Best Two Years ? Not Even Close
Mormon Young Men and Women can choose to spend 2 years for men 18 months for women a full time as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints known as the Mormons. I don’t know who came up with the saying that “your Mission is the best two years of your life”. If you grow up in the Mormon Church and attend church seminary and attend your church meetings. You will have heard this saying hundreds of times.
Through High school I was very excited and looking forward to the opportunity to serve a full time mission. I met with local leadership and my “papers” were turned in to Salt Lake church headquarters. The papers included comments from my local leaders the results of a language test and a photo. My photo was taken by a local photographer, when I saw the photo I called him and said “can I get another photo taken? This one makes my ears and nose and Lips look big!” He said “Ronnie the picture is fine in looks just like you “ To serve a full time mission men had to be at least 19 years old at the time when I went now it can be as early as 18.
It usually takes a few weeks to receive your mission call from Salt Lake. On a Saturday morning in March of 1978 I received an early morning phone call from the Post office ladies who worked at our post office. Betty Lou said “we just put a special letter in your post box” I took off running out the door for the post office was next door to our house. On the other end of the PO box Betty Lou grabbed the letter and said you come right back over to tell up where you are going.
You have no way of knowing where you are going to be asked to serve. So the opening of the Missionary letter is a pretty big deal. I ran home opened the letter and it said I was expected to serve the next two years in the California, Anaheim mission. At the time I had no clue where Anaheim was. I called one of my friends and her dad told me that was where Disneyland was. Okay “not too bad” I thought.
A few days after I turned 19 in the Mission home in Salt Lake City. A week later the Hughes Air west plane landed at the Orange County airport with 6 new California Missionaries. We were met at the airport by the mission leaders and the mission President. The President shook my hand and said “Elder Johnston you look just like your picture” We were then taken to the mission home where the mission president and his family lived and included the mission offices. At that time we were assigned our fist companion. Who we would spend every second of the next number of months with other than bathroom time.
I had studied very hard before my mission and had the first missionary lesson (out of 6) memorized word for word. I passed it off to my missionary partner on the way to our house in Corona California. I had the missionary enthusiasm that people often see with missionaries. Then the worst 3 months of my life started. We would study until 10:30 in the morning because I had to learn all the missionary discussions word for word and many scriptures. The realism hit my companion that the first discussion I had worked for months to learn did not come easy when I was being pushed to learn full discussions quickly once I was in the mission field. That made Elder BH (Butt Head) upset because the better the junior companion did the better the senior missionary looked in the eyes of the leaders of the mission. If I proved he was a good companion by learning all the lessons and scriptures then his hope is that he would move up the ranks to district leader, zone leader then the angles in heaven would sing, and he would be able to write everyone at home about his leadership calling, then if he continued to impress he could called the be one the Mission presidents assistants.
He kept telling me that this new missionary or this one had already passed of three or four discussions to their senior companion and I was only at two. The first day we went tracting (go door to door) I told him I wanted to give the first door approach they had given an uplifting talk in the Salt Lake mission home about getting into the work by giving the first door approach. We rode our 10 speed bikes 10 miles to get to the first area. We rang the doorbell, from inside the house we heard someone “way what do you want” I could see the form of person getting closer to the door. I said “Hello sir we are mission… the person yelled “Do I look like a Sir to you!” My brain said “yes” but I said “I am sorry mam I could not see you through the screen door”
I slowly passed off my discussions. And wow was it fun to teach with Elder BH. Whenever I missed a word in the discussion, he would cough or clear his throat. That didn’t throw me off much! The enjoyment I had tracing with Elder BH was when we went to a door He would clean his shoes off by wiping them on the back of the other pant leg so the pants got dirtier and dirtier as the day went on. I leaned nothing of his family that was off-limits to talk about home. So not only going without TV’s radios, newspapers as per the mission rules there was no one to talk to about home or normal life. Next in part two of Best Two Years? Not Even Close things get worse! I tell Elder BH where to go to which results in a Mission President meeting.