Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Horror Stories From the MTC

Story #1 as recalled by Deconstructor:

This is one of my true MTC experiences, and looking back, was when I learned what "keeping and feeling the spirit" was really all about.

I was in the MTC during the start of the Gulf War in the spring of 1991. Before the war, the MTC had an open-door policy for families and relatives hand-delivering gifts to missionaries in the MTC. But then the church decided to use the start of the war as a pretext to set a ban on accepting any hand-delivered care packages from families to MTC missionaries. I was an AP in an MTC Branch at the time the new rule took affect.

(As a sidenote, I learned later that somone started a business just down the street from the MTC, that would take family care packages and for a fee, "deliver" them to the MTC. For security reasons, said the MTC rule, the MTC would only accept packages from couriers but not from family members.)

There had been a long tradition for years that every Easter Sunday, a certain member family that lived directly behind the MTC, would make tons of cinnamon rolls and hand them over the fence to missionaries. My MTC Branch roomed in one of the buildings at the back of the MTC, closest to this member family's yard, which shared a fence with the MTC.

My Branch President pulled me in the Sunday before Easter Sunday and told me that under no circumstances should anyone accept cinnamon rolls from the family. He told me that the tradition violated the new rule against hand-delivered packages and he would hold me PERSONALLY accountable if anyone in the Branch broke the rule and got a cinnamon roll. He called on me to get up in Sacrament Meeting and talk on obedience and warn everyone not to take a cinnamon roll "lest we lose the spirit." The Branch President also insisted that I remind each missionary individually about the rule and admonish them not to go near the MTC fence on Easter Sunday. At the time, I was a TBM and took the whole thing to heart, obeying the Branch President's every word in order to "keep the spirit."

Easter Sunday came and went and I thought we had made it through the day without incident. Looking out my window, the family stood at the fence with plates of cinnamon roles and nobody dared go near them.

Three days later, the First Counselor in the Branch Presidency pulled me out of my language class for a "Personal Priesthood Interview." He escorted me to the Presidency's office, where the other counselor and the President were waiting. They were all furious. Apparently one of the missionaries in our Branch was caught eating a cinnamon roll in his room the afternoon of Easter Sunday. He got caught because someone else had snitched on him in the mandatory weekly letter confessional to the Branch President.

The hard thing was, the presidency was furious with me, not the missionary who had eaten the cinnamon roll. They ripped me up one side and down the other - for not being a true leader, dissapointing my family and losing their trust. I felt like a piece of sh*t, seriously. They quoted scriptures on obedience, priesthood authority and losing the spirit.

Worst of all, I felt like I had committed a terrible sin. I had repented for some things before my mission, but the guilt I felt for this incident was almost unbearable - worse than the guilt I had felt for other more serious "transgressions" prior to my mission. This guilt over the cinnamon rolls was the most horrible, incredible guilt I have ever felt in my life! I really feared that I had lost "the spirit" for good.

At the time, my only defense was that I didn't understand how accepting a cinamon roll from a member family violated Christ's spirit of love. But the First Counselor cut me off, saying in a raised voice, "Elder, I don't think you can even feel the spirit anymore!"

They immediately released me as AP and gave the calling to my companion - a fate I felt was close to death. As part of my repentance, they had me write a one-page paper on why I had failed as a mission leader, which was given to my Mission President when I entered the mission field. In my written confessional-of-sorts I wrote that I had disobeyed one of the Lord's Commandments and therefore, had lost his spirit and "amen to my authority as a leader."

That was the low point of my mission, for once I left the MTC I felt like I had "the spirit" again. I went on to prove my obedience and priesthood worthiness in the mission field, baptising in all of my areas and serving in several leadership positions.

It wasn't until after my mission, going through my papers that I stumbled across that confessional paper I had written in the MTC. I was so angry reading it again, realizing for the first time that they had manipulated my faith and desire to be righteous. All that guilty torment self-loathing over a cinnamon roll that I didn't even eat...

And then it hit me, the whole Mormon thing was a guilt trip! If my faith in the Mormon gospel meant the leaders could make me feel guilty about cinnamon rolls, then it meant they could make me feel guilty for anything. They used my faith to pull at my guilt strings, and they were doing the same thing with things like tithing too! The whole evil control process of the church unraveled in front of me.

That day I decided I would never let anyone play the guilt trip game on me again. I would decide for myself, based on true ethics (not external obedience or "keeping the spirit"), what of my own behaviors were wrong or right. I would never again turn that guilt control over to someone else - especially an instiution as manipulative as the church. It would take many years before I would eventually leave the church, but that decision helped me through all the other guilt headgames my family tried to play on me for "falling away." I hadn't fallen away, I had freed myself from it all.

I see petty rules come from the prophet against earrings, tatoos and beards and wonder how many people out there are suffering the "cinnamon roll guilt-trip" as my wife and I now humorously call it.

Story #2 as recalled by Will's wife

While we were reading Deconstructor's account of l'affaire du Cinnamon Roll (being rebuked and demoted for "poor leadership" after an elder under his watch ate a contraband cinnamon roll) my wife exclaimed: "That sounds like what happened to me while I was there!"

Korrin was in the MTC in 1992, and served in the Portugal-Lisbon mission. She was raised VERY TBM and was the proverbial "blonde bombshell" (when we met in '96 she looked uncannily like Dana Wheeler-Nicholson when she played Chevy Chase's love interest in "Fletch") -- two facts relevant to the following account.

Herewith Korrin's own experience with the MTC's "obedience police":

As a sister missionary, I had an MTC experience similar to what Deconstructor described. Like most missionaries I tried very hard to obey all of the MTC rules, and I found that no matter how hard I tried, it was never enough.

Shortly after I arrived there was a special meeting for the sister missionaries in which we were urged to share our talents. We were told that as sister missionaries we could have a great deal of influence on the Elders by setting a good example, and that by sharing our talents we could help the Elders improve. (It didn't occur to me at the time that it was somewhat demeaning to act as if we were there only to be of benefit to the "Elders.")

After that meeting I thought a great deal about how i could help the Elders be better missionaries. Because of my Dad's influence and guidance I had learned the scriptures very well prior to my mission, and it seemed that this might be one of the talents we had been instructed to share with the Elders. Accordingly, between classes and during lunch hour, or in any free time I could find, I began teaching the Elders in my district the scriptures I had learned.

One Elder in particular seemed to enjoy studying the scriptures with me, and he seemed to enjoy the attention I gave him a little more than I had intended. Apparently, this Elder became infatuated with me, and he told several others about his feelings. [Note from Will: This is a 19-year-old guy we're talking about, after all.] He dutifully told our District Leader, as well as our Branch President about his "problem."

As a result, the District Leader and the members of our Branch Presidency all took me aside individually to upbraid me for "making" this Elder like me, as if that had been my intention. All I had done, of course, was to follow our "inspired" direction to use my talents to help the Elders improve.

It wasn't enough that the District Leader and his companion assumed that I had done something to "seduce" this Elder; all of them made a point of asking me if I there were any sexual sins in my past I needed to repent of. [Will interjects once again -- These are OTHER 19-year-old guys asking an attractive 21-year-old woman about intimate matters: Were they carrying out a "priesthood" function, or serving their own prurient interests? You make the call.]

The Branch President, in turn, called me in and browbeat me at length, making me feel guilty and -- of course -- asking me pointedly if there were any sexual sins "now or in the past" that I needed to clear up. I broke down in tears, and spent the remainder of my term in the MTC on an emotional roller coaster.

To make matters even worse the Elder at the center of this whole business came up to me after one of our big meetings and gave me a lingering handshake (a hug being out of the question) while gazing deeply into my eyes and telling me he loved me. But bear in mind that I was the one who was supposedly the source of this problem.

During the rest of my time at the MTC, I was frequently called in to be rebuked. Eventually I was told I needed to apologize to the Elder, with one of the District Leaders present as a chaperone. I did as I was told, and bawled the whole way through my apology. The Elder apologized as well, and he broke down, too.

What a stupid, mind-controlling place.

Predictably, I felt very guilty over that experience, and for the rest of my mission I avoided the Elders as much as possible. Even when my companion and I were required to call in our statistics each week, I would make up excuses to avoid talking with the Elders, insisting that my companion make the report.

Note from Mormon411:

If Jesus was in the MTC and some well-meaning family offered him a cinnamon roll, what would he do? He would take it and graciously eat it, thanking the members for their kind and thoughtful offering.

The Mormon church is all about control. If you let them, they will take over your life and make you hate yourself because someone else ate a cinnamon roll.

If this is the church of god, then I want nothing to do with him or his pathetic church.

No comments: