Today while waiting at the doctor's office in the middle of Mormon, Utah; a Missionary-To-Be came in to get his physical before he could send in his papers to find out where he is being sent on his mission. I could tell he was nervous, because who wouldn't be? I looked at him fidget with his papers and thoughts kept streaming through my head.
What was going through my head back then? Were my thoughts the same as his or were they completely different? Is he going out of obligation like me or is he going because he truly feels it's the right thing to do? Do I feel sorry for his situation or do I admire his bravery? (Because going on a mission was probably the hardest thing I have ever done.) Will the mission change his views on the church to make him leave or will it make him a stronger member? There are so many young kids leaving home for 18-24 months. Many things can make impressions on their minds. What ones will he choose to listen to and accept?
If he is going out of obligation how can I reach out and help? And that is when it hit me. There really is not much I can do. Yes I can talk to him. I can reassure him he doesn't need to go, but it wouldn't have stopped me. I would have still gone on my mission. I would have lied to that stranger as I lied to myself. Fear of family and societal pressures will normally outweigh the thought of being free. It took me years to leave. My family still struggles with it, but it gets better as the months go on. What if his family is not as understanding? What if he is like many of my friends who still can't leave the faith because they don't want to lose the ties they have with their families? It's a Catch 22 situation. I know several people who's family would completely shut them out of their lives if they left.
To this young man, I say be strong. My will is with you and so is the will of several others. If by some chance you read this and you are that young man or another in a similar situation stay strong. Give in only as much as you have to. Bending the rules is ok. The guilt you feel will not always be there. The guilt will only control you as much as you let it. Remember that this is but a task in life and grow from it, learn from it, take as much of the good about it with you as you can. And above all look back at your leaders with a strong heart and proclaim you are doing your best. They don't need to know all the details because in reality they are just as scared as you are. A lot of times that brings out a bully (which was what my mission president was). Just remember he is more worried about himself and taking it out on you and others. To those Missionaries-to-be that can reach out to someone, do it; and to those who can't reach out you can do this. You can be strong.