I'm still planning on doing a series of posts about what it's like to be a Mormon Missionary... Not to try and convert anyone (If you know me well, you know I likely have the complete opposite idea in mind), but more because I think many might be curious as to what it's like to give up 2 years of your life and what it's like going from door to door, having many slammed in your face - and paying for the privilege to do so.
This isn't part of that, but it does kind of deal with a Mormon missionary based experience.
When you begin your 2 year mission (or 18 months if you're a lady)... You are generally sent to a place called the MTC or Missionary Training Center. Actually the first time I heard someone speak about it, I thought they were saying "Empty Sea" and I assumed it was some religiously significant place near the Dead Sea, but I digress.
The role of the MTC is to teach you how to be a missionary. A lot of the training is in the doctrines of the Church and how to present them. You also get language training if you're headed to a foreign country and back when I went through the program in the mid 90's, you also spent a lot of time with "The Missionary Guide".
The Missionary Guide is a handbook which was prepared by Stephen R. Covey and I believe it was Boyd K. Packer.
Stephen R. Covey is famous for his 7 Habits Books, and Boyd K. Packer is a high up in the Church whom I think should best be associated with his quote about the truth...
"I have a hard time with historians, because historians idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting. The truth destroys. And historians should tell only that part of the truth that is uplifting, and if it's religious history, that's faith-promoting. Historians don't like doing that, and that's why I have a hard time with historians."
As one of the main leaders of "God's only true Church", that's just not a good statement to make!!
But again I digress...
Most of the book focuses on something called "The Commitment Pattern". It's a method of presenting an idea to someone and then committing them to follow it, and if that sounds a little wacky, it is... Unless of course you're convinced you're doing it in the name of God, and then it's OK.
The basic pattern is... BRT, Invite and Followup
BRT - Build a relationship of trust. This consists of lots of questions to the target to feign interest, and is usually accompanied by a complete lack of sincerity. How are you? How many kids do you have? blah, blah, blah...
Invite - This sounds like a good thing - Invitations are good right? But here's how it is suggested that you do it. Pretend you are teaching them about the Word of Wisdom - the Mormon Health Code.
Missionary: God has commanded that we don't drink Tea, Coffee or Alcohol. It's because he loves us.
Missionary: Can you see how much he loves us that he doesn't want us to harm out bodies?
Target: Sure, I guess
Missionary: Will you show God that you love him too by committing to live the Word of Wisdom from now on, by not taking harmful substances into your body?
At this point the Target has been hit with the "Will You" question. It's a question that requires a direct Yes or No response. If the person says yes, you follow up with something about how you know God will bless them for their righteousness. If they say no, you "Resolve Concerns", which can take the form of guilt - "Why wouldn't you don't want to follow your loving Heavenly Father?!?" or "I sense you have a concern with following this... Is there something you would like to tell me about?"
In looking for the pattern to try and remember the steps, it looks like they may have adjusted it a little in recent years to be more subtle, but at the end of the day, it's still incredibly manipulative, and very effective at getting people to commit to doing what you want them too. Part of the reason many returned missionaries, are able to embark on successful careers as salesman.
Anyway, the thing is that when you know this pattern, and it gets used on you, it's pretty annoying.
When I first got out into the field as a missionary, the first guy I got assigned to be with was a Zambian national, with a bit of an ego problem. He was assigned to be my trainer, and was convinced that if he could make me look good, it would make him look good, and appearances are a huge part of being a good Mormon. The guy was a total ARSE about the whole thing though.
I missed home A LOT!! I also missed my girlfriend A LOT!! To help cope with this, each evening I would write in my Journal (One of the prescribed rules), and then I would pull two letters out from the back of my journal. One to my girlfriend and one to my parents. I would then spend a few minutes writing about the day to each, before putting them back in my journal and turning off the light at precisely 10:30.
Mission rules state that a missionary should write his parents each week on P-Day. And so each P-Day (Monday in our case), I would finish up each letter and mail it.
Dickhead Trainer decided that I was being disobedient by writing part of a letter on a day other than P-Day, so one morning, in the hour we had to study the scriptures as a companionship, he gives me a half hour lecture on obedience. He explains how God only blesses us when we are obedient, and then makes some comment about how we aren't getting any baptisms because we're not being obedient enough.
Believe me, at this point in my mission I was trying as hard as I could to follow the rules, and so in all honesty, I was fully expecting him to confess some grievous sin which he'd committed in violations of God's Law...
Next thing I know I get the Will You question... Elder... Will you stop writing letters on days other than P-Day, so God will bless us with more baptisms?
I recall being pretty pissed, realizing what he had just done to me... For some reason, completely out of character for me, I shot back with a direct "No".
Obviously he hadn't anticipated this, and so he was taken a back. His only response was... "I asked you a direct WILL YOU question!" And I responded with... "Yes, and I gave you a direct NO answer." Things went south from there... Dickhead Mission President kept us together for 4 months, which I'll probably elaborate on when I share more about that period of my mission. I think he (El Presidente) thought I was racist, being raised in South Africa and having a black companion, but the only problem I had was that the companion was a complete controlling Dick...
Anyway, so moving on to example 2 and why I'm sharing all of this...
I may have blogged about the moron from Church who phoned at 6am, 2 sundays ago to tell me about a meeting. He called again the next Sunday, a little later mind you, to inform me that I am his new home-teaching companion.
Home-teaching for those who don't know is an LDS Program where 2 men are assigned a couple of families and visit them once a month to share a message and check up on their spirituality. In my opinion, it has more to do with members keeping and eye on each other to make sure everyone is keeping the rules than anything else. Our best home teacher ever only came twice in a year... But he genuinely cared about our family... He has been the only one with any kind of sincerity in his visits. He's part of the reason I'm an IT Pro, but that's another story for another day...
Bottom line is... I don't like the program, and I choose not to participate. Apparently this has irked the leadership because the moron who called, is in the Elders Quorum Presidency - the guys who run the program. I haven't been involved with the group in any way, shape or form in over a year, although my name is on their records, so according to the Church, I'm their responsibility.
Anyway... I didn't answer, nor did I return his call. This last weekend, when he called again, it was what prompted me to unplug our phones. I'm thinking I may do this every weekend from now on.
So... He stopped by last night. Here's how it went. I shall refer to him as AW (AssWipe), although in reality, I prefer his Sister-In-Law's description of him as a ShitLicker, but again... I digress...
AW: Hi, I'm you're new Home Teaching companion. I called a few times, but I've been slacking.
Nice move! Make it look like you're not so righteous either to put me at ease.
Me: I don't home teach.
AW: Well, now you do!
Me: Stunned Silence, while thinking "You arrogant PRICK!!"
AW: Why don't you like it?
He's trying to find a way to empathize now, right in line with the pattern..
Me: I hate the program, and I don't think it does any good.
AW: My feeling on Home Teaching... He then proceeds in a long rambling description how he doesn't like long visits, blah blah blah, not old friends for 20 years blah blah blah, already done it this month, blah blah blah.
You see the problem is, I think he assumed I would tell him I didn't have time, and that was the argument he'd prepared... Rather than listen to me that "I DON'T HOME TEACH", he proceeded to resolve my concerns about it taking too much time.
AW: When works best for you?
Me: It doesn't. I don't have time and I don't want to do it.
Screwed up here... I gave an reason he could try and resolve...
AW: Long tirade again about "Only 15 minutes", "I'll do all the calling", "Only 15 minutes"...
AW: Will you find time to come with me?
Me: I work two jobs and I have a family. I don't have time.
DAMN IT KODA!!! TELL THE MAN TO PISS OFF!!!
AW: Well, Sunday would probably be best for you then. If I make appointments, and prepare the lesson, and do everything else... Will you come with me?
At this point, I had 1 minute to get ready for the gym (Still in my work clothes). I'm pissed, I'm annoyed and I want him to go away.
Me: I guess...
HUGE MISTAKE ON MY PART HERE... I empathize with a past girlfriend who told me that the missionaries would not take "No" for an answer. At the time, thinking she just didn't want to know the truth... I was a Moron.
I rush inside and get changed, while he continues to visit with my wife and kids (and his wife was there too).
My wife caught me right before I left for the gym. Apparently after I'd left, he'd turned to his wife and mine and said something about how he had "Committed" me to do my home teaching. He wife looked thrilled - obviously they've been discussing my spiritual welfare... My wife told him "Good Luck!"
I'll stop there.
Gentle Reader... Can I make a commitment to you please?
I WON'T BE GOING OUT WITH HIM.
I'm going to stand my ground next time, and I'll report back on what happens. If for any reason I turn into a great big pussy and cave in, will you please lay upon me the biggest load of guilt and shame you can, because I will so totally deserve it.