More MTC Antics

In the comments at my recent post at Sons of Mosiah, Grasshopper shared his fond memories of “streaking” through the halls of the MTC with nothing on but a shower cap, and the accompanying brush with ecclesiastical authority that ensued. He says he learned some lessons that have served him well. Not to be outdone, I also have an MTC experience that involves a ruckus through the MTC halls and an ecclesiastical confrontation, although it contains no nudity (alas!). (I hope all you Mormon liberals don’t mind my longwindedness …)

It is safe to say that my district was the most rambunctious in our building. Evenings were often punctuated by shaving cream fights or other high energy/high volume antics. About half of the district down the hall was similarly inclined, so our inter-district rivalry reached an intensity that warranted complaints to the authorities by elders on adjacent floors, no less.

About 7 weeks into our MTC experience, my companions and I became acquainted with another district of kindred spirits. “Where have you been all these weeks?” was a common question we would put to each other. Both districts enjoyed each other’s company immensely. One evening, right before we left the MTC, this other district decided to throw us a “party.” This entailed our hanging out in their building and shooting the breeze — nothing scandalous. As 9:00 pm rolled around, it was almost time to return to our own rooms before curfew, and we really didn’t want to go. But alas, the rules are the rules.

Suddenly, a voice made an announcement over the MTC-wide loudspeaker: “Please set your clocks back one hour this evening because of Daylight Savings Time.” And then it hit me. I proclaimed, “Hey elders! The voice over the loudspeaker says to set your clocks back one hour. So it isn’t really 9:00 pm! It’s only 8:00 pm!” Everyone was quick to agree with my conclusion, and we spent the next hour leisurely shooting the breeze and goofing around.

As 9:00 pm (really 10:00 pm) came upon us, we decided we had probably better return home. Certain other elders on the floor realized we were “foreign” to the building and threatened to call the authorities on us, given the hour. We quickly exited the building, but not before a brief powwow concerning how we would make it back safely without getting caught. We were quite confident that if we proceeded with enough stealth, we could do so without being apprehended.

We guessed wrong. We were confronted no less than 3 times on the way home, each time by a caustic MTC official that demanded to know what we were doing out past bedtime. Each time I spoke on behalf of the group, insisting that the voice over the loudspeaker had told us to set our clocks back, and we had promptly complied — perhaps a little too promptly, but then we were just being obedient to instruction after all. :) I really didn’t expect this line to work, but it did! Every single time!! Each interloper accepted my explanation and we made it back through our building doors. Safe at last! (Or so we thought).

What we didn’t know at the time (but soon would) was that this particular evening happened to coincide with THE biggest drag-down, knock-out, shaving cream/random substance/pillow fight that our building had ever seen. It was started by the district next to ours — our long-time adversaries — and spread to the entire floor. Had we been present that evening, there is no question that we would have been active participants. How ironic that the one evening full-scale WAR breaks out was the one we happened to be “absent.” Anyway, apparently 5 different MTC branch presidents were called, and they converged on our floor. The imminent confrontation and chastisement was a long time in coming, and there was going to be hell to pay. However, someone apparently got wind of the presidents’ arrival, and all the elders on the floor quickly sprinted to their rooms, shut their doors, and pretended to be asleep. Many elders were called out of their rooms to take the blame for the chaos, but nobody took responsibility. Apparently, everyone had been just “trying to sleep,” despite the ruckus, and nobody knew who the real culprits were. :) The branch presidents were pissed.

Ignorant of the evening’s drama, my district and I briskly climbed the stairs to our floor. On the way up, a fuming branch president confronted us. Irate at the evening’s antics, and even more upset that he didn’t arrive in time to bust the perpetrators, he accosted us in a measured, angry tone:

“There has been a problem on the floor this evening, elders. And I think I’m looking at the source of the problem RIGHT HERE!”

