Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Mission, Episode II

   (Christchurch Priory, the longest Parish Church in the UK. Photo credit: Wikipedia by Bellminsterboy)

My first area I was assigned to on my mission was a town in southern England called Christchurch, Dorset.  I lived in a small apartment above a street side store.  I can’t recall now what the store actually was.  I was so excited to finally be out there serving, preaching and converting.  It was my first companion’s responsibility to train me proper.  Yes, I had just been in the MTC, but that’s more like classwork, and this was on the job training.  I was very “green”.  In fact, that is what they’d call fresh new missionaries, “greenies”.  

At this point in my mission, I wanted to serve passionately, and I was gonna be the most obedient missionary there ever was.  I had a huge side part, and I followed the rules to a T.  There was an old gentleman we would visit with in this area.  His name was John, or John of Southbourne as he referred to himself.  John was blind and he had no interest in the Mormon church, but we went over there quite often and helped him with getting around town.  John genuinely enjoyed our company, but we never tried to teach him the “discussion”.  So, being green as I was I objected to continuing this tradition since John had no desire to investigate the Mormon church.  I wasn’t there to chum it with people.  I was there to teach and baptized.  

I was mentally blind, and couldn’t see the good we were doing because the Mormon church had called me to serve, not socialize.  I was trained to teach, teach, teach, and this time spent with John was a waste.  Needless to say, my objection wasn’t noted and we continued to visit John because my companion was senior to me and that was all that mattered.  

I’m glad we continued to go back.  John was an absolute delight, and I wish I had taken more time to get to know him.  I began to loosen up after about 4 months into my mission.  I found a new desire to learn more about the deep principles of the Mormon faith.  Things the church would frown upon for young missionaries to study, but that made it even more intriguing.

In the church, there would be a separation between the “milk” and the “meat” of the gospel.  The milk consisted of those basic principles like Jesus died for us and Joseph Smith was a prophet.  They are the basics, the things we would teach to investigators.  Simple things.  The meat of the gospel were those things that only those with strong testimonies should seek out.  They are the great mysteries of God, of which he only rewards to those who put in the work to find.  I wanted to know more about those things, so I could be a spiritual giant, and have as many answers I could for naysayers on the street.

My Mission President had all the answers it seemed, and he really inspired me to study the meats of the gospel.  It was during my mission I shed my previous belief about dinosaurs.  Prior to this I believed the dinosaur bones were merely embedded into the remains of prior planets in which God used to put together and create the Earth.  I had asked my Mission President about this very thing and he told me that of course the dinosaurs lived on this Earth millions of years ago.

I was stunned.  Before this I didn’t even know it was possible to be a Mormon and believe something existed on this planet that long ago.  This introduced me to the world of less known Mormon theology.  I always found the basic beliefs to be very boring, but this new knowledge I had been exposed to really got me excited to study more about the mysteries of God.  So I began to relax a little more about following the mission rules.  I would “roughly” obey all the rules, and I would engage myself more into the deeper doctrines of the Mormon church.  

One of the first things I did in blatant disobedience was buying a book.  Not just any book, but Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.  I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and this movie was being released while I was on my mission, and I was totally bummed.  Missionaries are not permitted to watch movies or television, so I bought the book and read it.  I could just feel the Holy Ghost leave my presence.  However, I was still able to teach people effectively, and it didn’t seem to have any negative effect on my conversion rate.  I thought to myself, “God must not mind that I’m reading this book”.  And with this thought, I began to break more and more rules.  

I spent about 4.5 months in Christchurch, and made some very fond memories.  I recall the first time I visited the beach area was in Bournemouth.  I soon discovered that the good women of England were not so shy about being topless.  It was much of a common theme to walk down the public beach and find women sunbathing topless.  They were much more easy going about sexuality there.  It wasn’t a big deal to them, but for this naive and sheltered American, it was HUGE!  Obviously it wasn’t the first time I had seen naked boobies, but I hadn’t expected to see them in public.  Needless to say, when I was transferred from Christchurch, I would really miss my long walks on the beach.

My next area to serve was in Hastings.  “Remember remember, the 5th of November”!  

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