First Draft Disclaimer: Most of this is a rough first draft. I haven’t paid much attention to crafting each sentence, spelling, grammar, etc – I’m just getting the ideas down, the polish will happen in a phase between this, and publication. Take it all with a grain of salt.
A quick primer on the organization of Mormon missions –
A “mission” is both the act of the two years of proselytizing, and it refers to the geographical boundary that one proselytizes in. For instance, I served my mission in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Mission, which included all of Delaware, the eastern half of Maryland, and the southeast corner of Pennsylvania (which is where Philadelphia is located).
A mission has a mission president – usually an older man and his wife who preside over the mission, it’s missionaries, and all related operations. Our mission had about 250 missionaries in it, missionaries operate in pairs called “companionships”. Mission companions are with each other 24/7. It’s somewhere between a roommate and a sexless same sex marriage that typically lasts 1-4 months.
At that time ( late 90’s), young men served from age 19 – 21, women from age 21-23).
Let’s devle deeper into the notion of making young men commit to a life of total chastity during their sexual peak. “Total chastity” includes one’s refraining from sexual relations with one’s own hand, by the way. All sexual energies must be contained, denied, ignored, whatever. JUST DO NOT DO THE THING THAT EVERY PART OF YOUR BEING WAS CREATED TO DO RIGHT NOW. This may not please you, but it pleaseth The Lord.
The first couple of days of mission life included staying over at the Mission President’s home, having a few meals and meetings with the new missionaries and the Mission President, and, the first of many monthly interviews with the Mission President.
President Wagstaff was a kind, soft spoken giant of a man. I was nervous to have my first interview with him. Interviews with church leaders always made me nervous – they could probably see through my soul, and I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted all of that to be seen.
“We’ll have these interviews each month. I’ll ask you a couple of questions: ‘How is the work going in your area?’, ‘How is your companionship going?’, and, ‘Are you living the kind of life that a missionary ought to be living?’, and by this, I am wanting to know if you are having any problems with pornography or masturbation.”
Ah, so we are going to act like old school Jews, talking about wanking-off like those who cannot say the name of God, instead we’ll use euphemisms.
Kind of an interesting notion, isn’t it?
At the time I was relived that we had some code words we could use instead of just saying “porn” and “masturbate”. What a relief!
Such dedication to The Lord did not come easy… it did not help matters at all that the movie Showgirls had just come out, and the city was plastered with promotions for the movie. Every billboard, every bus, every train was adorned with movie art that seemed devised by Beelzebub himself to tempt me:
My dear reader, I don’t know if this is bragging or confession, but I went a whole year before breaking down one night and eliciting a release from my 20 year old manhood.
I didn’t look at any porn. I didn’t need to. I just let my mental guard down one night in a moment of weakness and entertained some thoughts that erupted into a flow of guilt and shame (and much needed release, apparently).
I dreaded the upcoming interview with President Wagstaff. I was going to be totally honest with him, despite all of the shame I had about it. In the intervening days and nights between the incident and the interview, I prayed and repented mightily. I pled with The Lord for forgiveness. (I’m being totally serious). I had an experience a few days later that seemed very spiritual in nature, my companion and I were guided in an uncanny way to someone who wanted to hear our message. I took this as a sign that I was forgiven, that the Spirit of the Lord was again dwelling in a clean vessel.
“How is the work going?”
I reported on the people we were teaching.
“How is your companionship going?”
I told him that Elder Richardson and I were getting along just great and that he was making good progress on competing his new missionary certifications.
….and then I started to get light headed, my ears rang a bit in anticipation of the dreaded next question: