I hear there’s a Primary song — “I hope they call me on a mission.” I’ve never actually heard it sung, but I vaguely know that it does exist and that there are some members who have their kids sing it enough that they internalize it. I never grew up with that, of course.
Missions just never seemed for me. At first I was apathetic to the concept, and then I was doubtful. Then, I became opposed to the concept. Why should I derail my life? (The answer of: “Because it’s what the Lord wants you to do” or “Because righteous people should want to be obedient” fell flat against me.) What good could a mission really do for me? Why should I try to convince people who already have religions and ways of life that they are wrong?
As someone who grew up in the church, I’ve never been able to understand converts’ perspective. I’ve never been able to understand how someone can listen to two clean-cut 19-year-olds and go from there to testimony. I’ve just never had to do it (but when I’ve seen the missionaries at work, or I’ve heard the lessons, it’s been wholly unconvincing. So much for feeling the spirit.)
Eventually, I started seeing some people go on missions. People who I knew weren’t really the most worthy people (not that I’m judging). I didn’t pay too much attention to it…I assumed they had cleaned up whatever their indiscretions were. So when these people started coming back much more mature, I was amazed. They had clearly been transformed on their missions and now they were back wiser. (I guess I’ve had the luck of never seeing a missionary faith disaster case.) I began to respect the missionary ideal…even if I was not quite sure if it was for me.
I remember…it was around Easter a few years ago…it had to be before Easter, because I remember Easter was the day of my epiphany. Anyway, some time before Easter a few years ago, my father had been my young men’s adviser, and I remember asking him about how people get testimonies. I remember arguing something to the effect that I couldn’t have a testimony being raised in such comfort. I’d need to be subjected to all of the worst things in the world and then be forcibly humbled. It was pretty deep, I thought. My father didn’t agree. He said something about how Christ suffered for us so that we didn’t necessarily have to suffer all that stuff if we’d follow by faith. Why stick your finger into an electrical socket when you can just accept by faith that it’s not a good idea? Sure, the former will give you a physical experience that you won’t soon forget…but it could destroy you first.
Still, I thought I needed some thing that would shake my foundation so hard that it forced me to need Christ.
Then came Easter. I don’t think there was anything in any particular lessons about it (so I guess this is the point where I’m supposed to say the Lord has great sense of timing for personal revelation — yeah, right), but I came to realize that all a mission was is a controlled way for people to reach the humble rock bottoms of their lives.
I apologize if this is a naive and warped view of a missionary experience.
When I read about missionary experiences, they don’t sound particularly enjoyable. Or rather, the enjoyable ones are rare. But it seems that most missionaries either don’t focus on the unenjoyable aspects, or when they do, they miss the point. However, I was looking for a fiery field to walk in, and a white (hot) field was ready to harvest.
Back then, I thought that even though I’d hate the experience and I’d hate myself for it, in the end, I’d have a thicker testimony. So, it was with that that I had that kind of LDS-ism…if you can only desire to believe, after all…
So, I have a period of time in my journal where I tell myself that I must tell the Bishop, my father, etc., to make me go on a mission no matter what. That I cannot be allowed to back out of this.
…As you can see, I haven’t gone on my mission, and even though I have a few years, I don’t see it in my future. In the end, I have to accept that even though I recognize such an experience would change me, I would hate such a change. Perhaps it’s pride or whatever, but I don’t want to come to look at my life as something I despise. Yet that’s what I feel the mission experience, and a full-out commitment to the church would bring.
I look at so many people who have ended up wrecking themselves because of some church expectation or requirement…twisting themselves in emotional or financial or spiritual knots…and for what?