Monday, February 27, 2017

Return of the Missionary

When I began to write about my mission life, I had planned to space it out into several posts to encompass my time in England.  However, after writing five posts, and posting four of them, I have grown tired of this venture.  So, to spare the rest of you from future forced blog posts, I will quickly wind down the recollection of my mission.  I apologize for the dragged out mission story.

My mission was certainly filled with it's ups and downs.  No matter what rules I broke though, I had success in converting people to Mormonism.  It may not sound like much, but to baptize 16 individuals into the Church, was quite the accomplishment.  Looking back on this "success", I realize it had nothing to do with having the Holy Ghost confirm anything to anyone.  I laid out a simple, yet effective high pressured sales pitch, and was able to get several people to bite.  It's almost shameful to think about.

I served as a Trainer (where I trained a brand new missionary), District Leader and Zone Leader.  During my mission, I also met a sister missionary who I "fell" for and ultimately married after my mission.  This Sister was from Sweden and I had gone to the Temple while on my mission to pray and ask God if I should marry her.  Not surprisingly, God said yes I should.  How could I have gotten a different answer anyway?  I really wanted to, so of course I would obtain the answer I most desired.  Why was I so stupid?

Not that I regret my marriage to, let's call her Swede, because I did have children with her and I love them to death.  However, I should have never barked up that tree, but more on that later.  As my mission concluded, it was now time for me to go home and begin my life.  For the last two years I ate, breathed and slept missionary life.  But, before I could go back to reality, I had to first be released by my Stake President back home.  There, the Stake President interviewed me and read from my Mission President's assessment of my time on my mission.  It was also here that the Stake President asked me about Swede.  Apparently, it was well known among the others, including my Mission President, that I had intended to marry Swede, and he wanted to be sure we hadn't done anything inappropriate while on our missions.

After passing that interview, I was released, and now I could sleep in, go to movies, watch TV, get a job and otherwise be a normal human being.  But, first things first, I had to fly to Sweden to meet Swede and her family.  The plan was to fly out there and meet her family, then bring her back to the USA where we would get married.  My focus was all on this since I had already asked god and he confirmed this was what I was supposed to do.  Much to my parent's uneasiness, I went forward with this plan and married Swede in Nauvoo, Illinois.  We didn't have much time to make certain this was what we wanted.  Immigration laws being what they are, she only had 90 days on her visa to be here.  By getting married, we would press pause on that 90 day rule while we moved forward with the immigration process.  We were married in the Temple and doing everything right, but things would begin to get shaky early on.

Prior to my mission I had engaged in a sexual relationship with a girlfriend that I had hoped would wait for me while on my mission.  This is a common theme among Mormon missionaries.  However, a little over half way through my mission I received the dreaded "dear John" letter.  That's what missionaries referred to as the break up letter elders and sisters would get from their boyfriend or girlfriend "waiting" for them back home.  I got mine and moved on.  Well, this past girlfriend attended the same church building we did.  They weren't part of our congregation, but they used the building at different times than we did.  Being the honest person I am, I informed Swede about who this girl that she had seen give me a hug because she hadn't seen me since I left for my mission.

This upset Swede so much that she couldn't bare the thought of being in the same building as her and refused to go to church there.  This forced us to move, so that our geographical location would cause us to attend a different building.  Eventually even this wasn't enough, because I could always "run in" to this past girlfriend while living in the same city/county as her.  I was given an ultimatum one day by Swede, either we move out of state, or we move to Sweden.  I was willing to do anything to make this relationship work, so I pursued employment outside Indiana, and it worked.  We moved to Ohio and started a family there.

My kids always bring up things their mom tells them about why we got divorced.  I refuse to have this conversation with them though because they aren't old enough to understand everything.  I will, when they are older, be open and honest with them should they desire it.  Looking back on it all today, I made my mistakes, which I will write about later, but so did Swede.  I realize now she was unrealistic with her expectations of me, and should have never forced me away from my home just because some silly past girlfriend.  Our whole support base was in Indiana, and by moving away from there, we cut ourselves off from that support.  I understand she moved away from her family in Sweden, but the solution isn't to be away from both.

Of course, had things not happened the way they did, I may never have come to the realization Mormonism was not true.  I may have struggled even more emotionally trying to fit in to an organization that didn't fit me.  I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, and I could only try so many times to fit until I would finally just throw my hands in the air and give up.

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