Shortly after arriving at the MTC, I attended a meeting in which the MTC President spoke. The first law of heaven he said was obedience; we could not learn anything else as missionaries unless we learned to obey. “Obey 100% of the rules in the missionary handbook.”
I left the meeting committed to the idea of obedience. If the handbook told me to jump on one foot with my hand on my head before going to bed, I would have done it. It didn’t tell me to do that but anyone whose been a missionary knows that the handbook is pretty strict. The handbook told me to wake up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10:30. I couldn’t have dinner any latter then 5:00. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV, listen to music other than the mormon tabernacle choir,or go swimming. I was only allowed to call home twice a year. In addition I had to obey whatever rules my Mission President created. My Mission President’s rules said that I couldn’t eat anything prepared by a member or investigator, I wasn’t allowed to speak English, and I was only allowed to play soccer twice every six weeks. As an MTC missionary I never asked why the rules existed, I just did them because I believed that obedience brought God’s blessing.
I thought that everyone lived the rules. Boy was I in for a shock. My first day in the field I complained to my journal “the Elders here are staying up past 10:30 PM. They say that there are always things to do. I don’t want to make a quick judgement but I am committed to obey. They say it would take a miracle. I intend to make miracles happen.”
The next day during studies I made a list of all my obedience problems. I examined every rule that I had broken and wrote it on my list.
I brought my list to my companion. The list made him angry. He told me that it was important to be obedient but not that obedient. His message: Sleeping in to 6:35 was o.k., eating at 8:00 instead of 5:00 was o.k.,and it was o.k. to eat in members houses. Of course he said we wouldn’t do anything grave like go see movies. I thought that my companion was preaching a great heresy.
As I met my zone, I realized that most of the missionaries in my zone taught this heresy. They called certain Elders rulers; missionaries who made a point of obeying ALL of the rules. My zone branded me a ruler.
Bending to peer pressure, I relaxed my stance on the rules secretly wanting to obey them. As I did so, I realized that most missionaries pretended to have a stance of “obey but not that much” around rulers but when they were together they had a total disregard to the rules.
Soon I let my companions do whatever they wanted. My fourth companion bought Transformers 2 and we watched it in a member’s house. On Christmas eve, we had a sleepover at another companionship’s apartment. While I did these things, I still had a desire to be totally obedient.
But as I descended deeper into apostasy, I saw “rulers” in a different light. Once I saw a group of american missionaries conversing at a bus station on transfer day. As americans usually did, they spoke in English. A “ruler” missionary entered the conversation. While the others spoke in English he spoke in Spanish. It looked like a tedious task. I had the thought that the rules were stupid.
About a year out, companion #7 came. He was a notorious rule breaker. At the time, I was tired of rules and really curious about what was going on in the world around me. I decided to take advantage of my companion’s rule breaker status and I asked him if he wanted to go to an Internet. This was the first time I planned a rule breaking scheme. After my first time, I got hooked on it.
At first I thought that I would repent of my rule breaking but eventually I realized that I could never go back to being ruler. Breaking rules made me free to be happy every day of my mission. Keeping them made me feel like a machine.
One of my district leaders taught me a message I adopted for the rest of my mission. He taught that the secret to missionary success was not obedience but enthusiasm. He taught that rules were a barrier to happiness on the mission.
From the time I learned that message to the time I left my mission, I advocated that doctrine. Rulebreakers claim to feel regret going home. There has not been a day in my life when I have regretted being a rulebreaker as a missionary. Breaking rules made me some dear friends and helped me have a hell of a time as a missionary. Breaking rules opened my eyes to the mechanical nature of the Mormon gospel and factored into my loss of faith.