“Um, actually, no — we don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied nonchalantly. “We haven’t even been here this evening. We’ve been over at another building, because we mistakenly thought that, given the announcement about setting our clocks back … ”

The look on the branch president’s face was classic. He was not expecting such a calm, creative, perhaps even semi-plausible reply. I can’t claim to read minds, but his face seemed to say “This isn’t supposed to be happening. I really need to bust some elders, and this group is my only chance. But they are claiming they weren’t here, and I can’t prove they’re lying. Aargh!!” (I think the president was so dead-set on finding those responsible for the pillow fight, he didn’t even bother to evaluate the appropriateness of our not being in the building on time).

“I think I’m looking at the source of the problem RIGHT HERE,” the branch president repeated (rather lamely, since he’d already said that).

I stood my ground. “No, actually, like I just said, we weren’t here this evening. We just got back from another building because we mistakenly thought that it was 8:00 rather than 9:00 because … “

What was the branch president going to say next? Nothing, it turns out — he just stood there fuming and speechless. So we quickly finished climbing the stairs and went to our rooms, passing several other indignant branch presidents along the way, and throwing them a few words of explanation. At the end of the day, nobody in my district got punished, or even yelled at, for anything that went on that night. And just as well too, since we were totally innocent.

What is the moral of the story here? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s “If you’re going to misbehave regularly, make sure that on the day you’re most likely to get caught, you’re misbehaving in some other fashion somewhere else, so you won’t get in trouble for your regular misbehavior.” Or maybe it’s “Don’t obey certain rules and you’ll be less likely to disobey other rules.” Or maybe it’s “Rationalize your actions calmly, with a straight face, and you’re sure to win over your superiors.” I really don’t know. But I am sure that whatever the moral, it can’t be found in the White Bible.

Aaron B

Comments

  1. “I’m really am…”

    Sigh.

  2. Hellmut Lotz says:

    Being a German convert I took all the church rhetoric at face value. If I had not I would not have gone on a mission. You can imagine my confusion when I got there and encountered folks like you.

  3. Does anyone on this blog personally know a mission president who served in the last 10 years or so well enough to ask them if they had to give 5 names? Anyone know any children of mission presidents they could ask?

    I would be interested in learning if my mission president was mistaken.

  4. Hey Melissa!! How are you! Sumer says hi! You know, you’re not the only one who took me for another biglaw robot. CTK made a similar call, after I dropped some thoughtlessly sarcastic remark in our first conversation years ago.

    Hey Jared,

    you know, in retrospect all that DL/AP stuff was just garbage, but at the time I remember thinking how serious this ‘mantle’ was and everything. Was I just smoking crack, or was that something they told us?

  5. I always wondered if a file was kept on each missionary in each mission and if Church headquarters had a copy of these mission files. Then, if you were being considered for a calling like bishop or stake president or whatever, they could look at your mission file to see how good a missionary you were.

  6. I am highly dubious of the “mission list” considering that at least 5 of the 15 Apostles didn’t go on a mission. Plus, they just choose the rich guys in the stake to become mission presidents, since we all know that wealth equals righteousness.

  7. I guarantee I didn’t make the list.

    I was never in leadership. For whatever reason, both of my mission presidents felt it was more important for me to babysit problem missionaries and perform covert operations than it was to gain leadership experience. As it was, the only reason I was even able to train a missionary was because I pestered my president about it. Even then, he waited until my final month to train. How fortunate for my companion.

  8. I had a pretty tightly wound group. I was basically ostracized for it.

  9. I have a question — why does your post show up as being posted yesterday?

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    I originally tried to post it yesterday, and it didn’t show up. There was some sort of error. When I re-posted today, it worked, but with yesterday’s date. Spooky!

