces me to stay and has me sent to a new area with a new companion. My companion was an upgrade, a slightly burnt out yet easy going American that I became friends with, but the area was just as dead. I stick it out for another 4 months, things still arent working, even with regular visits to a psychiatrist who was also a Stake President. Interesting thing about those visits is that TSCC tried billing my parents for them. I dont think they ever wound up paying, but it baffled me at the time that such a thing would be asked of them. This SP/Psychologist would also try to guilt me into staying on the mission because "I wouldnt be able to hold any high callings within the church". Not that I was aspiring for any such thing, it still pissed me off that he was using such a tactic.

My MP has me meet with the area authority. I maintain that my mission has been hollow to this point and I dont see it getting any better and that I want to be sent home. I forget how long this meeting lasted, but it was a good while. I was offered alternatives like going home for 6 months and then coming back when I got my act together, or being allowed an hour every day to do some recreational reading that wasnt church related. A phone call was even made to my mother in a last ditch attempt to get me to change my mind. Again, I maintained that I did not feel fit to be on the mission and that if I could not hack it where The Lord had sent me, i wasnt going to do any better anywhere else.

What gets me here is that I pretty much had to beg to be sent home because my ability to make decisions for myself was taken from me. I couldnt leave the mission without the permission from the mission office because my passport, along with every foreign missionary's passport was kept there in a combo safe. The "reason" for that was because a few years earlier, there were some missionaries from Ethiopia who came to Durban on their missions. After being sent to their respective areas, they removed their garments and anything else that branded them LDS and ran away from the mission. Turns out they just wanted to get out of Ethiopia and pretending to serve a mission was the best way out. So I was effectively a prisoner on the mission until I got permission from my MP to leave.

One thing that really helped me out here was my best friend who was also on a mission. We left around the same time, but he went stateside to glorious Oklahoma! We both ignored the "rules" about emailing people other than family and kept in touch. Turns out he wasnt handling his mission very well either. His MP told him things like he would be missing out on good job opportunities by abandoning his mission. He laughed this off because he had a standing offer with a graphic design company back home to work for them whenever he was able. So he bailed, went home, and started working right away. Whats important here is that my friend had a plan and was able to adjust back to normal life pretty easily. I didnt.

As soon as my last meeting with my MP was concluded, I arrangements were made for me to wrap up and go home. They didnt even wait for transfers, which I would have been fine with, and booked the next available flight back to the States.

I came home to a cold reception. My mom didnt take it well and for the next few months, she told me regularly about how disappointed she was in me for not completing the two years. Heres where I get a little miffed. Not only is my family supposed to be loving and supportive during this time, but I am being openly criticized during an extremely vulnerable part of my life. If I really wanted to, I could have stayed on my mission for the full two years and just been a lazy missionary. "Trunky" is ther term. After 2 years, I come home to all the pomp and circumstance and the stake presidency parades me around like a hero. No one would have known that I was just a lazy, deadbeat missionary. I had more respect for the name tag though, and didnt want to tarnish it by acting in such a way, so I chose to come home. I came home to silence. The ward barely even acknowledged me. I was given my missionary plaque informally rather than in front of the congregation and was ushered off to the singles ward shortly thereafter. To add insult to injury, I was even given a bill from the church for $750 for the plane ticket home. I float in limbo for a little while, staying a few months with the mother of one of my friends in the ward. He was still out on his mission and my sister had taken over my room so I had nowhere to stay and she offered to put me up. Eventually I got myself a decent enough paying job and got out on my own. Though I am doing well for myself right now, I had a pretty rough and delayed start.

This is not meant to be a "woe is me" post. There are those out there who have had far worse experiences on the mission than I and I dont want to take anything away from the hardships they endured. This is merely an account of someone who went against the grain, against the path of least resistance to do what they felt was right. It was also meant to give some insight into how things are conducted in the mission field from the perspective of someone who experienced them first hand.

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Thanks for sharing. I often feel bitter about how women are treated in the church. It's good to remember how the young men are revered, but used and abused. So sorry your mom is too brainwashed to value you above the church. It showed great integrity to leave rather than coast.

Devoted Exmo
Re: My 8 month mission experience
Pathist, I applaud you for your itegrity. You know you did the right thing, and a select set of people know you did the right thing. But that's the funny thing about integrity, most peer pressure is against doing what is really right!

So good for you for standing up to those good "Christian" folk and doing what was clearly right for you. I hope you do really well in life, living it on your terms.

Thanks for sharing this. 

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Good stuff, thanks for posting this.

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Thankyou SO much pathist! Some of the parts of your story are very familiar, when my now ex-husband arrived in Australia for his mission his passport was taken from him too. He was NOT happy! That is SUCH control over a VERY personal document.

