Becoming a Non-believer as a LDS missionary
As a youth, I felt power in everything about the Mormon Church, I possessed an “unwavering” faith in it and I wanted everyone to be Mormon.
When I arrived at the MTC, I wanted to obey every single one of those rules and have a mission which I would never regret.
My experience in the MTC was bueatiful to me at the time. I felt an enthusiasm for the work in which I would participate. We talked a lot about people’s needs. Our teachers taught us that every one was unique and that the gospel was a cure for their problems. I was excited to meet people and help them resolve their problems.
When I arrived at my mission, I remember learning that it was not what I had expected.
First, I saw that my companion and the leaders focused on numbers more than I thought they would. Numerical achievements were complemented and rewarded with position in the mission. When we didn’t achieve our numerical goals, we would get calls from our leaders to tell us that we were not working. In the pursuit of numbers, I felt that people’s needs were not the primordial concern. Addressing people’s needs was merely an ends to a mean. Some justified this saying that numbers were a representation of people but one of our leaders verbalized what we were really doing when he told us in a meeting “We are not looking for people, Elders. We are looking for numbers!”
The mechanical approach to missionary work squashed my enthusiasm.
Second, I learned that missionaries were not really concerned with the rules. Those who were got labeled “rulers” and became the laughing stock of the mission. I came wanting to obey but out of fear of being so labeled I allowed my companion to do whatever he wanted.
When I became Senior Companion, I chose to continue doing things contrary to mission rules. I learned that our mission had actaully formed a secret combination to disobey the rules and soon I considered them my “brothers.” “Loyalty” was the greatest virtue and “Betrayal” the greatest vice.
Of course, our Mission President found out about some of the things we were doing. He became aware of the combination’s existence and began a relentless Inquisition.
During the Inquisition, I began to realize that I couldn’t believe in the rules. I also recognized the source of these rules: the President of the Church. He had recieved them by revelation and if I tesified that he was a prophet, I needed to be following him.
I was torn. I believed in the prophet but I also couldn’t believe in the rules that we had. But I began to think about what it would be like if the President of the Church weren’t a prophet at all. I knew I was gay. I had known it since I was 14 years old. My gayness was intensified because I had a huge crush on my companion at that time. I thought that perhaps my life could be happier without the church.
When I had six months left, I wanted to leave my mission and my church. I realized that I could disbelieve the prophet. However, I always went back and forth about it in my own mind. In addition I didn’t have the courage to come home early from my mission.
Just before I left, I came full circle. In my last area, I couldn’t really be disobedient because of the missionaries that served in surrounding areas were “rulers” and the areas in that part of the mission were very small and close together. They would obviously hear if I did something disobedient and report it to the Mission President. So I worked hard, and I had many baptisms. I felt really good. I began thinking about what I would do when I came home from my mission. A life in the church sounded really good at the time. When I was on my airplane home, I realized that I had learned that the church was true as a missionary and I felt good.
When I got home, I realized that family prayers, sacrament meetings, scripture study, temple rituals, and sunday school lessons didn’t hold the same power in my life that they did before my mission. I realized that I could only modestly believe in the Church. My faith was by no means unwavering. I no longer cared whether someone was Mormon or not. I just wanted to appreciate them for who they were.
I can no longer be who I was before my mission. There are certain things that keep me in the church at the moment but I realize that I am on my way out.