    Aaron B

  11. I think he’s just hiding his shame, Jared, because he doesn’t want to admit not working at one of the Celestial trinity of law firms. (Though Skadden does qualify as terrestrial, I’m told.) Don’t let him push you around; we celestial lawyers have to stick together. :)

  12. I thought DPW was known for being stodgy and white shoe. The crazy people are down at Cleary :)

    I hate to say this, but I wouldn’t be stunned to find out my mission president was lying. Let’s just say he was very idiosynchratic, occasionally mean and had a very unorthodox way to run a mission (based upon several conversations with people in other missions).

    All missions are occasionally competitive and political. This mission president actively encouraged us to be competitive (he made millions as a top real estate salesman). ZL’s would page other ZL’s with their numbers throughout the week; almost like a running scoreboard. We watched Franklin planner motivational videos at zone conferences. It was quite bizzare at times. Given all that, I would not be stunned to find out that he made up the 5 person list as a way to encourage more competition.

  13. I was going to chime in with a story about writing letters to the Prez in the MTC, but this list thing is more interesting. Interesting because I prepared the list for my mission president as he was leaving. I can remember who is on it as well, but there were only three names. They were supposed to be the “best missionaries” from our mission. This was in June of 1995. I didn’t know what it would be used for, but I had my ideas. I was not on it.

  14. I was never in the MTC–no such thing for Korean when I was a missionary–but I was a branch president there. All these pranks sound vaguely familiar. However, given the way we talked about them in our weekly meetings with the mission presidency, I suspect that they were taken less seriously than you were made to assume. Mostly we were annoyed–that we had to leave home or whatever we were doing to come up to the MTC for nonsense, that we couldn’t figure out a way to get a little more seriousness in the dorms, that we didn’t have the opportunity for similar pranks when we were missionaries, . . . .

  15. If “the list” were only a “recent practice,” then it simply couldn’t be the case that “the vast majority” of mission presidents and GAs came from this list. Most mission presidents and GAs have been off their missions for some time now.

  16. It’s almost like the Lord wanted your post up yesterday. Like Joshua, you’ve made the sun stand still.

    I got in trouble in the MTC, for writing the MTC President a letter. As you might notice, there’s a separate VIP dining area, and they get different food, etc. So, I wrote the President asking if we could eat dinner sometime in there with him and chitchat about gospel topics.

    Big mistake, apparently. He brought our whole district into his office one Sunday morning and said, “I hear you have some tough Gospel questions, let’s hear them.” We didn’t really have any questions in mind, of course. Ultimately we missed out on the food experience and had to wake up early on Sunday for it. Plus the district was mad at me for writing the letter, when I wasn’t DL or anything like that. Good times…

  17. Jared,

    Great story. I’m really am laughing out loud over here.

  18. Jared,

    suffice it to say that your list story has got us all freaked out. Am I on the list? Why? How can I get offa this list??

  19. Jared, you must be a DPW dude to be so crazy. Your Pres. was lying!! There’s no way the Church could work that way.

  20. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to call you to a position of leadership.

  21. Kristine says:

    Man, I missed all the fun in the MTC. I did once get a great care package with contraband copies of Ms. and Sunstone, which I read in the shower on P-day. Everyone thought I must have some weird disease because I took 90-minute showers all the time.

  22. My favorite pastime at the MTC was lobbing blobs of jello across the cafeteria. The cafeteria (new at the time) had a high ceiling and if I launched with enough arc the jello would splatter everywhere and it was impossible to tell where it came from.

    Then one day I tried whipped cream and hit a volatile wrestling champion in my district who immediately dumped his whole tray on my head, jumped across the table and put me in a headlock. We thrashed about under the tables a few minutes before some Tongan Elders pulled us a part and gave us some good advice–run fast and get back to the dorm without being caught.

    We escaped, I apologized for throwing food and he apologized for my broken neck. The real pain was the next day when our district had an emergency meeting to discuss the shame we had brought upon them.

    This was one of my favorite stories to tell when I was an MTC teacher and my district was tired of Japanese grammar.

