I had spent the first two years of my adulthood serving a mission for the Mormons. I rode my bike in the blistering Tennessee summers and in the bone cold winters. I worked twelve hours a day six days a week and prepared for the business of preaching the Mormon line the rest of my waking hours, including the one day that I had off, which, for them, was not really a day off, but a day to prepare for the rest of the days ahead.
I had given up having any romantic feelings for the opposite sex, contacting any girls that I knew in any way except for one handwritten letter per week, and promised to not even think of physical contact with a female. I was nineteen years old. I promised this behavior to my Mormon leaders for the duration of the mission. I would be twenty one before I had a chance to hold a girl in my arms or feel her lips again.
I had sold my car, quit my very well paying grocery store job, one of which in 1980 paid enough for me to, had I stayed on, purchase a small house in San Diego county. Yes, homes were cheap back then. My neighbors sold out for thirty-thousand dollars.
I had also left college, planning to take up where I had left off a few years later. My progression in society was officially on hold while I peddled for Mormonism day in and day out.
The experiences were good and bad. My memories about those times are mostly faded now. I have an over abundance of regret for having subjected myself to the degradation of being the submissive Mormon missionary amongst a hormone raged group of Utah alpha males. I have never in the past thirty years since come across a more nastier congregation of peers than I did during those years of wearing the club Missionary badge.
I strove to feel value as a person. It just did not come to me. I wanted to feel appreciation for serving. It was brief and shallow, being just a few words from the mouth of my mission leader at the end if the whole ordeal. “Thank you for your service, Elder Plante,” is all he said. It’s all anyone hears. It would have meant something, but it was followed by the displayed anger of another Mormon leader the next day.
“I see you rented a headset to watch a movie,” said the Mormon leader. “Well, I didn’t…” The Mormon leader cut me off. “It was two dollars.” “I’ll pay for it,” I immediately replied. I didn’t want to be a burden. “You were not supposed to watch a movie until you were released.” Missionaries, along with shunning everything they had, also pledged to not watch movies and television, and to not listen to any music other than Mormon approved gospel tunes. I had held my pledge. The headset was a last ditch attempt at relieving the pain in my ears. I have a middle ear problem which causes my head to hold pressure. Flying can be devastating for me. Covering the ears helps, if only mentally.
“The church will pay for it, it’s all part of the airline fare, which they pay upon your completion of a mission.” I had paid for the trip out there and for everything else, like rent, food, medical care, supplies, training at the Mormon prep center, and rent on the mission car that we were allowed to drive only a few miles a month. And with that he shook my hand and said, as was the ritual, “You are released.” I left the room no longer a missionary. I was free to pick up the pieces of my life, which there were only a few, and start over. And for decades I felt the guilt of costing the Mormons two dollars, rather than the satisfaction of giving so much of my life to their cause.