I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. I know it, I live it, and I love it (usually.) I post a little bit on here about it, especially when it comes to modesty, but I want to start sharing my feelings about missions, which consequently kinda just ends up being about life.
4 years ago this month I entered into the strange world that is an LDS mission in Tokyo, Japan.
I came back a completely different person, and in my opinion, not in a good way.
I was tired, broken, and burned out.
I felt pretty betrayed by my Heavenly Father. I had felt so strongly that He wanted me to go on a mission.
So I went, something I planned on NEVER doing.
I just couldn't understand why He had made it so clear that I needed to go, if I was just going to be miserable. Why would He want me to be beaten and broken down? Why would He want this for me?
I left for my mission with fire. I knew what I had to share was important, that my relationship with God had changed my life, and it could change other's lives too. 'cus when you know you've got the mightiest being in the universe on your side, things change. They just do.
I knew Heavenly Father had my back, and that through him, anything was possible. It might have come off a little prideful at times, but I knew in whom I had trusted, and He would not let me down.
And then, you know what happened? He dropped me!!! Or it felt like that anyway. I think that's what hurt the most, and why I walked away from the experience with so much yuckiness and betrayal.
I struggled my entire mission, and the trials were not what I expected.
What I had come to love, and grown to believe, was simply not accepted in my mission.
I believe in divine nature. Each of us is an individual, and there is SO much worth and power in that. We were each created the way we were for a reason, Heavenly Father knew what he was doing. He did not make a mistake.
For some reason, on missions, and as missionaries, we worship the idea of one type of missionary. Each and every one of us strives to become this missionary. We try to do things exactly how we've been told this perfect missionary would do them. In the process we lose ourselves, and become weird and robotic.
The perfect missionary sounds great in theory, but in reality, it's a dangerous trap. One I believe has been devised by Satan. The problem with trying to become a cookie cutter anything is that, we don't all fit in the cookie cutter's shape. You know what that means? We never measure up. Or, the bits of us that don't fit get lopped off, and we end up getting hurt.
Also, perfect doesn't exist.
It's a lie.
Perfection is literally unattainable in this life.
I did not want to be a cookie cutter anything. I had spent the years after high school figuring out who I was, and learning how to define myself, and be happy with who that was without anyone but God's approval. That takes a lot of work!! I was not about to give that up. Especially because I believed being me was more powerful than trying to live up to someone else's unrealistic expectations of what a missionary was/ is/ should be.
Christ doesn't expect us to be perfect in this life. We just need to try, and he'll take care of the rest. Why in the world would it be any different of an expectation for the year and a half/ two years we go out on a mission???!
Because I refused to conform, or fought it has hard as I could anyway, I was labeled as trouble, and I think many assumed I was a disobedient missionary, and didn't pay any attention to the rules.
Guys, that gets old really quick.
In the missionary training center they tell you all sorts of wonderful things about how the Lord has trusted you with his most important work. How we have power, and will see miracles. That the Holy ghost will guide us, and we will know exactly what to do.
When that is your expectation, but instead you're treated like a possible criminal, and everything you do is questioned, how every last minute of how your day was spent needs to be reported, you stop feeling powerful pretty quickly. And when you KNOW what you are doing is right, and what Heavenly Father wants you to do, but everyone questions it, you get tired very quickly. And it's not just a physical tired. It's a mental, spiritual, emotional kind of tired. When you know what you are doing is right, in your heart and in your gut, but everyone treats you like it's wrong, it wears you out in a way I've never been worn before. You don't just doubt your choice, you doubt yourself, your faith, and your God. It kills you a little inside each day.
I kept going, because, despite all that, I knew I was suppose to be there.
That took its toll too.
In our church, there's a lot of talk about faith. Faith can move mountains. Faith is a powerful thing. Be careful, or your faith can disappear. And on the mission it is something along the lines of your faith determines the miracles you will see. And, inversely, if you aren't getting baptisms, then it's because you don't have enough faith.
Want to get me mad in a hot second? Say that last sentence to me. It rubbed me so wrong.
Faith ended up being a trial in a way I never saw coming. I never doubted that I didn't have enough faith. Nope. I knew I was good in that department. And I was not ok with others questioning that.
It wasn't until the end of my mission that I finally found the words to explain why it made me so mad.
YOUR faith does not take away, or have a say in, someone else's agency.
It just doesn't.
We believe that before we came to this Earth, we were presented with two plans. One gave us the freedom to choose in all things. We had our agency (spoiler, that's the one we chose). The other plan, Satan's plan, we did not have agency, but we're all guaranteed a spot in Heaven after we'd been to earth and lived out our life. That plan didn't win, for good reason!!
So, in my opinion, to say our faith is the only thing coming into play when it comes to someone getting baptized, and becoming a member of this church, I think aligns QUITE nicely with Satan's plan.
No wonder I had, and still have such an issue with it. I'm not a big fan of Satan.
Or wolves dressed as sheep.
Have you ever heard the missionary purpose?
Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptisms, receiving the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end.
News flash! It is not "our purpose is to invite others to come u to Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through baptism."
Unless they've changed it, and no one informed me...
There are SO many ways to bring someone a little closer to Christ! But, on my mission, and I'd be willing to place a lot of money that it was the same in other missions, this fact was ignored.
Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I was in Japan to baptize the masses. So, I went on my not so merry way, doing exactly what I believed I had been called to do.
I was under the impression I was in Japan to love and serve the people.
I felt very strongly about that. And so, despite a lot of backlash, that's what I did, in all the ways I felt I should.
I knew I was doing what I was suppose to, and I know I was successful.
But unfortunately, I never felt like that while I was in Japan. That took it's toll too.
Imagine praying everything night, asking Heavenly Father what you could do differently so you stopped feeling like garbage all the time, and never getting an answer.
No answer was my answer. I was doing just fine.
But on a mission, if you feel like garbage, it means you're not doing something right. Your faith might be lacking. Or maybe you're not obedient enough. Maybe you just aren't as consecrated as you should be. The list goes on.
It was self inflicted torture.
Or maybe, mission inflicted torture.
Either way, it was totally unnecessary.
Either way, it still took its toll on me.
By the end of my mission I didn't feel powerful. I felt tired.
I knew God was there. But I was pretty sure he'd turned his back on me.
I knew without a doubt that the gospel must be true. If it wasn't, missionaries and misguided members would've screwed it up, and run it into the ground already.
I knew I has gone to Japan not because the Japanese people needed me, but because I needed them to survive.
By the end, I wasn't feeling empowered. I felt belittled.
I wasn't ready to go take the world by storm, and accomplish what I was sent to this world to do. I was ready to climb into a closet, and just stop being for a while.
It took three years to heal myself.
That is not ok.
I know I'm not the only one out there who had experiences like mine.
And, I want you to know you're not alone.
I also want you to know I never left the church. Because, despite it all, almost seven years ago this year, Heavenly Father took a lost, and confused girl, and showed her that she was needed, and that she had a place in this world. And little by little, He showed her just how important she was.
He gave her confidence.
He gave her worth.
And it's something I could never turn my back on. Or deny.
Sometimes it sucks knowing something is true. It means, no matter how much you want to, giving up just isn't an option. You just can't walk away.