  23. Oh man, I remember when our DL was chosen… It was a guy in our district that did so many things wrong! I swore it was going to be me because I was (and still am) perfect. I couldn’t understand how someone who lights his own farts on fire could be DL. But then I quickly figured out that this was almost a prerequisite for becoming DL. But I stood my ground and never lit my farts and thus never became DL in the MTC. What a sacrifice!

  24. OK, so I didn’t go on a mission; but I had some of the same MTC faith-building experiences in my SLC singles-ward.

    One Saturday night my roommate and I decided to play a trick on the top-dog , party-throwing, 20-year veteran socialite of the ward (that made him at least 41 yrs old). So we went to Kinko’s and had 300 lime green flyers made up announcing a BBQ at his 600-quare foot apartment on Sunday evening. “Guys bring meat, gals bring dessert…”

    During Fast and Testimony meeting the next day, we had a couple of recently-returned missionaries distribute the flyers to each of the 300 cars parked in the lot and surrounding neighborhood.

    For some odd reason, while the flyers were being distributed, I had an overwhelming urge to bear my testimony…so I did. And since the victim saw me bearing my testimony, I wasn’t implicated in the crime…

    Peggy

  25. On our last day before leaving for Brazil, we were informed that our visas had not arrived and that we were supposed to just sit tight and wait for futher instructions.

    Needless to say, we were all understandably stir crazy and dying to get out into the field at that point so we were all ticked. Also, we had literally nothing to do. After having almost every second of our lives on a strict schedule for two months, we had nothing on the agenda, and no word at all about how we should spend our time.

    So we slept in the next day. I realize in retrospect this was probably wrong, but at the time it seemed like a day off, like a long-awaited Saturday or something.

    Anyway, I dragged myself out of bed at about 9:00 or so and staggered into the bathroom, where I was greeted with a look of disdain from a fully uniformed elder. “Did you just get up?” he said indignantly. I told him yes, afterwhich he demanded to know who my DL was. I squared my shoulders trying to look as imposing as possible in my garment top and gym shorts, looked him straight in the eye and said “I am.”

    He was quite flabbergasted and did not know what to say. I then took immense pleasure in adding “You can go talk to the AP if you want, but you’ll have to wait because he’s still asleep.”
    :)

  26. Melissa says:

    Osborne – formerly of WGM, now remarried to a nice LDS boy, blissfully living in CT with our ‘blended’ family. I’m the poster-girl for apostate-convert-gone-good. CTK clued me into the goings-on over here…

  27. Sheesh!!! Looks like having converted to the Church at 26, I never got to do the fun stuff at MTC, though, i did my share of raising hell when I was a fraternity member. Actually, I was in the basement of the frat house, drunk when I saw the Church commercial on late night TV and called the 800#, and a few days later Elders Skene and Lunt came and saved me from a life of drunkenness, and god knows what else!!!!

  28. Melissa says:

    Steve – I’d wish I’d known you were such a rabble rouser back when I was in your ward and was sizing you up as merely another Overly-Conservative Big Firm Lawyer — and one who worked for my Big Firm’s Arch Rival at that. Your comments here have had the lucky effect of saving me from the mind-stunting intolerance that is suburbia….

  29. Steve,

    I can’t believe I’m actually consorting with a Skadden lawyer ;)

    Yes, the whole DL/AP thing in the MTC didn’t mean much in retrospect. I remember when we arrived that our district was quite impressed to meet our branch AP when we heard he had been in the MTC a whole 6 weeks! “Wow,” we said, he must walk on water. Sheesh!

    To some extent, I’m not sure how important the whole DL/ZL/AP experience was either (though I never was an AP). The most useful experiences were interviewing people for baptism or counseling troubled missionaries. However, serious problems in both cases were just referred to the Mission President, so I’m not sure how useful it was. I suppose I did get to hold people accountable, but I never enjoyed it. It felt too much like an Inquisition.

