Why I wish I would have served my mission like a Reality-Show Villain

I served a mission from 1998-2000. I have one major regret from my mission and I think often about what I should have done differently.  And I have come to this.

I should have served my mission like a Reality Show Villain.

If you watch reality television at all you will be very familiar with the phrase "I'm not here to make friends". This is the sure sign of a reality TV villain.  Oh, how I wish I had entered the mission field with that mantra.  Let me explain.

I served in a mission that struggled greatly with obedience.  There was a definite vibe of disobedience from the APs down.  I began my mission strong and stalwart!  I served in a small area that was removed from the major cities in my mission.  The other missionaries in my area was another set of sisters (note: this is not to suggest that sisters are always more obedient than elders). It was easy to stick to the mission rules.

But, after being transferred to an area with a University Campus, that was a decent distance from the mission home, I was plunged into a world of disobedient missionaries.  Even my leaders were breaking a lot of mission rules.  The very first week in this new area I was standing behind our mission car, guiding my companion as she backed out of a parking space after District Meeting.  A group of Elders in my district observed me and stood in a pack, making fun of me for obeying that rule.  I was first indignant, but then I became embarrassed. Shortly after that the other missionaries in my district started referring to me as "Arrow", meaning that I was a straight-arrow, keeping all the rules.  I should have been proud of being obedient, but instead it started to get to me.  Life Lesson: Sometimes those in the Tall and Spacious Building are other members of the LDS church.

I didn't want the other missionaries to make fun of me.  I didn't want to hang out all alone on P-day.  Missions can be hard, emotionally draining, and lonely.  I wanted to have friends.  Slowly, I began slipping on small rules.  Then I was chatting a few extra minutes on the phone with Elders after giving them our daily numbers.  Honestly, I didn't do anything too egregious.  I never broke any major rules, but those small disobediences (spell-check is telling me this isn't a word, but you know what I mean) added up and wore on my spirit.

In my last area I had a Junior Companion who was talking each night with our Zone Leader on the phone.  I had chatted with Elders on the phone before so I thought, No big deal.  I soon found out that those chats were so much more.  It came to my knowledge that she was getting up after we had gone to bed and calling him (and he was calling her too) to talk all night long.  This is when I should have called the Mission President right away. But I didn't. Instead, I talked with her about it.  She told me she was sorry, she knew it was wrong, she was going to stop, please don't tell President she begged.  So I didn't call President.

But those calls didn't stop. They escalated.  One night I woke up and went to use the bathroom.  My companion wasn't in her bed. She was in a different room and I could hear her conversation on the phone. I was appalled.  What I overheard was very inappropriate.  I confronted her the next day.  She cried and begged me not to tell. She told me we were friends.  She said she would stop.  I should have called the Mission President right away. But I didn't.

Then the Zone Leader called a meeting with me.  He said I shouldn't tell President.  He told me it was none of my business.  He said I wasn't exactly obedient so I was a hypocrite.  He told me we were friends.  I should have called the Mission President right away. But I didn't.

My mission was coming to a close  I figured it didn't matter.  I told myself I didn't want to make any enemies at the end of my mission.  I thought my companion and I would be friends after the mission. But after I went home, and even to this day, it plagues me.

I wasn't on a mission to make friends.  I was there to share the gospel.

And, not surprisingly, I am not friends with many missionaries from my mission.  And the ones I do keep in contact with were the ones with which I was exactly obedient.  The ones who encouraged me (and who I encouraged) to be the best missionary I could be. To be obedient and work hard.  The missionaries I still have friendships with were the ones who gave me a wake-up call me each morning at 6:30 am when I said I was struggling with the early morning routine. They are the ones that I did the same for when they were struggling with waking up on time.

If I could go back in time  I would go back to that moment when the Elders first made fun of me for backing out the car and say to myself I'm here to be exactly obedient, I'm not here to make friends. I would go back to those times my District Leader would strike up a conversation after I gave our daily numbers and say to myself I'm just giving my numbers, I'm not here to make friends.  I would go back to those times when other missionaries would call me Arrow and I would be proud of that nickname because it meant I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do.

I would wake up and say to myself every day "You have been called and set apart to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You're not here to make friends."

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4 Way Righteous Comments:

Emily said...

So interesting. I'm going to teach this to my kids.

stacyj said...

Thank you for sharing that story! I was the missionary who called the President and felt horrible about that for a very long time, but my companion--who was my trainer thanked me before she went home. I just had my son read this, because it is such great prep for what every missionary will undoubtedly encounter, and I love the reality show villain, " not here to make friends" mantra -- great job!

Mary Lynn Evans said...

Thank you for sharing! I didn't go on a mission but have always heard about how important obedience is. I never thought about how hard that really would be. I'm going to share this with my children.

elesa said...

Wow, thanks for this. I had sort of a similar experience. My senior companion and my district leader were "in love". And I did nothing, even when my mission president asked me it. Ugh, it makes me sick thinking about it. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. But someone needed to give your Zone Leader a smack upside the head. I can't believe he called a meeting with you. The nerve!

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