Last night, I had another nightmare about being back on a Mormon mission. To say I woke up relieved to find myself in the real world, where being on a Mormon mission is not even REMOTELY possible, is a huge understatement. But I was deeply unsettled that my brain is still actively processing the trauma of my Mormon mission a decade later. I don’t know how helpful this will be, but I hope that by writing out some of my experiences, I can assist my soul with healing and shedding the guilt I still feel for being of service to a racist, sexist, homophobic, power-hungry cult.
I think this process would best be served by starting from the beginning, and by that I mean I need to open up about the reasons I went on a mission in the first place. To set the stage, I had just graduated from BYU with a B.A., in August of 2010; unfortunately I did so in the worst way possible: as an unmarried, thus childless Mormon woman.
At the time, I didn’t have the ability to see who I really was: an intelligent, hardworking woman who’d graduated cum laude without any student debt, and had the whole world in front of her. I could have done anything I wanted, followed any dream.
But all I saw was that my life and I were one gigantic failure. I had one job when it came to attending BYU, and that was to find my eternal companion. And yet somehow I had managed to attend God’s university where, as I’d always been told, I had my best, almost guaranteed chance to find my soul mate–and I’d fucked it up.
Apparently no one back at home or here wanted to even look at someone like me (and by “no one” I mean Mormon cis-het men, and by “someone like me” I mean a curvy half Asian woman who bows to no one). What conclusion could I draw except that I must be abhorrently ugly and spiritually unworthy of what thousands of other women my age had accomplished within their first two years of college?
How else, in a place chock full of single men, had I been unable to land even one boyfriend? More importantly, since I had failed here, at BYU, where could I possible succeed? Where would I find a husband now . . . in grad school back in South Carolina, where the Mormon pickings were extremely slim–and the desire for a feisty Asian woman was non-existent?
I only had one choice, as far as I was concerned–and that was to go on a mission.
Considering one must be single and wholly devoted to God during a mission, it may seem like backwards thinking for a young woman desiring to find a husband to enter a field where getting married was guaranteed not to happen for the next year and a half. However, you have to understand my brainwashed mindset.
My whole life, identity, and sense of worth was centered on being a good Mormon. For women, that means bettering yourself (college, Personal Progress program, etc.) so that you can become a wife and mother. Even after working so hard toward that end, I was not yet deserving; there was still something I needed to do to cement my worth and finally show everyone God believed I was a good Mormon woman.
How does one prove their worth to God? By serving Him with all their might, mind, and strength. What better way is there to do that than to go on a mission?
To be honest, I’m not sure if I considered going on a mission a punishment (ugly, unmarriable women must still serve God however they can) or an honor (God had prevented me from getting married because He had a great work for me to do before my real life began). Maybe I thought it was penitence, because I’d clearly failed to please God enough for Him to introduce me to my intended.
In any case, the path ahead of me was clear. I needed to serve before I could deserve the one thing my family, community, and church expected of me.
So it was that instead of researching grad schools or applying to jobs, I, a freshly graduated woman, pledged the next few years of my life to preparing for and obediently going wherever the Lord wanted me to go.
Unbeknownst to either me or the church, it was when I arrived at the MTC that my journey toward seeing the truth about the church and what I actually deserved in life officially began. In fact, it was in the mission field that I had my most profound and permanent spiritual revelation yet: someday, I was going to leave the Mormon church. I knew it in my very bones.
And now, ten years later, that premonition has finally come true. If you’d like to continue learning about my journey out of the church, you can look forward to the next installation of The Worst Two Years series, which will zoom in on my MTC experience, a 9.0 earthquake that shook my faith, and how I became branded a (gasp!) cursed feminist by 19-year-old boys pretending to speak for God.