Friday, June 19, 2009

Memories from the MTC

The MTC is an acronym for the Mission Training Center. The MTC is where you go prior to going to the destination of your mission. For example, I went to the Arizona Tucson Mission. I entered the MTC on the 22 of September but didn’t make it out to AZ until October 13. Those three short weeks is a time to hone (or for some – learn) teaching skills. It is a time to finish up any undone tasks that would be necessary to share a message about the Mormon church. (For example, I had a companion who had not read the Book of Mormon the whole way through. He had a lot of reading to do while we were there.) I needed the time to have some unique experiences. Today’s memories come from the MTC.

I had a total of 6 companions in the three weeks I was there. To protect their identities, I offer them to you in fruit form.

The first companion, Elder Raisin, never made it to the MTC. I was assigned to him for a whole day and thus walked around the MTC by myself. In the MTC you are expected to be with your companion all the time. If he leaves class to go to the bathroom – you leave class to go to the bathroom. In fact, there are special phones stationed all around the campus that are for you to pick up and call the “Lost Companion” center (I don’t think that is the technical name, but oh well – you get the point.). If you go more than 10 minutes without seeing your companion, you are supposed to rush to the blue phone and report your vanishing companion. You are then supposed to stay by the phone and wait until either your companion is found or a replacement companion can be brought to you.

As I went to the bookstore or to dinner or to the restroom, though, I traveled alone. I did not stay by he blue phone and wait. It was my first day and I didn’t understand this principle quite yet. Instead, after dinner, I took Elders Grapefruit and Elder Plum up with me to the info desk at which point it was discovered that Elder Raisin had broke his arm the day before and I was being reassigned to the two Elders I was already with.

After a few days with those two, who I liked very much, I got a new companion: Elder Banana. Prior to Elder Banana coming into our district, we had ten missionaries who I had given symbolic reference to. Elder Grapefruit was the foundation – his testimony was a testimony one could build on. Sister Apple was the plumbing pipes – she let the spirit flow in. Elder Pear was the studs – the person we could all go to for support. When Elder Banana came into the district, one sister referred to him as the termite.

Elder Banana was going to Sao Paulo Brasil. However, he had decided that the members of the 12 apostles and the president of the church had gotten his call wrong. They must have meant a different Elder Banana – not this Elder Banana from Idaho Falls. He requested a new call. While his new call was pending – he was assigned to be with me. On the first night he was with us, he left the room at 2 AM. I am a light sleeper, so I woke up and followed him. He did not appreciate this and wanted to be left alone. I started walking toward one of the blue phones when he decided he would return to the room and let me sleep.

The next morning, Elder Banana attended district meeting. Upon seeing Sister Apple, he felt it was appropriate to point out that she was way hotter than any of the sisters in his last district. He then took some time to tell the elders that Sister Watermelon was larger than any sister in his last district. Needless to say, he was not well liked by the sisters.

The next day he found out that if he got in a fight he could get sent home. So he tried unsuccessfully to pick a fight with Elder Grapefruit and I. (Elder Grapefruit was a Police Explorer in Martinez prior to coming to the MTC. I had fought to hard to get on a mission to give it up to give Elder Banana a much-deserved beating.) Eventually, on the fourth day, Elder Banana got the courage to tell his father that he was coming home not because of wrong mission calls or destinations, but because of he simply couldn’t cut it. So on a General Conference Saturday, Elder Banana’s father drove down from Idaho Falls to Provo Utah to pick up his son and I’m sure the two enjoyed a very quiet ride back home.

I went back to being with Elder Grapefruit and Elder Plum.

The next week, I was assigned yet another random missionary. Elder Mango had done his three weeks in the MTC and then had to go home “to work out some issues there.” Mango returned for two days of recapping what he had learned – to make sure he hadn’t forgotten. Once his two days were up – I returned to Grapefruit and Plum.

Our district was made up of Elders going to Tucson, AZ and Jacksonville, FL. All three sisters and 3 of the Elders were going to Florida, and they left 24 hours prior to the departure for us going to AZ. Elder Cucumber would be my last companion. We were companions for 24 hours.

The second of three memories I want to share involves making friends. I don’t make friends with people my own age easily. At this time in the MTC, family members could e-mail you, but you couldn’t e-mail them. The e-mails were printed off and put in your mailbox. As district leader it was my job to get the mail (and to choose who gave opening and closing prayers in class). I would get the mail right before dinner.

In the MTC – mail is your only outlet to the outside world. (There are no TVs there) To help me make friends easier, my mother sent me mail every Monday with all of the scores from the previous day’s football and she would send me the Major League Baseball scores and standings.

As we stood in line for our meal, Elder Grapefruit and I would discuss, rather loudly the scores that were published. I met several new people this way and was able to make some new friends. Of course others scoffed at us for our inability to let go of the world – but I just wouldn’t tell those people the scores.

The third MTC memory I choose to share today comes from study time.

In the MTC, you spend like 10 hours in class for those three weeks. It’s rather grueling. After dinner the third night we had a 20 minute study session prior to class. We were instructed to study a topic of choice individually. I’m not really a study kind of guy so I went to the index at the back of my scriptures and chose a topic. After 20 minutes of study time, our teacher came in and asked us to share what we learned from our study. Elder Cucumber went first. He was studying the atonement of Jesus Christ. Next was Sister Apple – The Apostasy. Sister Watermelon – The restoration. Elder Coconut – Humility. Sister Cherry – Christlike attributes.

I was second from the last in line. I listened intently to all of the others, secretly dreading my turn. When it came to my turn, the teacher said “And Elder [Sean], what were you studying?”

“Um. I was studying Birth Control.”

“You were studying what?”

“Birth Control. It’s right here in the Topical Guide.”

“Alright. Moving on. Elder Grapefruit?”

Elder Grapefruit was laughing too hard, as were the other young men in the room. The sisters weren’t as entertained. So the teacher turned back to me, “What inspired you to study about birth control Elder [Sean]?”

“Well, I started in the topical guide until I found something I had ever really studied in the scriptures before. This topic sort of jumped out at me.”

She then went on to lecture me about me being on the Lord’s time and blah blah blah. The only other memory I have attached to this evening was each of the Elders trying to imitate the expression on the teacher’s face. I don’t think any of them got it right.

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