    There was a lot of talk about how leadership on the mission prepares you to be a leader in your home and the church, so no you were not smoking crack (if you were that would really make an interesting MTC story). It seems to me now though that leadership on the mission does not really prepare you much for leadership outside the mission, but I could be wrong. Maybe one of the annointed ones (i.e. the permanent bloggers) could start a new thread on the subject.

    I should note that the church certainly takes leadership experience in the mission very seriously. When every Mission President is released, they must submit the names of 5 missionaries (all male) who demonstrated exceptional leadership potential. It is my understanding (based only upon a zone conference address by my mission president) that the vast majority of mission presidents and GAs come from this list.

  30. Steve,

    I thought Matt Parke told me that you worked at Skadden, but I must have been mistaken. My apologies.

    Anyway, I hope you are right about the nonexistence of the list, given my skepticism of how well mission leadership prepares one for leadership at home and in the church. Of course, that would mean my mission president was either mistaken or lying. I hope that it’s the former.

  31. Steve,

    I’m sorry to hear they were so tight. It’s too bad. They missed out on some fun.

    After reading about some of the antics of other districts, I was wondering about us… because our MTC district was pretty obedient and serious. But hey, we still knew how to have fun.

    I just remembered another funny MTC experience. My district played some touch football in that big field across from the MTC. I caught a pass and made a touchdown. Then, of course, I spiked the ball … which bounced right back up into my hand and broke my finger.

    I was in a lot of pain from that little finger. My district mates kept telling me it was only jammed and that we needed to pull it out. At one point they even had me grabbing one bedpost while they pulled on my finger at the other end of my stretched-out arm span.

    Well, I finally went to get it x-rayed and sure enough, it was BROKEN.

    Not a big deal but it makes me laugh thinking about the absurdity of breaking a finger that way and then trying to fix it by pulling on it.

  32. Steve,

    It’s SHOCKING that you wrote a letter. And you weren’t even a DL? What were you thinking?!?! :)

    I love that thread over at Sons of Mosiah. It’s good fun. I added my story about Elder Sill and his cologne. I’m hoping more people post funny experiences there. It could be a sort of Bloggernacle requirement … or something.

  33. The problem with working at a white-shoe law firm is finding a suit that looks good with white shoes.

    Not to mention having to clean the darn things every two days, since dirt is so obvious on them.

  34. Aaron Brown says:

    This post was originally intended for Sons of Mosiah, but I thought I’d put it here, so as to direct you all to my longwindedness over at Bob and Logan’s site. No, I have no shame.

    Aaron B

  35. To all,

    As I said, I have no real idea if such lists actually exist or not. My only source is a zone conference address by my then departing mission president Boyd Poulton.

    If such a list does exist, it must be a more recent practice because as mentioned many in the current hierarchy did not serve missions.

  36. Melissa says:

    Too funny. And Hi back to Sumer. :-)

  37. Wait — which Melissa are you??

  38. We got yelled at for tossing a football around a few times. Then, a missionary in my district had his girlfriend deliver some Training Table food over the fence. We blessed the food and asked for forgiveness at the same time. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

  39. What the….? Where did you get Skadden from?

    p.s. I refuse to believe that conspiracy theory list story of yours. So mission presidents and GAs are largely determined from lists describing them as 21 year olds??? That sounds ridiculous.

  40. While standing in an enormous line for lunch in the MTC, one of the guys in my district started talking about fraternities. He was 26 and had been in a fraternity in college. I convinced him to teach me the secret handshakes of some of his rival frats. We tried to be inconspicuous, but one dutiful elder came from 5 places back in line to tell us that we shouldn’t be doing that outside of the temple. The guy from my district told him to shut up and mind his own business. He didn’t even tell him what we were really doing! He had no tolerance for self-righteous 19 year olds. I thought it was so funny to have scandalized this kid and yelled at him, but I was super embarrassed and thought we’d get a call down to the MTC presidents office.

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