Well, five weeks wasn't much time to prepare for 2 years in a country you know nothing about. But I quit my job and began collecting items on "the list." I loved the MTC honestly. I really did. I loved being able to hear talks from general authorities, participating in the missionary choir, and studying and discussing the gospel. I remember getting so angry after some of the talks when missionaries would start joking and being loud before we even left the building where I feel I had such a spiritual experience. But it wasn't all peachy. Although I felt I was learning and growing spiritually, I experienced some pretty tough challenges.
One of the first days you get to the MTC you are taken aside by your branch president (who you just met) and asked very personal questions about things like masturbation, or any number of sexual sins. That was intimidating especially when it is this man you've never met in your life. Well, lets just say I've never been comfortable going to a bishop on the matter of masturbation or other personal, private things like that. So I hadn't really addressed this with anyone, preferring to handle it one my own- between me and the Lord. No one could know that I did such nasty things.
The MTC has a reputation for making you feel extremely guilty. Not that I hadn't already felt horrible guilt throughout my life, but this was much more intense. I am not going to make a habit out of sharing my sins on a public blog, but there are some that I feel are hardly uncommon and, more probably, extremely normal which I may reference. Well, after a few weeks, I felt that I absolutely had to talk to my branch president about sins that went back even before I was 12 years old. It must be unhealthy for a kid to grow up feeling as though he was carrying this huge bag of ugly secrets that the world would be appalled to know since he was old enough to remember.
Well, I set up a meeting and I told the branch president who said that I needed to talk to someone higher up about my issues. This scared me to death. I just knew I'd be sent home. Looking back, I can't believe that such fear was struck into me. So I get sent to whoever it is that makes the tougher calls. I go to my appointment (and obviously my companion has to come... so there is more shame) and then you sit in a waiting room with other devilish elders confessing their horrid secrets... but all I could think about was how they all must be wondering what bad things I did.
Anyway, I go in and meet yet another stranger who asks what the issue is. I told him about the masturbation and pornography, and then, probably the biggest reason I was there- childish sexual experiences. These experiences were mostly the typical you show me yours, I'll show you mine deal and some touching. But seriously, this is before I even knew about or engaged in masturbation. I was young. I wasn't one who would initiate those experiences, but I didn't resist too much. The majority of those experiences (which weren't many, don't misunderstand me) were with other boys. "Hmm... you think... I wonder..."
Lets stop that little brain fart right there though. In no way do I think that THIS is what caused me to be gay. First off, I found myself interested in boys before any of this happened. Second, the other boy was the one to initiate it and he is straight and married. I'm not sure that this type of thing is very uncommon. But of course, at the time (and throughout my childhood) I thought it was my ticket to hell.
Moving right along. I had to answer some questions about homosexuality (and at the time I was still very much in denial and quickly assured him that I did not have homosexual feelings) and then call my stake president- right then and there. Smack in the middle of the day on his cell phone. Who knows where he was... work? And here I am on speaker phone to rehash my story for the third time. Anyway, turns out I am cleared and handed a copy of "the miracle of forgiveness" and asked to read and report.
Well, I felt like a million bucks. All that baggage was gone. But that didn't last very long. As soon as I started reading that book all the guilt came back. "Oh no," I thought, "maybe I should have been more detailed. What if I forgot something? I remember now, this one time that I didn't remember during the interview." It went on and on.
Furthermore, if you've ever read the book, you would know about the language it uses to describe homosexuality. If you haven't read it, don't. But here are some excerpts:
“Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved in it, it is discussed in this chapter.”So it was so disgusting that it is something not even to be discussed. So much so, that a disclaimer has to appear before such an ugly thing is spoken of.
“... it [masturbation] too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation – practiced with another person of the same sex – and thence into total homosexuality.”So there it was. It's because I masturbated damn it! This will sound blasphemous, and maybe it is... but I wonder if Kimball ever practiced such a thing as a youth. If so, he must have been one of the exceptions who barely missed the homo-train [lucky guy]. I mean... did he REALLY believe that? Because that would mean most of us (like over 95%) would be gay. Not only that, but he also says in the book that homosexuality leads to bestiality. I don't even want to think of what the world would be like if people masturbated- yikes.
Now some of you may say, well yes, but Kimball did say he fears he might have been to harsh when he wrote the book... but here I was, in the MTC at the end of 2004 being handed this book and told to read it to complete my repentance process.
Well I did talk to my branch president about my concerns about maybe forgetting some details and he said that I shouldn't worry about the details and that I had done the right thing. Well, the book basically insured me that God would never bless me because I was such a bad sinner.
So, I know I kind of contradicted my statement about the MTC being such a great experience, but in a lot of way it was. And although I knew that God wouldn't bless me to learn this impossible language because of my past, I was determined to prove to him that I deserved the one blessing I really hoped to get out of my mission. I wanted him to take this evil, disgusting part of me away. So I worked hard. I would bring cards to gym and study rather than spent some time relaxing or playing a game of volleyball or whatever. I was going to earn God's love back.
Of course, it was really depressing to feel like you aren't being blessed and everyone around you is. So I was really hard on myself. Soon though, all the preparation was over, and it came time to board the plane that would take me to the other end of the world.