Thursday, April 9, 2009

Phannie's Story (Beware it's a long story)

In my past LENT posts, I have mentioned a lot about God, how I feel about Him and how I feel in general. I don’t feel as though my emotions and the experience that is attached to those emotions have been conveyed well. (I have been trying to convey without explanation, which I was unsuccessful at) So, it might be time for me to express My Story:

A few years back, while attending BYU-I, I was unattached and wanting to do what all the boys got to do at 19- serve a mission. I had been dying to go for those LONG 2 years and now my age had finally caught up with my desire. So, I filled out the papers and awaited my call.

I was called to serve English speaking in the Virginia Richmond Mission. I was excited and nervous (like all are). I got everything ready to go and went. I spent 3 weeks in the Missionary Training Center (MTC). Unlike most missionaries I have spoken to, I loved the MTC. Those were long days, but I really enjoyed it. Then, the day finally came. The day every missionary waits for. . . departure. Like most departures from the MTC ours was at some horrific hour of the morning that no one really knows exists except Farmers. I get all my things packed and loaded onto the bus for the SLC airport and climb on. The ride was not long, but I quickly fell asleep. When I woke, we were there. I got off the bus, unloaded my things, walked into the airport and. . .

“Don’t go.”


“Don’t go.”

Okay, so I’m a very green missionary. 3 weeks remember. I am 21 years old. Little experience, but there is still some undeniable notion in my head that I am not to go. So, what do I do? I convince myself that I am just nervous and afraid of what might be out there. I am going to do a job that I have never had experience doing before and am just a little scared. (although I have never been scared before, this has to be it AND we are told multiple times before leaving the MTC that Satan will try anything to stop you from going/staying on your mission. So it must be Satan right?)

I go anyway. I get to Virginia. We are put through a long day of orientation at the mission home and then assigned to our trainers/1st companions. We also had a one-on-one interview with our Mission President. I met with him and still feeling that I was just nervous and should not worry but “lose myself in the work,” didn’t say anything to him about how I felt.

I got to my area with my new companion and began the work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. My companion and I didn’t get along. (surprise, surprise. Every missionary has a companionship with this problem at some point on their mission) After a few weeks of doing my best to work I am still not able to shake the heavy feeling that I am not supposed to be there. And now, on top of this feeling is another nagging feeling that someone in my family at home is going to pass away. I finally go to my Mission President. (my presiding leader; the person that I am supposed to trust and listen to.) He tells me that I just need to not worry and work harder; the mission life will get easier. And he reads me the scripture about how your family will be protected and safe while you are out serving the Lord. (I don’t remember and can’t find who the revelation was given to or it’s reference. Sorry. I will find it.)

Now I am sure that there are a lot of great things in the Doctine and Covenants for me to learn, but revelations given to specific people are just that. Revelations given to them. Not to me. I can learn from their experience, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to me word for word.

Needless to say, my cousin died two weeks later. I got the phone call from the mission office secretary early in the morning and before we even answered it, I knew it was for me and it wasn’t good news. (by this time, I had two new companions and we got along great and they knew all about my feelings) My senior companion was furious that my Mission President hadn’t made the call himself, especially since I had just talked to him about this.

But we kept on working. And I kept on feeling worse. I called President again. He said he would have his wife call me. She called. She wanted to know why I wanted to go, (I didn’t want to go) what else I had to do at home (HELLO, I’m a girl and don’t have to be on a mission. I can do anything), and then wanted me to work harder. A few weeks later, I got sent to an LDS Services Shrink. He told me that I needed to have more faith, keep a grateful journal, and study and work harder. All while not really listening to what I had to say.

After another week of uneasiness which rendered me unable to physically go out and work. I went to the mission home and met with the President. (I thought that this would be a good meeting; finally he would listen right? WRONG.) After less than 4 minutes, he sent me into another room and had me call my Stake President at home, and then call my Dad. I talked to them both. My conversation with my dad was supportive, but still included the goal of staying on the mission. I came out. Told my Mission President about the conversations and he just looked at me and said that he wanted to know by the end of tomorrow what my decision was about staying here or going home.

Frustrated, I said Okay and left.(I know that I should have stood up for myself, but the emotional unrest was getting to me)

The minute my companion and I got outside and into our car, she told me that the President had told her that he didn’t think I was going to make it. (Good. Glad he could have a positive outlook about me and what I felt. Oh wait. He didn’t know what I felt. He wouldn’t listen)

On the hour long drive home, my companion and I decided that we were going to hash this out ourselves and make a decision based on our feelings. We did. The decision was to go home. We both felt like a two-ton weight had been lifted the minute we decided. It was good. Until. . .

I actually got home. No one knows why I’m coming home. My parents were told that it was a “medical” problem by my mission president. My stake president that I talked to had been released 4 days earlier and I was now being released by a man who didn’t know anything about the situation. No one knows and I’m not sure what to tell them because I have spent the last 3 months with people telling me I’m wrong, and crazy, and shouldn’t feel this way. AND everyone at home is afraid to ask. (stupid culture)

Since then, I have battled Priesthood leaders that refuse to listen, are so attached to “tradition” that they forget the real purpose of the gospel and church functions, and address me as one beneath them and their station. I have just a few years under my belt since the “mish” to dwell, ponder, and understand different aspects of this situation that happened and continues to happen. I know that we are subject to our own mistakes and misunderstanding. We all have faults. I don’t blame my Mission President anymore. I don’t despise the branch president that spoke to me as “just the wife.” I don’t get along with my Bishop now. But I don’t hate him either. He’s a traditionalist and I’m more liberal than he would ever think a Mormon woman should be. But I don’t feel as though blaming these men would be the right thing for me to do.

However, not blaming them leaves me with more questions, no answers, and feelings for God that are uncomfortable.

Why would God not let my Mission President know that I wasn’t supposed to be there?

Why would God keep me from finding someone in a Leadership position that would understand my feelings?

Why was I not looked after when I got home?

Why are there so many people who come home from missions and are not looked after?

Why am I cursed with Bishops that refuse to listen?

Why, when I can’t find anything too sinful on my record, do I not get answers to questions and prayers?

These and many other questions fill my mind every day. I have a million answers for most of them. Yet, nothing that seems to settle my emotions. They will settle someday. I’m sure a few more years will give me more time to understand.

I hope that my experiences were conveyed well and that you might understand me better. It helps for me to understand myself if nothing else.


Luca said...

Wow, Steph. that was really good. I've heard parts of what happened to you on the mish, but not all of it. That must have been one crazy experience. It's good to know what you went through, that way I can understand more of what you might be going through in the present.

And I agree that some members of the church are just way too traditional. Almost like not being traditional goes against everything we believe in. It's a crazy culture we live in, Charlie Brown.

Destiny said...

I had some very negative experiences with members prior to joining the Church and it finally helped when I realized that the Gospel was perfect, not the people. I'm sorry that you've had bad experiences with getting leaders to listen to you, but good to you for pushing forward. I hope your future experiences are better.

Phannie said...

It doesn't surprise me that you had negative experiences before you joined the church, everyone does. I find I spend most of my days apologizing for what others in the church have done and doing my best to improve their perspective of the members.

I am glad that you were able to look past what experiences you had and find something truthful and pure to hold onto in the church. You are one of the strong ones who can look beyond the negative and find Christs teachings in there.

Tali said...

Hey, I did not know that story, but thank you so much for sharing it. It helps to shed light on what I know many others are dealing with as well as you. I am sorry that happend to you. That is sad. but I also think you have a very good outlook on it now. Devin read this and said "it is because they are men, and they think they are right, and forget that it's God who is right." but that makes me ask....are there so few men who hold the Priesthood that are really whiling to forget their own ideas and allow the Lord to guide them? I don't think most of them even realise they do it. I am praying for you to find what you are looking for.

James and Lauren said...

Hi! Im one or Mers friends. I think that you are brave and faithful. I am from California and i too have spent a lot of time apologizing for what people in the church have said or done... The church is true though... some of the people just aren't... :) I know you will get through it!

Lolee said...

Wow..sorry to leaving a comment six months later, I just started reading your blog. I had a mission president who I did not see eye to eye with as well. I was comps with this CRAZY girl and, even though my trainer had taught me never to complain to priesthood authority because they will only label you as an 'emotional basketcase', I decided to talk to him about my problems with her. Serious problems. He listened inattentively and then told me to "work harder". Hearing your story was like deja-vu to me.

I survived the companionship and the rest of my mission, but I have always felt like my mission president didnt know me, didnt really care about my problems, and was annoyed by my bringing them up.

He seemed to be obsessed with "the numbers" and would chastise us at zone conference if our numbers were down.

THe mission was weird like that. It build my faith in so many AMAZING ways, but it shook it too.

Phannie said...

Thanks for your comment. I still read them and appreciate them no matter when they come.

I find deja-vu all the time. The more I share my story the more I realize there are so many that have one similar, if not eerily the same.

I hope that everyone can find the strengthening aspect of the experience like you did. I'm still working on it. It doesn't help that an increasing amount of experiences with leaders just add to the disappointment.

Some days are better than others and I hope to some day know of a way to help improve the problem.


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