Welcome to “Missionary Monday” a new experiment to bring variety and structure to the blog. Each Monday will be devoted to a chronological retelling of my mission. Some of this feature will directly examine homosexuality and much of it will not.
It was never my nature to talk much about my mission because it generally irked me when that’s the only things some returned missionaries had done so.
The last semester of my Freshman year had ended. My future was entirely in question. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do with my life by any means. I’d studied English, History, and Biology, but nothing quite seemed to fit. Dating was a mystery. I saw no value in asking a girl out other than to, perhaps, fulfill some cultural/religious obligation (and the idea of asking out a guy was not even a possibility).
I did know two things, however. In a matter of months, 1) I’d be somewhere outside of Utah and 2) I’d be a gospel-preaching, door-knocking, tie-wearing, nametag-bearing Mormon missionary. Months earlier, I’d met with my Bishop and prepared my ‘papers.’
Although it may sound an awful lot like the language used for pedigreed dogs, it’s more like an application. The process entailed a number of interviews, medical exams, the excision of my wisdom teeth, and a lengthy written application followed by a month of waiting for—my call—a response to my quandaries of where I’d be going and if I’d be learning another language in the form of a letter.
One day, sometime in the middle of May, my mother made a frantic, breathless phone call. “GMB, your call… it arrived in the mail this afternoon.”
I was at work and not quite sure what to feel. Part of it was the mystery of a life away from everything I knew for two years (save the gospel). Part of it was the challenge that surely awaited. And finally, part of it was the complete inadequacy I’d felt concerning religion. I didn’t feel the spirit when I was supposed to and logical doubts had loomed over my head for as long as I could remember. In the journal I’d kept at one point, I described myself as “spiritually retarded” for not being able to feel what my peers did.
Still, the need to go on a mission pressed on me whether that be in a cultural or personal sense. For whatever reason, going on a mission seemed to fit and not just because if fit the expectations of my parents. I felt like I could help someone and make a difference in that person’s life even if I didn’t understand or believe, going out into the world, 100% in everything I would be teaching. Feeling right and the possibility that I might improve by the slightest degree a single person’s life was enough for me.
As was tradition in my family, everyone was notified that the call arrived and we all gathered at the family business. My brothers, my mother, my father, his mother, and my sister-in-law gathered around as I opened up the envelope. I thought to myself in an unsure way, Where will I be instead of here?
In all honesty, you’re not supposed care about such things, but I did. In a semi-selfish way, I wanted the experience of learning Spanish. It was useful and Latin America had its appeal. I could come back and communicate with immigrants and maybe even study it to some extent. Always thinking so practically.
“Go ahead and open it. What are you waiting for?” my father protested. The results were underwhelming, but not terribly so:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Brazil [excerpted] Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.
“Brazil!? What do you think, GMB?”
I wasn’t sure what to say. Brazil? Two years in Brazil?, was all I could really think.