No matter what your personal feelings, no matter what your plans are, you better give up two years of your life to "spread the gospel." If you don't go on a mission, because of how weighty the prophet's words have been, then you must either be:
Unworthy (a.k.a. a goddamned sinner),
A "half - believer" (something was wrong with your testimony because you were disobeying direct revelation from the prophets),
Lazy (missions were hard, this was the lord's forge to temper your soul into the soldier fighting against Satan and his gang of evil dillholes),
Or there was something SERIOUSLY wrong with you either medically or mentally (lots of people still serve missions with medical and/or mental issues, so they better be BAD - or you better be going).
Because Utah Mormons are raised with the concept that there are no private boundaries when it comes to spiritual things (i.e. Grown men asking children how often they touch themselves at night), if you chose not to go - you better be prepared to be hassled for the rest of your life. As soon as someone finds out you didn't serve a mission, you WILL be asked why, and you WILL be judged for your answer - for the rest of your life. And for males, if you want to remain in the church and marry another LDS girl, you better go too. Men aren't the only ones indoctrinated from a young age. The girls are taught very explicitly over and over and over again that they should marry a returned missionary who "served with honor." So, you want to date? You better go, and you better not come home early either. Two years served, motherfucker. One of the most extreme quotes in Mormonism dealing with missions is, "If you come home early, it better be in a pine box." And while there is a caveat for medical "discharges," that's still not as good as serving the full two years. As soon as someone finds out that you came home early, you better have a good story - and you'll still probably get judged. There are plenty of faith promoting fourth-hand stories floating around about faithful missionaries who were healed by the power of the lord in order to complete their full two years.
For the true believers, missions are even supposed to trump military service. If you want to join the military, that's all well and good...but, you are serving your country. What about serving god? You think your country is better than your god? That's pretty fucking selfish. How dare you put yourself in harm's way to help protect the country and the country's freedoms? God only gave us this country AND wrote our constitution for us!
Tisk, tisk, tisk. As odd as it may sound, if you join the military instead of serving a mission, you will still be lumped into one of those categories above. Thems are the breaks, soldiers - HU-AH!
This thinking is so ingrained in the Mormon culture, that Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insinuated that his boys didn't NEED to serve in the military because they had served missions instead and that was just as good if not better. When the rest of the non-Mormon country heard that, they reasonably reacted, "What the fuck?" and it took time for Romney to even process why he had just been so incredibly offensive to our service men, service women, their families, and everyone else with at least half-a-brain.
The earliest a boy can serve an LDS mission is 19 years old, and the process for leaving takes several months. Living in Utah, as soon as a boy is a senior in High School everyone starts asking, "when are you going to be putting in your papers?" The application papers go in once the potential missionary completes a physical evaluation with a doctor, and passes all the "worthiness" interviews with the Bishop and Stake President. No one should go on a mission without first confessing to his Bishop how often he touched his girlfriend's titties.
I wish that last line was just a joke. But it's fucking not. The "worthiness" interviews can be very invasive, and they are driven by guilt. Sexual sins are second only to murder for Mormonism, so for a young man to go on a mission and serve "worthily" means that he better have confessed and repented of all the naughty stuff he did with his girlfriend in her basement while her parents were away at a movie. If you don't confess and "repent," and the guilt finally gets to you in the beating of your hideous heart mid mission, and THEN you confess? Kiss that "honorable discharge" goodbye, here's your one-way ticket home to Shamesville, population: you and your family.
Many boys leave immediately after their 19th birthday. Sometimes a boy will go a little bit later because of the way college semesters fall or for other reasons, but as soon as 19 comes, the pressure is on and only gets worse as the clock continues to tick. I was six months away from earning my black belt (and NO not one you buy at Mervin's or K-Mart. Ha fucking ha! Got any other god awful hackneyed quips that I haven't already heard a million times before?), so I postponed my mission for that period of time, and got no end of shit for it. I had watched all of my male friends from high school go off already, and so everyone seemed to watch me with bated breath. Is he going to go? I don't know? I thought so? I thought we was going to go? Shouldn't he have already gone? Is he going to give up like he did with his Eagle Scout?
King of the Zombies Jesus. I finished a year of college before I left and was about to get my black belt. What a fucking disappointment to the entire community.
As the time for my mission got closer though, I was starting to have more and more trouble with depression. This wasn't new to me because I had battled cyclical depression through all of High School, but this wasn't going away. And I was confronted with the actual truth of my feelings.
I didn’t want to go.
I knew that I had to, though. This feeling didn’t come purely from all the seminary lessons about “every worthy male.” The Church had the Truth. Who was I to not offer that to everyone? The Church promised me what I wanted from Eternity. I had to at least offer that to people, but how? People’s beliefs are personal. Who was I to try to change those? I was depressed because I didn’t want to go, and my family could sense that, but I assured them that I would go. That was most important. It’s normal to feel “nervous,” the mission is a big step in your life, but as long as you go you’ll be blessed for it.
After beating just enough shit out of my martial arts instructor for him to find me awesome enough, he set a date for my ceremony, and all of my papers went it.
A couple weeks later, my "mission call" came - which wasn't a call so much as a packet of information about where you are going and what you have to bring with you for the next two years of your life. It was all momentarily exciting. I was going to Germany, but after the initial excitement faded - my depression worsened.
I got depressed enough to go to my bishop. I had battled the depression in High School enough to know that I had a "cycle" that was just as beautiful as any other girl's cycle of sloughing off blood and tissue and having it slowly leak out an orifice. But this cycle turned into a spiral. Instead of every six to eight weeks feeling trapped in a shithouse for a few days without any sun or escape, I felt trapped in my life for what would be the rest of forever.
I had not asked for help before, and my current bishop was a friend. I went to him and said that I just needed to talk to someone discreetly.
Well, if there's a problem in your life, the church can fix it! They always know what to do, and are better than any other organization in the world.
My bishop refered me to LDS family services just to talk to someone and said that it would be fine and discrete, and so I went.
The "session" lasted all of five minutes. I was asked if I was depressed. Yes. Did I have any suicidal thoughts? Yes.
Wrong answer. The counselor flipped his shit. I needed to shut my entire mission down right now. I didn't agree with him. I couldn't leave the session. I did.
I went home to a meeting with the bishop who was clearly feeling like an asshole. While traveling home from the "therapist's" office, counselor McBitchtits contacted the MTC and informed them that a dangerous young man was about to enter the MTC. The MTC then contacted the stake president to ax why in god's unholy name did he let an evil demon slip from hell to come and join god's army. Stake president then called bishop to ax what the fuck was even going on, and bishop learns a hard lesson about LDS family services being malignant twats.
Getting into the MTC suddenly became the ordeal of getting a real, licensed therapist to write a note that I am not a danger to myself or anyone else.
This ordeal, of course, is all proof that Satan really didn't want ME to go on a mission, because I AM totally that badass. Satan's shit was about to get fucked up by me. I was going to go on a mission and kick open the doors of hell and unleash havoc on Satan and his minions.
"Merry Christmas, bitches!"
A local therapist just had a cancellation and could see me the next day. "Praise Jesus!!! Halleluiah!!! God is so fucking great!" This was proof that I was supposed to go.
The real therapy session lasted all of 10 minutes. Five minutes was to explain the situation, and five minutes for the actual, licensed psychologist to tell me that I had cyclical depression, I was going to be fine, and here is your note. Now go and teach the hell out of those unbelievers.
But in order to be set apart as a missionary "Elder" and before heading into the Missionary Training Facility, I had to go through the temple for the first time.