I am SO sorry for the enormous amount of personal pain you were in, during the 'nervous breakdown'. That SP should be struck off any professional list he was on for 'guilting' you , what sort of doctor was he? It really shows me the enormous amount of courage you had, to get out of the mission when you were in such an emotionally vulnerable state. Having known emotional problems, I truly admire you! YOu did what was right for you, and what you HAD to do for you emotional health, and you took nothing but schtick for it. That is wonderful on your part, and all I can say for the others is "Shame"!!!!!!!

I feel sorry for your mother, she has a wonderful courageous son, and all she can see is your 'failure' as a missionary. And your SISTER didn't even let you have your room back so you could get better!!!???!!!
Where is the compassion and love here?

I am SO glad you had a friend's Mum to put you up and that you have made good progress since. I know you feel that your progress financially and in your job has been held back, but I honestly do feel that the life lessons you learned, all of them VERY difficult ones, will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

Thankyou SO much for sharing, and I am sure it will help the other young missionary who posted today to read your story.

TAke care my dear, you are amazing and really do deserve all the happiness that I am sure will come your way!

PS I would be proud to be a substitute mother/grandmother to you!!

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, most mothers have no idea of what a mission is like, unless they've been on one themselves. They put missionaries up on a pedestal, and have no idea that the young men they see every week in church are victims of a CULTure and a greedy corporation. They push their sons to go on missions, while the fathers, who really know what its like, remain silent bystanders.

I went to Germany and the numbers game there was just as bad, and the work was very slow.

I served out my term completely. Yet, I also got a bill from the church after I got home. It was a utility bill. It wasn't for very much money. I remember thinking, What the hell? What are they gonna do if I don't pay this? Sue me?

Mr. Neutron
Re: My 8 month mission experience
This should be topped and topped and topped again. Every questioning missionary, male and female, should read it. And kudos to Dorothy for seeing how the church cuts both ways across the sexes, differentiating its oppression according to its perception of which category you belong to.
deja Vue
My 8 month mission experience
Wish I'd had your integrity, courage and honesty. I played the game like you did but when I should have headed home, I knuckled under and stayed. Still makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it. I resigned membership in 91 but I am still angry and disgusted with tscc.

Your review needs more publicity!

Re: My 8 month mission experience
I know that my mother wanted what she thought was best for me, but she did it in the worst way possible. The very night I was back home, I had to listen to her cry and tell me "I told you it was going to be hard!" Which really wasnt what I needed to hear at that point.

Being a missionary didnt work out for me because I genuinely didnt want to be there. I was just going through the rounds and living by the LDS template. I realized that I was there to make my mother and other family members happy, which is not a valid reason for becoming a missionary.

Things are better between my mother and I now, but I will never forget how I was treated by her when I got home.

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Thank you for sharing. Hang in there. You can make a greart life for yourself. Go to school, work etc. Your experience shows its just a corporation liking for revenue
Re: My 8 month mission experience
The way they treated you, making you do calls to people who asked not to be called, and keeping your passport in their safe, and other things, was completely morally wrong. You were so right and courageous to leave!

They try to make you feel you have no choice, but you proved your worth as an adult entitled to make decisions for yourself. Once you're over 18, you always have choices. Even if they had refused to give your passport back, you can call your country's embassy and get their help to get a new passport. Or, threaten to call the local media and tell them you're being held in the country against your will unless they give the passport back.

It's so much better to live a genuine life, than a fake life where people pretend to care about you, only for you to find out that many "friends" and "close" family only cared about your physical self and how you can make the family look good, not your soul and the person you really are. A well attended Mormon family event where lots of people are there who pretend to care about you is worth less than a few people being at a an event for you who understand you to the core and truly care about you as a PERSON.

Cowboy Jesus
Re: My 8 month mission experience
My mission was also a hollow experience. I went to make my mom happy and because I thought girls would like me when I came back.

Cowardly lion
Re: My 8 month mission experience
SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR BAD EXPERIANCE. Let me reassure you' You are not whining! And sadly,Youre not the only one to have a bad experiance. Like young soldiers sent off to an unpopluar war. They are fed stories of glory & praised! And when the "soldier" comes home, if it wasnt glorious, the blame is put on them! Any religious organization that takes your passport,Mentally Manipulates,you & your family should be criminally charged! How they get away w/this is beyond me!!!

Re: My 8 month mission experience
I completely agree. That is incredible that you had the courage to do that. One of my biggest regrets is not having the guts to get married outside of the temple. Your parents sound a lot like mine. There was a lot of family drama going on and I didn't have the emotional energy or strength to cancel our temple wedding. You are obviously determined, intuitive and strong-willed. I'm sure that you'll have plenty of success. Good luck. Thank you for sharing your story.
Re: My 8 month mission experience
Well written, and kudos for bailing.

Brings back unpleasant memories of my mission. For the most part, I was gung ho, but many things rubbed me the wrong way. I recall a companion yelling at me because I set a baptismal goal for the next year of 15 - I had 8 the year before.

He, set his goal for 250, and berated me for his lack of faith. Of course, he got less than ten.

I'm also ashamed of some of the aggressive and dishonest tactics employed by missionaries.

By the way, I am now 54 years old, and my mom is 91. She is still tells me I would be happier if I came back to church. I just respond by giving her a list of things I would like her to do - like construction, driving trucks, and other things that I think would make her happy!

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Edit: berated me for MY lack of faith
Illuminati Agent on Board
Re: My 8 month mission experience
In the Catholic Church the old joke was: my mother had the vocation, so I had to become a priest. I knew a Jesuit priest, years ago, who put in his paperwork to leave the priesthood the week after his mother died.

I stuck it out
I stuck it out the full 2 years, but I would have been happier if I had gone home after a year. My last 6 months were sheer misery and left a bitter taste in my mouth that helped lead me out of the church 5 years later.

You also learned a lot about your family in these circumstances. You learned who would stand by you and who wouldn't. Good for you for going home early. It's not the easy way out by any means.

As for the glory of being an RM, it fades pretty quickly. I don't remember many honors being heaped on me, got no plaque, and basically got to give a speech at church at that was it. I also had to give a presentation to the Dry Council, but I could have gladly passed that up. I was just glad to finally be home and get on with my life, even though I still miss France today.

Re: I stuck it out
Damn, that brings back memories of my mission, now 30 years ago to Japan.

I went, and looking back, it was because of social pressure and also I wanted to see if the church was true or not.

I had grown up in an extremely abusive environment, and suffered from depression and anxiety. I really struggled in the MTC learning Japanese, but they did nothing to help me with the depression other than to pressure me to pray more.

Same thing on my mission. I was clinically depressed, had a terrible senior companion, who did at least take me to the MP to talk about my "problem" which he thought was because I didn't have enough faith. He asked me if I had a testimony of the First Vision. What I would give to go back and to be able to ask which First Vision.

For the people who claim that the gospel is perfect but the people aren’t. BS. If there were a personal god, he could have found some way to help people with problems like this.

Re: My 8 month mission experience
I echo others' thanks for sharing your experience. It's very telling that the mission leadership was much more interested in manipulating you into staying than getting you help. I almost, sadly, expect that kind of behavior from mission leaders, based on your experience, mine and many others'. I am very sad though about the treatment from your mom. I do agree that any person who hasn't served a mission doesn't really understand the daily hell that it is. Chalk up mom's attitude to brainwashing and lack of first-hand experience.

You'll find a very supportive bunch here. I think telling your story is cathartic (for all of us)!

Re: My 8 month mission experience
pathist: I liked your post. I could related to you well about the hypocracy of the gung-ho wwf companion. It seems as though there are always ppl in the church who feel its ok for them to not follow the rules but fall apart when their companion or others don't. When did god give these folks a free pass and why not you and me?

I worked with a guy recently who felt it was ok to play some poker, "a little 5 card stud" as he put it (and black jack and slots and craps and anything else you can do in Wendover or Las Vegas), but when I started learning the truth of the LDS church he was quick to point the finger at ME! Holy sh_t! I guess the guy missed the part about filthy lucre and the church's stance on gambling.

There are so many members like this, but also in other religions too. That is how I can see the invalidity of these religious clowns and their silly beliefs.

Re: My 8 month mission experience
Thanks for the eye-opener...

My take:

When the Kool Aid has been ingested, it makes one thirsty for more Kool Aid, because of the addictive nature of sugar.

The addiction requires more Kool Aid.

The behaviors of those around you are indicative of The Kool Aid Syndrome...

All the best to you, Pathist

Re: My 8 month mission experience
I cheer your bravery and living your truth in getting out of your Mission. Life is surely Greener on the other side of Mormondum.

Kudos to you, Pathist, for .......
....having the backbone to leave an abusive, crappy situation. I almost left a couple if times, but never quite had the balls to follow through.

I may be partially responsible for the (very likely illegal) policy of keeping passports at the mission HQ after bring "ratted out" for using my passport to travel to seven countries.

I vowed that my children would never feel any pressure to go on missions and none did! Our legacy can be to lift this silly pressure where possible

"Recovery from Mormonism -"