There I was, last October, reading 2 Nephi over my morning Crunchy Corn Bran and Mountain Dew, and suddenly I thought, I think I’ll go on a mission. Yes, that’s a lovely idea. I’ll go convert those people who think they need no more Bible. Glad that’s settled. Are we out of skim milk?
Of course I was melting down an hour later, but the interim was a nice breath of irrational certainty. As bad of an idea as this looks from the practical perspective, it has a sanguine air of inevitability to it; I’m simply convinced that I’m going to go. It’s also a solid 180 retroversion from my previous position. I’m twenty-four, and in the last three years of eligibility, I’ve been fiercely opposed to the idea. Part of the reason is that there’s so much about the Church that makes me crazy, and on irritable days I get this horrible vision of me in a denim jumper and nametag half-heartedly telling people to come join our church so they can be ostracized for drinking diet Coke and watching The Simpsons and also find out that their gender role involves being the adornment of humanity. Part of the reason is that although I’m committed to the LDS Church and call myself a devout Mormon, I’ve always struggled with the “one true church” rhetoric. I can’t imagine looking a committed Christian of another faith in the eye and saying “You’re wrong. I’m right.” As Eve has pointed out to me, though, committed Christians of other faiths don’t usually let the damn-mar-mans past the doorframe, so that’s an unlikely scenario.
And part of the reason is, for good or ill, selfishness. It’s inconvenient. I’m in the first year of my MA/PhD program and taking time out now means letting the Latin and Old English I’ve been struggling to bring up to par atrophy away back toward oblivion; coming back will be like starting over. I just took out 23K in school loans, and I certainly don’t have the resources to pay that back before I leave. I’ve uprooted my life and moved across the country once in the last six months, and I’m only just beginning to settle into my new home and find friends among my new acquaintances. I don’t want to deal with the social hardship of the mission, and I don’t want to deal with the social hardship of coming back. And given this detour, I’ll probably be into my thirties before I leave Bloomington, Indiana permanently. I know that doesn’t quite read as catastrophic, but I sort of had Bloomington filed away in my brain as a rest-stop on the highway of my life, somewhere I’m going just so I can get to somewhere else, and the prospect of turning thirty here makes me think it’s probably got more to it than picnic tables and a gas station. Going on a mission now seems like it’s going to leave me stuck later. It takes time out of a life that I never feel is large enough to do everything I want to anyhow.
On the other hand, my life invariably goes better when I do what I suspect God wants me to. I’ve made too many bad decisions while ignoring that persistent vibration in the back of my mind that falls somewhere between better judgment and revelation, which I associate with God making suggestions. And I remember my favorite professor at BYU suggesting that some people might need to hear the gospel from a girl with purple hair and a nose-ring, and even though I can’t take either to the MTC, I’ll still have them on the inside, if that makes any sense. If God and Christ and the Atonement really are at the center of my life, and I’d like them to be, then it seems like I should be willing to endure the inconvenience and the nineteen-year-olds to go to Russia or Finland or North-West Cheeto Land (as Ziff has kindly predicted) or even (heaven forbid) Iowa (I’ve actually had nightmares about getting called to Iowa) and tell people about these things that are so important to me.
So look for me this time next year, illicitly blogging from the MTC. Eve and that same BYU professor have both warned me that although I’ll probably do fine in the field, the MTC will be a very grim trial indeed, and I’ll need my Bloggernacle fix. Ten points to the best idea for how to smuggle in a laptop.
- 25 January 2006