Rules

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. 

 

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