Date: September 26, 2010 01:56AM
You brought the memories flooding back.
The start of my mission in April 1977 pre-dated the existence of the MTC in Provo. It began by spending a week in the mission home in Salt Lake City before going off to Virginia to be a door to door salesman for Joe Smith. It turned out to be the worst week I have ever experienced in my life.
In the week I was there, I saw manifested from the Mission Home leaders & from the General Authorities acts of such incredible emotional cruelty in so many ways that I was not sure if I was at the right place. Some of the emotional cruelties I saw included witnessing a scene of missionaries being separated from their families and girlfriends. I had never seen so much anguish and sadness erupt in so many people all at once when the families & girlfriends were told to say goodbye to their missionary, be told to get out, and be told that you would not see them again for two years.
Since I had flown in from California, I had already experienced my own tearful goodbyes to my family and girlfriend two hours prior and I was still reeling from that. How gut wrenching for me was to witness again people having their hearts broken, and while this ugly scene was transpiring, watching the mission home leaders smile with a sanctimonious glee of some sick satisfaction that made me want to punch them. This scene looked like a WWII movie scene where families were being ripped apart about to be sent to Nazi death camps.
The week progressed with the mission home leaders attempting to brainwash me with non-stop scripture memorization, temple sessions, endless boring meetings, horrible food, and sleep deprivation. It was like a week-long Sunday with everyday being not just a 3 hour block of boring meetings and nonsense, but an 18 hour block of boring meetings and nonsense.
Being a cynical person by nature, I inquired at the front desk of the mission home one day and asked if this was really the LDS mission home. They said “yes, why do you ask?” I replied that I have yet to see any manifestation of Christ-like love in this place. That raised their eyebrows and after that I seemed to be watched more closely than before.
This SLC mission home experience was turning more and more into a ‘bad boys reform school’ nightmare. Daily, I, along with everybody else were being trashed and condemned for any imperfections I had, being told constantly by the mission home leaders or GA's that I did not measure up in any way to God, and I endured unwarrented chastisement for asking some tough doctrinal questions.
I remember one particular day everyone was gathered in the main meeting room and the GA speaker asked what our jobs as missionaries was to be. Some poor elder raised his hand, stood up and said “…to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring people into the church.” The response from the GA was, “No Elder, you are totally wrong. Your job is to not teach the gospel but to tract out people and baptize.” That elder was so humiliated and stunned. I was stunned. Everyone else was stunned. I sat there and thought, “This is not what I came here for. This is not what I was taught since my early childhood of what a mission was all about. I must have been lied to, all my growing up years.” This was a major damage moment to whatever testimony I thought I possessed.
From that moment on, I kept thinking to myself, “I gave up my girlfriend who I loved dearly, gave up my college educational opportunities, gave up my car, and gave up my good life for this shit?” Oh how I wished that I possessed the courage then to just get up, grab my bags, and just walk out the door. But at 19, I was too much of a coward to do so. To this day, I regret not flying back home before suffering two more years of similar shit.
If I learned anything at all in that SLC mission home, it was that the leaders of the Mormon Church are compassionless pin heads at every level. My respect for any church leader or GA had evaporated because I now saw that they had no more inspiration than a fencepost and no more compassion than someone enjoying dripping hot wax into your eyes. I concluded that the next 23 months and 3 weeks of my mission was going to be pure hell. And it was!!
I could not imagine spending 6 weeks in the MTC in such an environment. One week was enough for me.