Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mission Preparations

I received letters from the church with lists of things I'd need for my mission. I bought a cheap but sturdy black polyester suit with two pairs of pants to go with the one jacket. I didn't realize that this would cause people for the next two years to constantly ask me why I was "en luto" or mourning. I stocked up on white shirts and ties and bought a tan trench coat. Why a trench coat? Apparently that is part of the stock missionary uniform which was apparently invented in the 1950s. A trench coat turned out to be highly impractical while hiking up and down steep mountain paths and because of the length it tended to wrap around your legs in the wind.

I bought my missionary library which included "The Articles of Faith", "Jesus the Christ", and "The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" but I wasn't allowed any other books or recordings beyond those classics of Mormon theological literature.

I also had to prepare to travel out of the country. I had to get my U.S. passport, but worse I had to get vaccinations for some nasty diseases. That was uneventful except for the typhoid. I was warned that it would hurt so I got it in my left shoulder. When I got home I went out and played a little tennis in the hope that a little exercise might help the muscle from getting too sore. However my shoulder soon started getting sore. By supper it was warm to the touch and getting red around the vaccination site. By bedtime my entire deltoid was red, swollen, hot to the touch, and unbelievably painful. That night I struggled to sleep because any movement or touch on that shoulder woke me up in pain. The only position that was bearable was on my right side. I remember thinking, "If the vaccination is this bad, I wonder what the actual disease feels like?" Unfortunately, I found out. It turns out the vaccine only protects against the worst strains of a disease that has many, many strains.

I went to the temple on the Saturday before I was scheduled to leave and then on Sunday I went to the stake president's office to be set apart. He laid his hands on my head and I was officially an ordained missionary of the church for the next two years until I had an interview where he released me. During that period I was required to live by all missionary rules including constantly being with my companion. Until I arrived at the MTC my parents were my companion and I wasn't allowed to be alone any more.

I packed everything I'd have for the next two years into two suitcases and boarded the plane to Salt Lake City. My best friend, who was attending BYU, picked me up and I stayed at his apartment that night. I met my girlfriend that night, but since I was set apart I wasn't allowed to be alone with her and we had to say our goodbyes with a room full of people. I told her not to worry about waiting for me and she said she wasn't going to. We had both grown up in the church and knew how few relationships survived a mission and we didn't want to continue the stereotype of Dear John letters. Better to just have low expectations for the future.

The next morning Bill drove me to the north end of the BYU campus across the street from the Provo temple and dropped me off to join a large crowd of new missionaries. Many of the new missionaries had been escorted to the MTC by friends and family. I felt so alone and disoriented as I watched many tearful goodbyes. I was surrounded by people I didn't know and had no idea what to expect. Soon, the missionaries were directed to a large room and we collectively took a deep breath, walked through the door and left one life behind as we entered a completely new one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your narratives are amazing. Thank you for sharing. I am new to your blog, but wanted to say I very much appreciate what you are saying, and I hope to stay in touch.